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Driven to distraction: Writers and Social Media


People - Kylie Grant

Jonathan Franzen famously wrote that, 'it's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection is writing good fiction', and many writers are open about blocking sites that harm their productivity. But with eight out of ten people in Britain now having access to the internet, and social media sites growing at an alarming rate, social media can be an effective and useful tool for writers to promote themselves. This article highlights ways in which writers can utilise the two main social media sites, and reach out to an ever growing creative online community without it getting in the way of the writing itself.

Facebook is the most popular and widely known of social media networking sites. One of the key aspects of Facebook that is currently changing is the ability to have 'pages' for events, products and even people, these pages are fundamentally 'brand pages'. They are different to the core personal profile in that they are more controlled and are mostly product information sharing resources rather than personal discussion profiles. It is up to the writers themselves whether they use a more professional writer profile or opt for a more personal approach. To a certain extent people always have the tendency to promote themselves on Facebook, but it works best for the writer who is not only there to advertise themself or their products, but wants to be part of the community and is willing to share not only their successes, but their failures and their experiments.

A recent Guardian article on social media and self publishing argued that 'four out of five Facebook users have never bought a product or service as a result of advertising or comments on the social network site' and it is far better to engage users by sharing your experiences and knowledge with others. Facebook is an excellent tool for sharing, whether it is writing excerpts, ideas, or links to articles, and it can be used by writers to create an online portfolio of interests and passions. Facebook is known to be addictive; it is only human nature to want to know the lives of others, and to compare your experience with your peers'. However, there is no rule that states that you must post updates every hour, nor any that states that every emotion felt or event experienced must be posted on Facebook. Your space is what you make it, it can be shaped on your terms, reflecting your ideas, and can be a tool for promoting yourself alongside your writing, rather than spending time promoting them separately.

Twitter is a social media networking and micro blogging service where users have the ability to post 140 character messages and also links to external sites and photos. It is has a far quicker response rate than Facebook, so it can be easier to make connections. The nature of Twitter is inclusive and open, and the writer can be in control of who they would like to connect to and who can connect to them by 'following' people. One of the main advantages of Twitter is the 140 character limit, where it may seem a constraint at first, in practice it allows writers to create brief, succinct updates. To utilise Twitter it is best for writers to use a personal professional approach, hard sell marketing can alienate Twitter audiences. To gain a good following and to enhance your profile it is of it utmost importance for the writer to participate in discussion by responding to others, and share with others their experiences and knowledge. Writers like Linda Grant are successful on Twitter because they are willing to discuss events, experiences and most importantly of all, literature, with their followers, engaging in lively conversations and debate. In this respect Twitter can be time consuming, and unfortunately the procrastination potential for Twitter is high, because updates are a constant, but again as long as the writer is in control of their interactions on Twitter, it can lead to an enhanced and enjoyable relationship with social media and one in which you can be as creative as you are when writing.

For better or for worse, it is now, more than ever before, important for writers to leave the comfort of solitude, into the discussion based world of social media. Readers are becoming ever more involved in the processes of book selling, you only have to look at the power of reviews on the Goodreads review website to see that readers are now taking an active part in the book world. Whether writers agree with this or not, it is important to understand that the more a reader feels a connection to a writer, the more likely it is that they will be compelled to read your work. However, it is important not to forget the most important thing of all, your writing. It is your work that will ultimately matter, not the promotion of it.

If you fancy reading more about how writers can use social media, or more about how it is changing the book world, I highly recommend these interesting articles:

Social Media Marketing Strategies for authors

Shutting out a world of digital distraction

Kylie Grant is a writer and Library Assistant. Her novel in progress, The House That We Built, was shortlisted for The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2011 and her short stories have been published both in print and online. She blogs at and couldn't live without custard creams or coffee.