The first article in this series on social networking covered blog readers. This second post will address basic info on the major social networking sites.
Now, if you're already tweeting and hurling sheep at your Facebook friends, you may be well-acquainted with social networking sites. My next post on this topic will cover ways to maximize the benefits of your online presence.
But for now, we're going to start with the basics, because none of us want to end up in this situation:
For those of you who think "Twitter" has something to do with woodland creatures falling in love, here's a quick rundown. I've linked each heading to my own profile, so you can see what they look like.
Facebook: www.facebook.com Facebook is a social networking site that allows you to create a profile, upload photos, post links, and add "friends". This site requires accurate personal information (If they discover a profile for a fictional character, business or pet, they'll delete it) and therefore gives the added bonus of looking up the girl you went to summer camp with and your third grade crush.
How does this help with your writing career? You can use Facebook to post links to your personal blog, and keep your contacts in the loop regarding your writing projects. You can network through groups for writers and fans for your genre, and-- if you've established a following-- you might just get a group of your own "fans." Many, many people of all ages use Facebook, so it's a great place to make connections with potential readers.
Downsides: A recent scandal erupted when it became known that Facebook had altered their user agreement (without notifying users) to language that essentially gave Facebook rights in perpetuity to any content used on their site. Meaning they had rights to photos, notes, text, etc. if it had been posted to a user's profile. They have since backed off on the language and are rewording, but it would still be ill-advised to post any original content there. Post links back to your personal blog or website where you are guaranteed full rights to your content. Also, Facebook's silly side (Superpoke, pieces of flair, etc.) can be a lot of fun, but be careful about maintaining your professional image.
Myspace: www.myspace.com Myspace is similar to Facebook, but in my experience is geared towards a younger audience. If you are a YA or MG author, get thee a Myspace page. Unlike Facebook, Myspace allows pages for fictional characters, so if your contemporary character wants to get online, this would be a good place. You can customize your profile-- even blog there, if you like.
How will this help with your writing career? Like Facebook, Myspace allows you to add users as "friends". Unlike Facebook, default settings allow you to view profiles of people you aren't already connected to, so that can provide an easy way to increase your online connections. It's also easy with the customizable profile to add things like book trailers directly to your profile for easy viewing.
Downsides: Since a public profile means anyone can find you, that includes smarmy dudes looking for someone to complete their threesome and the like.
Twitter: www.twitter.com Lately cyberspace is all a-Twitter. Everybody and their agent is Twitter-pated. So what is Twitter, anyway? Twitter is a "microblog" site, where users post personal updates, links, etc, but are limited to 140 characters per posting. You can "follow" other users who interest you, and other users can choose to follow you.
How does this help your writing career? As opposed to Facebook and Myspace, which require you a user to approve you as a "friend," Twitter allows you to follow any user you like (unless their profile is private). As a result, agents and editors who may not be thrilled if you try to "friend" them on Facebook, generally don't mind unknown Twitter followers. Many agents maintain Twitter accounts and following publishing professional can often get you the inside scoop on timely topics. In addition, you can follow QueryTracker there, too, for breaking news on new and updated agents on QueryTracker.net.
Downsides: Although agents might not be following you (even though you're following them), most of them still check their @ messages (if you're new to Twitter, an @-message is a post starting with @[username]). Which means you still need to be careful of the impression you're making if you respond to an agent's tweets. The casual nature of Twitter can be a bit misleading. Like always, you should keep your professional reputation in mind and avoid tweeting anything you wouldn't want a prospective agent or editor to read.
Rallystorm: www.rallystorm.com Suz did a great job of discussing Rallystorm on Monday. Check out her post, if you haven't already.
Linked In: www.linkedin.com Linked In is a professional networking site. Keyword here is professional. While agent opinions vary regarding friend requests from aspiring authors on sites like Facebook and Myspace, Linked In is one place where the connections are generally professional in nature. In other words, if you are working with an agent or editor, it's perfectly appropriate to ask them to add you to their Linked In network. But Linked In is absolutely not a place for cold networking with publishing professionals.
How will this help your writing career? You probably won't find Linked In to be all that helpful at the Seeking-Representation stage. But it can be a great networking tool once you're officially part of the publishing industry. Linked In adds a person's whole network of connections with them. So, you'll see your personal contacts, but also your contacts' contacts.
Downsides: Not that useful for an aspiring-to-be-agented author.
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com Goodreads is a fun way to connect with your friends over books. You can post books you've read, books you've loved, books you're reading right now, and what books you can't wait to read next. You can compare your thoughts with your friends and snoop through their lists to find new great things to read.
How does this help your writing career? Anything that exposes you to more good books can only help your writing. Anything that connects you to people who love to read, is good for your platform. And one day, folks might be posting about your book there.
Downsides: Although you can peruse your friends' lists of contacts, Goodreads is mostly directed towards people you are already connected to.
There are plenty of other sites where you can connect online, from chatboards to music sites like Imeem.com. Any connection you can make online, helps build a pool of folks who might be interested in your book later. So get out there and start networking... just don't forget to keep writing while you're at it.