Saturday, May 22, 2010
Social Networking 101 by Collin Kelley
Here are some of the social network sites we discussed and the ones that I use to promote, connect and interact with other writers and fans.
Blogs: I joined Blogger in 2003 and it is now my primary home on the Internet. There are an estimated 113 million blogs now on every topic imaginable (and maybe a few unimaginable). Besides Blogger, other popular blog platforms are WordPress, Typepad and Tumblr (all free to set up and use) and Squarespace (which costs $8 to $50 per month). If you don't want to go to the expense of building a website, a blog is an easy and effective way to reach an audience. The publishing platforms are allowing for more customization (I recently gave Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional a big overhaul) and the addition of pages (such as the About Collin, Books, Poetry tabs on my site) can give a blog a website appearance. Unlike a static website, a blog requires the author to keep it active. Try to post at least three times a week. Make sure to follow other bloggers in your blogroll and keep up with them using Google Reader, which allows you to see who has recently updated their blog and sample the posts.
Facebook: With more than 400 million users and growing, Facebook has come under fire lately because of privacy concerns. Facebook's main problem is that it can't stop trying to "make it better." From interface, to design to privacy, it seems Facebook is constantly making changes and upsetting its global user-base. There's even a movement afoot for users to quit Facebook on May 31. The chances of any mass decampment is highly unlikely because Facebook -- in just six years -- has ingrained itself into the public consciousness. It's free, easy to use and can instantly connect you to readers and other authors. You can invite people to your readings and signings, post links, videos, news items and photos for all your friends to see. If you're a writer, I believe a "fan page" is essential. It gives you a space to shamelessly self-promote your book. Those who want that kind of information can "like" your fan page, while your main Facebook page can be for keeping up with friends and family and play Mafia Wars to your heart's content. As for they hysteria over privacy issues, it is simple to protect yourself when you set up the account. Block the new open sharing option, register your Facebook page so it recognizes your computer to prevent hacking and be mindful of the applications you allow to access your information.
Twitter: As of January, there were an estimated 75 million users of the micro-blogging platform. Twitter allows you to post 140 character "tweets" on your homepage, which can be seen by your followers. I had a Twitter account for nearly a year before I fully understood why it's important. The world figured it out last summer during the Iran election protests, when Twitter became one of the few ways to get news out of the embattled country. Twitter is basically Facebook reduced to status updates, but, I believe, the most important function of Twitter is sharing links and "re-tweeting" your followers messages to help create a dialogue and exchange of information. I actively look for tweets about poetry, publishing, books, films, music and gay rights issues -- all important subjects to me. I use Hootsuite, a Twitter application that makes tweeting and keeping up with your followers a breeze. Hootsuite's two best functions are that it easily allows you to reduce long URL links for embedding in your tweet and the calendar function that allows you to set up tweets hours, days or months in advance.
YouTube: I set up my own YouTube channel a couple of years ago to host videos shot by my pal Jackie Sheeler during my reading at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York. Since then, more readings are posted there, the book trailer for Conquering Venus lives there and in April I created my first poetry video using the iMovie software on my MacBook. Like any other social networking site, YouTube allows you to follow other users, favorite videos and easily share your own work. It's a quick and easy way to share your work and reading events to the masses. If you don't want to write a blog, you can "vlog," recording videos of your thoughts, rants and raves and posting them at your blog.
Goodreads: It's Facebook for literature lovers. Goodreads is focused strictly on books and giving authors and fans opportunities to interact. Goodreads is an amazing source of reviews, book club groups and recommending books (including your own) to other potential readers. Ingram automatically populates titles it distributes to Goodreads or you can add your own. Goodreads allows you to catalogue your personal library online and offer up star-ratings or long reviews. It really is a must for authors who have a book to promote or folks who are just looking for something new to read.
Red Room: This social site (which used to be free, but is now charging $30 a month) offers a one-stop shop for authors to blog, post their reviews, videos, interviews and links for purchasing your titles. I was an early adopter of the site, and they haven't started charging me (yet!). Jess Wells has been using Red Room as her main site for awhile now and has seen a lot of traffic. I've been pretty impressed with the thousands who have found me there as well. Sadly, I can't afford $30 extra a month, but if you want an easy to use, no-nonsense type of site, you might find Red Room worth the expense.
Bookbuzzr and fReado: This is a new service that allows authors and publishers to upload sample chapters of their books for readers to view. At Bookbuzzr, you can create a widget, which allows readers to virtually flip through the pages of your book. Boobuzzr connects to fReado, where you can set up a profile section to link websites, reviews, retail outlets and more. All free!
Flickr: Make sure to get pictures of your readings and other events and share them with the world. Flickr allows you to upload and share with just a few clicks. You can create an online photo album and make widgets for your blog or website with a rotating photo gallery.
Yahoo Groups: Maybe a little old fashioned in the new social media driven world, but Yahoo Groups are easy to navigate and allow authors and readers to instantly share news, reviews, readings, tips and more with a group of people.
Ping.fm: One ping to rule them all, Ping.fm is a site that allows you to update all your social networking sites from one easy to use dashboard. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Xanga, Blogger and just about every other major site is available. This will save you the hassle of signing in to every site and posting similar messages. Give it a try!