So I found out that a writer friend of mine puts in their cover letters just how many friends they have on Facebook/Twitter as a demonstration of their ability to harness potential customers. I have two problems with this: the first is that you are more times than not better served with cover letters that stick to the submission and don’t skip to “here’s what you get if you buy my story”; and second,I don’t know if I’m convinced of this “social media is the wave of future marketing” thing.
I believe it’s important, as online billboards, but shouldn’t be the goal in and of themselves. Certainly I’m no expert, but to my mind this mentality shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how social media works. I think the issue comes down to how you use your networks.
Now admittedly, I’ve been accused of being a friend whore, as I tend to approve everyone who visits any of my pages. I’ve seen the high school popularity aspects of acquiring friends on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, folks who spend hours hunting down friends (or purchasing software to find and friend folks). I am not convinced those lead to real “relationships” or interest in you or what you have to sell. They are just names on a list.
[Plus I actually avoid using Facebook/Twitter to communicate with friends I should be hanging out with in the real world (or even break off a phone call to). It’s too easy to fall into traps of passive-aggressive communication. If there’s one thing technology has been a great tool for, it’s been ease of communication and re-connecting with old friends. On the downside, it has also become a new way to be poor at actually communicating with people.]
Anyway, no one likes to be spammed to, so I can’t imagine stalking people down for the sake of adding them to a list as if that’s an automatic sale. I can’t tell you how many writers rub folks the wrong way because you can’t engage them in conversation without them selling to you. If you have any interact with them, you end up on their mailing list. If you follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, you can expect constant requests to “like” their latest book. And you have to appreciate the hustle of these writers. This part of the game is all about promotion and marketing, I just don’t know if slamming your “friends” is the best way to go about things.
Take blogging for example. Some people are great at creating communities around their blog. Think Brian Keene, John Scalzi, Nick Mamatas, Jeff Vandermeer, etc. My blog is pretty much “here’s what I think/feel”, I put it out there, and move on, it’s not very interactive. I only even bothered to turn on the comments feature in the last year as I moved away from having a dedicated message board (even then, I see message boards in decline, especially author boards, when it’s just as easy to hit them up on their facebook page. My only message board presence is as a part of the Keenedom).
My twitter and my facebook accounts are my interactive platforms. Twitter is the flotsam that spins around my brain mixed with ridiculous takes on my life. Facebook is pretty much the same … with pictures.
Building a platform is certainly important. I know that part of the game is getting the word out to folks and it’s hard to cut through the white noise of distractions our lives have become. I guess it’s all marketing in the end. But if I’m going to chase after fans, it’s going to be with my stories. Not some program to add them to a list. The power of attraction, not so much constant fishing. But maybe I’m terribly naive and going about this all wrong.