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Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Writers?

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In response an article in Creative Nonfiction titled “Platforms” Are Overrated, SheWrites Press publisher Brooke Warner wrote a great post titled Your Author Platform is Not Your Social Media Following. The quick summary of Brooke’s post is that social media is just one piece of the platform pie, other pieces being made up of books previously published, your database of contacts, your expertise, your personality, etc. I couldn’t agree more. And for those of you who have stopped writing to focus on your social media platforms, STOP! Get back to writing! An author platform is useless without a well-written book. (Many authors, however, manage to find the right balance between writing and social media while others step up their social media presence once their book is complete.) So Brooke’s point is that
author platforms DO matter but shouldn’t be mistaken for social media followings.

Stephanie Bane, author of the Creative Nonfiction article mentioned above, claims that social media is a waste of time because, unless you have an astronomical following (think 50,000 Twitter followers or unique monthly visitors to your blog), your social media presence won’t land you a book deal. Here are my thoughts on this:

Bane is right that a VERY small percentage of posts to your professional Facebook page are seen by your followers. All that time you spent convincing people to “like” your Facebook page? Mostly wasted time. Because now the only way to get those followers to see your posts it to boost those posts, ie. you have to pay to play. You can have 100 followers or 10,000 followers and it’s still going to cost you the same amount of money to get your post to reach 1000 people. Facebook went public. Facebook needed to make money. This is the result. You may as well take out a Facebook ad. (That said, publishers are impressed by big numbers, so if you have 10,000+ Facebook followers, it can be a advantage in landing you a book deal).

It’s also true that a book deal from a Big 5 publisher, a spot on The Today Show, or a New York Times book review will sell more books than 10,000 Twitter followers. And it’s true that networking in person is more valuable than networking online. Someone is much more likely to remember you and support you and buy your book after having met you at a literary event or conference than after having been retweeted by you.

But does that mean you should quit Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Google+? Not at all. If blogging and social media are your passions—which they are for many people—you should go for it and you WILL see results. I found a literary agent through my blog. I get most of my book editing and teaching jobs through my blog and various other social media platforms. Plenty of writers make a living as bloggers, and more and more authors are paying their bills by teaching, editing, consulting and freelance writing while simultaneously writing books. So if your goal is strictly to write books and make a living selling those books, read Brooke’s post and make a list of ALL the ways you can build your author platform, including social media as one tool in your toolbox. And consider Bane’s suggestion to use Twitter and your personal Facebook page, which are less time consuming than blogging and more effective than posting to a professional Facebook page, as the primary social media networks for building your author platform. However, if you have other goals in mind—to build your SEO to get more paid consulting gigs and teaching jobs, to sell a product, to practice writing, to make connections with other writers—don’t give up on those other social media platforms. Social networking DOES work. You just need to clearly define your objectives before you begin.

What do you think? Are writers wasting their time on social media networks?

26 comments to Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Writers?

  • annerallen

    Great post, Meghan. I agree with Bane on one thing: a professional FB page is pretty useless.

    But social media is where I got my publisher, agent, readers, reviewers, and gigs writing for top magazines. Social media isn't magic. But it's being out and about vs. being home in your basement. Stocking a store full of merchandise doesn't guarantee you'll sell products, but keeping the products in crates in your basement is guaranteed NOT to sell products. 🙂

    • meghancward

      Anne, I'm always happy to hear social media success stories! Thanks for sharing yours. It's very inspiring.

  • Thanks Meghan – great reminder to keep the focus!

    • meghancward

      Claire, I am particularly guilty of putting social media before my writing! I need to get back on a schedule.

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  • Olivia_Poppel

    But I think through social media it can help you gain more viewers. It will help target audience who are interested in the topic you create. Your post was very helpful.
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  • Meghan — Thanks for the calm, well-balanced response to Stephanie Bane’s article and for directing me to Brooke Warner’s thoughts on the topic. Being active on social media and building a platform are alien to so many of us writers that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Thanks for putting things in perspective!

  • I think not, Social media never waste of time of writers even it helps writer to get more awesome idea for their writing topics but for that we have to use Social media in the right way. Thanks

  • Anton

    We knew for that as well can take it all slowly for the performances ever for the writers to conclude it now.


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  • Not at all. Its the best thing that can happen to a writer. Because the gain one gets from social is in-comparable and in-measurable

  • I feel like it depends on the situation. For example, Facebook if useful for announcement and stay in touch with people but actually I dislike it because people, mainly young people are by means of it to illustrate off, and adding people they don't know, and put themselves in risk.

  • It's absolutely not going to hurt, and many fictional agents want writers submit to them to already be recognized online, be it a website or social media like a twitter account.

  • I, personally, have not yet tried Social Media Extract but I have read a lot of positive reviews about it. But I'm still researching more about it before trying it. Thank you for sharing this post. It really helped me a lot.

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