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This is a sponsored post by Grammarly. I use Grammarly for proofreading because some cool guy named, Nikolas Baron from Grammarly’s Online Partnerships Team invited me to coffee. I drink coffee. He wrote, “If you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee .” Nick had me at coffee.
If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, then you’d know that I live my life fairly openly and somewhat transparently. I’m the first to laugh and poke fun at myself when something humorous has happened to me by attempting to be witty on my wall. I revel in it when I make you laugh because I like to be funny. When you laugh at something I’ve done or said; you have paid me the biggest compliment of all. By the same token, I have no problem posting some ridiculously stupid thing I did, (like the time I pumped unleaded fuel into my Diesel tank), and have no qualms plastering that on my wall where it might seep permanently into the bowels of the internet, perhaps into perpetuity, and for the world to see. I’m okay with that because I want you to know who I really am, not some person I want the world to see.
When I’ve had a bad day, I try to seek resolve and clarity in what happened and hopefully teach myself or others a thing or two so that maybe, together, we can even learn from my mistakes. Know that I am learning from yours. If you really understand who I am as a person, then you’ll distinguish that I always try to keep things as positive as possible because I never want my problems to become yours, but if I’m going through an especially tough time, you can count on the fact that I’m going to share it. Friends are healing and words are powerful. Equally, I hope I can be there to ease your pain in your time of need. The weight of the world is too big to carry it alone.
Know that I’m visiting your wall as often as I can, or I’m picking up stories from the newsfeed and working hard to discover who you really are, too because I want to hear about your life, and read about your achievements. I’m going to miss some big things in your life because I wasn’t ON when you mentioned them. If it’s something you really want me to know about, and I haven’t commented, please pick-up the phone and call me. Sadly, because of where you live, I may have to admire you from afar, and the phone or Facebook is our only real means of communication. If you’re in San Francisco when I meet with Nick from Grammarly, please join us for coffee. That’s how you build your network, and I also don’t know if he’s an axe murderer or not, so you’d be helping me out. Protection in numbers, I always say.
Facebook is a journal. When you make a post, you are chronicling your life in some way, and chances are if we are “friends,” I respect or admire you. By living your life well, or at least as best you can, you can count on me to appreciate and never judge the things you have to say. I hope you respect and admire the life I lead as well, but be sure that I know that I can’t please everyone, nor will everyone “like” me or what I have to say, and that’s okay. Kindly also note that, although few and far between, some of you may have turned me off by posting negative comments about the people in your life who came into yours with some degree of baggage. I can’t help worry that if you discard some fallible, vulnerable human for being fallible and vulnerable, and you did this publicly, you might discard me just as carelessly too. I’m not too keen on public embarrassment, and the good Lord knows, I’m fallible and vulnerable, too. All humans are. If you are one of these people who like to air your dirty laundry on Facebook, please stop it. Smack your face until it turns blue the next time you contemplate doing it again. Facebook is not a platform for this, the Jerry Springer Show is. Public humiliation is a low blow, and I could harp on this all day. At least be kind enough to judge or admonish others quietly, and to yourself, or more politely by considering doing it directly to their faces. I can admire someone who stands up face-to-face to others for being personally wronged.
I’m a boastful mother, and I know this. I brag about my children when they’ve reached a milestone or accomplished something in their lives. They are a cornerstone in mine and frankly, I am smitten and consumed by them. It’s true; I’m proud of myself for raising them well , and for—I’m going to say it, and I knock on wood, for getting them through life so far, pretty much unscathed. Truth be told, from where I sit, if they fart, they might as well be sprouting cute, furry bunnies from their adorable, round little rumpuses. They are perfect in my eyes. I made them, and I am proud of Hubs and me for that. Again, I can’t help being boastful. Please do me a favor and brag about your kids more often, so that I can feel better about myself.
I celebrate big, too. I work hard, and I love to talk about the milestones or accomplishments I’ve made in my life because since an early age, I had to advocate and pat myself on the back. I grew up knowing that I have to love myself first, so I can learn to love others more. Here again, when you pat me on the back and say, “Good job,” that’s one of the highest compliments you can pay me. If you knew my background, as some of you do, you would know that I’ve had to overcome much to be where I am today, and well, darn it, I’m proud of whom I have become. Perhaps I do push myself too hard, too often. But, if you are “friends” of mine on Facebook, please believe me when I say that I love to hear all about your accomplishments, where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what you’re doing—as much as I like to talk about my own. I see it every day on Facebook, there are people reaching out and looking for words of encouragement. I’m blessed. I have lots of great friends who support and encourage me often. Every now and then give someone with fewer “friends” that all important nudge of encouragement. Consider your life to be enriched when someone shares their blessings with you.
I believe that Facebook, at least for me, has become my conduit for self-expression. So, I just really try and be myself. As a public speaker who sometimes talks about advocating Social Media, I have heard all sorts of philosophies on what works and what doesn’t. I understand the “Do’s and Don’ts” and all about meeting expectations on how to express oneself correctly when using social platforms. But, what I’ve really learned is this: There is no perfect, in a nutshell, way to lead your live socially. Not to sound cliché, but I encourage you to just stay true to yourself without bashing other people. (I told you, I could go on and on about this.)
Below are my personal, albeit essential, Social Media Strategies on How I Like to Conduct Myself on Six Social Media Platforms:
LinkedIn:Be Professional, Build Your Network and Explore. The days of the job hunt and cold call are over if you use the network wisely.
Facebook:Be Discriminate about Whom You Let into Your Network, So You Can Be Personal. I posted about errant panties ending up the laundry tonight. It’s a funny story.
Twitter:Be Personal and Professional. Be Professional Most of the Time. Post frequent and meaningful content that appeals to a wide audience. Follow people smarter than you.
Pinterest:Pinning is loads of fun. I advocate having loads of fun.
Instagram:Have Fun. Show the World Your Inner-Photographer and Videographer. Note: I’m personally bored with cat posts.
WordPress:Life’s a Crazy Journey, So Write about It. Start a Blog.
…or just add @sparkyfirepants if you’re already in the app on your device. You’ll find plenty of weirdness in there. And we love to see what you’re up to. There’s so much amazing stuff to see and people sharing it. It’s visual Candyland. Um… beware of my big toe. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
The gloves come off here. But in a good way. We would love to see you there (Jenni is @littletomato), but please, please, please interact with us. Say hi, tell us what’s up with you, share something. It drives us kinda nuts with some companies we follow on social media. For them it’s all about the broadcast. Ugh. We think that’s dull and useless. We’d much rather have a chat or share some photos or links or something cool. Join us!
This is a chat app. So yeah, it’s even more personal than more public social media sites. That’s not only cool with us, it’s encouraged. Go ahead, add us and chat away.
See above. Even more personal – and totally geared to the weird and crazy (like us). If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, it’s a photo & video sharing app. The best part is that it’s totally secure. Why? Because the images disappear seconds after they’re viewed. They’re not saved anywhere. So even if your account gets hacked or your phone gets stolen, nobody will ever see your snapchats. We think it’s genius. Here’s how to do it: Snapchat how-to
I think that’s enough for now. In the future, if you find a super cool social media app, please share it with us! We’ll probably love it, too. Then just look for us as sparkyfirepants. Yes?
Relationships. It’s all about relationships. Social media is just our virtual pub or café or bookstore or our neighborhood park. It’s about introducing yourself, & maybe your dog and making friends. That’s really all it is for me. I try and help people out and people help me out all the time. When I have questions about things I get great advice and when someone has some good news we all celebrate.
I hang out where I feel the most comfortable, like in real life. Social media really isn’t any different. The cool thing about it is that you can make friends and even keep up a friendship that starts at a conference or vacation…where ever. It’s pretty cool to have friends all over the world and really cool to discover and read stories I might never have had the chance to without social media.
As an author, I’m most comfortable using Twitter ( @Laurawriting ) and Facebook. Facebook is a little harder for me. I’ve got two pages…one for my personal life and one for my readers and I try to keep them separate, but it’s a little like trying to take the chocolate out of a banana split LOL. So that confuses me a little, to be honest. I do love Pinterest because it’s so visual. My favorite boards are book swag I love, food that I love and of course the YA Indie Carnival I wish I knew how to converse with my Goodreads fans better. I have an automatic feed which posts my blog posts there, but I find it a little more challenging to have a dialog with my fans there. I love discussing books and so I look forward to people who post with questions/comments about my books or reviews.
Social media is just the modern word of mouth. And that’s the way books have been recommended to readers for hundreds of years. It’s just more exciting now. But it is super confusing sometimes, especially for authors who are just getting into it. At UtopYA, I can’t remember the author, but she was so sweet and walked up to me and said she just didn’t know where to begin. I hear that a lot. The advice I gave when she asked me is the advice I heard when I was getting started. Pick one place, it doesn’t matter where, if Facebook feels good to you pick that, if it’s easier for you to post in 140 characters then use Twitter, if you’re visual maybe Tumblr or Pinterest is for you. Just pick one and use it and start to meet people the old-fashioned way in a high tech pub/café/bookstore/park Twitter confused the heck out of me when I first used it…I was like what is this thing? But it’s been a great way to meet amazing friends, whether they’re dog lovers, book bloggers, readers, other writers, artists, screenwriters…you name it. (hint: it’s all about the # hashtags )
I sat in on one of the panels and the fabulous Kallie Ross, an awesome YA Fantasy writer/incredible panel mediator/one smart cookie, mentioned that youtube is the most searched place on the Internet. So it’s a great place to make friends. I have a channel there and post videos I use in my research and my book trailers and follow channels that make me laugh, have something to do with food and books too. I definitely could do more with my channel. Click here to swing by sometime if you want to see how I use it.
Wattpad is another site that Amanda Harvard, talented author/incredible musician/and all-around fun person, talked about on one of the UtopYA panels. Loads of authors and readers love that site. I might get my feet wet there next. But, enough about my take…what works for you?
See what the other amazing carnis have to say about it too And check out YA Author Club for upcoming carnival topics!
I get asked that question a lot, and variations thereof: how do you have time for Twitter and Facebook, how do you find time to read so many books? If you’re reading this post, you probably get asked the question too, since odds are you read many other blogs in addition to mine.
My answers used to tend toward the self-deprecatory, as if I were making an admission of guilt. Well, see, Scott does all the laundry and most of the cooking. This is at once a true statement and a completely worthless one. It conveys no useful information. It’s true that Scott and I—both of us work-at-home writers—have a well defined division of labor that puts the laundry and cooking solidly in his chore column. But I handle the bulk of the homeschooling (and even during our most unschoolish times that means a lot of planning and creative focus—arguably MORE so during our most unschoolish times), the considerable clerical and therapeutic tasks involved with nurturing a special needs child, the bills, the taxes, the scheduling, the medical and dental appointments, the overseeing of the housework, the shoe-shopping and sundry other tasks necessary to the running of a household and the raising of a large family. Deflecting the question with an explanation of what I don’t do isn’t really an answer. Or, to put it another way, Scott does all the laundry and most of the cooking, and yet he manages to read a staggering number of blogs and books too. More even than I do.
The truth is, I don’t know how to compare the apples and oranges of how I spend my time vs. how other people spend theirs. I had a flash of understanding on this point last summer, when a friend and I were discussing the number of outings and activities her family had planned for the weekend. I realized suddenly that the perfectly-ordinary-for-her-family lineup for this one weekend included more outings than my family typically makes in a month. We’re serious homebodies, here, and until that conversation I don’t think I’d realized just how very homebody we are.
And yet even that doesn’t answer the “how do you find time” question, because this friend of mine is a friend I met through blogging. She blogs, I blog, we both read blogs. If you were to ask her “how do you find the time?” she’d have a totally different answer than I would.
So if my self-deprecatory answers were worthless, so is my simplest one: I don’t know, I just do. I read a lot. Including: I read a lot online. It’s how I stay abreast of what’s going on in the world and in my profession. It’s how I keep my home education methods lively. It’s how I connect with far-flung friends and family and colleagues, how I encounter new ideas and points of view. It’s how I maintain cultural awareness—i.e. it enables me to get more jokes. (Sharing a joke with friends, or even better, with your kids, is surely one of the chief joys of life. There’s nothing quite like that burst of delight that comes with the well-placed quote, the shared laugh, the exchanged glance of mutual understanding. It’s half of what makes kindred spirits kindred.)
[Mewburn] addresses the “how do you have time for social media?” question that I expect every academic blogger (or tweeter) has encountered. (Mewburn links to this post on that specific issue. I agree that this question always seems to express “some kind of unspoken criticism.” Like the other question I often get about “how do you have time to read so much?” it also assumes a strict distinction between “real” work and other things I do that Pat Thompson notes is hard to make for her own newspaper reading.) The bottom line is that we all have time, or make time, for the things we believe to be valuable. So the harder question is why many academics still don’t consider spending time reading blogs (or being on Twitter) to be valuable.
Maitzen (and Mewburn, whom she quotes) is approaching the topic from an academic perspective; it seems she gets the question from her colleagues about as often as I do from the people in my world. She notes that part of the bewilderment may stem from non-blog-readers’ lack of awareness of how we use tools like Google Reader to streamline our online reading experiences. Certainly I have numerous habits and strategies that I use almost unconsciously now to help filter and track the content I read online—and off. I try to read The New Yorker on Sundays, for example. I have a digital subscription and download the new issue at some point during the week so it’s ready for me on Sunday afternoon. There’s something peaceful about knowing my Sunday reading is all lined up; I’m reminded (as I so often am) of Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on habit being easier than decision.
Other tricks of the trade: I have my Google Reader subscriptions sorted by topic, and I read certain topics at certain times. In the mornings, I catch up with personal blogs, many by friends (or people who have become friends because of our mutual blog-reading), as well as other homey, thoughtful sites I enjoy. In the afternoons, when I’m shifting from mom-mode to work-mode, I catch up on my book blogs. I usually hit a tipping point where reading about other people’s books generates a kind of urgent need to get to work on my own book. So there’s an example of how blog-reading helps me to be more productive, not less.
I save news, science, and general interest sites for the end of my work day, when I’m winding down. Often I’ll flag longer or more complex posts for later reading. “Send to Kindle” is one of my favorite tools. I zap several articles a day to my Kindle in this way, to be read in waiting rooms, in bed, on weekends, or while traveling.
I use Diigo and Tumblr to log my online reading: Diigo for marking posts I want to share with others (these are automatically fed to the “Caught My Eye” section of my sidebar) and Tumblr for things I’ve read and want to remember but didn’t want to add to the sidebar, for whatever reason).
GoodReads is how I log the books I read—imperfectly, since I record picture books and other read-alouds there with sad inconsistency. Too hard to keep up with. But my own book reading is chronicled there pretty faithfully.
As for social media, I recognize that it’s a fast-moving stream and I can’t possibly keep up with everything. I follow a wide range of people on Twitter, try to sort by topic or circle of acquaintance (this is only loosely possible), and use the list function in the same way I use my Google Reader folders. (For quicker access to my Twitter lists, I’ve got buttons in my browser toolbar that link directly to specific lists. Twitter’s site navigation is pathetic.)
Actually, it occurs to me my browser toolbar is one of my most powerful aids. All the things I spend the most time doing online are right there at the top of my screen, one click away. Gmail, G+, Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, my blog dashboard, my blog stats, Evernote, Pinterest, Goodreads, the library, the bank, Tumblr, Wisteria & Sunshine, and various bookmarklets that let me quickly share a link to various platforms. I use abbreviations so I can cram as many sites as possible in that toolbar.
Since I’m a social media manager for GeekMom on alternate weeks, I have a separate browser configured for that role. It opens directly to all the tabs I need for doing my job there. (This division of browsers thing is in flux, though. Until recently I used Firefox for as my personal browser and Chrome for my GeekMom work. But Firefox has become persnickety to the point of unusable, so right now I’m doing everything in Chrome. It’s a bit annoying. I may have to rope Safari in for the GeekMom role.)
So that’s logistics. I actually find it more challenging to manage my time offline than on. Book-reading, for example: I’m constantly lamenting the impossible ratio of books to time. I’ve worked out a daily rhythm that (in theory) allows me at least an hour, sometimes two, to read each weekday after lunch, but it goes out the window more often than not. If I have to make a phone call, there goes my reading time. If we have a doctor appointment or an errand to run, it has to happen then. Sometimes, after a busy morning with the kids, the sitting still is a killer, and I have to get up and busy myself in the house or garden, or else take a nap. I don’t much like naps (too disorienting to wake up from) so it’s usually the former. Or I’ll wind up playing a game with one of the kids, which is never a waste of time. Lately we’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles.
To return to the question, I think Maitzen is correct in identifying its subtext: “How do you find the time?” may often mean “WHY do you spend the time?” or even “How can you justify the time?” And to that, the answer is simple. I love to learn!
Following up on yesterday’s post—some good questions came up in the comments. I’ll tackle this one first: “How does the Send to Kindle app work?”
Send to Kindle
I mentioned how much I rely on Send to Kindle to read long-form posts and articles later, away from my computer. This is an official Amazon app but there are third-party equivalents, too. (See Send to Reader, below. Instapaper is another.)
In Chrome, the Send to Kindle icon appears at the top right of my browser—see the orange K?
When I’m reading a post online and I want to send it to my Kindle, all I have to do is click the icon.
If I want, I can choose to send the article to the Kindle app on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device instead. Click the icon to access the settings button. This is handy if I want to send a particular article to Scott’s device instead of mine. (You may have up to six devices connected to your Kindle account at any one time.)
Send to Reader
As I said, Send to Reader works almost the same way. You create an account, install its bookmarklet in your toolbar, and enter your Kindle’s email address. IMPORTANT: Be sure to use the free.kindle.com version of your Kindle address, i.e. email@example.com, not firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the simplest way to avoid any download charges for the content you send. (You can also tweak your Kindle document settings to make sure you don’t accidentally download content via Whispernet, incurring data charges. Go to Amazon –> Manage Your Kindle –> Personal Document Settings and set a price limit of, say, one cent for download fees. That way, any download that would exceed that fee will be withheld until you’re connected via Wifi, where all downloads are free. Or just make a point of always using the free.kindle.com address instead!)
While you’re in your Kindle settings, be sure to enter email@example.com as one of your approved email addresses for receiving content.
This fussy set-up stuff takes much more time to describe than to do. Once you’re set up, you don’t have to bother with this ever again. From then on, you can zap articles to your Kindle by simply clicking the bookmarklet.
I believe Send to Reader works with the Kindle app on your iPad or Android device, as well. If you don’t know your device’s Kindle email address, you can find it at Manage Your Kindle –> Personal Document Settings.
Sending posts directly from Google Reader
OK, so that’s how I send long-form web content to my e-reader for perusing later. Now let’s back up half a step: say I’m reading a blog post in Google Reader—how do I send that post to my Kindle? Two ways. Either I can click through to the actual post and follow the steps above, or I can send it directly from Reader via the “Send to” button.
See the “Send to” tab at the bottom of the post? When you click on it, up pop your options. You can send this post all over the place!
Here’s how to configure the options: In Google Reader, click the Settings gear icon. Select “Reader Settings.”
Click the “Send to” tab to get to the screen pictured below.
Choose whatever sites you like to send stuff to.
You’ll notice Diigo and Send to Reader are missing from this checklist, but do appear in my list of options in the previous photo. That’s because I added them manually (again, a one-time set-up process) following the instructions under “Don’t see your favorite site?”
Click “Create a custom link” to connect with the site of your choice. Again, I think this kind of thing is harder to explain than to do. Let me know if anything here doesn’t make sense!
I should add that I really only use Google Reader’s “send to” feature to send articles to my Kindle—I seldom share links to Facebook or Twitter this way. I prefer HootSuite for that. But that is fodder for another post.
The outcry on Twitter started off merely aghast. Then, as can happen when people collectively find something to be outraged about, the anger cascaded and multiplied. People called The Onion out, called for resignations and firings, called for heads, and often in language as offensive as the language people ostensibly found objectionable.
On a night where my Twitter feed had started with people being complete jerks to Anne Hathaway for no apparent reason, all the negative energy swirling around Twitter suddenly found an even easier target.
But it's kind of amazing to me how the Twitterverse can be correct about something but manage to take its self-righteous outrage so far it somehow starts feeling wrong.
It starts feeling like a witch hunt. In a medium that by its nature is effectively devoid of nuance to start with, whatever balance is possible is completely lost. And good luck to anyone who tries to stand in front of the herd and appeal for reason.
It reminded me of a similar feeling after Hurricane Sandy, when Mayor Bloomberg had decided the marathon should proceed. The Twitteverse reacted with complete and hysterical outrage.
Before the marathon was eventually canceled, the runners themselves were called out for their decision to run, nevermind that many had spent the entire year raising money for charity, some had been volunteering to the relief effort leading up to the race, and whether the marathon would go forward or not was outside of their control.
A lot of people on Twitter had tons of ideas about what the runners should be doing with their time, apparently missing the irony that they were doing so while staring at their screens and not really doing anything to help. And if you lived here and tried to volunteer, you may have been turned away as I was because there were already more volunteers than were needed.
A lot of the vitriol was channeled when the New York Post spotted some generators used to power the marathon press tent while some of the city was still blacked out. In classic Twitter fashion people were outraged about it, while missing the nuance that those generators could not have been used to power anyone's home or apartment because of technical limitations, and in the end weren't used at all.
Meanwhile, that same Sunday the New York Giants football game was allowed to proceed in hard-hit New Jersey with nary a complaint on Twitter, despite all of the emergency personnel and food needed for such a huge event. And after the Oscars, I couldn't help but wish that people felt 1/1000th the amount of outrage about 8,000 people in Haiti dying due to alleged U.N. negligence that they did about one stupid tweet.
I initially scoffed when Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article asserting that the revolution will not be tweeted, but I now wonder if he's more correct than I gave him credit for. He argued that the weak ties between people in the social media sphere don't readily lend themselves to actual concrete activism.
I still think Gladwell underestimates social media (it's basic human communication after all). But it does seem to me like it gives people the illusion of action without being actual action. It doesn't readily lend itself to compassion for the people the Twitterverse decides has erred.
Woe betide someone who crosses Twitter, but woe betide us if we don't take a step back from an instantaneous medium devoid of nuance and stop and think. Chances are there's something out there more important to be outraged about and something far more productive we can do to channel our anger.
Cartoon: Johnny Ancich
By Candy Gourlay
Over at Jane Friedman's guest blogger L.L. Barkat has called on experienced writers to stop blogging.
Does this mean I would recommend that everyone stop blogging? No. I encourage new bloggers, just the way I always have. It’s an excellent way to find expression, discipline, and experience. But if writers already have experience, and they are authors
ComiXology’s Chip Mosher of Marketing and PR moderated a panel with Jeremy Atkins of Dark Horse, Dirk Wood of IDW, Mel Caylo of Archaia, and addition Hunter Gorinson of Valiant Comics with the goal of sharing tips and pro experience with indie creators and future marketers on Friday, March 29th at WonderCon. The result was quite an entertaining panel featuring their professional blunders and secret discoveries about he ins and outs of comics promotion.
Mosher started out by asking for the embarrassing stories each had accrued in their work experience, “professional blunders” that contained teachable moments. Atkins admitted to the cringeworthy common mishap of hitting “reply all” on an email and copying a person specifically to be excluded from a conversation, with plenty of sympathetic groans from the audience. Mosher’s own tale of woe was equally relatable, reading an e-mail from Emerald City Con and then forgetting to reply afterward, thereby losing booth space for BOOM that year. Wood was more circumspect about his failures, noting that “25% of marketing is what I would call blunders” that can lead either to success or to a “thud”, and that he finds it impossible to tell which will happen in some circumstances. Persistence, he advised, is the key to forge ahead despite an unpredictable market.
Caylo dredged up his own worst moments with a story of “drunk tweeting” from the wrong account, declaring his love for someone, a tweet that remained up on a company account overnight whereas Gorinson stuck to the ever-present bugaboo of typos in press releases regardless of how many times the releases are checked before sending them out. Wood’s observation that some blunders can have positive results prompted the panel to consider whether they had similar lucky moments. Wood, particularly, “stumbled into successes” by having random, unlikely ideas for promotion like sending Godzilla costumed promo agents to “smash” stores, something that met with great success. The panel quickly turned interactive, fielding questions from the floor, and the first question, probably also the first on everyone’s mind, was how to run PR and marketing strategies on a shoe-string budget.
Mosher wittily commented, “This guy thinks that we have budgets” to his fellow panellists before Caylo took up the question with what became perhaps the strongest message of the panel event: “It’s all about relationships”. He suggested that those seeking press for comics go to shows, have e-mail conversations that are “not always pitching”, so that it’s easier when you do want to ask a favor to bring it up. He also added that “offer giveaways” on sites that increase “cross-promotion” are a very smart move. Atkins, who was particularly earnest and animated throughout the panel suggested that Twitter is a major player in promotion for building and continuing to cultivate professional relationships, including the retail industry in your list of contacts. Wood spoke to the indie creator’s situation trying to get books distributed. “Nothing speaks louder than a consignment situation”, he said, and pointed out that Top Shelf started through delivering consignment issues to comic shops, “giving books” to shops and allowing them to sell them rather than seeking solicitation. This involves “relentless beating of the pavement” since there is “no replacing grassroots”.
Atkins used this idea to springboard into a gambling metaphor: “In gambling and in life, you only win when you can afford to lose”. You shouldn’t expect return immediately, he warned, but trying different approaches and continuing to do so as long as possible is key. Mosher had strong feelings on the subject, reflecting on the example of a student protester who brough the New York Stock Exchange to a standstill by busking for dollar bills all day, then throwing a hundred bills onto the exchange floor. It was the perfect example, for Mosher, of “getting attention at low cost” and using the least resources to garner the “biggest impact”.
Gorinson focused on knowing your material and audience to get attention. Knowing the pitch well, and the many angles from which it might be interpreted, breaking out of narrow genre definitions, for instance, may win the day. He recommended top comics news sites as vehicles for spreading the word, as well as working “with anyone and everyone”, including small blog sites. Mosher’s experience at BOOM confirmed this premise. Starting out publishing only 4 to 7 books a month, he scoured blogs, put people in press lists, and sent them PDF review copies in an era before most comics companies were using PDFs in this way, and thereby grew a press list of 400 contacts.
Wood added that looking at comparable publishers and types of titles to the comic you are trying to circulate is a good starting point, looking to see how and where they are doing their marketing and focus your attack in that way. A common pitfall the panellists all agreed on is when creators send a pitch to a company for a comic series that’s a 12 issue proposal or longer. Companies aren’t willing to take the risk, they advised, and a 3-4 issue format is much more appealing at the outset of a project.
A follow up question from the audience regarded strategies to capitalize on the rash of superhero movies and growing movie fans who might never have read a comic. Several panellists felt that there’s no one single approach to bring film fans into comics, but a more surefire method is to “start them young”, reaching young readers with comics visual literacy. Mosher agreed, stating that there are more kids comics today than in the past decade, and comics continue to have unique qualities of storytelling that continue to appeal as a child grows up reading them. Gorinson added that Free Comic Book Day is an excellent opportunity to “get into as many shops as possible” and reach new, young readers. Mosher and Caylo both returned to the subject of cross promotion between films, tv, and comics, like the inclusion of ashcan comics in dvd box sets to show fans what comics alternatives are available for their favorite products.
A direct marketing question from the floor focused on the similarities or differences between selling comics and other products, like household items. Atkins felt there was very little difference at all, except that it’s more possible in comics to “know who that person is” you are targeting since “They are me, or some version of me”, as a comics fan. He continued with some other salient advice, such as “You have to believe in what you’re selling” and believe that you are “one of the best advocates for it”. Gorinson felt that marketing comics is different from marketing other consumer products because he often feels an “obligation” to live up to the quality of the work he’s promoting in his own efforts.
Gorinson and Atkins also suggested doing some research into major news sites to find out who on staff might be a comics fan, “finding” that contact, or locating dedicated geek blogging attached to news sites. Atkins and Mosher commented that using social media makes reaching out to news writers more and more direct. Mosher admitted that not everyone may have the desire or “skill set” to promote their comics properly despite attempts, and in that case, he advised, you should find a friend who thrives on that kind of work and collaborate on promotion.
The final big topic addressed by the panel, and one which inspired some lively reactions from the speakers, was the use of transmedia and multiple media formats to draw attention to comics. Caylo said that it’s all about “synergy” between comics, films, and related video games, based on his work at Archaia. Atkins clarified, however, that adding transmedia content to promote comics, such as an app or video game should still be “meaningful to the overall story.
I posed a last question to the panel before it came to a close, wondering what the biggest pros and cons are to using social media as a promotional tool. Gorinson replied that you have to be “clever” in different ways to use social media properly for this purpose, while Mosher commented simply, but with some emotion, “Trolls!” as his biggest con. Caylo was the most personally engaged by the question and gave the following run down: social media’s benefits are “accessibility” and the quickness and “ease” of getting the word out about your product, especially when doing it for free. The “dangers”, however, are that “You are open to trolls and people who want to bait you”. “Ignore them”, he recommended, since once they “engage” you, they’ve “got you”. Block them if necessary, and learn to take “the bad with the good” when it comes to social media.
The panel was surprisingly lively, with all the panellists more than willing to share from their personal struggles to find the golden balance when it comes to marketing with limited budgets, and each expressed an obvious commitment to the survival and growth of worthy comics through good strategies and trying innovative methods to see what works for each book and each particular situation. Building personal relationships, watching out for the wrong kind of blunders, and learning from them when they occur, were paramount for these indie publishing marketers.
Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
I was looking for new reads, so yesterday I turned to a talented source: my friends on Facebook. "I want to read new books written by you people," I posted. "If you wrote a book published (or forthcoming) in 2013, could you drop the title, publisher, and target audience in the comments?"
Here are the eclectic, inspiring results, sorted by genre:
When You Wander, A Search and Rescue Dog Story | Margarita Engle | Holt
The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge | Alexis O'Neill | Calkins Creek
Ghost in the House | Ammi-Joan Paquette | Candlewick
Bogart and Vinnie: A Completely Made-up Story of True Friendship | Audrey Glassman Vernick | Walker
Little Women and Me | Lauren Baratz-Logsted | Bloomsbury
Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom | Tym Byrd | Outlaw Moon Books
Cartwheel: A Sequel to Double Eagle | Sneed Collard | Bucking Horse Books
Dead is a Dream | Marlene Perez | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Faerie After | Janni Lee Simner | Random House
Feral Nights | Cynthia Leitich Smith | Candlewick
The Language Inside | Holly Thompson | Delacorte/Random House
Dark Descent | Marlene Perez | Orbit
The Bargain: A Novel (Plain City Peace) | Stephanie Reed | Kregel
Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding: An Antique Print Mystery | Lea Wait | Perseverance Press
The Disrespectful Interviewer: Thirteen Interviews with Authors (e-book) | Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Handling the Truth | Beth Kephart | Gotham
Preaching and Ethnic Diversity (Title to Come) | Lisa Washington Lamb
Making Our Way Through The Traffic: A Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking | Glenn Miles | Regnum
Blindsided: A Game Plan for Grief | Mark Scott | Clements
And Greg Hatcher added, "Probably not your thing, but I wrote a hell-for-leather adventure story starring the Black Bat for one of Airship27's 'New Pulp' anthologies."
Congratulations, one and all. Proud to be in your company, because a book is no easy thing to create. As John Butman notes in "Should You Write a Book?" (published in the Harvard Business Review and well worth a read), "There are many valuable roles a book, and only a book, can play in taking an idea public and gaining respiration for it — that is, making it come to life and breathe on its own."
Hunting for the perfect agent to help you get your children's or YA book published? It's easier to do your research now than it was when I got started, mainly thanks to social media. Here are a few resources to help:
Here's my list of agents on twitter who represent authors of books for young readers. Read their tweets for a while. Get to know their voices. Find the ones who like the kinds of books you read and write. Then submit your manuscript.
Blogs and Sites
Middle Grade Ninja asked a bunch of agents the same seven questions about their preferences. Here are their answers. Read, take notes, and think about who might be a good match for your work.
For two years I’ve been Tweeting the hashtag #bedtimepicks to share the picture books I’m reading to my kids that night. For two years some folks have joined in, yet all have dropped out.
Then I realized: YOU HAVEN’T BLOGGED ABOUT THIS FOR TWO YEARS?
What is wrong with me? (Don’t answer that!)
So I now triumphantly propose we get moving with this hashtag! It’s a simple way to share and discover great picture books. (And if you read chapter books or middle grade novels to your kids, of course, those count, too!)
In the evening, tweet something like this:
Then click on the hashtag to see what other parents and caregivers are reading.
TWO YEARS IN THE MAKING!
If you’re in, let me know in the comments. And please blog about it to spread the word.
Over at The Facebook there are now many different options for authors who wish to have a presence there.
Should you have a public Facebook profile? Should you create a dedicated author page? Should you create a dedicated page for your books too? Should you throw up your hands until Mark Zuckerberg gives you some personal guidance?
First, some definitions. A profile is a personal profile, e.g. what your friends became Facebook friends with, uh, on Facebook. It's the thing you had all along.
If you are going to use a profile to promote your book stuff, you should turn on subscriptions, which allow people to subscribe to your public posts. This way you don't have to accept friend requests from people you don't know -- they can just subscribe to your updates.
Your profile can be almost completely private or almost completely public depending on how you post. Just be sure and be careful about whether you're posting publicly, just to friends, or to a smaller group.
A page is a public page that people can Like. You can create a page as a public figure, and you can create pages for your individual books. When people like your page they receive updates from that page in their News Feed.
So. You're an author. What should you do? Profile with subscriptions or page? Well, it depends.
Here are the pros of having a profile with subscriptions turned on:
You only have to maintain one presence on Facebook rather than both a profile and a page
If you befriended thousands of people you didn't know before Facebook had pages, you can unfriend these people and they stay subscribed to your updates.
Also, if someone sends you a friend request and you don't accept it, they also stay subscribed to your updates.
Thus, utilizing a public profile can help you take back a crowded Facebook profile and manage it a bit more carefully.
Here are the pros of having a public author page:
It allows you to maintain separate presences. If you want to avoid spamming your friends with all your book stuff or your blog, it can be helpful to have a place that's just book stuff and save your other personal posts for your personal profile.
Like buttons are easier to stick on your website than Subscribe buttons.
Pages have access to analytics that profiles don't.
If your Facebook presence is going to be maintained by more than one person, pages are way easier to manage that.
Whatever you decide, I highly recommend creating Facebook pages for your books. These will show up in people's profiles when they like them. Just make sure they're categorized properly.
I have a profile with subscriptions turned on, and if you'd like to subscribe to receive my blog updates and other posts in your news feeds, just click this button!
(Note: You probably can't see it via e-mail or an RSS reader. Click through!)
Social Media Connections - To Endorse or Not to Endorse
What’s Your Marketing Integrity Philosophy
In one of my Linkedin groups, a member asked, “What does integrity mean to you?”
In our fasted paced, condensed internet world, where you really never know who you’re connecting with, integrity is an important issue.
Integrity to me means being honest and having 'high' moral standards in all aspects of life and business. It really boils down to the 'do unto others' biblical philosophy.
A commenter in the group mentioned that she doesn’t endorse people she doesn’t’ know, but wasn’t sure if this was appropriate, since others who don’t know her endorse her.
This issue just came up last week for me again. A new Linkedin connection who I don’t know messaged me that he recommended me in seven areas and asked if I would reciprocate in only two for him.
Two things went through my head: (1) it’s an awkward situation and (2) why would anyone recommend someone they don’t know.
I don't endorse people I don't know. To me it's unethical and would be doing my subscribers and connections a disservice if I did.
I, as nicely as I could, thanked him for the recommendations, but had to decline on the reciprocation. I explained why and he replied back that he understood.
This situation holds true for connecting with someone also. I always check the profile and related sites before accepting. Unfortunately, there are scammers and others out there who I prefer not being associated with, in part because of my values and in part as respect to those who I'm connected with.
I do this for all my social networks. I always check who I’m going to be connected with.
As a writer and book marketer, with connections and subscribers of your own, being considered honest and forthright are key relationship elements. If you want to create and build strong and long-lasting relationships, you need to take your ‘connections’ into account in all your online actions.
Canberra writer and entrepreneur Ellen Harvey has launched a new global platform for writers who can cope with word limits. The drabbl.es website, which is live but in alpha testing, invites visitors to create 100 word stories in one of dozens of subject areas, from journalism to crime and chick lit to biography. It’s an addictive format, and one that will appeal to writers of all genres and experience levels. Ellen took time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions about drabbling and literary start-up life for Boomerang Books.
How and when did you come up with the idea for drabbl.es?
The idea for drabbl.es came about as I was thinking of a way to write, collect, share and get others to do the same with 100 word stories. My writing group at the time loved the idea and I would give them ‘homework’ tasks to write 100 words around a certain theme. I wanted to read their drabbles, and they wanted to read other people’s drabbles too. Drabbles have been around for a while, the term originating from Monty Python, and are quite popular on online blogging platforms such as Livejournal. At the end of 2011, my husband, Lachlan Blackhall, and I were having a conversation about how to make this 100-word story-sharing website a reality. It was then that drabbl.es really started to take form, including many features and improvements that we can’t wait to implement on the website in future versions.
How long have you yourself been writing drabbles?
I have been writing drabbles since I was 14 and sharing them with friends via email and online blogging.
What’s your day job?
My day job is split into three segments really: I’m a writer working on my first manuscript. I also started a company with my sister this year called BnE Media (www.bnemedia.com) where we create animated storybook apps for children. And of course, I work on drabbl.es.
And your dream job?
This is pretty much the dream. I am able to travel while working, I am able to write full-time, and I am able to work on interesting projects.
How many of you are involved in the project and what are the key roles?
As mentioned earlier, my husband is a key member of this project. He works with many start-up companies and is the ideal partner to have for this website. Plus, it’s great fun to be working on something with Lachlan. David Elliot and his team at Agile Digital are amazing–they worked tirelessly to make sure we had demos for workshops and a working version to begin this first trial in October.
How long has it taken to get the site up and running?
The idea was developed into a working website early in the year, and we were able to secure our developers (Agile Digital) in April. In six months, we have been able to start our first trial.
Now that drabbl.es is live, how much work is involved in running and promoting the site?
It’s actually a lot more work than I thought. Running a website, especially one in the early stages, means that I read 95% of all the drabbles. Drabbles are then randomly picked to be ‘promoted’ on social media, as well as advertising our challenges on social media so users know there are new ones. Running a trial, in particular, means I sort through feedback results and am constantly updating the development strategy for the next version. It definitely keeps me busy – but I love it all the same. It’s a new experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else.
When do you anticipate leaving alpha stage and launching proper?
We plan to have the alpha trial running until the end of January (although we may continue into February). The site will still be live after that, but behind the scenes we’ll start working on the beta version. We’ll then release the next version and collect feedback. I love the idea of an evolving website that is exactly what its users want. After the beta trial and redevelopment, I think we’ll launch the proper version.
Will there be iOS and Android apps for drabbl.es?
I certainly hope so! To me, drabbling is definitely something that can be done on the run. You can be at a concert and write about the song you just heard; you can be watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks and describe the atmosphere; you can take a picture and explain what it means to you right then and there while still being in the moment.
Why should people post to drabbl.es rather than Facebook or Twitter or their own Tumblr/blog?
Drabbl.es allows people to tell stories. That is our aim. We want to read about a moment in someone’s life and feel as if we experienced it with them. Drabbl.es is about connections. Facebook and Twitter statuses have developed to the point where they are often used to talk about a very specific moment, but once the moment is over, the update or tweet is often no longer relevant. We want drabbles to have longevity and to mean something a week, a month, a year, a decade after it’s published. Tumblrs and blogs allow users to write as much as they want–we want to encourage creativity by having the word restriction.
Might we see drabbl.es anthologies in ebook form in the future?
It is definitely something that we’ve thought about. Possibly as a way to deliver drabbles daily, weekly or monthly to users interested in particular genres or users. Almost like a newsletter, but hopefully delivered straight to your eReader. That being said, we’ve also thought about users able to export their drabbles straight to ePub/mobi and upload to the various stores themselves. It’s something we’ve thought about, but still a little while off from implementing.
How will you deal with copyright issues ie does the writer retain copyright and what if you were to publish a book, would you have to ask for permission?
Writers always retain copyright. As a writer myself, this is something I feel very strongly about. When they post on the website, the work is always theirs. If we were to publish a book, we would ask the users for permission.
What about moderating the drabbles to ensure nothing defamatory or racist etc is posted, is that a big job?
Currently, our users are wonderful and don’t make it a very big job. I imagine it may turn into one, though. Our website is only as good as the users on it, so I hope that our users will alert us to anything they think we should check out, in addition to our own moderation.
What’s the end goal and how will you make money/pay for the site?
Ideally, and it’s a big dream, I’d love drabbl.es to be on the Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook stage–something people do for fun, but is totally addictive. Regarding making money, we believe the site can make money in two ways. Firstly, sponsored challenges are a logical step. The challenges are already part of drabbl.es functionality and with our view that drabbl.es can be written about events and experiences, then having drabbl.es host challenges for other companies seems reasonable and something the drabbl.es community would do because they are already using the challenges section of the website. The second way is by creating levels of paid users. There will always be a user type that is free and without advertising, but if they want more functionality, such as linking drabbles together or adding more than one picture to a drabble for example, they would need to pay for their account.
How did you come up with the extensive list of drabbl.es subjects? Can contributors suggest more?
I searched for writing genres on Google and came up with a multitude of sites that declared they had the best list of writing genres. I ended up just picking the one I like the best and started with that. The list is a work in progress and I would love for users to suggest more.
What other online forums exist for posting drabbles ie what’s your competition?
A wave of citizen journalism sites have cropped up in the last year and I feel that this is probably our major competition. They all allow their users to add pictures, follow other users, get email updates, comment and socialise on the websites. What’s more, they all promote that their site is about storytelling. Despite this, I know that our concept and website is strong because our 100 word restriction on the stories is a challenge (and an addictive one at that) which only enhances and promotes creativity.
According to Hubspot.com, "91% of online adults engage in social media regularly."
This is more of a reminder than a book marketing tip, since most of you have heard it over and over.
Part of your article marketing strategy includes your blog posts and all your promotional efforts are geared to bring attention to your content and visitors to your site. So, be sure to use all your social networks to promote your posts.
While Facebook gets lots of attention, don’t forget Twitter, Linkedin, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest.
One other note that is geared more toward Twitter and Linkedin is that your posts are more likely to be shared by connections who are ‘like-minded,’ meaning targeted connections who are interested in what you are talking about.
For this reason it's important to have as many targeted connections as possible.
On December 22nd, 2012 Tyler R. Tichelaar and Victor R. Volkman spoke withDeltina Hay, author of The Bootstrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web and The Social Media Survival Guide, is a web developer, publisher, and small business owner. She is the founder of Plumb Web Solutions, helping small businesses and publishers with website creation; search and social media optimization; and content marketing. Deltina informed us on several points of interest including
How is the mobile web different than the regular Internet?
Why do I need a mobile version of my website?
Mobile apps are all the rage, but do I need one?
I hear some people are offering their books as mobile apps. How can I do that?
What should I do differently when marketing to smartphone users?
What are QR codes, and how can I leverage them to sell my books?
How can I leverage location-based services like foursquare and Google places?
What should I know about the future of mobile marketing – such as augmented reality and NFC chips
How do I choose platforms: Android or iOS (iPad/iPhone)
My Google Reader is feeling slim. Comment counts are down. Many of my blogging friends have either officially or unofficially hung up their hats. The ones who do blog do so far less often.
Two years ago I asked if blogs have peaked, and that seems like an almost quaint question now. My blog traffic isn't actually down significantly even though I'm posting less often. According to Blogger this blog had 204,000+ pageviews in December, which is roughly where things were in 2010. But it feels like a lot more people are coming in via search engines and going through the archives than coming by day in day out.
I know my comments platform sucks, especially the unreadable CAPTCHA (I know, I know!), but what I find interesting is that more people now comment on the Facebook posts where I post the blog than they do on the blog itself.
Where have all the bloggers gone? What do you make of this change? Is everyone on Facebook and Twitter? Is everyone consuming more than producing? Am I just not in the right places?
And if you'd like to join the community on Facebook commenting you can follow me on Facebook here:
I’ve read several books on author platform but have to confess never fully grasping the term until reading Chuck Sambuchino’s CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. At its simplest level, a platform is an author’s visibility and reach -- the framework an author has and continues to build that let’s others know of his or her work.
Sambuchino describes his book as “a guide for all the hardworking writers out there who want a say in their own destinies.” Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to establishing a platform, Sambuchino says the need for platform cannot be ignored, even for those of us who write fiction. The book is divided into three sections: The Principles of Platform, The Mechanics of Platform, and Author Case Studies. At the end of each chapter, literary agents weigh in on the chapter’s topic, giving readers perspectives outside of the author’s. One of the most helpful aspects of the book is the Case Study section, where twelve different authors from a variety of genres (memoir to self help, fiction to reference) reflect on the choices they made in building their platforms -- what worked, what they wish they’d done differently, what they believe makes them stand out from others in their field.
Sambuchino is also quick to say “this is a resource for those who realize that selling a book is not about blatant self-promotion.” It is more about relationships, the sharing of expertise, and supporting others along the way. Though written for the aspiring author, a lot of things resonated with me, a newly published author, such as the wisdom behind an author newsletter, establishing an “events” page on my blog, and always, that kindness and generosity go a long way. Display CommentsAdd a Comment
I've just stumbled upon Interviews: How to Become a Writer at Kelcey Parker's blog, ph.d in creative writing. I haven't read any of the interviews yet, and, I must admit, I haven't heard of any of the writers in this series. That doesn't say anything about them, or me. Writers are very specialized and function in different worlds. What I'm liking is Parker's "basic premise is that becoming a writer is not rocket science, but it’s not magic either. Being a writer is a lifestyle choice...It requires writing about writing, reading, writing about reading, attending readings, meeting writers, writing to writers, writing about writers, maybe even teaching or class-taking. (Notice that I haven’t even mentioned publishing. That will come.)" Oh, my gosh, yes. You have to like and want the lifestyle because that is what sustains you when nothing else does. (Excuse me for sounding all deep. Not to worry. It will pass. Yup. There it goes.) Scroll down to her four reasons for doing the How to Become a Writer series. "Most advice out there is about short cuts: how to write better novels or how to get published or how to outline a killer plot..." Once again, Oh, my gosh, yes.
Hmm. Ms. Yingling says that the number one concern of middle school students is losing long time friends. That seems like a little tidbit I should file away for later use. Then check out her experience with boy readers and eBooks, as well as those of her commenters.
Top 10 Things One Writer Learned About Social Media Marketing at Mystery Writing Is Murder (By way of Cynsations). Note in particular Items 2 and 5. I've seen this kind of advice a lot. Yet I also see writers on Facebook who only show up to make an announcement, then disappear, and writers who use their blogs as an announcement page, posting maybe a dozen times a year. I'm never going to win any awards for my social skills, but I understand what the word "social" means. Yeah, that's why later this evening I hope to post a picture of the pizza I made for dinner tonight at my personal Facebook page.
This is not very much, I know, but I've been shoveling a lot of snow this weekend. I'm hoping in the future to include more podcasts, and you'll be hearing why in a week or two. If you are in New England and you don't have power, stay warm.
In 2006, there appeared to be a remarkable consensus among Internet gurus, activists, bloggers, and academics about the promise of Web 2.0 that users would attain more power than they ever had in the era of mass media. Rapidly growing platforms like Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006) facilitated users’ desire to make connections and exchange self-generated content. The belief in social media as technologies of a new “participatory” culture was echoed by habitual tools-turned-into-verbs: buttons for liking, trending, following, sharing, trending, et cetera. They articulated a feeling of connectedness and collectivity, strongly resonating the belief that social media enhanced the democratic input of individuals and communities. According to some, Web 2.0 and its ensuing range of platforms formed a unique chance to return the “public sphere” — a sphere that had come to be polluted by commercial media conglomerates — back in the hands of ordinary citizens.
Eight years after the apex of techno-utopian celebration, a number of large platforms have come to dominate a social media ecosystem vastly different from when the platforms just started to evolve. It’s time for a reality check. What did social media do for the public — users like you — and for the ideal of a more democratic public space? Do they indeed promote connectedness and participation in community-driven activities or are they rather engines of connectivity, driven by automated algorithms and invisible business models? Online socializing, as it now seems, is inimically mediated by a techno-economic logic anchored in the principles of popularity and winner-takes-all principles that enhance the pervasive logic of mass media instead of offering alternatives.
Most contemporary social media giants once started out as informal platforms for networking or “friending” (Facebook), for exchanging user-generated content (YouTube), or for participating in opinionated discussions (Twitter). It was generally assumed that in the new social media space, all users were equal. However, platforms’ algorithms measured relevance and importance in terms of popularity rankings, which subsequently formed the quantifiable basis of data-driven interactivity wrapped in “social” rhetoric such as following, trending, or sharing. In this platform-mediated ecosystem, sponsored and professionally generated content soon received a lot more attention than user-generated content. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook gradually changed their interfaces to yield business models that were staked in two basic variables: attention and user data. By 2012, once informal social traffic between users had become fully formalized, automated, and commoditized by platforms owned and exploited by fast growing corporate giants. Although each of these platforms nurses its own proprietary mechanisms, they are staked in the same values or principles: popularity, hierarchical ranking, quick growth, large traffic volumes, fast turnovers, and personalized recommendations. A like is not a retweet, but most algorithms are underpinned by the norms of popularity and fast-trending topics.
The cultivation of online sociality is increasingly dominated by four major chains of platforms: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. These chains share some operational principles even if they differ on some ideological premises (open versus closed systems). Some consider social media platforms as alternatives to the old mass media, praising their potential to empower individual users who can contribute their own opinions or content to a media universe that was before pretty much closed to amateurs. Although we should not underestimate this newly acquired power of the web as a publishing medium for all, it is hard to keep up the tenet that social media are alternatives to mass media. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly obvious that the logics of mass media and social media are intimately intertwined. Not just on the level of platforms mechanics and content (tweets have become the equivalent of soundbites) but also on the level of user dynamics and business models; YouTube-Google now collaborates with many former foes from Hollywood to turn their platform into the gateway to the entertainment universe. Newspapers and television stations are inevitably integrated in the ecosystem of connective media where the mechanisms of data-driven user traffic determines who and what gets most attention, hence drawing customers and eyeballs.
This new connective media system has reshaped the power relationships between platform owners and users, not only in terms of who may steer information but also who controls the vast amount of user data that rushes through the combined platforms every day. What are the larger political and social concerns behind deceptively simple interfaces and celebrated user-convenient tools? Where in 2006 the notion of user power still seemed unproblematic, the relationship between users and owners of social media platforms is now contentious and embattled. In the wake of the growing monopolization of niches (Facebook for social networking, Google for search, Twitter for microblogging) it is important to redefine and reappraise the meaning of “social,” “public,” “community,” and “nonprofit.” The ecosystem of connective media has no separate spaces for the “public”; it is a nirvana of interoperability which major players argue for deregulation and which imposes American neoliberal conditions on a global space where boundaries are considered disruptions of user convenience. Common public values, such as independence, trust, or equal opportunities, are ready for reassessment if they need to survive in an environment that is defined by social media logic.
I had a hundred million other things to do the other day but then I came upon this piece in the New York Times about "Protecting Your Privacy on the New Facebook".
The NEW Facebook? Again?
Sigh. What with now being a quoted company, FB is adding new meaning to the word INSIDIOUS.
Having said that, as someone who promotes stuff on Facebook, I have found the Facebook page very useful in