Monday, July 22, 2019

Why Social Media is Essential for Writers

Blog post updated 22/07/2019.

Social media has gone from being a simple "friend finder" to a full-time "pastime" for many, both old and young. 

Currently used by over 2.6 billion people worldwide, social media platforms have become a part of everyday life.  With many people glued to their screens by the daily activities of friends, family, and followers.

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Way back in 2005, this wasn't always the case, the world hadn't caught on to the social media bug.

Taking  a deeper look into the turbulent history of social media will help us better understand how the world has drastically changed, and is still changing around us. And why social media has become an integral part of most writer's lives.



The Definition of Social Media

What exactly do we mean when we put the words social and media together?  A quick Google search reveals the following definition of social media:

Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content, or to participate in social networking.

From the above definition two things are projected from this definition:

1. Social media is a form of online communication, or without the internet there would be no social media.

2. Social media survives on content generated by it's users.  Only social networking sites and not usual blogs are included in social media. 

Social media can come under the umbrella of various platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and even Gmail.  There are many more websites that offer social networking, once you start delving into how users connect around the world on social media.


 

How Social Media Started

History likes to look at the start of social media, starting at Samuel Morse's first telegraph in the 19th century.  This was sent in 1844 between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

By the original definition of social media, this form of communication doesn't make the grade as a form of communication.  The telegram wasn't part of a larger community or collective, and the communication didn't take place online.  Social media really starts in the 70s at the birth of the internet.

The Expansion of the Internet

Roots were formed in the 60s and 70s when public and private organisations wanted a way to communicate with each other.  It wasn't until the 1980s when personal computers became a part of everyday life that the stage was set for social media.

The ushering in of blogging platforms by the 1990s really kicked off the age of social media.  Once upon a time it seemed strange that anyone would be able to log on to the internet and tell the world about what they were feeling, doing, or even thinking that day.  This enabled people to understand, and see the significance of where the internet was going.

Early Social Media Sites

The first two social media sites, by using the definition above, were Six Degrees and Friendstar, which no longer exist, even though they played a key part in starting the social media revolution.

Six Degrees

Regarded as the first social media site, the Six Degrees website stated that everyone in the world was connected by no more than six degrees of separation.  Linked to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon theory, which is totally irrelevant to the phenomenon.

Six Degrees was one of the founding pioneers of social media because it allowed people to create individual profiles and add friends to their network.  Launched in 1997, at it's peak it had around 3.5 million users.  Was bought out by Youthstream Media Networks in 1999 for a cool $125 million, but sadly closed down in 2001.

Friendster

Friendster emerged in 2002, not unlike Six Degrees, allowing its users to save, and make contacts as part of their networks.  Friendster allowed its users to share videos, messages, and photos with other users.  Enabling them to comment on other users profiles, as long as they were in the same network.

Friendster steadily grew, reaching over one hundred million.  By 2011 Friendster was rebranded as a social gaming site.  Keeping it relevant alongside it's main competitors like Yahoo and Google.

Unfortunately it was doomed to fail, and by 2015 all of its services were suspended.  In January of this year, 2019, it shut it's doors completely.


The Start of LinkedIn

Founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue and Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, and Jean-Luc Valliant.  LinkedIn was one of the first ever social media sites.  Originally setup for professional people, enabling them to connect with old school contacts, and businesses.  This is still LinkedIn's sole purpose.  Ranking number #285 on the Alexa Ranking, and with more than 575 million registered users, it's still one of the most visited sites online today.

The Creation of MySpace

One of the most popular and influential websites online, MySpace was launched in 2003, and quickly rose in the ranks to be one of the largest social media sites in the world.  Starting as a file storage platform, and quickly transitioning into a social network, it's popularity grew quickly.

In 2005 many larger companies became interested in buying it, resulting in its sale to Rupert Murdoch for $580 million.  Not long after, MySpace exceeded Google as the most visited website in the world.

The Fall of MySpace

MySpace was making around $800 million in revenue, but competitor Facebook started to expand its primary audience from college students to everyone, giving it universal appeal.  Myspace quickly went into decline, and by 2008 was replaced by Facebook as the most visited website.

Many say that the on-site ads that generated revenue for MySpace were its downfall, these ads overloaded the website, and put many of its users off using it.

Bought out by Time Inc., and then again by the Meredith Corporation, it ranks #4,153 on the Alexa Ranking.

The Birth of Facebook
 
Founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollom, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes in 2004.  Created specifically as a social media site for Harvard students, quickly spreading across the Ivy League campuses, it became available to anyone over the age of 13 in 2006. 

Rapidly growing and outstripping MySpace in 2008, ranked #3 on Alexa, quickly following Google and YouTube in its rapid growth.

Going public in 2012 with a valuation of $104 billion, one of the highest IPO valuations ever.  Generating a cool $40 billion a year in revenue, and thought to be one of the most important tech companies in the world to date.

With over 2.3 billion active users, and growing.  Reaches just under 30 percent of the world's population.

The Beginning of Twitter
 
Started by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in 2006.  Limits its users to only 140 characters per tweet, a policy that only ended in 2017, when its character limits were doubled.   Was valued at $14.2 billion and went public in 2013.  Currently has 335 million active users worldwide.

The Inception of Instagram
 
Launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and focusing mainly on videosand photos.   Instagram snowballed quickly afters its launch.  Exceeding one million users in just two months.  The sixth most popular social media site with 1 billion users, and recently bought out by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.


The Rise of Snapchat
 
Started by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown in 2011.  With a unique feature of allowing its users to send photos,Snapchat offers its users the chance to post videos, photos, and stories, and save them for one day. With around 186 million users, very popular among young people.

Why Social Media is Essential For Writers 
 
If you're an unknown writer, social media can seem like a blessing and a curse.  Social media marketing is a billboard for every writer that wants to get their voice heard.

Hours are spent finding out new and better ways to gain new clients, or followers, through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.  A useful tool to get that new book seen, and bought.  Or maybe a new course that needs marketing.  All done by a few simple words on social media.

Unfortunately using social media, isn't all plain sailing, success doesn't happen overnight, and many hours can be spent before real fruit is seen. With much of that time being taken up on social media,which can take away precious time from writing projects.

So is Social Media Really Worth the Time Spent on it by Writers Wanting to be Heard?

Here are 3 social media tips to consider before you think about giving up on social media:

1. Use the Platforms that You Feel You Get the Most Out Of

Go for the social media platforms you feel the most comfortable with and post regularly and consitently using a a social media management platform such as Buffer

2. Don't Overextend Yourself

Like so many people, finding the time to post on social media can be time consuming.  So a good working balance is required,  you need to workout how much time you need to promote your work, and how much time to write it. 

3. Decide on Your Long Term Goal 

What is your endgame?  Do you want to sell books?  Or may be you want to become an authority figure in your community.  Whatever your goal is, planning and time management are key factors in becoming more efficient at what you do.

Is Social Media Compulsory for Writers?

I think writing should be the main focus, along with time put aside for promotion of books and blog, because without social media, you'd get nowhere.

There will be plenty of writers who disagree with me, and who quite happily get by without social media, but unfortunately for many of us social media is a lifeline, and without it we'd be sunk!

Why You Need to Establish a Big Social Media Following

It takes time to build social media following on any platform.  But with a bit of patience and a consistent flow of content your social media marketing strategy will start to pay off.

Here are 4 reasons why social media is essential to writers:

1. You Become a Trustworthy Source

People appreciate things more if they're validated, and this can be done easily with retweets and liks on Twitter, or pins on Pinterest.

It's this approval from your followers that shows they care about what you write, and they appreciate what you post.  Through this endoresment you gain more credibility from your online community than those with a lower following.  Making you more trustworthy, and a reliable place to buy from.

2. Your Opportunities Will Increase

If someone is on the lookout for a writer, who are they going to choose?  The person with a small following and very few likes, or the person who has a growing following, and interacts with their audience regularly?

3. Your Content Will Start to Spread

With a regular list of followers your readers start telling their friends, colleagues, and family about your site, and in time your sales will rise, and your traffic will grow.

All you need to do is to give your readers a supply fresh content on your social media channels, and you'll start to see the growth of your blog following.  Unfortunately this doesn't happen overnight, and will take a lot of hard work, and perseverance.  But perserverance will soon start to pay off.

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4. Your Connections Will Increase

People will start to comment and engage with you on your blog, and through social media.  These connections will increase, and your content will spread like wildfire.

Writers Need to Write

If your internet was down and you couldn't get on any of your social media accounts, sure it would be hard, for a little while.  But writing is at the heart of what you do, and if you're not on social media, you should be thinking about your next story or blog post idea.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is "just write".

I'd love to hear your thoughts about social media, in the comments below.


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  1. While social media DOES help develop an audience, for the writing, itself, sometimes the writer needs to be AWAY from social media.

    It's a balancing act, to be sure !

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    1. Thank you for your comment Johannas:) yes it's definitely a balancing act.

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