Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Your Progress?

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At this point, it’s basically impossible not to be involved with some type of social media. Social media, after all, doesn’t just include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Okay, so we’re going to have to get into more detailed explanations here in a second. This isn’t a social media blog, but social media does influence everything we do—including what, when, how, where and why we write.

Don’t believe us? What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you immediately pick up a book? Drag yourself downstairs to make coffee? Search for your running shoes?

A lot of us probably use our phones as alarms now. Which means, even without intending to, the first thing you might do when you wake up is check your phone. First to switch off your alarm, and then … what did you miss on Twitter after you went to sleep?

It’s great to connect with people online, especially if you’re virtually meeting up with other writers. But is your writing thriving, or suffering, because of it?

Social media vs. social networking

Okay, so maybe you’re one of the few who don’t check your Facebook notifications very often, are mostly silent on Twitter and can’t stand Pinterest or Tumblr. But do you receive any enewsletters via email? Visit any websites? Watch videos online?

If you do, you’re still interacting with social media, which is, according to Social Media Today, forms of online communication through which people “share ideas, information, personal messages, and other content.”

Yes. By reading this post, you are using social media. Boom.

In contrast, social networking is all about relationships. We create profiles on social networks in order to connect with other people, whether they’re friends, potential employers or just random people we have things in common with. Facebook and Twitter are social networks, where you might share an update or article (or a blog post you like, wink wink).

We use social media to learn new things and share our ideas. We use social networks to engage and go deeper. Which can be a great thing for aspiring writers. Right?

When does it help? 

Social media and social networking should always be used two ways: to talk and to listen. There’s plenty of strategy involved here, but we’ll get an expert on here to walk you through that (still promising). Browsing through taglines, article titles and just random posts from random people can inspire new ideas you may have never thought of otherwise.

It’s never a bad idea to promote your work and your accomplishments (in moderation), such as keeping your followers updated on your writing progress or announcing a new story that’s just been published somewhere.

You can also use it to connect with other writers and cheer them on when they’re hard at work on the other side of their latest tweet. Discussions with writers always somehow end up taking a turn for the awesome, especially if you’re the one to start one. 

When does it hurt? 

Honestly? When you spend too much time on it, use it incorrectly or use it for the wrong reasons. The first one is a no-brainer: the more time you spend mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, the less time you actually spend writing your own content, whether that be a blog post, chapter in your book or an article for some fancy magazine (go you!).

There are ways to use social media wrong, and using it for the wrong reasons is one of those ways. Yes, you should promote your work and be proud of your accomplishments … to a point. Don’t brag. Don’t make it all about you, all the time. No one wants to follow someone like that. Remember, you have to engage with other people, and approaching someone else only to talk about yourself is the same online as it would be at a dinner party. Awkward.

And for the love of God. #Stop. #Doing. #This. #In. #Every. #Single. #Post. You want to have a good reputation on social media. You don’t have to be an expert. But you need to at least try to act like you know what you’re doing.

How to find balance

It’s normal, probably even healthy, to spend a little time communicating with other people online. In some cases, it’s the only way you can catch up with friends and family who don’t live close. Checking out various forms of social media and hanging out on social networks can be great for generating new ideas, but it can also be distracting, and, if used improperly, damaging.

Always keep your end goal in mind. If your goal is to get published someday, treat your social media interactions the same way you would if you were interacting with an editor or agent. Keep your work and the work of your friends and colleagues at the center of your promotions, not yourself. Brand, but do it wisely. Be confident, but don’t be a snob.

We dare you to share this post on social media today. Share it with a fellow writer. Everyone’s presence online matters, and if you want to build a solid online portfolio to showcase your work, that includes your social networking profiles, too. There’s no way to escape it. Welcome to 2015!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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