Social networks harbor pitfalls and profit potential for writers
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: February 3, 2009
|Talk about marketing or advertising, and publishers often suggest you head for the nearest social network. That's not surprising—who hasn't heard of the latest singing sensation's career built via MySpace? Social networking even played a key role in the last presidential election, with both political parties working the cyber-pavement to build support. I joined two networks, Facebook and LinkedIn. I've had lots of fun connecting with old acquaintances and making new ones.|
I can't really say either community has advanced my career yet, but I don't work the resource as diligently as some. I did receive a glowing e-mail from a stranger who wanted to be my friend. He praised everything about me he could discern from a thumbnail photo and two-line description in my Facebook listing. I glanced over his page and found he liked to heap praise on all his female friends, and in the praise-heaping department, he was king. I rescinded the friendship because I am definitely not seeking romance. I've also received a few e-mails containing suspect links. LinkedIn has produced a more professional result—I've offered remarks to journalists trolling for article content and I've written recommendations for a few fellow writers.
But some writers have hit pay dirt. New Jersey freelancer Michele Hollow landed a daily newspaper account through LinkedIn. Hollow joined LinkedIn on the recommendations of professional colleagues. "Within the first 6 weeks," she said, "I got a freelance gig that will possibly lead to other work. I was surprised. A copyeditor at The Star-Ledger recognized my name and sent me an e-mail about a freelance job. I used to freelance for The Ledger. I didn't know this person and my stories never crossed her desk. She just recognized my byline at The Ledger. I went for the interview and told the person I was interviewing with that I didn't really write about business (it was for a business magazine.) He said, 'Well if Marci recommends you, you got the job.'"
Hollow quipped, "Marci could have walked right by and I wouldn't know her." She uses LinkedIn strictly for "business networking."
There was an additional benefit. Hollow had just written a book, and LinkedIn happened to have a group related to the book's subject. "The person in charge of the group posted online that he ordered the book." The group leader also posted a link to the book and suggested other members check it out.
Hollow said she was also interviewed by a wire service reporter who belonged to the community.
New York freelancer Stephanie Golden capitalized on Facebook. She explained, "I imported my blog on writing and meditation to Facebook and discovered that people will read it there who won't go to the blog site itself. One woman who's sort of a fan got a fellow writer friend to 'friend' me so that he could read my blog and be inspired to keep writing." Golden said the man could've just gone straight to the blog. "It's on Wordpress and I spent a lot of time picking out a template and customizing it to make it pretty. On Facebook it looks horrible. But I'm not complaining. This woman actually bought one of my books and is reading it. Anything that makes that happen has to be OK with me."
Lee Klancher is a Minnesota freelancer who saw possibilities in social networking after his publicist suggested it. Klancher's new book is as close to unique as you can get—he covers motorcycle dream garages. The garages are mostly private, but he includes a commercial garage as well. There's a whole culture of enthusiasts who want the best place to house their motorcycles.
Mike and Nuri Wernick, owners of Rising Wolf Garage in New York, posed for writer Lee Klancher as he researched his new book 'Motorcycle Dream Garages.' See more of Klancher's photos
at the Smug Mug community.
Klancher built a Web site after getting a lot of traffic at a photo gallery he posted online at the SmugMug community where members post videos in addition to photographs. "After posting the gallery and sending a quick e-mail to my friends and the owners of the garages, I had about 5,000 image views in about two weeks," Klancher said. "So I posted a link to the photo gallery to two discussion boards-Garage Journal for garage geeks and ADVrider for motorcycle adventure people. The hits went wild after that." Klancher said he recorded more than 250,000 image views from September 15 to December 31. Klancher will build an e-mail list—"try to build some buzz for the book." He says he's convinced online marketing is "where it's at."
Having spent time on several social network sites, I've come to realize some of the benefits aren't tangible. Many times I've been inspired by something someone has written, or touched by a personal story a friend has shared. I don't have a lot of time to spend on networks, but since I work alone it's nice sometimes to chat with others at Facebook.
I have also learned to pay attention to how others use social networks—how they employ a forum or a photo gallery. Sometimes I see examples that help me in my own endeavors.
Social networks offer an opportunity for some; for others there may be pitfalls like the virus that recently made its way to member e-mails in some communities. Anywhere people gather in large numbers, there's potential to gain or lose. Proceeding with caution and in a mannerly way should help steer you closer to the gains than the losses.
Michele C. Hollow, New Jersey freelancer home pages
Stephanie Golden, New York freelancer home pages and blog
Lee Klancher, Minnesota freelancer home pages and book site
--Posted Feb. 3, 2009
Are you ready for opportunity when it knocks? Read our next Web Savvy and see what tools of the trade you need and how to capitalize when opportunity comes your way.
Kay B. Day
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.