When I was in college I was a member of a fraternity (stop rolling your eyes, Maddie. Mom, I know…I never should have cut down the tree in front of Naval ROTC…that was a long time ago…). Anyway, I was, and for the most part enjoyed it, even the corny formal councils and the Greek passwords and the secret handshakes (and yes there are, and no I won’t show you or I would have to kill you). I liked it because I was part of a community of guys in my house and the men and women in the greater Greek system who accepted and respected me—and because it had silly ceremonies and weird rules and wonderful camaraderie.
I also very knowingly looked away from the negatives of it—the elitism, inherent unfairness of 19 year olds judging each other, etc. But that’s not the point here. I just made a decision when my buddies and I decided to rush that I was going to simply dive in and embrace the culture, enjoy the good parts and try not to get tugged into the bad. It was most of the time a useful way of going about it. I made great friends, did some good in my community, went to terrific parties, and learned some responsibility the hard way.
I feel much the same way about social media—and stay with me, it’s not even a stretch—and believe it’s a great way for the Reluctant Tweeters and Sharers out there to think about their online platform building and book marketing. Sure there are the silly memes and time-sucks, and it may feel unproductive to discuss your lunch in 140 characters or look at cute cats for an hour. But it’s also very possible—particularly in genre fiction like mystery, romance, and science fiction for three—to find a large and broad and friendly community with similar interests and loud voices. And it can feel really good to be part of that (with the right amount of self-awareness)—it’s the nearly pheremonal satisfaction of acceptance and respect, albeit without the keg parties.
And it’s worth reiterating what I brought up two weeks ago—you also can’t fake it, any more than a smart-ass pledge can make it through hell night. If you clearly resent the time you are spending on Facebook or Twitter or different genre-specific blogs, and aren’t putting forth a sincere (or even better, sincere and enthusiastic) effort, you will simply spin your wheels and be ineffective. People don’t like a faker or a shill—and they won’t buy her book, either. And look, an intelligent, well thought-out, extended and concerted social media effort stands an author in good stead. How good stead is certainly open to debate—there is insufficient data to quantify with any accuracy the precise relationship between platform building and marginal sales (at this point it’s art more than science, but getting better and better). But the only downside is possible opportunity cost of Facebook time vs writing time.
It seems to me that the upside is worth it. More than that, it could give you the real, satisfying opportunity to spend time with people with similar passions to yours—without Hell Week or Double Secret Probation.