Saturday, 17 March 2012

Social Media – to use or not to use, that is the question. But what is the answer?
     As a new member of, I have been using Facebook and Twitter much more than hitherto and whilst I have been quite enjoying doing so, the thought has occurred to me as to whether or not using social media to promote myself and my book is a legitimate activity. When I say legitimate, I don’t mean is it legal, i.e. am I breaking any laws, but perhaps more: is it an appropriate use of social media?
     Asking this question leads inevitably to another question which is: what is the purpose or function of social media? Is it simply meant to be a facility for friends (perhaps acquaintances would be a more appropriate term) to keep in touch with each other? Is it also meant to be an enjoyable activity, something that is fun to do, regardless of whether or not it shares information between friends, like playing a game? I think that might well be applicable in the case of Twitter but maybe less so for Facebook.
     If social media is primarily a means of keeping in touch with people, then it seems to me that it is perfectly legitimate to use it to tell your friends (or acquaintances) what you are up to, i.e. what you are spending your time on and what’s happening in your life.
     But what about when what's happening in your life revolves around activities you are undertaking to promote yourself and your creations to the general public? Is it still legitimate? The thing is, you could now be perceived (particularly by your acquaintances, as opposed to your friends) as abusing the facility by trying to sell your creations to them, and perhaps even worse, by trying to get them to sell your creations to their friends and acquaintances.
     The fact of the matter is that by using social media, it is possible to spread word of mouth (or, more accurately, word of keyboard) much faster and much more extensively than ever before, as long as you don’t alienate those whose support you are seeking. When using social media as a means of promotion, the aim is for word of mouth about your creation to spread rapidly as your followers re-tweet your tweets to their followers and your friends share your Facebook postings with their friends, and so on and so on, ad-infinitum. This can then lead to word about your creation going viral and reaching tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom hopefully will buy it, or view it, or whatever.
     I was reminded of the whole going viral thing this week when I received an email telling me someone had subscribed to my video channel on YouTube. This caused me to go to my channel where I discovered that a short film of mine which  I had put on YouTube six months ago had been viewed by 38,763 people in 174 countries and that it is currently being viewed by an average of 600 people a day! I have done absolutely nothing to promote this film and I didn’t tell anyone I had put it up there, although I did put a link to it from my book’s website.
     So, in conclusion, I think it is legitimate to use social media to promote your creations as long as you do it sensitively and with intent to inform rather than to browbeat. Excessive postings or tweets of the same information over and over again will just get you unfollowed or unfriended and will, therefore be counter productive. I think we have to remember that most people use social media for fun and to stay in touch with people they know and that is what they expect everyone else to use it for. Social media is not seen by most users as a sales channel but as an information channel. It is, therefore, perfectly acceptable to use it to promulgate information but it is not acceptable to use it to sell - there's a difference. 

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