Last night, I attended a talk given by David Taylor of 2010Media, a company that specialises in helping people, companies and organisations improve their communications in the age of social media. It was a fascinating talk, and I learned a lot. Talking with other attendees, I wasn't the only one.
Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube and all the others have completely changed the world. I already knew that. But I don't think I had realised how that change affected ME. For years, I plodded on, ignoring the inane comments on Facebook ("Had rice Krispies for dinner, lol) and the indecipherable text speak sentences on Twitter: ("R u coming 2 c me L8er 2nite?") I couldn't figure out Linked In, or My Space, and hadn't a clue about Youtube. It was for kids who'd left the age of the mobile phone behind, right?
A few months ago, I realised that if I was ever going to achieve my dream of making a living as a writer, I had to do all I could to raise my profile. Gone were the days of writing a book/script/article and shyly handing it to the publisher/director/editor before scuttling away to anonymity to write some more. Behind us are the times when the publisher's promotion team does all the PR work and leaves you to your art. A writer today has to be prepared to market their work, create interest in it, pitch it.
I worked on the basis of one simple truth: the more your name appears in public, the more people will have heard of you, and if the name is familiar, they're more likely to give you time and space to make that pitch. They're more likely to take you seriously.
So, I started trying to use social media sites more effectively. I increased the amount of traffic I generated, and I tried to make sure that traffic was interesting, entertaining and informative so that readers would enjoy it and come back for more. I tried to make sure the writing was good quality - even within the 140 characters of Twitter. No point telling everyone you're a writer and then leaving a badly written sentence where the world and his wife can trip over it. That'd be like telling everyone you were a chef and then serving up burnt shepherd's pie.
I've made many new friends and contacts through social media. Some of them are people who enjoy my posts, which is gratifying and boosts my confidence. Some of them share my passion for writing, which eases the loneliness of the work. And some of them have been in positions to help me, giving me tips to improve my chances of success, helping make the work better, advising me of markets and competitions that will do me good, introducing me to people who may be interested in working with me.
None of them are people I would have met in the street of my town. Most would never have opened a letter from me, or even an email. Yet, social media has made them accessible.
The world is shrinking. Opportunities are growing. All we have to do is keep up with the traffic.