Social Media and the Evolution of Writing
Like many writers, I attended university pursuing an English degree and (fingers crossed) a successful career in print media as a journalist or editor or columnist, etc. Back then, it was easier to distinguish yourself as a published writer because there was more of an accepted formula: write for your school’s newspaper or literary magazine, freelance for some local magazines, intern here and there…then go work for The New York Times, right?!
But, with the emergence of social media as the #1 form of creative expression, everyone shares the right to call themselves writers. In many eyes, slaving away on a 5,000-word article has become passé for young writers. Instead, all you need is 140 characters or an account on blogspot or tumblr. This is not going where you may think it is — I am not at all bitter or resentful. I did start off my career in print media, but just as I believe in the evolution of science, I believe strongly in the evolution of writing.
And what an exciting evolution it is; we now get to interact with our readership in real time. The feedback we receive becomes part of the content, and therefore part of the art. Early 20th century philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin always believed that art should be a collaboration between the “consumers and producers.” Though he passed away long before Twitter and Facebook became prominent launching pads for new talent, I often wonder what he’d think. Or tweet.
So, here I am: one very lucky woman given the opportunity to be the director of communications for the coolest not-for-profit. Along with doing the traditional forms of writing, we engage our social media networks several times daily. Because this is such a new platform for organizations, institutions, and businesses alike, hardly anyone is an expert and everyone is learning by doing and experimenting (how refreshing!). From the biggies like Coca-Cola to your small neighborhood start-ups and boutiques, we’re all in it together. Sure, a few hundred thousand followers may separate us, but when it comes to writing the content, we all have the same questions.
I'm not an expert and I don’t have all the answers, but I do have lessons learned. For many of you, I’m probably not telling you anything new. But, I am sharing these tips below in hopes that you will, in turn, share your ideas. The NMC is all about paying it forward these days. Passing along knowledge gained is an important social responsibility.
Be a personality; not a business. As a community manager or social media coordinator for a business, we tend to feel the weight of the company on our shoulders. Remember, ad campaigns used to be the primary way businesses represented themselves, and those campaigns took a lot of money and time to perfect. As a single person reaching out to the Facebook and Twitter followers, always be professional but show your personality. You were hired in that position for a reason, so if you have a great sense of humor, for example, use that to your advantage. People feel more comfortable supporting businesses and organizations when they recognize that there is a human being on the other side.
Connect, collaborate, and listen. Don’t you hate that friend or colleague who is always asking you for favors but never reciprocates? Your organization’s social media presence shouldn’t be one-sided. Showing you care about other organizations with similar goals and the people that help make your organization thrive is so important. Those are the folks who will become your biggest social media champions. If you like someone’s article, share it with your networks. If a university is launching a cool new research project, “like” it and drive web traffic and support to their web site. Be the person who actively listens as much as you talk. If someone else reaches out to you to ask a question or even just to tell you they liked a post, respond to them. Just because we live in an increasingly digital world doesn’t mean common courtesy has departed us. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.
Adapt and experiment. What works for one organization may not work for another. Pay attention to other Facebook business and community pages, Twitter accounts, etc., and take notes on what you do and do not like. At your job, you’re a producer, but in all the other hours of your life, you’re a consumer. With the emergence of the Creative Commons, imitation is still the highest form of flattery. When something works for someone else, find a way to adapt it to your organization. But don’t be afraid to come up with your own whacky idea and see it through. As long as you carry it out tactfully, the worst that can happen is that you lose a few followers or the campaign quietly fades away. The NMC recently launched a new Facebook page for a special project, and gaining new “likes” for it was a slow process. I thought of an idea where we could partner with similar social connectors and non-profits and raise awareness and support for all of us. Thus, “Pay It Forward Friday” was born. On certain Fridays, for each new “like” this Facebook page receives, we donate $5 to a different charity. It’s only been going on for two weeks, but already the participation and engagement on the page has increased like crazy.
Got more ideas or feedback you’d like to share? We'd love to hear from you! email@example.com.
Creative Commons Photos: Top by cambodia4kids.org; Bottom by TheGreatVermin