Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest… – do you need them all?

A question to the floor: pinterest2
What social media tools do you use and for what purposes? We could talk all day about Facebook (or on Facebook) – where many writers have fan pages, or post most updates – but let’s go a bit further afield too.

  • Pinterest – Launched in 2010 as a ‘virtual pinboard,’ Pinterest can be used for research (putting photos in buckets), inspiration, and conversation. Check out some really well-curated pinboards for examples: Arin Dembo, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Jenny Lawson, Sara Mueller, and Craig EnglerMine’s a bit sloppy, but I’ve found it a useful place to store things in buckets, so I know where to find them. Broadcast type: public.
  • Tumblr - Founded in 2007, but rising in visibility recently. The tumblr technique is called short-form blogging by the company. I’m new to this one (which is the reason for this post). In some ways, Tumblr is also a pin-board, though its visual interface is linear where Pinterest’s is more of a tree. Both places, you can reblog images. The most creative uses for Tumblrs are found in running narratives that cross image, animated gifs, and commentary. Some, like Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School, use tumblr tags to document daily gothic office wear (her tumblr has much more). Neil Gaiman answers questions and posts brief (and extended) pictures and photos. The Bordertown Series has its own tumblr and recently listed all its writers who are on tumblr. Broadcast type: public.
  • TwittergrabTwitter – Started in 2006, so practically forever. For writers, twitter is both a way to announce new projects and a way to maintain conversations with … well, everyone.  The best of them do both.  Twitter crowd-surges have great power to change things – as evidenced by the recent Jay Lake / paypal situation (that was well resolved by paypal). Who to follow? Folks who make you laugh, think, act. Check out your favorite readers, and who they follow. What to do? Engage in conversations. Make connections. Don’t just send out marketing blitzes. Fun thing to try: rolling a twitter stream into your blog. Broadcast type: public.
  • FacebookLaunched 2004. Use of Facebook for professional vs. private conversations varies a lot.  For some, this is their public social media face. For others, Facebook is for friends. Mary Robinette Kowal explored the difference between a fan page and a personal page last year. It’s a great read.  Broadcast type: limited-level private / public.
  • Google Plus (and Hangouts) - Launched 2011. New and still relatively quiet, a great part of Google plus is its hangouts feature, which allows for group video chats with whiteboards and more. Broadcast type: tiered private / public.
  • Blogs - from wordpress to blogger, to self-hosted sites, to livejournal, these are long-form presence sites where authors maintain ongoing conversations with readers (especially in the case of lj) and explore topics of interest. Check out (selected at random, using a d20) Scalzi, Laura Anne GilmanJim C. Hines, Jo Walton, Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Genevieve Valentine, and Maggie Stiefvater for varying uses of blogs as thought-containers up through full-presence sites. Foodies, see also the Inn at the Crossroads. Broadcast type: public (though lj has privacy settings, and some other blogs do too).
  • Goodreads - Launched 2006 (in competition with librarything and other bookblogging sites). Used for cataloging social reading, reviews, as well as cross-blogging. Authors, if you have a story or book listed with Goodreads, will probably want to take control of your author page over there.  Otherwise, a bot has likely done it for you and gotten some things wrong. Broadcast type: public.

One question comes to mind as I navigate these sites and as I use them myself.  How much time am I spending building a presence vs. time I could be spending on writing? What’s a good balance? And, in the case of the social media sites above, what happens to all the content I’ve twit-face-boogled if the site goes away or changes policies (cough, Instagram, cough.)


After all this, my favorite social media tool remains stories – mine and others. Being part of that storytelling circle means reverting to notebooks, with a pen, so I’m not tempted to spend all my time not-writing.  How about for you? What tools do you use?

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10 comments

  1. As an active librarian on Goodreads, I highly recommend authors claim their profile. In addition to the link provided above, here is a link to the Author FAQ in the librarian discussion group: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1012751-author-faq-authors-look-here-first .

    Since anyone on GR can add new books, often names/titles get misspelled and lost in the system; if you see any mistake regarding your books that you can’t correct because it doesn’t show up on your page, feel free to ask for a correction in the GR librarians group. Or ask me!

  2. I’m often on social media, and it’s my biggest distraction from writing. The worst culprits are Facebook and Pinterest, but I’m also active on LiveJournal, Twitter, and Goodreads. I’m on Google+ but I forget to use it for months at a time.

  3. I love my social media. :) LiveJournal gives me a place to explore writing ideas and–sometimes–more personal stuff that I can choose to share or not share with a wider readership. Some of the stuff there is posted on WordPress as well, where I’m slowly getting more familiar with it. Twitter is like getting to sit in a coffee shop with people whose ideas interest me.

    I spend time in those places because I really enjoy the connection with others, and putting together blogposts of my own. It doesn’t feel like “building a platform,” though I suppose it is. Somewhat. Maybe. If I squint and look at it sideways. :)

    As for the time I spend there… I treat it as I would most playtime. So long as my work is getting done, I can play as much as I wish. And if I appear to be playing too much, I’ve writerly friends who drop by to nudge me about completing projects!

    1. Blair, I like the differentiation you’re implying between ‘building a platform’ and being part of a community. For me it is very much the latter. And I like it when we both stop by the same coffee shop at the same time :P.

      1. i like it when we meet up as well!

        My little online community is very important to me. It’s where my meeting and spending time with folks who share my interests– who can teach me and challenge me and dare me–isn’t bounded by location.

  4. I still think that the platform that I’ve used that has the best balance between “encouraging you to write long pieces, if you want to that is” and “having a good set of sharing, friending and community tools” is Livejournal. (In fact, Livejournal’s community tools are better than any other current social media platform, I would say.) Of course, some of this might be nostalgia, as it was the first one that I seriously used, but even so, in retrospect it was ahead of its time.

    When G+ started I thought that it might be a nice balance between slick interface (LJ remains quite clunky), comment functions and the ability to write long pieces, but while it is slick it really does fall down on the long piece front, the commenting is mediocre, archiving is dreadful and community functions recent and tacked-on. Oh well.

    I have been getting much more into RSS feeds recently, using Twitter as a discovery medium. This works quite well for me. Somebody retweets a blog post, I like the blog, I subscribe, and maybe (almost always) the author also has a Twitter account and I add that so that I can see similar things. Twitter is blog glue.

    1. “Twitter is blog glue.” Indeed. Thank you for the thoughtful post, as always, Ordinal. I agree that LJ’s appeal for me initially was the community toolset, but I found the outages more than frustrating. Your RSS feed strategy is interesting!

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