Social media: Loudspeaker or buzzing hive?

talkingI’ve been thinking for a long time about social media and its effects on us. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are meant to connect us with people — in the case of Twitter especially, people all over the world. Everyone has a voice, and anyone can communicate.

But are our voices coming through a loudspeaker or drowning in the noise of too much conversation?

Facebook and Twitter can be amazing resources for promotion or social networking. They’re also a great place to broadcast our thoughts. But who is listening? These aren’t cure-alls for the anonymity of the Internet. It doesn’t guarantee success or instant popularity. In fact, social media has been shown to trigger feelings of depression and anxiety.

Why? Well, these sites play host to drama, for one. A lot of people spread negative energy on Facebook or Twitter. But we also resort to comparing ourselves to others: how many friends or followers we have, “likes” or “retweets” we get, and so on. Worst of all, among so many voices, we can feel like ours is rarely heard.

The solution is to step away, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do if you want to maintain or build a good online presence. So how do you reconcile the two?

I think it’s healthier to limit your time on social media and focus on life outside the computer. They’re also huge distractions and can kill productivity. But how do you manage this if you’re a budding author or someone who needs to create and foster a platform online?

Do you feel isolated when you spend too much time on social media? Do you find yourself comparing your success and social standing to those of others? How do you cope with this?

‘Book streams’ and great reads that support charity

Bibliophiles, now you can make smarter decisions about what to read next.

BookVibe helps you discover new recommendations based on what your friends are reading. It syncs with your Twitter account to compile a “book stream” of what people you know are talking about. (See the screenshot below for my own.) Facebook compatibility is coming soon.


In addition, fantasy fans can now support various authors and charities by paying any price for seven e-books and stories. The Bundle of Holding lasts for one more week and is free from digital rights management (DRM), which means you’ll completely own each book across all your devices. This deal is worth $45, but again, you can pay as much or as little as you want.

The Bundle of Holding helps the PEN International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation charities, which promote literature, freedom of expression, and digital rights.

The authors are role-playing game designers Robin D. Laws (GUMSHOE, Feng Shui), Matt Forbeck (Brave New World), Colin McComb (Planescape: Torment), John Scott Tynes (Delta Green), Greg Stolze (Godlike, Reign), Mur Lafferty (the Storyteller and World of Warcraft RPGs), and Scott Fitzgerald Gray (Tomb of Horrors for D&D 4e).

Bundle of Holding

This is what you’ll get in the bundle:

Oathbreaker (Books 1 and 2) by Colin McComb
Switchflipped by Greg Stolze
The Afterlife Series by Mur Lafferty
A Prayer for Dead Kings and Other Tales by Scott Fitzgerald Gray
Delta Green: Strange Authorities by John Scott Tynes
Dangerous Games 1: How to Play by Matt Forbeck
New Tales of the Yellow Sign by Robin D. Laws

Thanks to Jason W. for the tip.

New media minefield: Inching closer to danger with every word

Nightmare Busters

I love new media. I love blogging. But what I don’t like to see (and I’ve talked about this before) is an attack on writers over small mistakes or misunderstandings — a disconnect between writer and reader that usually exists because so many people on the Internet either can’t be bothered to read or use a difference in opinion as grounds for provocation.

A nasty exchange went down at Forbes today between readers and one of the games writers whose articles I read regularly. Long story short, the writer tried to show that a video game (Nightmare Busters) that’s now selling for $60 is old, not new, and available on a console most people don’t even own anymore (the Super Nintendo). While releasing games for retro consoles isn’t unheard of, $60 (the average price for today’s full console games) is a bit steep, especially when people were playing the game for free on an emulator — a program that runs games (usually illegally) on the computer and off their native platform.

But this was a different case: The game was never actually published.

What began as, “Hey, this is a game that never got released, but look, people have been playing anyway” — which is maybe what built interest and led to it getting picked up as an official release by the developer — turned into a massacre on Forbes and Twitter, where readers accused the writer of advocating piracy. Big names in the industry then lashed out, claws drawn, at their fellow writer — condemning his career, his integrity, and urging him to get out of the business.

Continue reading “New media minefield: Inching closer to danger with every word”

A valuable lesson Twitter can teach us about writing

Twitter Cat

Writing can be short and sweet or extraordinarily long. Either way, be concise and entertaining, and cram each sentence full of personality.

This lesson is exactly 140 characters long, the maximum for a standard tweet. The next time your sentence grows too wordy, practice making it shorter — that will force you to get your point across sooner. How many ways can you rewrite the lesson above without going over the limit? Use as a guide.

Delight and surprise: a review of Likeable Social Media

The loudest, biggest spenders don’t win anymore. The smartest, most flexible listeners do.

Social media is a big deal these days. Whether you’re looking to sell or you have something to say, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are the new sounding board—and the new way to connect. If you’re a blogger who’s managed to reach any audience, big or small, then chances are you’ve learned firsthand the power of harnessing social media. Dave Kerpen knows it. He wrote Likeable Social Media (on Amazon and B&N) to spread the word in print and online.

I’ll say this upfront: If you’re a blogger, freelancer, or any young or progressive person who’s fluent on the web, then Likeable Social Media won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. The book is aimed at business professionals and marketers who were taught that pushing a brand and products on consumers through television, radio, and print ads was the way to be seen: You just had to be smart at selling it. Likeable Social Media explains that a new wave of advertising has begun, and it’s lighter on the legwork of actually pitching products. It’s about building a fan base and rewarding a loyal audience—it’s about them, not you. Sorry.

Because of that, Likeable Social Media doesn’t preach to the average reader, but with a little creative thinking I found some ways to apply its tenets to everyday writing and communication on the web—methods that are good for bloggers, in other words. So instead of doing a standard review, here are some tips on how to “be generally amazing” online:

  1. Respond to every comment, good or bad. Thank people for positive feedback (or feedback at all), encourage them to return, and address negative comments as quickly as possible—that’s the really important part. Be diplomatic about it. If someone’s unhappy and it’s your fault, don’t delete the comment or ignore it, hoping it will go away. Let the commenter and everyone else know that you’re listening, and consider extending an olive branch apology—a simple “I’m sorry” will go a long way.
  2. Make the conversation about them, not you! Engage with your readers as often and as deeply as you can.
  3. Be real and authentic. Show some personality and let people see the person behind the computer. Be human. Revealing yourself as a likeable individual will endear you to your audience. Be open, honest, and approachable.
  4. Ask questions that touch on any of your readers’ possible interests. Don’t limit yourself to what you personally are “selling.” Let the conversation flow where it wants to.
  5. Use storytelling as a means to connect with your readers. Let people get to know you better! Sharing on a personal level doesn’t have to mean drudging up your personal life, but it does mean breaking down the barrier between writer and reader and letting them in. How are others supposed to support you and advocate your work if they don’t know anything about you?
  6. Do giveaways, contests, promotions—anything that will reward dedicated readers and encourage new ones to join in. Create “wow” moments to surprise and delight without asking anything in return.
  7. Provide value. Share info and tips about your area of expertise freely, even when it doesn’t directly benefit you. Don’t horde good information. It comes out eventually, and if someone beats you to it, the people listening will be grateful to him/her, not you.
  8. Don’t sit in a bubble, either. Branch out—link to others and don’t always claim information as your own when you found it through someone else. Share and give credit where it’s due.
  9. Remember these four essentials: listening, transparency, responsiveness, and engagement. Open your ears to the conversation around you, show people the real you, be attentive to what people say (and let them know you appreciate them saying it), and encourage them to speak up!

How do you connect? I reach out on Facebook, through Twitter, Tumblr, and more.

Blogger Kristen Lamb wrote a great post about improving your “likeability quotient” as a blogger. Her book, We Are Not Alone, is all about using social media the right way.

Ermiliablog praises The Thank You Economy (a book I’ve added to my wishlist recently) and Tweet Right, if you’re looking for more recommendations on social media at its best.

More on Dave Kerpen and Likeable Media: