Social Media Fitness for Authors: Happy Findings

Before August of last year, social media seemed like a chore I didn’t have time for. Between novel and article writing, I figured, how could I possibly squeeze it in? Thirteen months later, I consider it not only vital, but fun. What a difference a year makes.

After signing with my agent, I wanted to know what I could do to enhance my career—aside from revising book one and writing book two. The web is chock-full of resources on writing, agent-seeking and book promoting. Information on the in-between time, however, is scarce. My agent sent me a marketing packet which described active blogging, Facebook and Twitter as essential tools for authors. Fine, I thought. Whatever it takes… But I didn’t expect it to be fun.

I zipped over to Amazon and came across Kristen Lamb’s books, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer and We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social MediaI took one to the gym, gulping down every word at rapid stairclimber speed. About a zillion lightbulbs went on and for the first time, social media excited me. I starting blogging the next day. It’s ironic that this all went down during exercise; the parallels between physical and social media fitness are near perfect.

Meeting Kristen Lamb and other writer friends at conferences rocked my year.

Physical Fitness and Social Media Fitness: (Practically) The Same Darn Thing

Many of us start exercising to lose weight and look better, and because we believe we “should.” Getting started can be tough and intimidating. We might fear looking like fools at the gym in a sea of svelte bodies, dread waking up early or hitting the trails after work; it’s not how we want to spend our time. At first, it HURTS. Every step feels difficult and exhausting as we struggle to adapt physically and to balance our new habits with other aspects of our busy lives.

Over time, though, we start looking and feeling better. Pretty soon, aesthetic reasons aren’t what drives us. We’re happier. We make better friends and partners. We sleep better at night, wake up refreshed, experience less stress and perform better at work. We even start enjoying exercise. If we don’t, we make it enjoyable—that is if we want to continue reaping benefits. Physical fitness becomes the byproduct of a healthy lifestyle.

Many authors join social media to gain readers and sales and because we feel we “should.” But if we approach it properly, those benefits become a byproduct of a healthy, happy writer’s lifestyle—minus the hamstring aches of lunges. 😉 

Social media helps break up my day, makes me feel part of a supportive community, introduces me to fantastic friends, takes up far less time than I feared and even strengthens my writing. And I’ve been thrilled to learn that yapping our heads off about ourselves and our work doesn’t help. The keys are supporting and interacting with others and sharing content we feel passionate about—whether we strive to educate, entertain or inspire. Chances are that content will strike a chord with others.

Like physical fitness, gimmicks and shortcuts (endless auto-tweets, buying followers, having others blog for you…) don’t work. Neither does fixating on “the numbers.” Authenticity rules, and if we don’t have fun, we won’t be successful. As a girl who wrote papers to get out of phys. ed. and struggled with food, weight and dieting issues for years, trust me—I know.

I’m grateful every day for the supportive readers and friends I’ve gained. Success is no longer my driving force, but I believe it will come—as it has for many authors.

Key findings from a Neilsen report published in 2011:

  • Social networks and blogs dominate Americans’ time online, accounting for nearly a quarter of total internet time.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 active internet users visit social networks and blogs routinely.
  • Americans spend more time on Facebook any other U.S. website.
  • Nearly 40 percent of social media users access social media from their cell phone.
  • Internet users over age 55 are driving social networking growth through the mobile Internet
  • Many women view online video on social networks and blogs, but men are the heaviest online video users overall. They stream more videos and watch them longer.
  • 70 percent of adult social networkers shop online—12 percent more than the average adult internet user.
  • 53 percent of active adult social networkers follow a brand (such as authors) and 32 percent follow a celebrity.
  • Based on 10 major global markets, social networks and blogs reach over three-quarters of active internet users.
  • Blogs and social networks rule American internet time—more so than email—accounting for 23 percent of time spent online.

Fabulous related links:

Lisa Hall-Wilson: 6 Social Media Platforms – Which is bight for you?
Kristen Lamb: Everything We Need to Know About Social Media Success, We Learned in Kindergarten

How does social media influence your writing life, craft or career?  Any tips to share with newbies? 

Thank you for your ongoing support. You’ve helped me grow and brightened my days more than you know. 

Leave a comment

52 Comments

  1. Very thorough and well written post! I’m travelling and will definitely read this again and check your recommended links as well. Thanks! Z

    Reply
  2. This is an awesome post. I will have to bookmark it so I can revisit it when I plan to do the agent-seeking process next year. Thank you very much, August. You are one generous soul. Many blessings and much love to you. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

    Reply
  3. Social media and blogging have been a great way to build a network of authors for that moral support that’s so vital in an otherwise solitary, cutthroat industry. I’m still working on balancing the time commitments, but its slowly falling into place. Thanks for the reminder that We are not Alone!

    Reply
  4. Good info here, GOTB/BG. Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Thanks so much for this fantastic post August! I too used to think social media was a chore, but have met so many wonderful and inspiring people, I’ve changed my mind. It has also helped me grow my audience and taught me some important interpersonal skills!
    Sharing this one!

    Reply
  6. I am amazed at that Nielsen report. Very few of my friends (considering how many I know) are on Facebook. The older they are the less likely they have an account, but maybe it could be that it is just my un-tech savvy friends! I mean I am talking about a reeeeeeally small sample!
    I love the social network and comments for getting to know people. In fact, I think Danny and I are coming to the USC game on October 20th! Courtney is dancing with the band. I would love to meet up if you are around that weekend!

    Reply
  7. 53% follow brands – that jumped out at me the most. Thanks August for posting this!

    Reply
  8. What a great way of viewing social media. I initially thought Twitter was ridiculous. Now, I have realized the connections that can be made and how much it has opened up communications that wouldn’t have happened prior to its existence.

    Reply
  9. EllieAnn

     /  September 10, 2012

    Great post! I’m so glad you’ve started blogging–you rock it!
    It really has enhanced my life, in so many ways. I’ve met so many special people, learned so much about writing craft, and also learned SO much more about my audience and how to engage them.
    Now, it’s easy. But gosh darn it, it was hard to start! It was like pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s hard to have no twitter friends, no blog traffic, and no comments or replies on FB. But once that boulder gets to the top of the hill, it’s worth it!

    Reply
    • Getting started was the hardest part for me, too. It felt like a part-time job to add to my full-time writing life, plus a headache of confusion. Luckily those feelings were short-lived and it just keeps getting better.

      Thanks for the awesome support. 🙂 I’m thrilled you started blogging, too!

      Reply
  10. Fabulous post – as usual. Thanks for the shout out. I’ve had a harder time embracing the whole blogging thing, but it just takes time. The hardest lesson was learning to have patience with myself.

    Reply
  11. Catherine Johnson

     /  September 10, 2012

    Gorgeous pic of you and Kristen! Super stats too. Now it’s time for me to apply that to exercise 🙂

    Reply
  12. Let’s talk about how great and timely your post is. I love that you connect social media networking with exercise b/c for me I need discipline to stay OFF these sites lol. I have a tendency be TOO social and get distracted from the writing goals I need to accomplish offline. I’ve been tempted to take a break from social media but like you I get so much energy from connecting with folks online. My goal is to develop more discipline with the time I spend on social media, but still continue to utilize it.

    Great food for thought this Monday 🙂

    Reply
    • I bet many can relate to your challenges, Alicia. I find that saving social media for breaks and writing warm ups helps prevent that dreaded “time suck.” (Even the term sounds wretched. ;)) Social media is important, but it’s a tool and shouldn’t overtake our top priorities. Good luck!

      Reply
  13. I had no idea social media and blogs had taken over so much of the Web but I am not surprised. It seems everyone I know is online…
    I jumped into blogging and twitter with no idea what I was doing and it’s been such a huge blessing in my world connecting me to new friends and blog family that I had no idea was out there. You are right, what might be “hard” at first has become rewarding and SO MUCH FUN!

    Reply
  14. August, thanks for sharing so much information in your post! I loved it!

    Reply
  15. Our timeline is almost identical! I started about a year and a half ago and hated it. I got so fixated on the numbers. And like you said — doesn’t work for fitness and doesn’t work for social media. Now I’m more relaxed and enjoying it.

    Although I have many friends on Facebook, none are on Twitter or read blogs (except major ones like NY Times and HuffPost), so those Neilsen numbers surprise me.

    Reply
    • Guess that means we can celebrate milestones together. Happy belated 1 year blogging anniversary! 😉 I know what you mean about “the numbers.” I rarely look at them now, other than the occasional glance while I’m on my dashboard. As with writing, quality trumps quality.

      Reply
  16. I’m also spending more time online socializing via FB, twitter and blogs–go figure, this time last year I wasn’t doing any of that. And the WANA revolution connected me to a host of like-minded BRILLIANT writers, woot!

    Reply
  17. Hi August! Tremendously fabulous post, and it was so much fun getting to meet you in person at Thrillerfest. It’s a shame that I have so many writer friends who just think social media is a chore, and they just don’t understand that the relationships you make on line can be as meaningful and significant as the relationships you make in “real life.” Sigh. One day they will figure it out. Thanks for adding the Nielsen stats, very eye-opening.

    Reply
    • I have friends I’d love to lure in to social media, too. It’s like I have this treasure trove I want them to experience, too, but they look at it and see a black hole-like trunk. 😉 Meeting you this year was awesome! In-person meet ups make connecting online even better.

      Reply
  18. Excellent post, August. Few of my friends are on Facebook. And I wonder if that’s because of the bad press it receives here in the UK. I love meeting new people on social networks. I’ve met some incredibly special and giving individuals who’ve inspired me to keep blogging even when I found it difficult in the beginning.

    Finding a balance is key and something I continually strive to do.

    Reply
    • People definitely have mixed feelings about Facebook, here in the U.S., too. I see it, and other social media, as a valuable tool. It is what we make of it. I think it’s also important to not be overly reliant on one particular medium. We never know when one will change or even diminish. WANATribe’s another goodie, as I bet you know. 🙂 And amen to finding balance! A continual WIP for many.

      Reply
  19. I started out doing Facebook because I thought I should but eventually did discover that that and twitter made me feel as if I were part of community. That really helps when you’re up at midnight feeling like you’re really by yourself. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  20. Coleen Patrick

     /  September 10, 2012

    Blogging and social media have been the best surprises for me this last year. I had zero online presence before and so I didn’t have a clue (well maybe a slightly negative perspective for social media). Overall, I would say it’s the community aspect that is SO awesome!!
    🙂

    Reply
  21. I agree–social media is much more than I thought it would be. As someone who doesn’t socialize much in real life, I was amazed at how easy it was to do so online. And yes, I suppose we all start out hoping to promote something, but as you point out, it turns into so much more than that. It’s the interaction that really keeps me motivated.

    Reply
  22. Raani York

     /  September 10, 2012

    Hi August. This is one of your excellent posts which teach me so much. – Since I’m getting prepared and ready and the “point of no return” slowly but surely gets closer I decided to “spread” out my fingertips into more social networks than the “private” ones.
    I do guess it is immensely important not to only make and have friends, even though they’re the BEST – but as well get in touch with business networkers, networks – and of course – readers.
    Yes, I admit – I’m progressing slowly – but then: I think every tiny step is a step into the right direction – and I could imagine, the better I’m prepared, the better the road is “plastered” the faster the desired results will show.
    I just hope I’m right… *tremble*

    Reply
  23. another ‘knock it out of the park’ post, August. well done

    Reply
  24. Of course you would parallel social media with exercise and have it make total sense! What an awesome analogy, August. (like that alliteration?)

    Advice for the newbies? Do what you love. If you don’t like Twitter, don’t tweet. For now. When I started, I just didn’t get Twitter, but now I’m a fan. So, do what you love ~ at first. Then dip your toes in a little more and a little more, but never so far you feel like you’re drowning. Enjoy the process.

    I adore all my bloggy friends I’ve made over the past year. Every time I get a chance to meet one of them (like you, fabulous lady!), I am over the moon thrilled. Each and every one has been even more amazing, more dynamic in person than they are online and they are pretty darn awesome online. It’s enriched my life in way too many ways to count.

    Reply
  25. I started blogging because I read the agent and editor advice that said we must, even before our books are queried. But I was soon hooked because of the incredibly supportive and friendly community I found. Many people I interact with are fellow writers. But there are also others who blog about other topics but find mine interesting, too.

    Someday I’ll be forced to do some “marketing” posts for the books. But those will never dominate the blog or be pushy. I don’t want to spoil the great social networking relationships that have developed.

    Advice for newcomers? Post on topics that interest you, be yourself, and don’t fall into the trap of overdoing it just to see your “stats” improve. Engage with other bloggers and be respectful when you do—especially when you disagree.

    Reply
  26. One thing that’s really surprised me since I started FB and Twitter last year is how close we’ve all become. In many ways, online friendships are more rewarding than offline ones. You’re a big part of that, August–and so many of the friendly faces I see commenting here, too! It’s been great to socialize with you all!

    Reply
  27. This is such a helpful post for a “baby blogger” like me. Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Because of social media, I’ve met so many amazing people. I’m still timidly getting my toes wet in the blogging sphere, but when I use FB and Twitter socially instead of promo or advising, I have so much for fun.

    Reply
  29. I love what you said about social media being part of the happy writer lifestyle. I started blogging when I hired someone to update my website, figuring I ought to link to a blog while I had the chance, never expecting to find such a great sense of community online. Now next month I will have something of my own to promote after two years of blogging, which will be an interesting shift. On the other hand, the book is a collection of author interviews and essays, so in talking about the book I’ll really be promoting other writers and the writing community here in Oregon, which is what I’ve always done on my blog.

    Reply
    • Promoting other writers is a great way to go, Laura. The more we help one another, I’ve learned, the better off we all are. And I bet your readers will be stoked to take part in your upcoming release! Congrats and good luck! 🙂

      Reply
  30. Very fun post, August…I like those stats! isn’t it amazing to see the difference a year of concerted effort will make in a life. I’m always astonished by this.

    Reply
  31. Shannon Esposito

     /  September 11, 2012

    First, that’s an awesome pic of you and Kristen! And second, you’ve made such a good point with the parallel between social media and exercise. At first every step does feel difficult! I’m still learning to come out of my shell online, but you are definitely inspiring me with every blog post. Thanks, lady!

    Reply
    • Author Kristen Lamb

       /  September 12, 2012

      That and it is easy to forget that little steps add up. We feel like we need to do everything at once and it isn’t the case at all. Great post, August!

      Reply
  32. Fantastic friendships. That’s what. And improved writing. In many ways, my writing is a product of social media.

    (And those Neilson’s stats: wow!)

    Reply
  33. Kourtney Heintz

     /  September 11, 2012

    I am so grateful for my blog buddies. I’ve formed some wonderful friendships with people who truly get the writing life. 🙂

    Reply
  34. Inspiring post, well written and researched. Thanks for the good info.

    Reply
  35. Hi, August,
    According to platform-building expert Dan Blank, it’s writers like Neil Gaiman and Susan Orlean, who truly want to connect with others, who succeed at social media. You fit the description–and your enthusiasm for communicating is clear. Blank’s article is at . http://wegrowmedia.com/is-your-work-day-filled-with-unwanted-obligation-or-a-burning-desire-to-improve/

    Reply
  36. Wow – this post makes me want to make quality use of my tweets – and drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water tomorrow.

    Bring it. Well done, August. A for analogies.

    Reply
  37. fivereflections

     /  September 12, 2012

    a digital key unlocks ‘dear diary’ and we begin to rediscover communications, with not only our neighbors, but with the whole wide world…

    words we daily write
    flowing through visitors eyes
    a haiku moment

    David in Maine USA

    Reply
  38. If it weren’t for social networking, I’d be one whackadoo woman (well, some thing I’m already that but we won’t go there right now *haw!*) — I live in a tiny town, and within that tiny town I live in a secluded cove on a mountain,and I’m a novelist, so put those together and that spells “Spending lots-o time alone” — other than my two dogs, a ghost dog, a feral cat, and lots of wild critters, and, oh, GMR. SN enables me to be a part of something larger – a community – and I meet AWESOME people, such as you, and Kristen!

    Reply
  39. Hi,
    Thank you for an informative article about the need for social media and blogging. And thanks for the tips on the two books from Kirsten Lamb. Even though I am a member of WANA, I had not bought the books, but said I would one day. That day came today. You have recommended to me three good books, since I have been following your blog and I feel wonderful about that.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    Reply
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