I Have to Write and Post Too? Social Media and Writers – Part 1

Whether the platform is a blog, Twitter, Instagram or any one of the many ways we communicate, most of us use social media to share, to understand and to be heard. I thought it might be useful to hear from an expert about how writers can use social media to create community.

For the next two days I would like to share a conversation I had with Kelly L. Page, Ph.D., a professor, writer, and maker who is an expert in the use of social media. Kelly is the Founder and Curator of Chicago-based LWYL Social Design Studio.

RP: Kelly, can you explain your background as a creative person who has done research in the area of social media?

KP: My background is in practice-based research in the market research industry focusing on technology, learning and digital media. My early work set me on a course of exploring how people across contexts are participating in our social worlds with digital and social media and how we are making sense of or giving it meaning in our worlds. From the artist to the manager, to the student or teacher to the start-up founder, we are all playing a role in the design of our world and multiple languages play a role in how we participate.

 Today I help people and organizations understand their culture of digital participation, and learn how to use digital and social media in more purposeful and effective ways – be it to develop audiences or grow community, to tell their story or to impact others. Another description for what I do is acting as a cultural translator, working across multiple languages to develop people and companies.

 In 2013 I moved to the United States from the UK and the following year I founded the social design studio, Live What You Love, LLC. We work with artists, educators, managers and start-up teams, helping them to learn how they can use digital media in truly social ways, to do more of what they love and to impact the world around them.

RP: Some writers say that they don’t have time for social media, that they should only worry about the writing. How do you feel about this?

KP: Social media has somewhat of a bad reputation in that it is often seen and used by artists as way to market or “sell” yourself or your work to the world, to advertise a new book or book reading. And rightly so, many artists such as writers don’t feel comfortable doing this. Nor should they, because for many it is not their core purpose; they have a different mindset.

 I take a more social or community view. I see social media as akin to the Parisian artist café where artists and lovers of their work could meet to discuss and share perspectives about the world that inspires them. For example, successful writers, such as Anne Lamott, use their Facebook pages to share about the life, work and creative process.

 Social media can also be a canvas in which to create new work. For example, the Twitter Fiction Festival is a 100% mediated event where writers across the world create work in the form of tweets, 140 characters or less. As part of his creative process, visual artist Josh Gosfield creates Facebook and Twitter profiles when developing new characters and embodies his characters as he builds their public personas. Social media can be a great source of learning for writers with some services designed just for writers or readers. Goodreads.com is a great social service where you can store lists of what you are reading or want to read and you can comment and review.

 So instead of seeing social media as marketing work, I’d encourage writers to consider social media as creative work and community work, as part of the life and creative process of an artist in developing their work.

 RP: Why is social media important, how can it help a creative person?

 KP: Social media is important as it can help you learn about how the world sees or thinks about your work; it can be a source of inspiration or a test bed for new work. It can also help you become part of a writing community by connecting with other writers, editors or publishers.

 If you publish a book and sell it through Amazon, chances are people will read and comment about it on the website or write reviews of it on their own blog. Comments are today’s version of the newspaper book review. Being part of this system, providing book reviews yourself and thanking people for their comments on your work is a very valuable way of giving back to readers and other writers.

Teju Cole used Twitter as a way to craft his work, Small Fates, while on location in Lagos working on a nonfiction piece. His tweets formed the narrative for this work. Others use it to reflect on their creative process or the reception of their work in the world. Roxane Gay  manages a very successful Tumblr site and Twitter profile through which she shares what she is reading and her travels through life in a commentary form. She shares all with her readers, followers and friends, breaking down the barrier between read/writer to form a conversation about the world.

 In terms of the business side of writing, having a website and social media presence can also help writers to have more (never total) control over how a publisher might craft the marketing and messaging around your work.

 RP: How do you use social media in your work?

 KP: I use social media everyday. I manage social media for my own profile, creative, research and writing work, as well for my company. I also run workshops, training programs and projects with clients. One day I might be teaching about “voice” and how to develop your social voice online, or helping to develop a social communications strategy, and the next day I am running a workshop on the technical specifics of Facebook analytics or how to create great visual content.

 I am always learning about new ways of doing things with social media — reading books, watching videos. My social media practice as a researcher and consultant varies, but it is true to say that being social is a big part of my everyday world. As a writer, I am also exploring its creative side — how we use tweets in stories, mobile apps in creative ways or the technical constraints as boundaries for how we create work.

End of Part 1

Tomorrow I will post the second part of my talk with Kelly. She provides some tips and advice on how to get started.


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