Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Social Media, Part 1: Obtaining Content

Ever since I wrote the post concerning Facebook, I have been thinking a lot about my social media efforts. Whether one wants to be a traditionally published or self-published author in this day and age doesn't matter when it comes to social media. Either way, you need a platform.

I thought that since it's on my mind lately and because I have started to actually track the numbers on clicks, engagement, and other quantifiable bits, I might share some of my endeavors. I am going to refer to Twitter for most of this article as well as Part Two since it, along with Wattpad, are my main social media hubs. I also have an account with Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook. But I find that these sites are not as powerful for me as Twitter tends to be.

The first part of social media, for me, is obtaining content that can be read, shared and engaged with. I could have a Twitter account for a single purpose: that of practicing my 140 character witticisms. But for a professional platform, that's not exactly the best way to attract future readers. And so I tweet about topics that surround my works. Those currently include robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, the business of writing and the writing life.

Here are my best tools for finding things to tweet about:

1. Blogger: A little on the obvious side. One way to fill up your twitter feed is to produce your own content. And in case you haven't noticed, I produce a hellava lotta content. My publishing schedule is one blog post -- no matter what the size -- either on this blog or my other one every week day. I may or may not write those posts on the day I publish them. Usually I write when inspiration hits and pop out two or three at a time. But however I get it done, I find that such an extreme publication schedule means that I have more engagement and more folks reading what I have out there in the world. And that's what writing is for, right? Having it read.

2. Feedly: I used to have Google Reader as my repository of other people's blog posts. And when Google announced that they were terminating Reader, I was as panicked as the next information addict. But then I saw an ad somewhere for Feedly. Not only did it replace Reader with a better interface, but it also automatically loaded all my Reader feeds directly from Google. Feedly saved my life! And it continues to save my life as a great place to read up on relevant posts that I can share. Yay!

3. Google Alerts: I've been using Google Alerts probably before I'd even heard of Google Reader. You basically enter terms that are relevant to the topic you want to tweet about and get a daily email with the best of the internet that corresponds to your search term. I've also found that there's an upshot to this tool. For instance, when I first set up my alerts for "robots" and "artificial intelligence" years ago the results I received were from fringe, nerdy magazines. Now my results often come from the Economist and the New York Times. In other words, it's an easy way to track the zeitgeist!

4. StumbleUpon: I'll admit it, I don't use StumbleUpon as much as I could or perhaps should. Sometimes I remember to explore it when I get a random email from my StumbleUpon account. What I do know for sure about the tool, however, is that it is a trove of content. It may not necessarily be current news, but it is good for perennial content.

5. Swayy: This is a tool that I've just discovered in the last week or so. Swayy basically hooks up to all your social media accounts and uses an algorithm to figure out what you're most interested in. You can then refine those interests and you'll be presented with a bunch of articles from around the web to read and share with your buddies and followers. You can schedule posts and tweets, but I don't really use that functionality. I have a whole suite of tools that I use for posting, tweeting and scheduling. Those tools will be the topic of Part 2 of this little two-part series on social media tools.

It's good to have these tools at my fingertips. But despite it all, one of the richest sources of content, I find, is my tweeter feed itself. Never underestimate the power of a re-tweet! :)