Learning how to use “social media”

So, everybody says you have to use social media today to be successful in your job. The only problem is, very few of those everybodys actually can tell you how to use social media. After all, my Facebook feed is littered with posts about rescuing dogs, what food looks like in various restaurants and memes using old postcard images. Yawn. I’m not sure how any of that is going to help me get more writing or teaching jobs.

As for Twitter, I opened an account when the service went live and then … I did nothing for about two years. 140 characters? How was that going to be interesting? People I connected to  — basically the same folks that were Facebook friends — were posting every thought that popped into their heads. Hey, I’ve got my own problems to deal with, I didn’t need to know how crappy the snack machine was at Bob’s office.

Then a strange thing happened. I found a use for social media.

I decided to experiment with Twitter. I started following literary journals and writers that I liked or found interesting. I followed my MFA program at Queens University. I checked Followers and Followings. I found something unexpected: useful information!

The journals I like post links to other journals that I found interesting. Sometimes, they post submission calls or position openings at journals. My MFA program was Tweeting links to articles about the craft of writing. I found some interesting writers who were posting things they found interesting, and things that could help my writing or submission process. My Follows and Followers grow each day,and I try to Tweet something somewhat interesting at least 4-6 times a week.

Publishers and journals have started to follow me, and this can’t be a bad thing as long as I don’t do dumb stuff like post thoughts about what my eggs looked like at breakfast or where I’m thinking of eating. I mean, each Tweet doesn’t have to brilliant, but if I’m going to make just one (self imposed rule) short statement a day, I have to think about making it interesting, helpful or humorous. I don’t want to be the guy who grabs a six pack and Tweets a movie or his night at the bar.

There are some nice apps to help out with this, including plenty of paid ones. But TweetCaster is great and free. I’m still learning it, but you can use it to ZIP or block worthless Tweeters (or Twits) without having to Unfollow them and hurt feelings. There are also filtering functions. I’ll talk more about that as I go.

So, I’m making Twitter into something useful. I don’t follow celebrities or sports personalities, although lots of people do. After all, I am a writer and should be writing … not following some soap opera between divas or trash talk among NFL players or the guys from ESPN.

Final analysis: Twitter can be more than a plaything or time waster if you can figure out what you want it to do.