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Jul 9 / Kevin Barton

Moving Forward with Social Media

By Kevin Barton, MLIS Candidate

Facebook, Twitter and the like are great tools for simple communications with friends and family. Using them is a great way to keep in touch and share your life with those close to you.  There is a point, however, when you may want to use these tools to reach a wider audience. It’s a big step to take, and involves more commitment. Constructing your posts will require more time, consideration and effort.  For students, however, it can be a rewarding and beneficial experience. Employers today routinely search the internet for information about prospective hires, and establishing a solid web presence will make a positive impression.  So, how do you get started?  There are a few hurdles to get over, but once you gain momentum it becomes easier.

Let’s be very clear, you DO have something to say. It IS important and others DO want to read it. You may sometimes feel that you’re shouting out to the wilderness and no one is listening, or you’re shouting out in a crowded stadium where everyone else is shouting too. It is critical to understand, however, that your ideas have just as much value as everyone else’s, and it is not the number of listeners that you have that is important, it is the strength of your words and your commitment to your own ideas and interests.

So now that we’ve gotten the affirmation section out of the way, a question. When preparing to post, ask yourself, “why am I writing this?” Is it because I want to impress people so they will like me and think I’m smart, helping to boost my self-esteem? Or is it because I find genuine value in what I’m writing, and it will 1) generate serious debate and constructive criticism or 2) Help the reader discover new ideas, provide real insight, or offer genuine, helpful advice? If it’s the former, your postings may be momentarily successful, but will only fuel short lived and sporadic interest. If it’s the latter, you’ll find that while you may not be immediately successful, in the long run your postings will create more dedicated and avid readership. Good writing, in any form, comes from a dedication to the reader’s interests, not the writer’s. This applies to everything from Twitter and Facebook to blogs and essays.

Just as confidence is important in your writing, humility has its place too. Awareness of your own limitations and ignorance is necessary to maintain balance in your work. Admit what you don’t know, and present an open mind and willingness to learn. This idea separates blog posts from more formalized styles of writing, as blog posts have a tendency to be more fluid, off the cuff and open ended.  And with this humility comes opportunity. Keeping an open mind and maintaining a willingness to learn is attractive to readers.  Asking questions or requesting feedback and advice helps to make the communication process more interactive, and allows readers to express themselves and their reactions to your work. Establishing a dialog is a sure way to keep reader retention, and motivate those readers to continue to follow your writing.

Finally, in order to be a well-developed writer, you need to be a responsive reader. Actively follow those writers you enjoy, and respond when motivated. Contribute to comments, offer praise where you can and provide constructive criticism where you feel it’s appropriate. Follow up on any responses and cultivate a dialog. It is this interaction that defines social media, and it is where you can reap the greatest rewards. Developing relationships with those who share your passions works great in terms of social networking, and it’s always nice to make new friends!

Whether you’re writing for yourself, a group, an institution or a business, the general principles are the same. Strong readership comes from honest, passionate writing. Quality and coherence are important too, but these things can be developed with practice. If you have a Facebook account, Twitter account or Blog that you’re proud of, let us know in the comments, so we can follow along. Let’s start writing!