A lot of the encouragement writers get to participate in social media is based on the success of other people. Everyone can hold up examples of writers who shine online, whose followers are plentiful and enthusiastic.
But vlogging doesn’t make you John Green, and tweeting doesn’t make you Maureen Johnson. We all end up having to find our own voices in these networks, the same way that we find our YA-novel voices, our school-presentation voices, and our critique-partner voices.
Grappling with a new platform requires us to figure out how (and who) we want to be. When I first started participating in social networks, I wasn’t sure how to approach them. I figured out my voice, topics, and level of participation by trial and error. By the time I started Twitter, I was able to foresee many of the decisions I would have to make, so that I could plan from the beginning how to build my presence there. I had developed a set of questions that helps me frame a personal online policy for any new network.
Here are the questions I use:
--How much time will I spend on this? How frequently will I log in?
--What will be my policy on accepting friends and followers?
--Whom will I follow and why?
--Will I respond to comments and messages?
--What will I talk about here? Will I do promotional messages—if so, what fraction of my messages will be promotional? How much private info will I share? What areas of my life will be off limits? Will I post any of my original creative work here? Will I just duplicate the same info across all my social networks, or will I post something different on each one?
--What’s my attitude and tone? Am I being educational or entertaining? Formal or more relaxed? Zany or serious? G-rated, PG, or R?
There isn’t one set of Right Answers to these questions: there’s only what is right for me. If I network within my comfort zone, other people are more likely to be comfortable with me. And if I’ve thought about these questions ahead of time, it’s easier to make all the spur-of-moment decisions that will come later: Should I block that person? Will I answer that message? Do I want to get into those politics? Should I retweet that even though it has a cussword? How many times am I going to mention my new book? How much time am I really going to spend here today?