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How Social Media Changed My Life by Nick Daws

October 14th, 2011

nickdawsI’ve been a freelance writer for over thirty years now, and full-time for the last twenty. During that time, some social and technological changes have made a massive impact on my working life.

The launch of low-price word processors (thank you, Lord Sugar) was one of them, and the advent of high-speed, low-cost Internet access was another.

The latest revolution to affect my writing life has been the arrival of social media. Getting involved with this has drastically changed the way I work as a writer, and opened up many new opportunities for me.

Unusually, unless you count my blog at www.mywritingblog.com, my first foray into social media was with the microblogging service Twitter. As you may know, this service lets you post updates, or ‘tweets’, of up to 140 characters.

Initial reports I heard weren’t good – I couldn’t really see the point in a service that let you find out what others were eating for breakfast. And I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t just a bit too old for it. What I could see, however, was the potential of Twitter for letting people know when my blog had been updated. And that’s literally all I expected from it when I opened my account at http://twitter.com/nickdaws.

What I found was a revelation, however. Far from being awash with trivia, as its detractors would have you believe, Twitter is a thriving community of interesting people (and organizations) of all ages and backgrounds, discussing a vast range of topics. And I soon discovered certain other writers who were generous in sharing links to interesting articles, resources, market info, and more (see my blog posts at http://bit.ly/i4yUih and http://bit.ly/nbCm5G for lists of recommended Twitter follows, by the way).

What’s more, Twitter turned out to be an invaluable research resource for me. For example, a while ago I needed to check what boiled sweets were called in America, for a non-fiction book I was working on. A quick tweet, and several of my US followers confirmed that hard candy was their closest equivalent. Question answered in five minutes!

I also use Twitter to help raise awareness of my books and courses, and my writing and editing services – although I aim to share plenty of other useful resources and information as well. Nobody would want to follow someone who only ever used Twitter as a promotional tool.

From Twitter, I have moved on to embrace other social media as well. I was a bit late arriving at the Facebook party, but now in addition to my Facebook Profile I have a Fan Page (since you ask), and several other Pages for specific books and courses. And I run a Facebook Group too.

In addition, I’m on the new Google+ network, and the career-orientated LinkedIn. I don’t want this post to look like a promotion-fest for me so I’m not including URLs, but you can find me on either of these networks easily enough if you search for me. Twitter is still the network I’m most active on, though, and it’s still the one I get the most from.

Through my involvement in social media, I’ve discovered many valuable resources and new outlets for my work. And, equally important, I’ve come into contact with other writers, editors and publishers across the world, with whom I’ve collaborated on projects, done interviews, passed on or accepted assignments, helped with promotion, or just enjoyed friendly conversations.

Of course, there is a downside to social media, and that’s the amount of time it can consume. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be addictive, and it’s easy to waste hours checking people’s updates and following up interesting but not entirely relevant links. I try to get around this by only checking my social media at certain times, generally at the start and end of the day. I also have software that lets me quickly share an interesting link if I find one during the course of my work. Even so, I have to admit I’m not always as self-disciplined as I should be – but I still reckon the amount I gain from being actively involved in social media far outweighs the time I waste on it!

If you’re still wondering whether or not to take the plunge into social media, I’d say give it a go, but start with just one network and move on to others later if you wish. Personally, I think Twitter is a great place to begin. Don’t worry about what to say in your own tweets – start by following some interesting people and organizations (@writersbureau, of course, among them) and read what they have to say. If you have a question for them, go ahead and ask it, and share any interesting links you discover by ‘retweeting’ them. Before you know it, I promise, you’ll have a growing band of people following you as well, and be tweeting away like a professional!

About the Author: Nick Daws is a full-time freelance writer, editor and writing teacher. As well as over 100 non-fiction books, he has produced innumerable articles, short stories, adverts, training materials, and more. He has also written a number of distance-learning courses, including the Complete Copywriter Course for The Writers Bureau. In addition to the social media mentioned in his post, he has a homepage at www.nickdaws.co.uk.

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