Lately I’ve been getting a lot of email from some, well let’s just say “traditional“, travel writers, asking me why everyone is making such a fuss over this “new online social stuff”. They don’t understand it.
They think that Twitter  is just a way for kids to keep in touch, that Facebook  is still just for students to stay connected, and that MySpace is mostly for teens, bands, and celebrities. How wrong they are!
At the heart of it, they don’t really understand why they need an online presence, or the value in blogging, so it’s difficult for them to grasp the power of networking through social media. Having grown up in an era of traditional print publications, some of them are still struggling over a new way of writing their travel articles as web content. They are finding it challenging to learn — let alone embrace — the use of new digital technologies such as podcasts, video blogging, and viral marketing.
What I tell them is this: online social networking is like traditional networking on steroids. If self-promotion through networking can be visualized as a volume knob, then traditional networking is a level 2 and online social networking is pegging the knob at it’s highest level. The ROI (return on investment, which is the effort-to-benefit ratio) is off the charts to the extent that doing it is a no-brainer, and not doing it is just plain DUMB.
I explain that Twitter and Facebook, and to a slightly lesser extent MySpace, have all helped me to connect with travel writers and bloggers from around the globe, most of whom I would not have met without those Social Media sites. From them I learn about important information and opportunities that I can pass along to readers of this site, as well as to the many others who follow me on those same social networking sites.
As an example, Facebook recently helped me to connect a handful of Food & Wine writers with a PR Firm I know that was looking to promote a particular brand of new summer wines. While this was not a paying writing assignment, being connected with a good PR Firm can pay off down the road, in the form of media trip invitations, or possible paying gigs in the future. The client will no doubt appreciate it as well, and perhaps help the writers in other ways or contact them for future articles.
Just as importantly, every time I share something of value with my followers and friends on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, they share it with their followers and friends, who then become aware of our site (thus increasing our audience), and my readers discover them as well, helping the to increase their audience. Through sharing we both benefit and grow. The same concept as traditional networking but with totally amped up results.
The bottom line is that if you want to make a living as a writer, you absolutely must have online readers. The more online readers you have, the more prominence you achieve. The more prominence you achieve, the greater the likelihood of landing juicy writing assignments or of getting your articles published. If you decided to publish a novel, your readers are not only a willing pool of potential buyers, but they can – and will – help you spread the word.
The investment is small – basically just some time and effort each day – and the benefits are HUGE. If you don’t already have a Twitter account or a Facebook or MySpace profile, don’t delay! If you find it intimidating, ask your kids or grandkids to help you, or post in our Forum and we will help. But unless you’re ready to retire from writing, then it’s time you up your game and add online social networking to your arsenal of marketing.
Share with us your experiences with Social Media Networking – how have Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace helped you?