Thursday, June 13, 2024

Social Media - Handle with Care. By Harini Nagendra

Here's the question we're answering this week on Minds: What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

Way back in ancient history, I first heard about this new platform called LinkedIn, from my sister. You have to get an account, she insisted. It's great for jobs and networking. Not for academics, I thought - but on her urging, I created an account, and then promptly forgot all about it - except for accepting the occasional invite.

Then in 2015, I was writing my first book, a non-fiction book on Bangalore. A friend pointed out that I really needed to open a twitter account and claim my space, so to speak. I created an account, and then forgot about that too - except when my book launched, and I posted a few promotional messages. After a while, I started to use twitter more regularly, but for my research. It was used by climate scientists regularly, and a great place to go to, to engage in conversations and encounter new ideas. That was before the great collapse happened of course.   

Then I started to write more regularly - and realized the utility of social media. I now use LinkedIn and twitter semi-regularly, as well as Instagram and Facebook. Because using four different platforms can suck up your time, I try and keep it simple - usually posting the same material on all four sites. I haven't done any fancy analysis, but I have noticed that my readership is quite different across these sites - what gets traction on one platform will sink unnoticed into the swarm of new posts on another. And I can't predict why. It baffles me. 

I find social media most useful for what is often called 'networking' - learning what's going on in the world of climate change or mystery writing - and importantly, to make new friends. Through Facebook, I learnt about and joined Mystery Writers of America - a chance meeting at a Mystery Writers of America connected me with James Ziskin and Catriona McPherson, which then - many months later - led me to this terrific group of Criminal Minds writers! Thanks to Facebook, I also connected with more writer friends who launched a Facebook group called the Cozy Crime Collective - with members in Ireland, Australia, the USA and other parts of the world. What fun - and there's no way that any of this would have happened without social media. 

Buuut... I'm very skeptical about the value of using social media to promote your own writing and drive sales. It's a great way to get more people to read, say, a newspaper op-ed that I write, or a blog post. And it's certainly gratifying for the ego (which can be very dangerous). If I post a pretty reel and get a ton of 'likes', does that translate into sales, though? Unlikely. In my experience, what's worked best is when a reader enjoys my book and shares it with their family and friends. To get more readers, a writer needs to get off that social media blackhole and use that time to stare at a blank screen - and hopefully, write another book.

So, what's my social media strategy? It's to prevent doomscrolling and stop these attention-hijacking platforms from taking over. I don't have social media apps on my phone - I only install the apps when I have a new book to promote. Otherwise, I use my computer to read and post, which imposes a certain discipline - that way, I'm not obsessively scrolling through my phone on the way to work, or before going to bed. I've tried that, and the people who design these things are way smarter than I am - they know how to grab your attention, and hold on to it.

I don't have a fixed schedule to post. I post when I have something to share. But I do love reading about what my friends and colleagues in the world of climate change and fiction writing are doing, and for me that's the best part of this. Connecting to different parts of the world while living in Bangalore... what could be better?

If you're still with me - Kings River Life is running a US-only giveaway for my latest book, A Nest of Vipers - to enter the contest, click here!

A Nest of Vipers By Harini Nagendra: Review/Giveaway | Kings River Life Magazine


No comments: