I'm sitting by a stream in Wales and wondering what to write for my blog this week. There's nothing like being stuck somewhere they don't do Internet to give you a different perspective on social media.
|Photographic evidence of actual stream|
Besides this blog, I have a Facebook author page and a Twitter account. It fascinates me what does and doesn't get attention on these various media.
First up, this blog. The last couple of weeks I've been writing about the real history of James Brooke, hero of The White Rajah. It's had a gratifying number of hits, though no more than a piece I wrote recently about tango, which, for some reason, always seems to attract readers.
I enjoy writing the blog. I can rabbit on about my own interests, share some of the joys and irritations of historical research and occasionally join in ongoing arguments about (for example) the importance of accuracy in historical writing or what constitutes a reasonable amount for an author to produce in a day at the coal face. I try to write once a week, so that those of you who have got into the habit of visiting me here can fairly reliably find something new every seven days or so. (Apologies for the delay this week : the problems of Welsh Internet are beyond my control.) It's fun and it lets me relax and generally chatter about life (writing is quite lonely work) and sometimes I get interesting replies and meet new friends. I hardly have any 'followers' but with Blogger it's not really clear what the advantage of following is, so I don't take it personally. I know that a lot of people read it, so presumably some of you enjoy it and that makes me feel it's worthwhile.
|Mid-Wales: beautiful but with limited Internet access|
The author page on Facebook is mainly there so that I can tell people when I've written a new blog post. People who 'like' my Facebook page are more important than people who follow the blog, simply because there are so many more of them. I know they read this (and thank you, reader) because as soon as I post on Facebook, I start getting hits on the new blog post. Facebook also offers a place where I can post chatty snippets or photographs that don't justify a blog post. (Photographs - even quite random pictures of things that have caught my eye - seem to be particularly popular.) Facebook is a particularly good way of getting into conversations with readers, too. People seem more likely to comment on a Facebook post than on anything that appears on the blog and I enjoy the feedback. On the whole, Facebook doesn't take much effort and is quite rewarding.
Twitter, by contrast, seems to take a lot of effort and I can't say I'm naturally at home with it. If you count the words in this post, you'll see that I tend to use more than 140 characters to express myself. Writing very short posts is a useful discipline, but encourages rather snippy comments, which I try to avoid because I'm pretending to be nice. (Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe snippy writers sell more books.) I find it difficult to 'engage' on Twitter. I reply to messages and comments on Facebook. I read everything people write in my blog comments. I struggle to find 140 characters of sparkling wit when people post something interesting on Twitter. But, however irritating I find it, there is no doubt that comments on Twitter really fire people up to read my blog. If I don't tweet about a blog post, it's much less likely to get read, so I'm out there every week tweeting for all I'm worth.
There are interesting things on Twitter. Ironically, there was advice to writers last week, telling us that we should get off Twitter and write. So I tried ramping back on tweets and the improvement in productivity was astonishing. That's made me think that I'll spend less time with Twitter in future. I'll still tweet, but I may be slower to reply. I may get a few more notes from people telling me I should engage more. If you agree about the engagement, please 'like' my Facebook page and comment on my blog. I'll be more than happy to engage with you there. I'll do my best to respond on Twitter too - only probably more slowly and with less cheerful irrelevance. Speaking of which, here's a picture of a ferret in a bucket.
Until next week ...