How Much Time Should Writers Devote to Social Media?

Let’s face it. Building our social media followings takes a lot of time and hard work. (See this post: How To Build a Blog Following From the Ground Up)

For those who thrive on social networking, it’s all too easy to let facebook, twitter, and blogging, eat away at our limited time.

And for those who cringe at the idea of having to carve out more time for social media, it’s just as easy to sit in the corner and whine about all of the problems related to building an online presence.

Either way, social media is here to stay. We can’t let it control us nor can we scoff at it. We need to learn to use it wisely.

And part of learning to use it wisely is figuring out how much time to give it. How much time should a writer spend on social media sites if they hope to establish a decent following and build a platform?

There’s no easy answer to that question. But I’m going to attempt to lay out my thoughts on it.

1. Beginning to middle level writers:

Beginning writers should spend LESS time on social media (and less time worrying about their platforms) and should spend MOST of their concentrated work time learning how to write—studying and practicing (See this post: 6 Tips For Making the Learning of Fiction Techniques Less Painful)

The prevalence of social media and all of the talk about building platforms has put undue pressure on newer writers (those working on their first book or two). Many beginners are jumping in too strong and pushing to develop followings too hard and thus taking valuable time away from really learning how to write saleable fiction.

I’m not saying beginning writers shouldn’t have blogs or chat on twitter. Because I don’t think it’s ever too early to get connected, meet other writers, and develop friendships. But I do think new writers should take the pressure off themselves, sit back, and focus on first things first—learning how to write good books.

2. Writers nearing publication: 

Writers who’ve received critical and objective feedback that they’re moving toward publishable quality writing are ready to vamp up their social media time quota. This happened for me about the time I was ready to query. I found those months while I was querying, getting rejections, and waiting on agent responses, to be a good time to take social media to the next level.

I used those many months to visit blogs, meet new people, and get comfortable with social media. I scheduled in time almost every day for visiting and commenting on other blogs. I made a point of seeking out new people, not just on blogging but on twitter and facebook too.

However, I did NOT give social media more time than I gave my writing. I always, always kept writing in the midst of social networking. Through those early social media days, I learned to give my writing my best and most concentrated time, which has helped me do the same now after publication when blog tours, interviews, marketing, rewrites, etc. crowd in on writing time. I’ve trained myself to keep writing a priority even though other things demand my attention.

3. Published and beyond:

Around the time of publication, writers will find themselves becoming busier with other demands. We will likely have less time to spend visiting blogs and commenting and keeping up with everyone on facebook. Which is why if we wait to add social media until after getting a contract, we may not have the time and effort it takes to grow our followings.

I’ve had several friends email me and ask me how I was able to transition smoothly from less commenting and visiting without jeopardizing my following. If we’re well established as being reliable, offering consistent posts that resonate with readers, and we continue to be available to interact with friends in other ways (for me that is mainly through twitter), then we’ll likely be able to gradually diminish some of our earlier concerted efforts without ill-effects.

The bottom line is that eventually as we add in more, we can’t keep up with everything. We have to find ways to adjust or we’ll drive ourselves to exhaustion.

4. Non-fiction & self-published:

For those who are writing non-fiction or considering self-publication, devoting time to social media and developing a platform becomes even more critical. You will likely need to start earlier. And will probably need to continue to block in more time expanding your social media reach.

My summary: There’s no set amount of time any one writer “should” give to social media. As I’ve outlined, some of it will depend upon where we’re at in our writing journey. One thing is certain though, we can’t ever lose focus on what matters the most—writing a compelling, well-crafted book that readers can fall in love with.

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with my breakdown of how much time to spend on social media? And do you struggle to keep the time you spend on social media in balance?

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