Overview: Facebook, launched in 2004, boasts over 800 million active users worldwide (they claim 50% of those log in daily) in what what is currently the largest online community ever developed. The initial concept was to develop a social network of personal profiles, but Facebook has expanded with business pages, groups and paid advertising. Many authors maintain a Facebook presence using both a personal profile and professional page.
Sample of Offerings: Facebook allows photos, videos, links, networked blogs and lets your network of friends spread the word. This can create a “viral” wave of news. Via a business page, you can create mini-websites by adding tabs, discussions.
Things To Watch: Facebook allows third-party developers to create “games” and applications. These softwares, ranging from Farmville to Birthday Calendar, ask to access your personal information and list of friends. Stay apprised of your privacy settings as Facebook operates from a premise that you want to share information (possibly more than you’d like).
Bottom Line: Facebook offers an opportunity to reach millions of potential readers for free, but it takes time to learn how to maximize your promotional messages—especially when the site continues to evolve rapidly—while still being social.
Overview: Twitter, launched in 2006, has over 200 million users who “Tweet” or microblog in 140 characters or less per message. The minimal character limit, once viewed as a challenge, has become a game in itself for users—and many love it.
Sample of Offerings: This rapidly growing social network allows users to post public messages, forward news from other users (called a Retweet), send private messages to other users (Direct Messages), and embed photos, videos and links to other websites. Users can follow the “tweet streams” via other individuals, lists or “memes” (conversations denoted by hashtags[#]).
Things To Watch: Twitter can become addictive. It seems easy to pop in and post a few tweets, but Twitter management softwares like Tweetdeck and Hoot Suite allow you to follow multiple streams of information. Also, be careful of accidentally sending a public tweet instead of a direct message (as has happened to some prominent people recently).
Bottom Line: Twitter can be fun and productive, but it requires a balance of social messages, support to others and a little self-promotion. The nature of the stream is very temporary, so when you post a message, it’s only seen by most people during the next 10-15 minutes before it’s replaced by new material.
Overview: Pinterest is a virtual pin board that allows you to organize and share images, either of your own or from the Internet. It’s become wildly popular because there’s almost no typing and the images can become addictive. Launched in January 2010, as of July 2012, Pinterest boasts 23 million users. In August 2012, Pinterest no longer requires an invite—anyone can now join.
Sample of Offerings: You can pin pictures from your camera, from your web site or blog or from anywhere you find interesting images on the Web. You can follow other users’ pin boards and people can follow, like and leave comments on yours. Users can also repin content added by other users. In this way, images can go viral.
Things to Watch: Be aware of what you’re pinning. Don’t pin copyrighted original photographs without permission. Looking at pictures will eat up time, but if you’re someone who thinks in images, this can be a helpful plotting or character development tool.
Bottom Line: Pinterest is growing in popularity rapidly. It’s easy and fun, but be aware of how much time you can lose while on it. You can’t build meaningful connections with others on Pinterest alone, but you can meet new people and new readers can discover you and your books
Overview: Google+ is a social networking and identity service designed to go head to head with Facebook. The service was launched on June 28, 2011, in an invite-only “field testing” phase. On September 20, 2011, Google+ was made available to the general public, and in October 2011, the service reached 40 million users.
Sample of Offerings: Innovations include Hangouts (for spontaneous video chats), a program named Circles that allows you to group contacts by category (you might choose to place friends in a different circle than family), and a search feature.
What to Watch: Early adopters of Google+ have been mostly male (71.24%). The dominant age bracket (35%) is between 25 and 34.
Bottom Line: Many people switched to Google+ from Facebook at inception, and though promising, it’s Google’s fourth attempt at social networking.
Overview: LinkedIn is a professional network for business people launched in 2003 and currently boasts over 100 million users worldwide. Of that number, more than half reside outside the U.S. This is not a social site, but a professional one. Social Times published this Infographic by OnlineMBA.
Sample of Offerings: LinkedIn allows users to connect to current and former co-workers, as well as friends and former classmates from high school and college. As an author, you can post information on your newest releases, appearances, workshops, and even link your blog feed to your LinkedIn profile.
Things To Watch: Blatant promotion is definitely a no-no on this site. If you attempt to connect with people who don’t know you, this can cause “strikes” against you, which can hamper your ability to network on the site.
Bottom Line: LinkedIn may not be a primary network for promotion, but if you write under your real name and want to connect with people from your past, this can be a great opportunity to make that connection without spending a lot of “social” time.
Overview: Founded in 2001, this social community with 25 million users acts a search engine, allowing users to define what they like and then search for and discover similar things. As you Stumble through the suggested web pages, you can Like or Dislke them to help StumbleUpon’s search engine make better recommendations to you.
Sample of Offerings: StumbleUpon allows for stream of consciousness surfing and can be a good way to explore selected topics. You can connect with other users and follow their stumbles. Paid Discovery allows users to add their web page into the StumbleUpon stream and pay per unique visitor. No ad to create—your web site is your ad.
Things to Watch: Can use up time because you’re randomly discovering sites, some of which may not suit your needs.
Bottom Line: Very simple to learn and no need to engage in building bonds with other users. StumbleUpon is more voyeuristic and provides a creative outlet, but if you’re seeking to use social media for potential marketing, this may not be the easiest network to use.
Overview: MySpace, launched in 2003, was once the premier social network. It now serves 30 million users and targets Generation Y fans. MySpace promotes art, music and video games.
Sample of Offerings: MySpace features a graphics-intensive site that allows uses to share pictures, videos and play music. Because of its appeal to younger users, it does not seem to have as strong a community of authors using the network.
Things To Watch: MySpace can be more advertising intensive even than Facebook, which may be contributing to its declining user numbers. MySpace was officially put up for sale in early 2011, which may also affect users on the network in the future.
Bottom Line: MySpace could be a logical network for seeking a YA or MG audience, but be aware of its potential future limitations.
Overview: Goodreads, launched in 2006, claims to be the largest social network of readers worldwide with over 10 million members.
Sample of Offerings: Members can create bookshelves of books they have read, are reading or want to read. They also write reviews, follow favorite authors, rate books and form sub-groups by genre and topic for discussions. Authors can create a profile, share information about their book, hold giveaways and connect with readers.
Things To Watch: As a reader community, be sensitive to too much promotion. As with a social network, approach a reader network first as a reader. Like Facebook, Goodreads is always evolving.
Bottom Line: A great networking site for reaching readers, but it requires some time to set up, figure out, and if you don’t genuinely read and enjoy discussing books by others, it may not be a good fit.
Overview: Similar in concept to Goodreads, Shelfari was also launched in 2006. It is believed to have fewer users than Goodreads, but the company does not make its statistics public. Shelfari is now owned by Amazon.com.
Sample of Offerings: Shelfari is another social cataloging website for books. Shelfari users build virtual bookshelves of the books they are reading, have read or plan to read and can rate, review, and discuss their books. Users can also create groups that other members may join, create discussions and talk about books or other topics. Recommendations can be sent to friends on the site for what books to read. Authors can create profiles and post information about their books that feeds through to their Amazon author page.
Things to Watch: In the past Shelfari had been criticized for making it too easy to accidently send invitations to everyone in your address book. Some have expressed that Shelfari has more of a social feel than Goodreads (or that Goodreads users appear to be more focused on literature than social aspects).
Bottom Line: Shelfari is easy to set up and easy to use.
Overview: LibraryThing is also a book cataloging and social networking site, but claims to have the world’s largest catalog. As of October 2011, it has over 1,400,000 users and more than 66 million books catalogued. Online bookseller AbeBooks (purchased by Amazon.com) owns a 40% share in LibraryThing.
Sample of Offerings: LibraryThing helps you create a library-quality catalog of books: books you own, books you’ve read, books you’d like to read, books you’ve lent out, etc. Users can import information from 690 libraries, including the Library of Congress. Should a record not be available from any of these sources, it is also possible to add the book information by using a blank form.
Things to Watch: Like the other two social cataloging sites above, it’s free, but only for the first 200 books. After that it’s $10 a year or $25 for a lifetime.
Bottom Line: LibraryThing does the same job as the above two sites but has more of a library feel.