Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Online Networking for Authors

Debby reporting late Eastern time, inspired by an article I read recently on Social Networking. Just so you know, I’m not good at online networking. I have a Facebook page, and am grateful for my “friends,” but don’t know what to do after that. I don’t Twitter or MySpace, and I’m not LinkedIn. Blogging here and keeping up my personal webpage are my highest priorities in terms of online communication, and I am probably a bit lax at those. Mostly, I’m trying to finish a novel.

Ergo, Sean Silverthorne’s article, “Understanding Users of Social Networks” caught my eye. Here’s the link: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6156.html. Harvard Business School Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski spent years studying who was using online social networks and why, and found some interesting facts.

First of all, pictures are key. People want to look at pictures, and Piskorski found that seventy percent of online social interaction is related to viewing pictures or viewing other people’s profiles.

Second, "Online social networks are most useful when they address real failures in the operation of offline networks," says Piskorski. For example, if you’re looking for someone to help you with a project (Piskorski mentions a business start up, but perhaps we could extend this to book publicity, or an agent search), you’d first ask a circle of friends in your profession. If that endeavor wasn’t productive, you’d ask them to ask their friends, but often the ball would stop there. People are busy and if they don’t have an incentive, they forget to keep networking. However, Piskorski says if you are LinkedIn, you could go and search through the network of “my friends of friends” and find the person you need.

I don’t use LinkedIn, but I may check it out after reading Piskorski’s findings. According to him, people display a lot of information about their careers on LinkedIn. At the same time, users establish relationships with others, stay in touch with peers, and make new contacts. Yet it remains social, friendly, allowing them in many cases to put out information to headhunters and others without letting on that they’re on a search. It’s a passive, socially acceptable way of gathering info, dispersing it, and making new connections.

Piskorski found that men and women use online networking in different ways. Men tend to look at women—especially ones they don’t know. (Why am I not surprised?) But women look at women they do know. Women receive two-thirds of all page views. I haven’t figured out how this information helps authors expand their readerships, but maybe one of you will come up with something. Let me know, okay?

None of these findings apply to Twitter, however. Because Twitter restricts usuers to 140-character messages, researcher Bill Heil found that 90 percent of all Twitter posts were created by only 10 percent of users. Nor does Twitter use photos.

Though MySpace’s presence has seemingly died out, Piskorsky points out that MySpace, though its membership isn’t growing, still has 70 million users. He asked, “Why doesn't MySpace get the attention it deserves?”

The answer is that MySpace users mostly live smaller cities and communities in the south and central parts of the U.S. (Apologies to my Canadian and out-of-U.S. friends, he only gave U.S. data). Piskorski named some MySpace hotspots: Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida.

Piskorsky recently blogged on these findings: “MySpace has a PR problem because its users are in places where they don't have much contact with people who create news that gets read by others. Other than that, there is really no difference between users of Facebook and MySpace, except they are poorer on MySpace." Piskorski recently blogged on his findings: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/cs/2009/08/will_the_real_myspace_users_pl.html.

To wind up, Piskorsky found that online social networks were not effective in getting people to click through to another site. People who want to advertise need to think socially, as in, “this is going to make you all better friends.”

Which, when I think about it, is what Oprah’s Book Club has done. Food for thought.

4 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

All I want to do it write books.

Lewis said...

I read this after posting my own contribution on this subject - http://lewisjpeters.blogspot.com/2009/11/three-camps.html. Although a little cynicism may be detected in my comments I have to say that I really like the way your blog selflessly helps fledglings such as myself.

Donis Casey said...

Me, too, Vicki.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Hi Lewis,
Thanks for contributing your thoughts. I agree with your three tiers. Since I'm not the uber-author (though I'd love to be), I guess I'm in the second tier. Thank goodness the 6 of us share the blog. Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep one finger on new ideas and nine on my keyboard. As you know, there's only so much time in the day.