Social Media 101

Regardless if you are a writer or not, you probably have heard of the term "social media," but do you know what it is and what it means? You'll get the answers to common questions such as, What is social media?, What are the benefits of social media for writers?, What are some of the top social media sites?, and How do I use social media? Read on and explore the basics of social media!

What is social media?

If you are one of the many people who wonder what exactly social media is, you're in luck because we have an answer for you. Simply put, the definition of social media is this: Social media is a way to connect with other people who are passionate about the same things you are. One of the great qualities about the types of technology available to us today is that they allow you to choose how you use them. For example, you could use social media for consuming and sharing information, or for developing relationships and building a sense of community. It's completely up to you. However, in order to reap the benefits of social media, it's important to put forth the extra effort.

What are the benefits of social media for writers?

There are many types of writers. Regardless of the type of work you create—fiction, nonfiction, memoir, freelance articles, or other types of writing—social media can have a positive impact on your writing career. Whatever type of writer you are, here are the top six benefits you can get from using social media:

  • You can learn about the publishing industry. Social media allows you to learn about literary agents, editors, authors, publishing, and writing. It's an important tool for beginning writers especially because it lets you see in real time how people within the publishing industry interact. This can help give you a sense of how things work.
  • Social media can help you market yourself and your work. Part of marketing is developing a platform and having a strong presence online. This entails building an audience and readership, which becomes an important part of your marketing strategy. After all, in order to build a platform, you have to reach your readers first. If you're already a published author, social media can be a helpful tool for promoting your upcoming book and/or previous works.
  • You can build a network of connections through social media. Networking is important for writers. Social media can help you make and build connections with like-minded people. For example, you might interact with other writers, editors, literary agents, or those who inspire you. You never know where your connections can lead you!
  • You can strengthen and maintain your connections. Similar to the previous point, but equally important, is maintaining your connections with others. For example, if you met someone at a recent writing event, such as a conference, you can keep in touch and strengthen your connection with that person by following and interacting with each other online through social media. You could also stay in touch with an agent who you have queried before or met at a pitch slam.
  • You can share your expertise. Instead of describing your recent accomplishments or your work to others, show them what you do through social media and share your expertise. Join online conversations about a particular topic or subject you have extensive knowledge of, or post pieces of your writing to let others know what type of work you've written and what you're currently working on.
  • You can learn about your readers and/or fans. As mentioned above, social media can help you develop your platform and build readership. Social media can be an essential tool in getting to know your audience. Social media gives you a prime opportunity to learn about them and build your audience over time. Who are your readers? What are their interests? What do they want? Observe what types of subjects or topics they are talking or posting about. Then ask yourself how your work fits into their wants/needs. After all, every writer's goal is to engage readers. You can gain tremendous insight into what your readers are looking for by using social media.

What are some of the top social media sites I should join?

It would take forever to compile an exhaustive list of every social media site there is. Therefore, we've chosen a few of the most popular (and most useful) social media sites for writers.


This platform is great for connecting with other writers, agents, publishers, and readers. Writers use Twitter to interact with other writers and authors online, gather new ideas and inspiration, gain exposure through tweeting, keep abreast industry news, and find relevant links about writing through other user's tweets. Before you join Twitter, you should know how to use it and some of the key terms associated with it.


  • A tweet is a status update limited to 140 characters.
  • Followers are those people who have chosen to follow you. This helps you quantify the number of people who are interested in your work/what you are tweeting about.
  • Similarly, you have the option to follow other users. This number appears under "following" and their tweets show up in your newsfeed.
  • When you want to tweet another person you simply type the @ sign and the person's Twitter name followed by your message. Here's an example: @writersdigest Thanks for being a great resource for writers!
  • When you forward someone else's updates to your followers, it's called ReTweeting. To acknowledge where the information you are about to share came from, you include the letters RT before their Twitter username followed by the message. Here's an example: RT @writersdigest Live WD webinar + critique w/ Mary Kole on May 10: Publish Your Children's, Tween, or Teen Fiction in Today's Market
  • You can direct message, or privately message another person on Twitter. To do this, be sure you follow that person and vice versa. Compose a new tweet with the letter D followed by a space, then the @sign and the person's Twitter username. Here's an example: d @writersdigest Where can I enter the WD Annual Competition?
  • One way of organizing the users whom you follow is to segment them by list. You can create lists for anything, but most writers have lists of agents, writers, authors, and publishers. This not only helps you to become organized, but lets you see specific Twitter user's updates and allows other users to view your lists.
  • Hashtags are used to organize discussions on Twitter. To start or join in on a discussion, add the # sign and the designated hashtag phrase. For example, if you were at the Writer's Digest Conference this year, you would have used #WDC12. You and others can follow hashtags, seeing everyone's tweets who included the hashtag.



Facebook is one of the largest social networking sites today. You can use Facebook to keep in touch with personal connections by updating your status and sharing images and videos. Many companies and brands are on Facebook where you can interact with other fans and receive exclusive information on new products and upcoming events.



This is one of the newest social media sites. While it has features from Facebook and Twitter, it is still growing and being discovered by users. However, if you are interested in publishing news and information about writing, follow Writer's Digest on Google+. You might even get a freebie for following!



LinkedIn is a social network for your professional career. When you create a profile, you can list your credentials, work experience, and skills. You can connect with past and current coworkers and others you have interacted with professionally. In return, your connections can recommend you/your work to others. Having an account on LinkedIn is a valuable resource because it can connect you to agents, editors, publishers, authors, and writers. You can gain valuable insight into the industry and find unique opportunities in writing through the connections you make on LinkedIn.


YouTube is a popular site where people can share video updates, reviews, and more. Writers can use YouTube to promote upcoming writing events and share professional news. For example, you could post a video online to share exciting news, such as finding an agent or getting your work published. The Writer's Digest YouTube channel offers previews of our most popular online writing tutorials and giveaways.



GoodReads is a social network based on books, where you create and manage your virtual bookshelf. You can connect with others you know as well as those who like the same types of books you do. Not only can you connect with avid readers and writers, but you can also get insight into the types of books people are reading and emerging trends.


Additional Resources