Social media Q & A with writer Richard Skinner

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Richard Skinner authorMy guest today is Richard Skinner who I had the pleasure of first meeting at the Vanguard Readings which he organises in London each month, attracting big name readers and a loyal audience. Vanguard also has its own publishing imprint, Vanguard Editions. Richard is the author of three novels, all published by Faber & Faber. His work has been nominated for prizes and is published in seven languages. His poetry has appeared widely and his new pamphlet Terrace will be published by Smokestack in April 2015. Richard is Director of the Fiction Programme at the Faber Academy.

Do you have a blog or blog(s)?

Richard Skinner blog

I do have a blog page on my website but it is not a standard blog, it is more of a place to post essays and reviews and anything else of interest to me. I think of it as both an archive and a resource. I have recently taken a lot of these posts down because they will be collected together into a book of essays, reviews and interviews that will be published in May by Zero Books.

How often do you update it? Do you follow other blogs?

I don’t update my blog in any regular way, just when I find/write something that I’d like to share. I follow a few other blogs, mainly by other poets, for example And Other Poems run by Josephine Corcoran, and Spectral Lyre. I tend to follow blogs when someone posts/tweets that a new post is up.

Tell us what other social media platforms you use regularly. How do you manage the time you spend on social media – do you have any rules or tricks, for example?

I am a regular user of Facebook and Twitter, which I use for both personal and professional purposes — the two often collide.

I put time aside first thing in the morning to catch up on social media and then stop at a particular time in order to write. When I’m at home, I use my MacBook to post/tweet. When I’m out and about, I use my iPad mini (I don’t have a smart phone), but I can only use my iPad in WiFi hot spots, so I’m limited to when I can post/tweet (which isn’t a bad thing, I think). I just use the Twitter/Facebook interfaces. I did have Tweetdeck for a while but I didn’t find it particularly useful.

Richard Skinner on Twitter

How do you balance social media activity with your actual writing – any advice?

When I’m in the middle of a novel, I try to be strict with myself and only deal with social media at particular times. It doesn’t always happen though!

One tip that works for me: I have set Notifications as my Twitter homepage, not Home. I have a large enough number of followers that it would be impossible to read every single tweet on my feed, and so, by setting my homepage as Notifications, I don’t miss tweets that have my handle in them. They are the more important tweets to respond to, I think.

Some people find social media stressful. What do you most like about it what do you most dislike?

I think there’s a lot of very dull/trivial stuff on both Facebook and Twitter (kittens!)* but there’s also some amazing stuff there, particularly on Twitter. I have come across some incredible photos, links, articles and so on, none of which I would have found otherwise.
The Mirror by Richard Skinner
I think the key is to tailor your Facebook timeline and Twitter feed by stopping notifications or muting anything you don’t like so that you’re only seeing what you want to see. Be ruthless about that. The other golden rule, I think, is not to use social media solely for promoting yourself and your work. Use it to share your likes, loves and interests. There is no greater turn-off on social media than someone who only says ‘Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book.’

*I quite like the kittens! – Robin

Seven things to do on Twitter this week

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There’s so much more to Twitter than just posting links to your blog posts or tweeting the odd ‘what I’m up to’ update.

I’ve found Twitter to be a fantastic tool for connecting with all sorts of people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. OK, so it was easier in the early days, when there were fewer of us using it and before the marketers and scammers had moved in!

If you’re wondering how on earth to unlock the real power of Twitter then let me tell you there are no quick fix ways of doing it, but take it one day at a time and in six months you’ll wish you’d started a year ago.

It’s about small things … and they all add up. To give you an idea what I mean, here are seven tasks to set yourself, one for each of the next seven days. Come on, how hard can that be? Just remember a general point – when you refer to another person or entity in a tweet, reference them by their Twitter (@) name, because that way they will see your tweet. If you don’t know their Twitter name, use the Twitter search box to find it.

So here goes…

1) Do something nice for someone

This might be, for example, answering a question, or retweeting a question you can’t answer yourself, but one of your followers might. You might tweet how much you enjoyed someone’s latest book, or review, or poem in such-and-such magazine. Or how about starting a conversation with someone who’s new to Twitter or not very active, to encourage them along?

2) Retweet something useful and say why

If you’ve just learned something useful, or come across a resource you know your followers will find useful, or a news story people will want to know about, tweet a link to it. Add your own comment or endorsement.

3) Find THREE book bloggers/reviewers to follow

You can use the Twitter search box to search for names or keywords, or do a general search on Google – look for people who actively review work in your genre. You might find one, and then from their lists of followers or followees you might find more. Don’t follow more than three at a time, for now … if you stumble of a rich seam of people to follow, go to point 4 –

4) Start a new list

Remember you can add someone to a list without actively following them as an individual. You can then follow that list. If you’re using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, create a new column for that list and voila. (See this post about Lists if you’re not sure).

5) Find a writing-related hashtag and use it

There are so many great writing hashtags, many of them are ‘slow chats’ – in other words, it’s an ongoing conversation around a theme. Well-used ones are #amwriting, #selfpublishing and #kidlitchat. But there are many, many more –  here’s a mammoth list of Twitter hashtags for writers!

6) Take a long hard look at your profile page

When did you last refresh it? Could it do with a makeover? The new profile pages allow for a wonderfully big header image – make the most of this space. Look at how other people are using it, get some inspiration. What about your profile picture? Looking a tad tired? And your bio – are you making the best use of your 160 characters, with key words for people to find you by?

7) Thank someone

Ah yes – we so often forget to this. Who doesn’t love to be thanked? Just think for a moment – is there someone you follow on Twitter (who perhaps you’ve never met) who often tweets useful things, or answers questions, or retweets other people’s posts? A ‘thank you’ out of the blue from a relative stranger is a wonderful thing.

Have a great week on Twitter – who knows, you might set yourself another #7things for the week after, and the week after …