Why is everyone telling you to “create a discussion” on Twitter? And “engage your audience” on GoodReads? And “encourage dialogue” on FaceBook?

Community.

Marketing in the digital era is about building community; this is why we are exhorted to “start a discussion” on twitter and interact on FB and Goodreads. This is no different from checking in at the fandom comms on LJ regularly, even just to comment on a poll or help with a fic!search. It’s not about getting your name out there, but about showing people that you are invested.

So for writers of original fiction, it all boils down to building a community of readers/fans who like your writing and want to keep up with what you write. There is an element of “cult of personality” to it, sure, but it is not necessary; and on the flip side, some writers don’t give a flying hoot about community, they just want their books to stand on their own. It’s all good. We’ve got room for diversity, y’all!

Back to the point though: if you want to build an online community, you have to work at it, at least a little. Joining your local Toastmasters isn’t going to do it for you. So what is? Advice abounds! Do this! Do that! Tweet those!  Post these! It’s endless, and there is a lot to be learned, and I see writers absolutely freaking out thinking that somehow, they are doin it rong. But honestly, that’s (nearly) impossible, as long as you are doing it.

But if you don’t believe me, take a look at fandom. Fandom is ginormous, flexible, diverse, and unique, but even so, every fan has a home. Every home is different, but somehow everyone finds their place, somewhere.

Also, note that fans don’t care about the platform, if it serves their needs (there are still some fandoms like the Professionals and X-Files with strong Yahoo-groups only fan bases, despite being nearly ten years behind the times; they like where they are, the end). So it doesn’t matter which is better, Twitter or Facebook or MySpace (or LiveJournal or dreamwidth), what matters is that you reach the people you want to draw into your community.

It may also mean that, as is recommended when “joining” a new fandom, you hide out and lurk for a while. Figure out what people like, what they don’t like, and what the relationships are. Find “your people,” the ones you relate to and who share your interests. Build from there.

It’s pretty easy, if you enjoy yourself. And that is the most important lesson fandom has taught me: do what you love, and the rest will follow.

 

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