Social media titans compete--writers benefit
Published: August 2, 2011
As writers on the Web, we’ve already learned how to “friend” someone on Facebook and how to “follow” someone on Twitter. Recently, with Google+, we gained the advantage of being able to “circle” someone. The benefits continue to roll in with call features added at both Facebook and Google+.
Kay B. Day
The Facebook call feature, a product of partnering with Skype, should be a great resource for a writer. For one thing, you can use it to collaborate with other writers on projects. For another, it’s a great way to interview someone whose location makes an in-person meetup inconvenient. You must add the person to your Facebook friends in order to connect with them, but if you can arrange that, the rest is fairly easy.
The Facebook call feature works via the chat box. There’s a video icon at the top of the box. You click it and the first time you use it, you’ll get walk-through instructions for a quick setup. You must make yourself “available” for chat in order to call—just check “Available to Chat” by clicking the tool feature at the top right on your chat box. You can uncheck it as I do if you don’t want to be bothered when you’re doing a drive-through just to check your messages.
Facebook is rolling out this feature; some users don’t have it yet.
Google+ also has a call feature, but not a private feature like Facebook. Google+ offers you the “Hangout” option accessible from the right sidebar. To use the call feature you have to install a quick, painless plugin. You can talk to a group of up to ten; you can also text large numbers of people.
You will need a webcam for full functionality on Facebook calling, but if you don’t have one, you will still be able to see your contact and hear her. The friend, however, will only be able to hear you.
Both Google+ and Facebook enable you to organize your friends into lists. Google+ has the advantage here, with drag and drop. You simply drag a connection’s photo into the circle, and true to Google quirkiness, the photo bumps around inside the circle for a few seconds.
With Facebook, the process of organizing your friends takes a little longer—you open your friends directory and proceed to “manage” them by creating lists according to interests and relationships.
There are many social media sites, but in my opinion, Google+ and Facebook are at the top when it comes to resources. LinkedIn is useful for professional connections, but I confess I don’t use it as much as I use the others.
The top sites, however, will continue to compete in an effort to build those all-important numbers and perhaps to capitalize not only on gains in stock but also in advertising revenue. I’d wager the big battle will be between Google and Facebook simply because they’re both after the population at large as opposed to a site like LinkedIn with a focus that is primarily professional.
We stand to benefit from that competition because these sites will be ever eager to continue to come up with new features.
However, it’s important to remember that your privacy settings are more critical than ever. Unless you set your preferences, the world at large can see your information. It’s a good idea to re-check your account settings every time a social media site upgrades. I’ve often had to restore privacy settings when new features have been added.
Social media sites are a great resource to an independent writer. They permit me to connect with people I’m interested in, and I’ve found many wonderful experts to interview for my stories. They are also useful in pitching stories, because conversations on social media often indicate emerging trends. When there’s a natural catastrophe, these sites are very helpful because people in an affected area will often post messages to help others and to let their families know they’re safe.
Who knows what new features we’ll see from these social media titans in the future? Whatever they are, enterprising freelancers will certainly find a use for them.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for
The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International,
The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To learn more about Kay Day, see www.kayday.com. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.