Build Diversity Into Your Online Presence

Back in 2008, a smart guy named Brian Solis created the Conversation Prism (above), and wrote a blog post titled State of Social Media 2008.

2008 is eons ago in new media terms—but the post is worth revisiting, especially for writers just now learning how to integrate online media into their everyday life. While not all of his points apply to individuals (his advice is extremely corporation focused), here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Social media is a means, not an end—which is why I so dislike discussions and blog posts about how social media “doesn’t work” to sell books!
  • Social media can gather people around common passions.
  • It takes more than an understanding of the tools to build meaningful relationships. It takes a human touch—an ability to send a genuine, authentic message. Therefore, social media can best be defined through sociology, rather than technology.
  • Listeners make the best conversationalists. (See prism above for listening channels.)

A few points I’d like to make:

  1. If you interact with people in ONLY one place (or one section of the “prism”), then you put yourself at risk of losing your network when people go elsewhere. I can guarantee you: Tools and networks come and go. Friendster and MySpace gave way to Facebook. Maybe Facebook will give way to Google Plus. Blockbuster gave way to Netflix. Maybe iTunes will give way to Spotify. Etc. I’m not advocating social media schizophrenia. HOWEVER, part of being a successful author is knowing where your audience is headed, and adapting (not complaining).
  2. If you focus all your energies on one channel or outlet, what happens if you must leave it—or if it disappears? Or if the rules change? To use myself as an example, if I had limited myself to content and conversations through my Writer’s Digest blog, I would’ve lost most of that community by walking away. But I have networks in a variety of places, so I can transition when needed. Without Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post right now.
  3. Build and enable a community of your own that no one can take away. If you’re an author, and you rely completely on your publisher (and/or bookstores) to reach readers, what happens if/when those things go away? What happens if they don’t want to work with you any more? What if you don’t like their terms any more? How do you reach the same readers or audience as before? I hope you’re already thinking through your strategies to address these challenges.

Part of my motivation for stepping away from No Rules was to build content and a network that wasn’t under the control of a company. I began this process awhile ago, when I started my own e-mail newsletter list, and I’ve been filling in the colors of my prism through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites.

If I lose or transition away from my network or community, I want it to be because of something I did, rather than a situation inflicted upon me, or due merely to the winds of technological change.


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Jane Friedman
Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
Posted in Marketing & Promotion.


  1. Thanks so much for this perspective on adaptability and social media. You provide some great, thought-provoking points.

  2. Thanks for the advice.  While I’m on a variety of networks, I can’t devote equal time to all of them.  But it’s nice to know they’re there so I can adapt. 

  3. Good post.  One thing I see to much of is an incestuous mindset among writers where they are “marketing” to other writers.  Not readers.  Social media isn’t as much about selling but about building a platform and community.  And it takes time.

  4. Thanks for sharing this again, Jane. Truly when you put the emphasis in the right place, everything else flows. And you are a great example of that. :)

  5. Jane, authors completely understand your wanting to control your presence.  Good for you.

    Is it okay to ask a question?  This is about Linkedin.  I’m what The Functional Nerds call “an aspiring author”–meaning I haven’t been published in fiction.  I plan to self-publish as soon as I get a few novels ready to go.  Other writers are joining Linkedin, and I just don’t get it.  First, why would Linkedin–which is supposedly for business professionals–even allow fiction writers to join–and what would it do for me?  I’m certainly not looking to get hired, and not out to impress.  Is this wrong?

    • Not wrong at all. I have yet to hear any reports of LinkedIn being an important community for novelists, whether aspiring or full-time. I think can be a helpful networking tool for those who also work in a profession (e.g., doctors or lawyers), but it could easily be a waste of time for an unpublished author who perhaps hasn’t had a professional/traditional career (which describes many women who have been focused on raising children).

  6. Without a doubt, you are “the best” instructor for writers Jane. The information you provide is invaluable to me, and to so many others. Your commitment to the craft, and in helping writers is so appreciated! I am looking forward to “all” of your future posts here. I love your new site!

  7. As always, Jane, you deliver on helpful info/advice. Many thanks.

    In social media, I continue to struggle with two things: how to determine where my audience hangs out so I can begin building it; and how to communicate through those channels in an integrated way that requires minimal time. (I still work a very full time job. As you can see here, I’m a day late with my comment.) If you can point me in the right direction–and I have every confidence that you can–I’d appreciate it. :-)

    • Thanks for the questions, Jim! 

      As far as where your audience hangs out, figuring that out takes a bit of market research and experimentation. You may want to check out John Locke’s book, which explains in detail how he tackled the process.

      How to communicate through those many channels in an integrated way? Much of it is a matter of developing a routine, and using automated feeds such as RSS. So, for instance, my LinkedIn page looks very up-to-date and active because it feeds in my latest tweets and blog posts and other “shared” items. It’s all automated, which allows me to focus on creating content on this site/blog, and on Twitter. (And my Twitter stream is partly automated too, through HootSuite.) 

      But as you can see, I focus real-time on where I think it matters most—responding to real people who are responding to me, and taking time to have a conversation where I think it really matters.

      I hope that gives you the start of an answer. Your question easily comprises an entire course in online marketing! You might want to consider taking Dan Blank’s course on platform, which is a hands-on tutorial for doing exactly what you’re asking about. Visit

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  9. Writing assumes you have an interest area, which means that instantly you can have an online presence in two places.  And if you have other areas of interest as well, follow those areas online, through whatever channel. For example, if you write historical romance, be a presence in online authorship/writing blogs, history newsletters, and the psychology of romance arena. Lurk and comment…participate in the conversation. 

  10. Love the info given in this article…very well received! now i’m off to examine my online set up!! :-)

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  13. So glad I stumbled on this, invaluable points. If/when I get published, I’ll still be busy building my platform(s). Thanks!

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