Jane Friedman

Feeling Like an Old Geezer at the New Social Media Party

I tend to pride myself on being open to new experiences, whether it’s traveling to a new country or engaging with new technology or digital media.

But with some of the emerging social networks, well, it’s been tough. I get asked by writers at conferences what the “up and coming” social media networking tool will be, and I feel like shrugging. Even though I’ve tried them all a bit, it’s hard to see how they’ll be hugely relevant. And I don’t care about them. Don’t I have enough to do already?

Simultaneously, I’m thinking: Uh-oh. This is a sure sign I’m getting old.

I have to remind myself: I originally signed up for Twitter in 2008, mucked around a bit, and abandoned it for nearly a year because I didn’t see the point. When I finally returned, I was in a better mindset to appreciate it. And now of course it’s hard to imagine life without it. (More on my Twitter story here.)

Here are a few of the “new” social media networks I’ve been mucking around in lately. For the most part, they’re not really “new,” just new to people of a certain age. They offer potential for writers who want to enjoy being an early adopter and creating a space for themselves in a community or environment that hasn’t become completely filled with marketing and promotion messages.

1. Snapchat

Snapchat is kind of like instant messaging on steroids. You can send annotated photos and videos to friends, with one big catch. After they’re viewed, they disappear. For that reason, the network tends to favor privacy and close connections.

I’ve long been disregarding Snapchat, for several reasons:

What long confused me about Snapchat is that celebrities, musicians, and other public figures use it to connect with fans. But how could such an intensely private network be used to broadcast?

Well, this is going to be confusing, but try to come along for the ride anyway. There are two ways to share your photos/videos on Snapchat. You can (1) share with select friends—and whatever you share will disappear after being viewed, or you can (2) create and share Stories that are public, at least to the extent that all of your Snapchat friends can see that Story. Stories are available to be viewed for 24 hours and can be viewed repeatedly, unlike other stuff on Snapchat.

So, in a nutshell, Snapchat users can friend their favorite celebrities (I assume the celebrities are not friending back, so it’s a Twitter follow model, not a Facebook friend model), and can then see their Stories show up.

That makes it sound like it’s easy to go friend celebrities or people you don’t know on Snapchat. It’s not. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone on Snapchat if you’re not already connected somehow. However, there is a separate area where major media brands have their own “channels” (for lack of a better word) with their own stories; you’ll find CNN, Cosmopolitan, People, The Food Network, and more.

Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation with Jeffrey Yamaguchi about Snapchat, and I have to credit him for inspiring me to do this post in the first place. He thinks, and I agree, that authors could and should be experimenting with the Snapchat Stories feature.

What would such a thing look like? Well, below is an example from someone who’s been written about in the New Yorker for using Snapchat.

You can find me on Snapchat under the username janefriedman.


2. The List App

The List App is getting a lot of attention right now because it just officially opened to the public, and it’s very straightforward: You create lists with it, which anyone who uses the app can read, like, save, relist, or comment on.

The lists might be very personal lists, informational lists, quirky creative lists, or collaborative lists—what’s so wonderful about this app is that it prizes creativity, imagination, and community. It has both a practical, useful side as well as a whimsical side. And it’s beautifully designed. (Hat tip to Chris Kubica for making me aware of this app.)

A few people or companies to consider following, to see and understand the potential: NPR, The New Yorker, Mollie Katzen (the cookbook author), McSweeney’s Lists, Susan Orlean.

The app allows you to include images and links with your lists, and you can also create lists that remain in draft-mode or private.

3. Periscope (and Blab)

The Periscope app allows you to broadcast your phone’s video feed so that anyone can watch and listen. (You can also save the broadcasts and make them available later.)

Michael Hyatt is the one person I’ve seen using Periscope consistently and well for professional/career purposes, and I recommend taking a look at one of his posts, What I Love About Periscope.

Periscope is kind of like a cheap way to have your own TV or radio show. Not to belabor the obvious, but you need to have the right personality to do well in a live environment, have something interesting to say (or something interesting to show), and/or something interesting to discuss.

I have not broadcast any Periscope sessions myself, but I have an account on the service should I ever become inspired.

Also see: Blab. This is very similar to Periscope, only it brings together several people for a live broadcast conversation.

After you use the apps above, I bet posting on Facebook will feel like chiseling on stone tablets, and Twitter like writing on papyrus scrolls!

Seriously, though: None of these networks are a must, but they all offer creative opportunities; I see them as a way to explore new ideas and find like-minded people, as with all social media sites.

What are your experiences with the above networks? What new social networks are you using? Let me know in the comments!