My Thoughts: Social Media For Kidlit Book Creators in 2023
(Last updated January 1, 2023)
[EDIT: I am no longer active on Post.news. Ongoing tech issues and a changing user profile format (you’ll notice that none of my Post profile links in this article work anymore) discouraged me, but it was mainly the negativity that turned me off – the focus on U.S. politics as well as negativity from people telling me I was a Bad Person for still being on Twitter. My happyplace is currently Substack, and Twitter remains the best place for me to connect with educators and librarians.]
Like many others on Twitter, I’ve been becoming increasingly wary of new developments, and have been checking out other platforms. More of the children’s book community have been fleeing Twitter; I usually discover this because I try to tag them when I’m promoting them or their books….and they just aren’t there. Or I notice their accounts haven’t been updated in months.
More people have been asking me for my opinion about what to do, where to go, hence this post. I had originally been planning to wait until Post went out of beta and was publicly available, but thought this quickie overview would be of use to people meanwhile.
The Short Version, For Those Who Don’t Want To Read This Entire Post:
I’m maintaining an account on Twitter, even if I end up not posting as often. Two main reasons: For now, Twitter remains the best way for me to connect with educator and librarian friends. Also, if people talk about me or my books, they will likely still try tagging me — and I want my real account to be there to tag, not an imposter account.
In terms of other platforms, Post is my favourite for reasons I will explain below. Post is still in beta, and there are some important features still missing, but I’m still enjoying my experience on Post more than any other social media platform. I will still drop by Mastodon from time to time, but do not believe it is a good alternative to Twitter for much of the kidlit community; read my lengthy blog post from last month explaining why.
In the end, you need to decide which platform is best for you. I strongly advise against trying to be active on too many social media platforms – you’ll just get frustrated, plus you need to protect your CREATIVE time.
Question to ask yourself: WHY are you on social media?
I also highly recommend figuring out WHY you want to use social media. To connect with the kidlit community? If the latter, what part or parts of the kidlit community? Educators and librarians? Publishers? Art directors? Agents? Editors? Fellow kidlit creators who are around the same stage in their publication journey as you, so you can cheer on each other? Teens, your target audience? Book bloggers?
Once you decide which community you’re trying to connect with, find out which platform they prefer. Many are scattered across multiple platforms, especially right now, but things will become more settled later this year.
Or perhaps you just want to use social media for the pure fun of it. This is also FINE, of course! Just be honest with yourself, and still be aware of how much time you spend on social media vs how much time you spend CREATING.
My favourite social media platforms may not be yours, and that’s okay.
Keep in mind that everything in this blog post is based on my own experience, my own goals, and my own preferences. Please do not let me (or anyone else) tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Again, you need to find out what works for you.
For example, I have a TikTok account but haven’t yet figured out how I want to use it. I need it to be fun for me, or I know I won’t keep it up. I also need to figure out what my goals are for this platform. I still enjoy Instagram (and now have a Bookstagram), but not as much as when I first joined – I’m finding that as Instagram tries to become more and more like other platforms, I like it less. I also still find the lack of native curation tools (like the private and public Lists on Twitter) make it a challenge for me to keep up with others. I like the visual focus of Instagram but it seems to be moving away from that, probably to lure some of those fleeing Twitter.
I’m still on Facebook, but find it an increasingly chaotic and stressful user experience. It is my least favourite of all social media platforms, and I am spending less and less time there.
There are pros and cons to ALL social media platforms, and if a social media platform seems perfect for you, be aware that things can change quickly – policies and owners can change, for instance, or you may not agree with a platform’s general policy or have an objection to a person or organization or investors associated with a platform. And if you dig deep enough, you will always find SOMETHING that someone can point to as a reason for not wanting to sign up for a particular social media platform.
Remember that no one is forcing you to be on social media! You can always decide NOT to be on social media at all. Some of my kidlit friends have gone that route and are doing just fine. ? Again….don’t let anyone (including me) tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.
Speaking just for myself, I have found the benefits of social media far outweigh the negatives so far.
I do encourage everyone to be aware of why and how they use social media, and to always protect your creative time.
My thoughts on Mastodon.
As I mentioned earlier, feel free to read my thoughts on Mastodon and why I don’t think it will replace Twitter for most of the kidlit community. Main reason: lack of global search and global hashtags (before arguing with me about this, please do read my blog post – I corroborated with tech-types on Mastodon about this). You can still find plenty of kidlit people to connect with, however! There is also now a new children’s book instance called BookToot.social you can check out. But be aware that searches will only search your own Instance plus posts that your Instance has seen coming in from other servers. If a post is boosted on another server, then that post is searchable on that Instance also. NOT ALL SERVERS RECEIVE ALL POSTS. As one tech-type explained to me, “It would make running a server near impossible for small use, due to the drive space requirements.” As of mid-November, there were more than 6,000 Mastodon servers.
Also be aware that Mastodon was originally created for marginalized communities who did not feel safe on the mainstream social media platforms. Many of these Mastodon longtimers are not crazy about the influx of those fleeing Twitter; I strongly recommend reading this “Home Invasion” blog post from the perspective of one Mastodon longtimer. One developer did try to create a wider search tool but took it down shortly after because of backlash from the Mastodon community. You can find out more about why the Mastodon search works this way in this article.
Why I’m not using Hive Social (but others are!)
I did download the Hive Social app when I first heard the hype but decided it wasn’t for me before starting to use it when I found out there was no desktop app. I do most of my social media posting and reading on my desktop, partly because I don’t want to fall into the “oh I’m standing here in the grocery line, may as well check social media” default scrolling, plus I find that constantly scrolling of ANY social media on my iPhone makes me queasy if I do it for more than a few minutes.
I was also wary of the lack of resources/staffing behind Hive Social (only 3-4 people, according to this Nov.30th post), especially regarding security and community safety features, and the fact that they opened up to the public before these were in place. The platform ended having to turn off their servers for a couple of weeks after security issues shut it down, and there have been reports that some Hive Social users are still unable to deactivate or delete their accounts.
There are many kidlit/YA people who ARE on Hive Social, though! You can find a list of people you’re following on Twitter who have Hive Social links via this search. Hive Social has also become popular with gamers. Because I’m a gamer, I’ve been tempted to try out Hive Social — but as I said earlier in my post, I’ve been trying to be more aware of PROTECTING MY CREATIVE TIME and resisting the urge to try being everywhere.
Why Post is my favourite, even in beta
I love Post. I haven’t been so excited about a new social platform in a very long time.
I will post an in-depth overview of Post in the new year but am holding off for now because Post is still in beta, is not open to the public yet, plus keeps adding features and improving ALL THE TIME.
I’ve been creating super-short “How To Post” videos to help those new to Post, have a “Seeking To Connect With Others In The Kidlit/YA Community” comment thread for those to introduce themselves, have a K-12 Educators and Librarians community intro thread, and a list of kidlit/YA editors, art directors and agents on Post – You can find links to all these resources on my Post profile at Post.news/DebbieOhi. My editor from Simon & Schuster, Justin Chanda, recently joined Post – hurray! You can see my most recent list of children’s book editors, art directors, and agents I have found so far on Post.
Again…remember that Post is in BETA, and is still missing features – I am especially eager for curated lists, which is one feature that I rely on when using Twitter.
If you’d prefer a more polished user experience, then I advise you wait before joining. HOWEVER, I do think it worth putting yourself on the waitlist and at least establishing an account sooner than later – you’ll have more choice of usernames plus you can gradually start exploring and becoming more familiar with the interface. I recommend you following Noam Bardin‘s and Janete Perez’s Post feeds for site-wide updates.
A few reasons why I will be spending more time on Post than other platforms in 2023:
Cleaner interface, especially when composing a new post.
I love that I can post longer form essays when I feel like it, and I have more formatting tools than I do on other social media platforms. As a result of the simpler interface and formatting flexibility (plus SERIF font, woohoo!), I have found myself enjoying writing posts more.
Some people keep comparing Post to Twitter, but I find it more like a cross between Facebook and old-school blogging. I’ve had a blog since before the term officially existed. I’ve noticed that over the years, especially since Facebook and Twitter emerged, people don’t tend to use blogs as much. I certainly don’t get nearly as much comment interaction as in the old days. This is in part because of shorter attention spans online but also because there’s no easy way for the average person to keep track of blog reading without an RSS reader or manually bookmarking them somehow.
With Post, you can not only write longer form posts if you want with user @ mentions, but (unlike Facebook) you can include embedded links and embedded images. Embedded links means we can refer to outside sources without interrupting the flow of the text with ugly long URL links, and embedded images means we can place multiple images throughout a text post (e.g. “and here’s a photo of the next step of my art process…” etc.).
You can see an example here, where I posted about Maple Lam’s newest picture book using an embedded YouTube video (no native video on Post yet) as well as a cover image, plus was able to included links to Maple’s website and other info about the book. Within minutes of me posting this, someone commented saying they were going to order copies for a couple of friends with young toddlers! Maple responded in the comments with thanks and also (because commenter’s profile showed them living in the same city) a heads-up about an in-person launch event. Love the little threaded conversation that took place, with both Maple and the commenter also praising Once Upon A Time Bookstore, the local indie bookstore in Montrose hosting the event (commenter said they would try to attend the event!).
I’m intrigued by the potential of micropayments. See Cradiculous’s 101 Guide about Post points and tipping on Post. Anyone who posts can put their content behind a paywall (see the Reuters feed for examples), but most individuals are currently just posting without a paywall, with tipping being optional. I made approximately CDN $40 worth of optional tips (thanks to everyone who tipped me!) since I joined Post last month, and am donating the entirety to First Book Canada.
Overall, I find Post’s format to be more conducive to thoughtful discussion than any other social media platform. Yes, there are still the shouters and some negative people joining; you can Mute people now, and Block is coming soon. One of Post’s priorities is on community safety. I love the threaded discussion in comments, which is why I strongly encourage new Post users to participate more in comments.
This brings me to some tips for those new to Post:
Best way to connect with others on Post is in the Comments section. Unless you are so well-known that your followers will actively seek you out or have especially engaging content that others will want to share, you shouldn’t expect to immediately start attracting followers by just posting. Actively seek out and read other people’s posts, Like and comment. Right now, you could participate in Tara Trudel’s Comfort Zone challenge. Just reading the comments in that post is fascinating – what a great discussion!
Speaking just for myself, I usually try to always respond to people who comment on my posts if I can. I also try to check out the commenter’s profile, especially if I like what they said in their comment. This is another great way to connect with others on Post, I’m finding.
Seek out new voices. On Twitter, I tend to compartmentalize my posts. My @inkyelbows Twitter account is for kidlit-focused posts, for example, @BGGgirl is for gaming. On Post, I’ve decided to branch out and just post about whatever I want to, including my geekier interests like board gaming, VR art, and writing/playing music.
Biggest tip: Remember that Post is still in Beta. BE PATIENT. You can help guide the developers’ roadmap by voting for suggested features in Post’s UserVoice forum.
I will be posting more how-to tips about Post once the platform is out of beta, and features have settled.
Features that Post is still missing that I would love to have:
Curated lists, both public and private. Public, to make it easier to share groups of Post people. Private, to make it easier for me to curate my own browsing experience, like I do on Twitter.
Ability to block users. I haven’t felt the need so far, but as Post continues to grow, it will become essential.
Ability to save a draft of my post, in case I don’t finish it before posting and to have a backup in case there is a glitch while posting. We cannot yet edit our posts, and I inevitably make typos that I don’t notice until after I hit submit!
Alt text, for accessibility. This IS on the roadmap, I’m happy to see.
I’ve gradually been adding super-short “How To Post” video tutorials to my YouTube playlist. Post is constantly being updated and improved, however, so I’m finding that videos go out of date pretty quickly. I don’t mind. ? Most recent is always at the top.
Click on the #PostTips hashtag in Post for lots of helpful advice from the community.
Cradiculous has some excellent Post tips and 101 guides; see their profile for links.
“Why Post Will Succeed – My 100th Post” by Joshua Summer.
Are you on Post? Feel free to post a comment with your Post profile link! What do you think of the platform so far? Do you agree/disagree with any of my observations above? What social platform is YOUR favourite? Do you have any aspects or features on Post you’d like me to cover? Or tips on time management and social media? I’ll be offering tips specifically for book creators on Post once the platform moves out of beta (that way my info won’t go out of date so quickly ?): discoverability, connecting, etc. Meanwhile, feel free to connect with me on Post at Post.news/DebbieOhi.
Comments? Questions? Please post in comments below! (I will leave comments open for a couple of weeks)