Friday 5 February 2016

Social Media and the benefits

See I don't blog for months and then you get two in a week. It's a bit like buses! But I have had an exciting week that has made me think and I thought I would share with you. I was asked to sit on a panel.  I had no idea what this meant in this instance, but it sounded interesting, so I said yes of
Team work
course - as you do! Well, when I got there it was much bigger than I anticipated. My fellow panelists were Khalid Aziz, former journalist and communication consultant (plus someone I had worked with in my past life!); Andrew Westood, Professor of Politics and Policy at the University of Winchester and Manchester, as well as previously being special adviser to the Secretary of State at the Department of Innovation, and Sam Jones, Director of Communications and Marketing at the University. The panel was chaired by former BBC education correspondent, Susan Littlemore. It was organised by Andrew Scott. As you can see, some pretty heavy weights...and me! I was there as an expert apparently.

Our topic of discussion was the media and, in particular, social media and its benefits. I found it fascinating and it continued to highlight how important social media is when used constructively and appropriately. We are all aware of people who let social media control their lives or use it to share every moment of their life, both good and bad. However, social media can prove a very useful tool as can be seen with our activities at the Golden Egg Academy. We use it very effectively. Just check out our #geaqa every Monday night at 7.30pm, when everyone gets to ask authors, agents, editors or publishers, or whoever happens to be our guest that night, questions for half an hour. Or look at our Facebook page where we share useful articles and information that are relevant and pertinent to aspiring writings. We have also created 'nests'. Secure groups on Facebook which are only open to current 'Eggs' or editors undertaking the Editors' course. These are places where they can go and talk happily with others who they know understand what they are doing. We like to constantly create a sense of community and social media is a wonderful tool for that. Both team work,  and this community, are central to the holistic approach that is at the core of GEA.

I often hear social media portrayed negatively by those who don't understand it or can't be bothered to embrace it. They slam it as time wasting. It doesn't have to be if you use it properly and you limit your time spent doing it. I don't check Twitter all the time otherwise there is a risk it just becomes a loud noise. I don't post everything I am doing instead I post things that I believe people might be interested in and that are relevant. As someone once so brilliantly described it, Twitter is like having random chats at a cocktail party. It is a great resource. If you need to know something or need help, ask Twitter. A year or so ago I was looking for some work experience for a student. I put a call out on Twitter and got some fantastic offers. I have asked research questions connected with my writing and someone always knows the answer. People are generous on Twitter. Yes, of course there are the idiots out there who can spoil the fun but let's ignore them. They are not worth giving space to. 

Facebook is more personal. I am connected through there to my family and friends. My settings are set to private because I don't want my students or random people having access. Most recently my nephew and his wife created a closed group enabling us all to follow their baby son's battle against leukemia. This meant they could keep us all up to date with progress and photographs without having to ring us all and repeat the same story over and over again. It also meant we could send messages of love and support. We were there for them during the dark times and able to celebrate the good. It was wonderful. I am also connected to some fabulous authors and aspiring writers through there. If someone is going through a bad time the support is overwhelming. On the other hand when someone has something to celebrate we do it in style. This week Kathryn Evan's debut novel, MORE OF ME was published. She is a great friend and a member of my critique group. On the day of publication she awoke to find all her friends, wanting to cheer her on, had changed their profile picture to a version of the cover of her book but using their own face. (With thanks to the very clever Candy Gourlay for doing all the clever photo manipulation).  I have some amazing Facebook friends and it certainly spread the word about Kathy's book.

Blogging is another great way to raise your profile but only if you use it to say something. There is nothing worse than a blog that says nothing at all. I refuse to blog unless I have something worthwhile to say. On Monday some of our former students came to talk to our third years. It was inspirational hearing what they were getting up to. One of them was Grace Latter, she is a blogger and has got work as a direct result of her blogging. Something I have told my students time and time again. You never know what might happen. 

So my message for today, don't dismiss social media. Think how you are going to use it and what image you are going to portray through it.

Earlier this week Terry Wogan lost his battle with cancer, one that none of us knew he was fighting. A private man right to the end, as it should be. There were some wonderful tributes to him. It brought back many memories. He was a great favourite of my mother's and a lot of the music he played was the sound track of my child hood and growing up. It would be playing in the back ground as my mother always had her radio on. This was one of his and her favourites so it seems appropriate.