Sunday, October 30, 2011

Writers' tools: social media addresses

The other day, Kelley and I agreed to do a presentation, with our friend Colleen, for the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association. The point was to discuss social media and other digital tools for writers. I'd like to distill my thought on that topic here. One chunk at a time.

Today I want to talk about the names/addresses writers choose for social media.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, Colleen updated me on a couple of things for the event, and signed her email: Don't forget to bring business cards! I blinked. I don't have such things. But I had about half an hour and a B&W laser printer. I made three cards: one for me, one for Kelley, and one for Sterling Editing.

Here's the Sterling card:

It won't win any design prizes but it does three important things:

  1. It exists: it's a handy note card on which to jot something, and a mental (or physical) bookmark, a reminder for those who go to the event that there is such an entity as Sterling Editing.
  2. Those of you who live in an almost paperless world (you know who you are) can just scan it with your phone's QR reader and throw the card away.
  3. It's simple. There's only one line of text, and it encapsulates three of Sterling's major communication tools: email, webpage, and Twitter handle.

Sterling has a Facebook page, too, of course. But as Kelley runs that (Facebook isn't my metier) and as one of the pearls of wisdom I was trying to convey at the event was, Play to your strengths! I just sort of forgot that. Besides, those who go to the SE website (either by typing the URL into their browser or scanning the QR code with their phone) will immediately see links to Facebook (and Twitter, and RSS feed, and PO Box, and phone number) and so on.

As I say, I don't usually carry business cards. I'm easy to find on the web if you know my name. And, as a novelist, I think, If you don't know my name, why on earth would you want to talk to me? (I'm not a hard-sell kind of writer.) But Sterling is different, it's a business not a personality. So a card makes sense.

What I like about this card is that it's plain and it's packed with information. What I don't like about it is that, well, it's plain. If I'd had more time and a colour printer I would have found a way to make the three addresses--email, URL, and Twitter--more obvious, perhaps by doing slightly offset colour block backgrounds for each address. I'd use a different font (something better than American Typewriter). And I'd put our logo on there (I didn't have time to make it look nice in grayscale).

But I really like the one-line-doing-three-things text. I did that for Kelley's card, too. Sadly, I couldn't do that for myself because my Twitter handle is not a shorted version of It's @nicolaz. I chose that because it's short--an important consideration when you only have 140 characters. But if I had to choose again, I'm not sure I'd made the same decision.

So, if you're just starting out building your online presence, consider keeping your addresses coherent:

  • @yourname

The same is true for LinkedIn,, Google+, Skype, and any other services that shimmer into being in the next year or two. Avoid upper case, dots, and underscores where you can. Keep it as plain as humanly possible. It saves confusion, makes you easy to find on any medium, and, graphically speaking, is enormous fun to play with.

This blog has moved. My blog now lives here: