How to Make Friends and Influence People

Why do we blog?

Or tweet? Or use Facebook?

The answer is pretty self-explanatory, you probably think. But is it?

In the beginning it was pretty simple. People started using social network sites to hook up with friends, stay in touch with people far away, or maybe make new friends. Then, people started to see the marketing potential of social networking sites.

It started with music. Bands took to MySpace to publicise their music, bypassing the traditional route of the record company. Then, other artists – writers especially – started to utilise blogs and Twitter to get their message out.

So, I ask again: why do we blog? Or tweet? Or use Facebook?

Is it simply to hook up with people? Is it to get our music or our writing or our art out to a wider audience? Is it to boost our profile in the hope that this will boost the sales of our books or our music or our art? Or is it all of the above?

I’ve only been blogging for a few weeks, and have been on Twitter probably a month before that. But the first thing I noticed when I started interacting with people was that – in the main – people on Twitter are warm, funny, welcoming and hugely supportive. From my perspective as a writer, that is a wonderful thing. Writing is a lonely profession at the best of times and to have the support of like-minded people out there is indispensible.

However, of late, I’ve noticed a few complaints on Twitter about the amount of retweets going around. (For those who don’t know, retweets are when someone tweets a mention of a new blog post, or a link, or something like that, and another person resends that on to their followers in an effort to give them more exposure) The people complaining seem to see all this retweeting as simply shameless self-promotion, and feel that it is ruining the fun of Twitter. I would suggest the opposite. I would suggest that – as opposed to being shameless self-promotion – it is, in fact, the height of altruism.

Writing, playing music, making any kind of art is a tough game. For a long time, it was extremely hard to get your music heard by record companies or your book read by publishers. Now, people are taking matters into their own hands and doing it directly through the internet. But it is impossible to do alone. You have to have support. You have to have a posse. You have to have someone who has your back. If our friends – real or virtual – can help us out in any way, I say that’s a good thing, and long may it continue.

But what does everyone else think? Why do you blog, or tweet, or use Facebook? And is the practice of retweeting shameless self-promotion or the height of altruism? I don’t expect you all to agree with me, but I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.