How Should Writers Use Social Media? With Purpose.

As a writer or publisher, how will you affect the world? What is the purpose in your work?

These are questions I’ve considered often in the past few years, pondering how my work can help writers and publishers reach their goals. I often come back to the ways that digital and social media has enabled us to come together, to share, to find solutions. But there is one thing I always try to keep in mind:

Social media is neutral. It’s how you use it that counts.

Dan Blank I want to share a few examples of what I mean from outside the publishing world, and then consider lessons that we can each use in building our careers, and creating our work.

Story #1: Social Media is to Amplifies Your Purpose

There’s an interesting story being built one Tweet at a time, the story of Cory Booker. He is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and has become known for using Twitter as a communication channel to the citizens of Newark. For instance, during a recent snow storm, he used it to help identify areas that need snow removal. And here he is helping to dig someone’s car out of the snow:

(link via SEO & Blogging Tips & Tricks)

But the thing is, Twitter didn’t make Cory Booker get out in the snow to dig a car out. What’s more, there are a million reasons why someone would think that Twitter is exactly the WRONG tool for his job – serving a city of people who may have never used Twitter before.

He is leading them to it. Not to Twitter, but to purpose. He is using Twitter as an open communication channel to reach him directly. When is the last time a city like Newark had a direct communication channel to the mayor via your mobile phone? And when is the last time something like a Tweet could bring the mayor himself out to dig out your car from the snow?

Twitter didn’t do that. The citizens didn’t do that. A passionate leader with values and a mission did that. One man.

Using social media is about scaling what makes you a decent human being. It is about focusing on goals, and being clever about ways of achieving them. It is not about ‘followers,’ but rather, it is about building real connections in any way possible. Mostly, it’s about caring.

It’s not what social media does for you, it’s what you do with social media.

Story #2: Purpose vs Features

This is the choice we all have: what to talk about on social media. We’ve all heard the jokes of Twitter just being people talking about what they are eating for lunch, but that isn’t often the case with the folks I follow. They are building something greater, sharing their purpose.

Here is an INCREDIBLE video of Steve Jobs talking about just this: the need to talk less about what it is you do, and more about why you do it:

(Video via Scott Gould)

This video was taken just after Steve rejoined Apple in the 1990s after being away for years. The company had declined a great deal, and was nothing like it is today. He talks about getting back to core values:

“Our customers want to know who is Apple, and what is it we stand for.”

And that’s what I think social media is about. That is the opportunity for you, be it personal or business. Be clear about what you want people to know about you, be clear about how your Tweets connect to a larger purpose – a larger contribution that you are making to the world with your work, with your career.

Steve shares the example of Nike:

“Nike sells a commodity. They never talk about the air soles. You get a feeling with them. They honor great athletes and athletics. They spend a fortune on advertising, and you would never know it.”

When these companies present themselves, they rarely talk about the features of the product. Apple is not about computers or iPods or iPads. Nike is not about shoes. They are about enabling. They are about the EFFECTS of those products.

What will your effect be?

(Further reading: This topic also the focus of the book Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. Worth the read.)

Story #3: The Long-Term Value of What We Create

I just found this inspiring video about NASA, made by a fan. This act in itself shows how we look for the inspiration of an entity’s purpose, not just news on their latest efforts – this fan was frustrated that NASA does such a poor job communicating it’s mission. The video talks about how our work today, leads to greater purpose, well beyond our own lifetimes:

Is your work this forward-thinking? Are you looking down the road at your effect not just this year, but beyond our lifetimes? It’s an incredible thing to consider.

How should writers use social media? With purpose.

All of these examples are challenging, mostly because they force us to focus on our deeper purpose, not momentary marketing tactics. I’ve worked with hundreds of writers over the years, and this is always the hardest part – not in the tactical elements of crafting and sharing, but in identifying their purpose, their value, their relationship to the community, and their goals. The tactics flow from that center.

And of course, all of this has me considering my own purpose – how I can best help those around me. It’s 4am as I write this, one of many late nights considering this topic.

This is why I am about to launch an online course for writers, one that focuses on everything mentioned above: how to identify your purpose and goals, how to use digital and social media to get your message out, and how to serve the needs of your readers and your community.

It’s called “How to Build Your Author Platform,” and it’s an intensive online course for writers. I’ll be sharing more info next week, but if you would like to receive updates on this course as I move towards launch, please sign up here:

973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank |