For the last few weeks I've been struggling with the challenge of how to utilize social media in order to promote my latest book, An Odyssey in the Great American Safety Net.
My primary reason for doing this, frankly, is that I am told by professionals in the publishing business that it is now absolutely essential for an author to have a social media platform for their work if they want to see it published.
But that also begs the deeper and more profound question: Why create a social media platform for 'Advocates for Social and Economic Reforms'?
The first thing that comes to mind is that we are living in an age when much if not the majority of our information and opinions about social and cultural issues comes from people working in 'think tanks'. 'Tank' is the operative word in this case because most of these people are 'professional thinkers' who seem to live and operate from a secure 'tank' safely distanced from the realities they are describing and commenting on. That's a cultural problem in and of itself and not something I want to address on my site. My site will be dedicated to presenting what I feel is a much needed alternative to that perspective.
Again why? In addition to having lived in the 'safety net' I also work as an advocate and activist on the issue of economic fairness in America. That experience leads me to believe that there is a need for a site that can become something of a hub for all the different groups trying to tackle this issue in various ways. There are a lot of them; but, by and large, they act independently of one another and are not coordinated.
The most obvious reason for this is that most of these groups are professional institutions -- for profit or not -- with a vested interest in holding on to their 'territory'. Believe it or not, there is a competition going on between many of these groups as to who does the better job or has the superior approach.
Seeing as my site doesn't have any reason for being other than presenting all the information about what these groups offer makes it the perfect, by default, hub-site. And, trust me, when you are entangled in the safety net all you really want to know, as simply and quickly as possibly, is what to do to next not to make your life any more difficult, and what steps you can take to enhance your situation. You could care less which group does it best or why.
So that's one specific goal for my site: to provide simple practical guidance on how to navigate the safety net when you are in a personal crisis situation. (My book does the same.)
This is perhaps something you don't know if you have not been in an extreme crisis situation: almost as much as you need a solid footing underneath you, you also require some forms of personal support in order to keep going. You need empathy and hope as much as you need air.
How can an online site provide that? Simply put, as best it can. Most people in the safety net have access to the internet; often, it's required for mandatory job searching a set number of hours every day.
In addition to posting local jobs, which I plan to do, I will also be posting stories by people who have gone through similar difficult circumstances and overcame them, as well as those who have gained from the experience of helping out. I don't want to limit this only to verbal expressions. I invite participation by people who feel inspired to express themselves about these issues and experiences through poetry, music, photography and film.
Many of us will face an extreme personal crisis at some times in our lives; I'd like my site to a be a place where it can be embraced and resolved, not hidden from or made to feel ashamed of. A site that recognizes that we are all in this together and that we benefit mutually from helping one another. That's the real 'why' for my site.
I welcome any and all (especially technical) suggestions on the 'how'.