It seems these days, everyone has a Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace account. Most are on LinkedIn, writers are on Goodreads and Shelfari, and crime writers are on Crimespace. With all of the buzz surrounding social networking sites, it's easy to get wrapped up in the trend. But the benefits of these websites varies depending on who you are. Your goals will determine which sites are best for you.
You Are: An unpublished, aspiring novelist
You Need: None of the above
Finishing your book and getting published is your #1 goal. These social networking sites will only serve as a distraction. An agent is not going to notice you because you follow them on Twitter and no editor will accept submissions via Facebook. Spend your energy finishing your book, querying agents, and getting your book published.
You Are: A freelance writer
You Need: LinkedIn and Twitter
As a career freelancer, two things are imperative: knowledge and contacts. Following pertinent Twitterers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or even President Obama, will keep you up to date on what is going on in the world. LinkedIn helps you make contacts in the industry, includes job postings, and allows you to showcase your body of work.
You Are: A blogger
You Need: Twitter, Facebook and Myspace
Depending on the type of blog, you could hit hundreds of social networking sites, but these three are the most important. If you're goal is to drive people to your website, the more links out there, the better. In order for people to find your blog, they have to find you, and these three sites will help them do that. In addition to mentioning your blog in your profile, link you your latest blog entries on your Twitter and Facebook updates.
You Are: A published novelist
You Need: All of the above
Okay, you don't really need all of the above, but the more places mentioning your book, the better. It only takes a few minutes to set up GoodReads or Crimespace, and once it's up, it's not so important to maintain. Twitter and Facebook are higher maintenance: they require constant updating. The others are more for search engine purposes; the more your book is mentioned the more it will pop up. I've updated my Crimespace page once in two years, but it still pops up if you type my name into Google. If you're time is limited, stick with either Facebook or Twitter.
Though these sites are all the rage, not everyone needs them. Figure out your goals and evaluate what these sites are doing to accomplish those goals. These are social networking tools, but if you're using them for your career, the emphasis should be on "networking" not "social".