Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Unsolicited Writing Advice of the Day: Using Facebook as a Research Tool

So I'm thinking of going on a blog schedule, and if I do, I'm going to make "unsolicited writing advice" a regular weekly thing.  You guys game?  Excellent. 

Anyway, here's my tip for the day:  Use Facebook to shamelessly crowdsource your research. 

People talk about social networking all the time as a marketing tool, or as a way to connect with other writers and share experiences.  And all of that is really helpful and cool, but it's missing the single best thing about Facebook: The huge variety of people on it!

Think about this.  Facebook enables you to keep in contact with people who you normally wouldn't see or talk to on a regular basis.  People you went to school with, or worked with at a past time in your lives.  The amazing thing, though, is that every single one of those people has a life now that's different from yours.  That's part of the "grown-up" package that we're all equipped with. 

Everybody you know is an expert on *something*.  And if you use that expertise, you can get a huge amount of free information that can strengthen your writing. 

For example, I'm working on an article about wildlife for a sustainable living magazine, and I really wanted an expert source with some letters behind their name to lend some credibility to my tale.  Then I remembered -- I have a friend who just graduated from a master's program in Wildlife Science.  Obviously she's going to know people who can help me.  Bam.  Contact made. 

On my Facebook I have, among other things, a paramedic, a forensic engineer, several animal rescuers, multiple people with military backgrounds, and quite a few other things.  I know people from a wide variety of religions, socioeconomic statuses, educational backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities...you name it. I'm sure your Facebook is similar. 

Next time you need an answer about something bizarrely specific, don't forget to ask Facebook.  You'll be surprised at the quality of responses you can get, and your friends will probably be delighted at reading something other than shared cat videos and political snarking :)

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