How do we classify a popular novelist’s Twitter feed: is it marketing? personal branding? public relations? It’s a bit of a grey area. But, as Jennifer Weiner so politely told Jonathan Franzen this week, social media is a necessary tool for any writer who wants to engage with his or her audience.
Yes, this is a literary spat, but stick with us: it will feel very familiar to anyone in marketing, advertising or PR.
We like Franzen because he writes good novels, but he’s also an ivy tower contrarian who feels compelled to talk down to the young and unenlightened among us. This week The Guardian ran an excerpt from his latest long-form essay opus under the frightening title “What’s Wrong with the Modern World?”, and it’s an epic rant. Some key points:
- The instant gratification of social media is destroying our ability to focus and create real value
- Marketing has led us to define ourselves by the brands we buy (“I’m a Mac guy”)
- Amazon reviews are the worst thing that ever happened to publishing
- Writers who engage with the public via social are diluting the integrity of their profession
These are generalizations worth considering, but we’re more interested in his personal attacks on fellow authors who turn to social media to “brand” themselves.