By Julia Sandford-Cooke
With more than 13,500 Facebook ‘Likes’ and 5,000 Twitter followers, the SfEP social media accounts are a popular way of promoting the Society to a wider audience.
But do you know what goes on behind the scenes of our Facebook and Twitter accounts? Have you ever wondered who the digital ninjas anonymously posting links are? Well, social media team members have kindly allowed me to expose their true identities and reveal a few social secrets.
- Members of the Twitter team each post on a particular day of the week
The team is Cheryl Brant, Richard Sheehan, Sarah Perkins, Alison Walters and Anna Nolan, who are committed to a particular day every week. They will also respond to any direct Twitter communications on the day they are on duty.
- Members of the Facebook team each post for a week, on a rota
This means we are responsible for posting each working day for a week, every five or six weeks. The team is Dan Harding, Jayne MacArthur, Becca Wells and me. There is currently a vacancy for a fifth person.
Margaret Hunter, marketing and PR director, ably and patiently oversees both teams.
- We’re all volunteers
We’re not elected to a committee or paid for our time. We are all at different stages of our editorial careers but we feel it is important to actively support the work of the SfEP.
Anna says, “When I first got involved with the team, I had not long before joined the SfEP and had not started work as a proofreader or copy-editor, whatsoever. I was an absolute newbie, coming from a non-publishing background and in need of training. I did know how to use social media and loved the idea of helping out the SfEP and keeping updated with the latest ideas and developments in the editing/publishing world.”
Dan and Jayne agree. Dan says, “This is the best way for me to keep engaged with SfEP on a regular basis.”
I’ve been in the team for a few years now and think of it as an enjoyable bit of community service that fits in well with my other commitments. My nearest local SfEP group is at an inconvenient place and time but being on the Facebook admin team means I can help my professional society and share ideas with other editors without even leaving my desk!
- We usually share posts beforehand
We use a closed Facebook group to post suggested links or ask questions. Like the rest of the team, if a link catches my eye, I’ll post it to the group even if it’s not my week, in case the person on duty can make use of it. We choose our favourite links from here and either post them live or (more likely) schedule them each day.
The function of the SfEP’s social media pages is to provide links to useful or entertaining posts about books, language, editing and proofreading while acknowledging the achievements of our members and, of course, promoting the work of the SfEP. External links are interspersed with links to the SfEP website and blog, so that those who have discovered us only via our social media streams can find out more about the SfEP and perhaps even become members.
We try to post a range of different subjects, styles and sources but you may notice links from certain sites coming up regularly – that’s because they are so good (for example, we might as well link to every post written by Rich Adin and his network of contributors on the An American Editor blog!).
That said, linking to an external post does not necessarily endorse it. Although we try to promote only good-quality posts that uphold the SfEP’s values, some readers may disagree. Quality is subjective and we can’t take responsibility for others’ mistakes. In any case, sometimes we link to posts that we simply enjoy and think our readers will also appreciate, and hope that they will forgive the occasional typo in content we cannot amend.
While we do our best to help anyone who contacts us, we are not a job board. We direct people asking for quotes for work or proofreader recommendations to the SfEP website and/or directory.
- We are truly international
Perhaps surprisingly, about a third (4,600) of our Facebook fans are from the USA, with about 3,000 from the UK. Next come India, Canada, Australia and South Africa, with Brazil and the Philippines close behind in terms of numbers. Spanish and Portuguese speakers are our biggest non-English language audience. Although we are a British-based society, we try to bear this cultural variety in mind, for example by posting links that may be of particular interest to Canadians and Americans later in the day.
- We agonise over errors – and alleged errors
When we write a post, we check and check again… and check again. We’re painfully aware of how it appears to readers if the SfEP’s posts have typos. But sometimes, as with any project, errors slip through when we are juggling paid work and other commitments with our admin roles. Believe us when we say we cringe and put it right as soon as we realise.
Anna says (and I agree): “I am mortified when I realise too late I’ve made an error – and feel even worse when someone points it out.” We beg a little patience from those who are quick to point out mistakes. We’re only human and we’d prefer comments to focus on the content of the links, not the introductory copy.
And sometimes, as we know, errors are in the eye of the beholder.
What’s more, on Twitter in particular, we have only a few characters to get over a sense of a link – sometimes this necessitates a simpler introduction than we’d like. If the post isn’t to your taste, move on – we’ll be posting another very soon.
- We don’t have a stylesheet – gasp!
Yes, we’re editorial rebels. While we use standard British punctuation and spelling, it was decided early on that to impose a style sheet on all the posts would be too arduous for posts that are essentially intended to be fleeting and for editors and proofreaders in the team who already have enough stylesheets to follow.
I have to admit, however, that I sometimes rephrase introductions to avoid en rules (which are difficult to use on a web interface) or complex punctuation.
And, for the record, I hyphenate ‘copy-editing’ after the style of Judith Butcher’s handbook but other team members may use ‘copyediting’ or ‘copy editing’ – all are correct.
- We take the Friday funny very seriously
Regular followers of our Facebook page may enjoy our Friday afternoon tradition of posting an editorial cartoon or meme. I really struggle to find appropriate funnies that haven’t been all over the web already but luckily my colleagues are always on hand to provide suggestions. Recent popular posts (not posted by me) include Snoopy’s attempts to write a novel and tips for procrastination.
Over on Twitter, if you’ve engaged with the SfEP over the week, perhaps by retweeting or responding to a post, or if you’re a member of the SfEP, you may find yourself featured in a #FF (Friday Follow).
- We learn a lot
We don’t volunteer purely out of the goodness of our hearts – an element of continuing professional development is key.
Richard says, “It feels good doing something to contribute and it also keeps me up to date with what’s being posted online around the internet.”
Sarah says, “I reckon being on the team makes me keep reading blogs and finding out new things. If I didn’t have to find something each week, I wouldn’t get round to keeping up to date.”
Dan adds, “Being involved in sourcing and posting content is a great motivator and helps me to keep up to date with articles that I wouldn’t otherwise read.”
And, obviously, it’s a great excuse to browse the web.
As Cheryl says, “It’s a good way to take a break from a project without feeling guilty about web browsing when you should be working.”
- We’re always looking for more volunteers
The formula of posting links to external content and to the SfEP website and blog works well. A few people have even told us that our social media feeds are among the best they’ve seen from an organisation like ours. We’re delighted to receive such positive feedback and are proud of what we achieve as a team.
Anna says, “I love being part of a friendly, helpful and communicative team. I think we all work well together and there is a really strong sense of cohesion among us!”
Sounds like fun? Contact Margaret Hunter on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a member of the SfEP and would like to volunteer for the social media team or find out more.
Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications (www.wordfire.co.uk) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. When she’s not hanging out with other editors (on Facebook and in real life), she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.