Links for the series:
Writers are often told that we need to get involved in social media. Two years ago, all I heard was, “You need to get a blog.” The next year it was, “Tweet your hearts out.” This year, one instructor proclaimed that LinkedIn is the place to be. Who knows what next year’s social network medium of choice will be.
In May, I was trying to make more writing time and considered cutting my personal blog, since I wasn’t getting the interaction there that I did from others. In fact, I was starting to think that blogging was dead, until we had David Powers King (DPK) on our show.
During the show, Chas said that when he posted on his blog he would mention it on Facebook, and people would comment on the Facebook post rather than the actual blog post. He asked if DPK experienced the same thing. Dave said something akin to, “I’m not very active on Facebook, my followers all interact with me on my blog.” And Dave gets a LOT of interaction on his blog.
Then it struck me… social media works, but only if you invest the time into a platform. I didn’t get the interaction I wanted on my blog because I didn’t put as much into it as I did on other social media platforms. I suspect Chas is in the same boat, and most people who can’t seem to get their blog to the next level.
This blog series will focus on several major social networks. What are they? What are their benefits and drawbacks? What is the best way to get the most out of them?
Social media is an opportunity afforded by modern technology to communicate cheaply and easily with the world. It’s an excellent opportunity to market oneself, establish relationships, and have fun. There are many platforms to fit a certain communication preferences and lifestyle, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Blogger, and more.
There are two networks I haven’t really invested some time to:Tumblr and Pinterest. Tumblr, I just haven’t tried to understand. Pinterest, well, I just don’t get it. Seriously, what is the hype about? Well, I’ll try to figure it out for this series.
Not long ago, writing was considered a pretty lonely endeavor. Writers would disappear into their
caves of inspiration and emerge now and then to rediscover what sunlight felt like. Book promotion came down to books signings and doing interviews for the some newspapers. Hopefully, it would catch on and become successful through word of mouth, a nice cover, and the publisher’s marketing department.
However, the world has changed. Publishers can’t dedicate their marketing resources to each writer, so the responsibility of marketing is falling more and more on the writer. Basically, you’ve got two choices, especially if you are an emerging author:
A) Do social media to keep and grow your audience.
B) Don’t do social media and rely on old (read: outdated) methods of spreading the word.
Successful authors are going with A. Not that option B will disqualify you from getting published, but it could hinder your path to success. The need to get social isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. I love that authors are just like us: with real personality, daily struggles, and a life to live. They are easier to relate to. They are easier to like.
And self-published authors are responsible for ALL marketing. What’s the best way to market your writing? You got it: social media. And this isn’t just for authors, this goes for musicians, entertainers, politicians, business, and anybody else who needs to advertise their products.
In a two-way relationship, both people have to acknowledge that a relationship exists before you can interact. The biggest example of this is Facebook, followed by LinkedIn. If I want to socialize with my neighbor, Bob*, I would send a friend request. If Bob doesn’t want to interact with me (and who can blame him?), he can just ignores or declines the friend request until he needs to come over to borrow my hammer.
There are a few benefits to two-way relationship, such as the near-total control over knowing who sees what you post on a social networks (aka, privacy). These relationships are usually more meaningful and personable. But there are some bad things too, such as the time required to manage these relationships and the fact that after your book has been out you are now advertising to people who have probably already bought the book.
If JK Rowling or Stephen King wanted to communicate this way, as soon as they opened their accounts they’d need to be clicking the accept button repeatedly, probably until the day they stop writing due to carpal tunnel. This would, of course, be very sad, so for them a one-way relationship is more preferable.
In one-way relationships, people decide who they want to listen to. Twitter is the primary example here. When I first joined Twitter, I wanted to listen to a few celebrities, so I started following Wil Wheaton and Weird Al Yankovic. Both of these guys have MILLIONS of people listening to them (also known as followers). Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber have even more. They don’t have time to accept and manage all these relationships, so a one-way works more to their advantage. They just broadcast their message, and if somebody is interested in hearing it, they will. Successful authors do this because they’d rather be writing content and not managing so much who is listening in.
Keep in mind, not every statement above is absolute. Celebrities can have Facebook profiles, but rarely do. You can manage your privacy in one-way relationships, but it is usually more complicated. Building close relationships is not limited to Facebook, I’ve got a number of people I consider good (more like super-fatastical-awesome) friends who I “met” on Twitter, e.g., Shelly Brown, T.J. Bronley, Brenda Sills, and Jeigh Meredith.
*Note: Bob’s real name has been changed to protect Kevin’s identity, who thinks he is innocent.
I’ve heard that the most unhappy people are those who try to please everybody. Social media is the same way, if you try to keep up with all the social networks, you are probably going to have a bad time. Plus, you’ll never have time to write. Or sleep. Eating would have to always be done at your desk. And family and job responsibilities are out the window too. It’s pretty impossible if you want to write and keep your sanity level.
We’ll go over the strengths and weaknesses of each network. Find the network(s) that works best for you and your time allotment.
Think about how you portray yourself in social media. This is your brand. It drives me nuts when people send mixed messages. They’ll post an overly cheery message, but a few hours later they are complaining about how somebody cut them off in traffic or the cup of coffee they just had wasn’t strong enough. It’s fine if one of these messages are rare, but when it happens all the time it makes me think they are either two-faced, deluding themselves, bi-polar, or all of the above. If this is you, which message would you rather broadcast? There is nothing wrong with being a complainer, if that is what you want your brand to be. Just, you know, be good at it.
You need to determine your brand, and use it consistently. Mixed messages only get confusing, and your fans don’t like being confused.
Let’s use Weird Al as an example, since I mentioned him earlier. Weird Al is HILARIOUS!!! Seriously, 90% of what he posts makes me laugh. Now, that is consistency! If Weird Al got… um… un-weird, then that would run contrary to his brand.
I got curious and looked at the tweets the last few days for Justin Bieber. Best I can tell, he consistently tweets things that say “I’m so cool,” “I’m doing something I think is cool,” and “I’m posting something ambiguous that will get millions of kids talking.” Guess what? He’s doing it right!
Think about it, he is being followed by 45 million (as of this posting) teenagers all wondering what The Bieb is up to, and he is consistently telling them. He keeps his fans up to date on a very regular basis. It might sound like I’m mocking him (well, I might be a little bit), but I also have to give him credit for building a consistent and focused social media brand.
Ah, the time question. When and how often should you post? There is a lot of debate here, but I’ve heard so many people insist that consistency (there’s that word again) is the key to success on any network. Every successful blogger I’ve talked to has stated that their blogs come out on certain dates and the consistency wins them loyal readers.
I consistently post on Facebook, so people know to look for me there. We post a new episode of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast every Monday morning. I was a couple of hours late after getting back from ComicCon and I started getting messaged. Like crazy. ON FACEBOOK! The Think Tank tries our best to get a consistent number of posts here on the blog.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the word for today is (say with me class) consistency. The most successful social media influencers are consistent in their amount of posts and the messages they send.
Go and do likewise.
We’ll take a closer look at Facebook, so stay tuned!!