9 Things They Don’t Tell You: How Writers Can Use Social Media

I feel frustrated when I hear someone – usually another writer or a business owner – say, “People tell me I should be on social media.”

There’s no denying that social media has its benefits.  It increases a writer’s online presence in a world that spends a lot of time online.  And it’s cost-effective and simple way for a nobody to become even a little bit known.

But the key is to create some kind of strategy.  If you expect social media to work by virtue of using it, then you’re probably going to waste your time.

Using social media and creating a platform is particularly hard for writers.  As it is, it’s hard enough finding time for our craft much less managing social media accounts.  This gets frustrating, and at this point people tend to give up on it.

When I first started building my platform, I felt this way, too.  I saw all the work I was putting into following blogs, writing my blog, and building a following.  I was feeling disappointed in myself, because I was losing focus and spending less time on the book I’m writing.  I completely lost focus.

I had to take a step back.  I didn’t want to abandon my platform, but I didn’t want to devote every waking moment to it either.

When I decided to start my blog, Word Savant, I never expected to be my own marketer.  I had to learn how to market my blog the same way I’ve learned many, many other things in life – by the seat of my pants.

I have read a lot of how-to blog posts on social media, but few of them were as helpful as the lessons I’ve learned from practicing on my own.

1.)   Start small.  Start with one social media platform.  Just one.  Don’t open other accounts until you’ve gained solid footing in one platform.  When you’re just beginning to build your platform, you’ll become overwhelmed if you try to do too much at once.

2.)   Get good at it.  This may take time, effort, and practice.  But once you manage one social media account well, you’ll feel good about moving on to the next thing.

3.)   Create a strategy.  My local blogger group recently held a meetup for a social media blitz and created content for our social media accounts. We set clear, measurable goals for our social media and wrote posts that we could put on our profiles.  By sitting down and writing posts for a couple hours, we were three steps ahead of the game.  Read more about how we created this strategy.  Laura Roeder, a marketing consultant specializing in social media, also has some great tips on her blog, which you can find here.

4.)   Don’t obsess over it.  Seriously.  It’s not that big of a deal.  Don’t take it too seriously.  Obsessing over it is going to stress you out, and you’ll spend more time on it than you really have.

5.)   Keep it simple.  Host as few profiles as possible.  Doing one doesn’t mean you have to do them all.  If you have too many accounts, then you’re spreading yourself thin.  It will be harder to keep your profiles updated, or worse you will post watered down content that is of little or no value to your readers.

6.)   Small growth is good.  Some of the most successful bloggers have been writing for years, so don’t worry if your following doesn’t look quite like theirs.  I recently followed a conversation on A-List Bloggers [link] about why blogs fail.  There were many responses from bloggers saying that they felt as if their blog failed when they didn’t gain traction from readers.  But it’s not the blog that’s failing.  It’s the fact that bloggers don’t have the persistence to do the work that’s required to build a following over time.  The same is true for social media.  There’s going to be what feels like a painfully long period of time during which your mom and your best friend are your only followers.  This does not necessarily mean you’re a failure.  Take each and every step and trust in the process.

7.)   Support your fellow writers.  Social media is a great way for telling the world about wonderful writing.  This practice creates good karma.  I have done this for other writers, and they have also done this for me.  People appreciate it when you share their work, and it promotes a supportive environment.  A caveat to this is to only share what your audience will find valuable.  If you post a bunch of mediocre garbage, then you will be known for mediocre garbage.  If you share wonderful blog posts, then you will be known for sharing links to wonderful blogs.

8.)   Don’t obsess over it.  No, this is not a typo.  I know I said this already, but it’s worth saying it again.  The moment you start obsessing over social media is the moment it takes over your life.  Post something, walk away, and don’t think about it for a while.  Writing always takes priority over social media.

9.)   Have fun with it.  Practice.  Play with it.  Try a few things out.  If you’re not sure what Vine is, sign up anyway and see what other people are doing.  Experiment with pinning, tweeting, and sharing and decide whether it’s right for you.  Create a dummy account without publicizing that you’ve done so.  This way you can test a social media site and learn how it works before you decide whether to dive into it. Have fun, play, and practice with it.

This is a place to start.  As you practice with your platform and get experience, you’ll learn what the right balance is for you.  If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, then take a short break and focus on doing what works.

As a final note, I highly recommend using HootSuite [link], a program that manages all your social media accounts.  You can go on HootSuite and view activity on multiple social media accounts and schedule postings.  I use Hoot Suite to schedule posts throughout the day, so I didn’t have to step away from whatever I’m doing.

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2 thoughts on “9 Things They Don’t Tell You: How Writers Can Use Social Media

  1. I was just at a writers’ conference this weekend and asked a panel of agents and editors “the” question about social media: do writers need platforms? They didn’t feel we did, but that’s not the same answer I’ve received from others. I think that a platform is more important when you’re writing nonfiction than fiction, but whatever the case, it’s the best way to promote yourself. No matter what the agents/editors say!

    1. Dawn, I’ve also heard mixed opinions on the matter, and I agree with you that platforms for nonfiction writers are more important than fiction writers.

      The best advice I’ve heard so far was on Kristen Lamb’s blog. On one of her posts (sorry, can’t remember which one) she noted that when fiction writers blog, they often blog about the writing process. This is not going to attract potential readers of their books, because their readers are not interested in a blog about writing. Their readers are interested in reading about the genre or book subject and that we should be blogging about THAT and not writing. Nonfiction authors can blog about their subject (I’m thinking of Susan Cain, author of Quiet, whose blog was very popular before her book came out). Definitely a word to the wise. You can find Kristen’s blog here: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

      It’s a lot of work, but if you’re up to the task, it’s better than being a nobody. But more importantly, it’s great practice!

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