Tag: Twitter

Are you the boss of social media or is it the boss of you?

Are you the boss of social media or is it the boss of you?

Once upon a time, when a group of writers got together, they would talk about their WIPs (works in progress), or the difficulties with their publisher/not having a publisher, or how good the coffee was. Nowadays, apparently inevitably, the conversation always seems to end up on social media. What’s the best one? What gets the best sales? How do you manage having so many different ones? How often should you blog? And so on.

In the discussions I’ve had with various writers, many feel social media is necessary but a pain. Necessary, because we all want to be noticed in the sea of writers out there. A pain, because they’d rather be writing. As far as I can see, that means there are two challenges to social media:

  1. how to get noticed
  2. how not to give your life over to it

There are lots of posts and training courses out there offering advice on point 1, so I’m not going to answer those questions. Instead I’m going to look at:

How NOT to get stuck on the social media roundabout.

First of all – keep in mind the WHY, not just the HOW. Why are you on social media? It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in all those questions I mentioned, like finding the best platform, how often to post, trying to turn posts into sales etc. Yes, we need to be able to be found, but the reaso

n for that is because we want people to read our writing. If you keep this in mind, it will help you stay motivated to keep your writing as your number one priority, and to make social media a lower priority. Of course, if your aim is to be a social media personality, not a writer, then you can stop reading this post right now.

Next, take an honest look at time versus outcome.  How many sales do you actually get from spending hours on Twitter? How many of your followers are actually buying your books? Each platform has ways you can measure this, such as ‘click throughs’ and other analytics. Work out how to use these! It’s nice to get warm, fuzzy feelings from having lots of followers, but if this isn’t translating into genuine interest in your books then either you’re wasting your time, or you might need a different message. This may mean tweaking what you post, or it may actually mean focusing your energy elsewhere.

Also, find a time management tool that works for you. I use an ap called Writeometer to focus on my writing without distraction. It turns my phone into a timer for 25 minutes. If I try to exit to check social media it asks me sternly if I really need to break my writing time. There are other aps that will lock your access to social media for a set amount of time. Look, social media is addictive. It’s designed to be that way. Which is one of the reasons writers feel it is a pain – because they know it takes away from writing time but they can’t always help themselves. At the end of your life, do you want your Wikipedia entry to have 12 books on it, or 5? Is it worth sacrificing all those unwritten novels to flick through funny cat pictures? Seriously? So if you’re addicted to scrolling, don’t be ashamed to use electronic tools to help break the cycle!

Finally, and most importantly, write good books, or, as Neil Gaiman says, ‘make good art’. There is no magic formula for getting noticed – some of it is luck, some of it is perserverance, but some of it is being good at what you do. You may spend ten hours a week crafting a huge social media presence, but if your writing doesn’t sing, if your story doesn’t excite, you won’t sell books. Ok, I can think of a couple of exceptions to this (terribly written books that have sold very well) but bestselling authors are usually at the top because they are VERY good at what they do, which is write compelling books.

While you’re sitting on the social media roundabout, spinning endlessly, you could be improving your writing craft. You could be catching the fireflies of inspiration, listening to the whispers of stories waiting to be told, crafting characters that want to be in the world. Thanks for reading. Now go write!

 

Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

Full disclosure: I am not a marketing expert. I’m a writer. I do live with a computer geek, which gives me a few insights. But mostly I respond to social media as a participant. This is not going to be one of the billion posts about how to maximise your social media. It’s a post about what to avoid doing, particularly if you’re new to the whole ‘self-branding’ thing. Social media mistakes can cause all sorts of unexpected problems.

First, an anecdote. Once there was a writer (not me, a friend!) who wanted to get her book accepted by a publisher. She had been told by others (but not me) that the way to do this was to have a strong social media profile. The word around the traps was that Stephanie Meyer and the 50 Shades of Grey author (does anyone remember her name?) had been picked up by mainstream publishers because of their social media profiles. Ipso facto, to be picked up by a publisher you need to be huge on social media.

So in order to shine a light on herself, this writer (still not me) put a fair bit of money into building a website, getting a Facebook author page, jumping into Twitter and exploring other social media platforms. She got active chatting in groups, she did various ‘launches’ of her presence, she generally tried to be noticed. And in the process, she swiftly built up a reputation.

Unfortunately, it was exactly the wrong kind of reputation. People started telling each other that she was someone to be avoided. Her name began to have negative associations, including with publishers that she tried to friend online. At the same time, she was being exploited by those who make income out of aspiring authors, paying a lot of money for, at times, dubious results. Her social media presence was working against her, rather than for her.

What went wrong? Here are some of the things I think might have helped.

  1. Learn the etiquette of social media. Just like in real life, there are certain things that people disapprove of online. Extremely personal disclosures in very public groups, controversial comments for the sake of being noticed, appearing extremely judgemental – these are all things to be avoided. I’ll talk about crafting a profile in my next social media post, but the rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t stand in Bourke St mall and shout it, it’s not appropriate for social media, where what you say can be heard by just as many strangers – and will stay around long after you’ve jumped on the tram! Be particularly careful with the ‘extremely judgemental’ one. Read your comments through before posting – can they be misinterpreted in a way you didn’t intend?
  2. Learn the etiquette of groups. If you are part of a group on social media, it will often set out its rules on a ‘pinned’ post or sidebar. Read these and follow them. If you don’t, you may be shouted down or even kicked off.
  3. Don’t friend spam. Nobody likes to feel like they are being used. If you make friends with people solely to promote your book to them, they’re going to see right through it. Just because someone is online, doesn’t mean their brain has been eaten by zombies. I know it can seem like it from some of the comments, but most people are still just as intelligent as they are in real life.
  4. Don’t friend spam other people’s friends! Don’t go through your friends’ ‘friend’ lists and contact all those people asking them to be your friend. A lot of people have a policy of only accepting requests from people they know, so will delete random requests. Others will accept them once they’ve looked at the profile, but if they see that your profile is all about ‘being an author’ they will know you’re wanting to friend them for promotional purposes. Also, you may well upset the people who ARE your friends by contacting all their friends – it can make them look complicit.
  5. Be mutually supportive. If you say you’re going to follow a writer friend, don’t forget to do it. Then put them on your ‘white list’ or your ‘definitely need to keep following this person’ list so you don’t accidentally end the connection. Then retweet or like their posts and engage in friendly online dialogue – don’t just tick them off as a ‘like’ and forget about them. Better still, buy their book and review it. They’re more likely to return the favour if they feel there is a genuine, supportive connection between you.
  6. Remember who your followers are. If Facebook is mostly friends and family, don’t put endless posts publicising your books. If Twitter is mostly fans or fellow writers, tweet about writing or book events, but don’t tell them about your underwear. Make sure your content fits your audience.

It’s a big scary social media world out there, but like any new arena in life, you can spend some time doing research. See how others behave. Talk to friends. Read various blogs and information sites to see how different social media platforms are used. It’s difficult to fix things if you’ve created a bad impression so it’s worth spending the time to get it avoid costly social media mistakes.