I’m very excited to get started on this new series for Soaring. We’re taking a look at social media and what it can do for your writing career. Since it’s 2017, most people are online in one capacity or another. This series is great for those of you who are still holding out on joining the party or for those who are online, but need some help using social media as a way to promote your writing and your brand.
This series will lead up to the launch of our new Spalding MFA Alumni website. While we’ll go over the new website in more depth, for right now, I’ll tell you that the site will be a great resource and community for alums.
What you can look forward to in this series:
- Intro to Social Networking for writers
- Facebook Page Essentials
- Twitter Essentials
- Instagram Essentials
- YouTube Essentials
- Pinterest Essentials
- Blogging Essentials
- Our New Alumni Website
Why you need social media as a writer:
- New readers will find you.
- It will refer traffic to your blog, website, information on your books, or Amazon page.
- Network with other professionals and writers who can help you in your career and search for new writing opportunities
- Your followers will become your community. Hopefully your community will rally around you and support your work.
- You are more attractive to agents and publishers because you already have an established audience. You are less of a risk for them to take you on.
What can happen if you don’t use social media:
- Friends, colleagues, and family can buy your books.
- You might be able to have a reading or signing in your local community but online sales would be limited.
- If you are fortunate to get a publisher, they spend less on in-house marketing these days and you may sell significantly fewer books than you otherwise could.
- Facebook has over 1.19 Billion Active Users Monthly.
- If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest (after China and India) and 2.5x the size of the U.S. population.
- 75% of brand “Likes” come from advertisements
- 72% of online adults use social networking sites.
- 1 in 5 young adults (18-24) use Twitter daily.
- 9 Billion photos are uploaded to Facebook each month.
- 89% of 18-29 year olds are on a social network.
- Twitter is adding 300K users per day.
- Youtube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.
- 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations
- Women 18-29 are the power users of the web.
Here are just a few stats that show just how powerful social media and the world online can be.
Dos and Don’ts of Social Media
DO: Learn the basics of each platform you’re using. Each platform is drastically different from one another. Twitter is for giving quick spurts of dialogue, adding to a conversation, and generally connecting with many people quickly. Instagram is similar, but photos are king. Facebook is a way to showcase what you do, sharing information, and communication with those who come to your page. Learning the different types of social media platforms (what I’m going to show you in this series) is essential for becoming successful with them. Using the platforms incorrectly will annoy your followers and won’t help you network or promote your work.
DO: Act on social media how you would act in real life. Don’t try to put on an act just because you’re behind a screen. You might be able to get away with it for a while, but soon your true self will shine through. Either your audience will notice and dislike the change in personality, simply because you were “fake” before, or because they just won’t jive with who you really are. Online people are really sensitive to authenticity. If they feel you’re inauthentic, you’re essentially blacklisted and it will take forever to earn trust back.
DO: Be consistent. Create a logo or get a headshot that will be your “look” all over social media. This is helpful when people are trying to find you elsewhere. This photo will stick in their mind and stand out to them when they’re looking for you. Along the same lines, keep the same- or as close to possible- handle or name for your accounts. Just from personal experience I find it so annoying when someone’s handle on Instagram is “writerslife” and on twitter is “lifeofawriter.” To me, these accounts aren’t connected and the brand for their business or writer profile is lost. It doesn’t stick in my mind and will make me give up if I’m trying to find you on a different platform. You don’t want to lose followers because they can’t find you.
DO: Have a great “blurb” on your profiles. You can vary these slightly for various platforms but still, keep them relatively the same. Make sure when people look at your bio they know exactly who you are. Here are some great examples of bios from writers. I know exactly who this writer is and they’re not generic so it makes me want to follow them.
DO: Make a plan. Don’t just jump into social media without any idea of how you’re going to go about it. In this series I will go into depth with each platform and help you make a plan for each. Going in blindly will
DO: Try to automate what you can. No one has the time to spend the necessary amount on social media. With that being said, there are things you should and shouldn’t automate. Automate posts and links you want to share, questions you want to ask your followers, or photos you want to share. But don’t automate the “social” aspect of social media. Buffer and Hootsuite are the most popular social media automization tools out there.
DO: Share and promote more than your own work. While you’re starting social networking so you can promote your own work don’t forget that networking is an important part of the name. If you’re just spouting out your work: “follow me here,” “look at how cool I am,” “see what I wrote,” people won’t want to because you’re pushy and seemingly uncaring about me, the reader. Unfortunately, until you’re J.K. Rowling, you need to actually network, ask questions, share other’s work, and generally try on social media.
DON’T: Automate social parts of social media. You need to seem like a real person. Therefore you need to answer questions, reply to comments, add to the conversation in some way that cannot be automated or set ahead of time. No one likes a one-sided conversation so don’t be the profile who seems to only talk, and not listen.
DON’T: Use every social media platform if you don’t want to. Like needing to be real on social media, you need to use the platforms that speak to you. If there’s one that you don’t like, or just can’t get ahold of, don’t use it. It’s worse to have a half-assed platform, or one that you don’t do well with, rather than none at all. Stick to the ones you like and your audience will see a better side of you.
DON’T: Start every platform at once. If you’re just starting out, pick one or two that appeal to you and get the hang of those. If you try to do them all at once, you’ll most likely burn out and not want to continue. Start one, play around with it, start your following, and get the hang of it. Then move on to another one.
DON’T: Get lost online. It’s great if you create a platform to showcase your writing or create a community, but if you don’t keep up your writing, what’s the point in starting this virtual journey? Make social media a priority but never let it get in the way of your ultimate goal.
DON’T: Post the same content multiple times a day or day after day. Social media is not TV. You can’t have the same “commercial” go out many times a day. Your followers will get bored and annoyed and either will just glance over your content- even when it’s something new and what they might like- or just unfollow you altogether.
DON’T: Post just about the act of writing. You’re a writer so you obviously write. But you’re also a human. Most readers are not writers and beyond a few curious people who are interested in the “behind the scenes,” most people don’t care. They want to know that you’re a real person. They’ll connect with you better if it’s something they can relate to like talking about your family, your day job, your Chinese takeout obsession.
DON’T: Have poor grammar, punctuation, sentence structure… Basically just because it’s social media doesn’t mean you aren’t been judged for what you write. While you can definitely have a more conversational tone, and I’d even give you as much leeway as to use emojies, memes, GIFs or an occasional lol, you can’t completely forget that you’re a writer first. If followers read your Facebook post with typos, incorrect punctuation, or run on sentences, they’re going to assume you write your books the same way. Appearance is everything.
DON’T: Forget to actually talk about your own work. While I’ve already warned you not to only share your work, you can also get caught up in the opposite cycle. If you’re constantly sharing other’s posts, book publications or accomplishments no one will know what you’re doing. It is okay to show people your work, ask them to follow you on other social media platforms or show them something exciting you’ve done. Just do it in a way that doesn’t make people roll their eyes.
But what if I really don’t want to be online?
While I would really urge you to try to start an online presence for yourself and your writing, it’s not 100% necessary. There are writers who have done well without being plastered all over the internet but I will say it seems to be more difficult. In this age, if you’re not online you basically don’t exist. People use the internet for everything. They look up names, search for information, and generally trust what is online before almost anywhere else.
However, if you really don’t want to spend time on social media, I would at least suggest starting a website where you can showcase who you are, what you write, and post about any books or upcoming publications you have. This can be essentially an online portfolio. I will talk more about this in my blogging post but for now, think about a low-maintenance website that will at least house your information so it is available.
I’m looking for contributors for the following posts:
DEAR SOARING!: Send me your questions to be featured on the blog. Other alumni will help in answering your questions.
Where in the World: Where have you gone recently? Send me a picture with information on your trip and any writing you may have done about the trip.
Awards and Accolades of Alumni: Time to brag! What have you accomplished recently? I want to help spread the word and show just how great our alumni really are.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.
Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, and puppy. She has way too many books, more cameras than she knows how to properly use, and a never ending need to keep moving. She write about her life and adventures at home and around the world at A Wandering Scribbler.