Welcome once again to WANA Wednesday, a day that I dedicate to help you guys make the most of your social media experience. Every Wednesday, I take tips, advice and other stuff I just couldn’t cram into my new book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media if I hoped to keep it under 300, 000 words.
Social media is huge. No denying it. In fact, all of you reading this blog are participating in the new paradigm of human interaction and communication. Welcome to the future! Ugh…yeah, I feel you. Sometimes social media reminds me of standing in line for the Mr. Freeze rollercoaster. I feel excited, hopeful, sick and terrified simultaneously. I know I’m headed for a screaming good time… mixed with whiplash. Social media changes so fast it’s amazing and overwhelming all in the span of the same moment. It gets easier. Kind of.
So I am you’re trusty-dusty guide to help you navigate the world wide web of widgets.
As publishing changes, writers too are being forced to evolve or go extinct. It’s nothing personal. Just reality. Arguing with it is about as pointless as arguing with a Category 5 hurricane that is about to make landfall. Writers are deluged with two words, platform and brand until they just plain want to bang their heads against the wall.
What? No, no, no, no, Kristen. You mean we have to market!??? We became writers so someone else would do this crap…..ugh.
I feel ya. Remember, I am a writer first. But hopefully I will give you ways to make building your platform a fun and enriching experience. Remember, attitude counts for a lot.
Social media is one of the best ways an author, even the not-yet-published can build a platform and become a brand. The problem is that—until my book :D–there wasn’t a lot of instruction how to do it. Thus, most writers were left to bungle on to Facebook or MySpace and stumble along and rely on dumb luck to do it correctly. That was what propelled me to write We Are Not Alone.
There is a lot of misinformation out there that I believe can 1) frustrate a writer 2) yield little quantifiable results (in the end the small term for that is “book sales”) 3) can do more to harm a writer’s image than good.
How does that happen? Well, sometimes it is that writers gut through social media and rely on a lot of hit and miss. They join the sites their friends or their kids are on. Probably not the most efficient approach. Also, the most popular books teaching social media are teaching tools and techniques that work well in Corporate America, but have questionable value to an author. To make things worse, my experience has taught me that some approaches and applications that work well in traditional business, actually are ineffective and harmful when used in the world of writing/publishing.
Authors, particularly fiction authors, would be wise to begin thinking of their content as a product. That, I feel will be a HUGE step to authors beginning to connect to readers (which is code for customer :D). Blogging about writing and networking with writers has its place, but it is not how an author builds a platform and creates a brand…unless one is writing about writing and for writers.
Today we will discuss some of the best ways a writer can build a platform.
Understand that your SMI (Social Media Influence) Campaign is About the Customer (Reader)
1) Content for the Customer—I often hear “Well, so long as you are having fun and it is a platform that you enjoy.” Um…a friendly reminder. This isn’t about you. Remember, we as writers must serve the reader. If we don’t, readers will gravitate to authors who do. This is true in fiction just as much as non-fiction.
Fiction authors provide entertainment and escape. Readers like you for your content, and that isn’t just a finished book (although ultimately it hopefully will be). If you write mysteries set in the 1800s and you blog regularly about that time period and mystery-information-factoids or whatever regularly, you will be in a great position to already possess a following of mystery fans who respect your authority and talent to write on this subject. You will move from an unknown quantity to a known quantity much quicker than if you blog about writing or don’t blog at all.
2) Location, Location, Location—Yes, it is important for you to enjoy the social media platform you choose, but a wise author sets his preferences aside and goes where the readership is most likely to congregate. You may looooove Twitter, but if you write Young Adult, it is simply the wrong platform to spend a lot of time with expectations of finding readers. Is it a great place to network with professionals in the publishing industry? YES! But doing your homework and finding where your demographic (readership) is likely to spend a lot of time, will save you a lot of frustration.
One of the things I have learned over the years is that it is often our own ignorance that makes us dislike a certain platform. If you have a hard time on Twitter, MySpace or Facebook, buy my book and I will walk you step-by-step through the process. Ask your kids or grandkids, or even a friend in the know. Sometimes we just avoid what we don’t understand. That aversion can cost us countless man-hours building a platform on the wrong site. And if we are building in the wrong place, we are less likely to succeed and more likely to get frustrated and give up.
Think ice cream stand in Alaska, hot coffee in Tuscon, mountain bikes in Wichita, KS. A tough sell and a very limited customer base. Just because everyone is saying Facebook is hot and MySpace is passé in no way means you should listen to them. If you have to choose between going with your friends and going with your fans, I advise that you choose the fans if you desire to build a platform.
3) Quality Beats Quantity Even When It Comes to Friends—The number of friends one has, whether MySpace, Facebook or Twitter is really irrelevant when it comes to the world of social media. In social media you aren’t just trying to influence an individual, your goal is to influence that reader’s community as well. Your goal is to identify and then connect with the expert influencers, then convince them to mobilize their networks to support you and your agenda.
Think of high school. There was always that group of girls and guys who seemed to control the opinions of the entire school. Most often they were the cheerleaders and jocks. If you became friends with one of them, then popularity naturally followed suit.
Social media is the same way. You can spend your time one of two ways. Follow so many people that you eventually have influence. Or you identify those in your social network whose opinions hold the greatest sway. A person with 3,000 regular followers cannot accomplish what one person with a handful of expert influencers can. In my book—yes, more shameless self-promo :D—I teach you how to locate these types of individuals.
In the end, remember:
1) Give the Customer (Reader) the Content She Will Most Enjoy
2) Go Where the Customers Are—Ski shops do far better business in Colorado than they do in Galveston, TX.
3) Surround Yourself with Experts in Your Field—That is just good advice no matter who you are.
And at the end of the day, social media aside… write a darn great book.
Happy writing! Until next time…