If I say "social medial" and you think "I have nothing to say," your paradigm is about to be totally up-ended.
I had the pleasure of hearing President and Founder of The Social institute Laura Tierney's thoughts this week (she's on twitter @soLaur) and I'm going to share what I gleaned from her energetic, polished, and oh-so-useful presentation here, with a slant towards the questions writers are asking.
Hang onto your keyboards, because social media is about to make sense!
Social media isn't just about sharing. Don't ask "what should I say?" Ask "what's everyone else saying?"
We're writers. We're good at eavesdropping. You've just been handed permission to listen to every conversation you want, with no obligation to chime in. Yet. So listen away.....
Who to listen to?
Your readers. (young? try Snapchat, Instagram, and Pintrest)
Your industry. (and twitter abounds with editors and agents and writers, oh my)
The people who buy your books. (If they're parents of minors, they're probably on Facebook, not Snapchat)
The thought leaders in your industry. (award judges, reviewers, taste-makers in your genre)
Pick your platforms and organize your thoughts.
Platforms abound. Don't try to be everywhere all the time. Instead, figure out where your peeps are (see Listen First, above) then identify no more than 5 places where you want to be. You're not committing to being on all five every day, you're just defining your playing field.
What are you going to share?
Without boundaries, everything is fair game. You wake up on Wednesday and tweet about breakfast. Thursday, you're posting Facebook photos of your cat. Instagram your mess of revisions on Friday and you've been on social media, but you haven't really strengthened your presence online.
You know how genre expectations help you write a story? How you don't do picture books for middle-graders and you always have romance in a romance? That's because you have a framework within which you tell your story.
Same goes for social media.
I know, I know, you just wanted to get on the twitter and twitter. What's all this framework gobbledygook? It's pretty simple, and you write entire books, for crying out loud. You can do this!
What are the three main topics you're going to be about, online?
What are the themes in these main topics?
Now, make sure all your posts fit into these themes that fit into your topics.
Mind-blowing elegance, right?
It might look like this:
Want to post about your breakfast pancakes? Make sure it fits into a topic (like you're a foodie who grows your own crop of international herbs for seasoned fritters and jams and you are obsessed) otherwise, don't write it.
Okay, one more thing left.
You know how sometimes you follow someone on twitter and you get an automatic reply that says "thanks for following me on Twitter! I hope you'll follow me on Facebook, too!" and they have a link to their Facebook page? That's not engagement. That's just kind of annoying (sorry, but someone had to tell you).
Engagement is real. It's what happens when you bump into someone on the sidewalk and you say "Oops! And I love that necklace you're wearing!" and they tell you they got it from a street fair in Sacramento and you say, "No way! I was just in Sacramento!" and the next thing you know you're having a cup of coffee like old friends.
That's what you're shooting for.
What makes it different is it's real.
Yeah, virtual-real, but real.
Here's what I mean.
You tweet something.
Someone mentions you in a post.
Like their post.
Add to the conversation.
You read something and think "me too!" - tell them that (reply). Tell them why. Ask a question.
You read something and thing "everyone should read this!" - share it and give the first person credit and thank them.
See? It's because you're listening. You're responding. It's the 21st century nice-to-meet-you handshake at this online cocktail party. (that was @soLaur's line - it's good, right?)
Want to take it up a notch? Share in meaningful ways.
If you wrote a blog post and it was inspired by someone you heard speak, tweet a link to your blog post, give them credit, and thank them. (like this one, here).
If you've got something to share that other people will be curious about (like what did Katherine say when she saw this marriage proposal?) - that's golden!
Okay, now, let's talk about the elephant in the room.
I'm supposed to be writing! Not spending my whole life chasing social media dreams!!
Remember the no-more-than-five rule? That could mean one social media channel. Or two.
Start by listening.
Move to sharing.
Set a time limit, spending as much time on sharing (where you're crafting content) as you do on listening and engaging combined.
Quality content is key.
Make a schedule.
Use that framework to brainstorm your posts/tweets/photos/etc., schedule them on your calendar and stick to it. You might tweet three times a week and Facebook twice. Whatever works for your schedule. Quality over quantity. Authenticity over obligation.
Then, TURN OFF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA and GO WRITE!
Because, at the end of the day, you're a writer. All the tweeting, posting, and chatting in the world won't help you sell books you haven't written, so remember what your number one job is, and put that at the top of your list.
See you out there in the wide, wide web!
Originally published June 30, 2016