Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How To Diversify on Social Media

Handling social media is a huge topic for authors lately. It can be a powerful engine for your platform and a wonderful way to interact with new and established readers.

Some writers don't really like social media, or really only love one particular form of it, and that's fine. You only need to do as much as you can do well, and it's not worth it if it takes much time away from your writing.

However, a lot of writers love social media, and want to be more involved. Here's a few ideas for avoiding pitfalls and building a strong basic platform on social media.

  • Learn them one at a time. When you're confident and competent on Twitter, add Goodreads. Once you've got Goodreads figured out, go ahead and try Tumblr, if you like. It will probably take a long time, but building gradually is fine. In fact, it's preferred because it helps you not burn out and it gives you the time to sit back and watch how the site is used.
  • Be useful. Don't just post about yourself-- people ask themselves "why would the whole world want to hear about my lunch?" and it's a valid question. We care about the details of your life once we care about you, and one of the ways you can help us do that is by contributing meaningful content. But that doesn't mean you need to sit there forever thinking up a clever insight. Share links to articles about writing and books, share funny or interesting content about your favorite fandoms, and share blog posts from other authors, or agents, or publishing professionals. You can even share content about your passions-- TV, cake-baking, animal rescue, social justice issues, etc. Subscribing to the Shelf Awareness newsletter, the Publisher's Weekly newsletter, and your favorite blogs is a great way to get sharable content delivered to you. I click the ones I want to read in the morning and then share them throughout the day.
  • Diversify. This is one thing I really encourage writers to do if you're going to be on more than one form of social media. Limit and diversify your content. This is actually the bulk of this post because I think it's really important to keep yourself from burning out and wasting time with redundant content. Writers sometimes ask what's the point of having both a Facebook author page and a Twitter account if you post the same thing to the each account, and there's a good point there. (Of course, they're sometimes different audiences.) I've been slowly building the places I'm active online, and as an example, here's how I think about my different accounts:

Twitter: Twitter is practically a live-stream of my professional life. I try to share useful content, talk about editing for Month9Books and my freelance clients, and share bits about my own writing life, and do my #subtips and critique giveaways. Occasionally music, my husky, and my hobbies make it into the mix, too. I tweet a lot-- it's my most-used form of social media. (Those of you who unfollow me, I don't blame you.) I love interacting with my writing friends there, and it's a great way to make my day more social since I work from home.

Facebook: I have a personal account (mostly for family and college friends) and an author page. I try to post once a day, so much less frequently than on Twitter. I like to use it as a more static feed of what's going on with my writing. I occasionally share a cool bookish article, but it's mostly news and updates about my writing. That's the place to go if you want to keep up with me, but aren't a writer or don't work in publishing. All the industry chat is absent.

Goodreads: My book is on GR and I have an author account. I use this maybe once every few days-- add books I've read, keep up with friends' books, search for something new to read. Maybe a grand total of half an hour a week. It's easy, my blog posts to my author page, and it's a great way for me to keep track of what books caught my interest so I'm not just automatically buying the major hits and nothing else. I don't worry too much about adding friends or reading all of my feed; I let people find me if they want but mostly use it as a personal tool.

Pinterest: This is another easy platform I really love; the visuals are so inspiring. I don't use it often-- a few times a week I get on and scroll, or pin something to a board from research during the week. I love it as a tool for writers because I make an inspiration board for my WIPs and add quotes or scenes or photos that remind me of an element of my book, and it's a great way to get re-inspired to write when I'm not feeling it. I'm also making a much more involved board for my debut this fall (secret right now), with lines from the book, book art, teasers, and relevant images that will be released pretty shortly. Again, I use this as a low-pressure, occasional thing. You can customize what's in your feed (and limit the craft items and recipes if you want) by being choosy with who you follow, and that's brought me some really awesome finds-- think moonshining, art photography, fan art, classic movie content, etc.

My blog: The Bookshelf is my personal blog that I've had for years now. I post a few times a week and the content is mostly geared toward writers. I posted about finishing my first MS and starting the next (How We Fall!), through my querying process and signing my book deal, and now of course through editing and marketing strategies. I also do slush pile posts, blog about writing tips, etc. It's very much a blog from a writer for writers, and I don't really expect family or non-writing readers to be interested in it. It's a place for me to contribute (hopefully!) to the broader writing discussion and build some community, and it's a lot of fun to see readers commenting who have followed me since before that first manuscript was finished.

Tumblr: This is my newest social media venture, and I'm not entirely sure I'm doing it right, but I started it because I wanted a site that was reader-focused, and because so many younger people are on it. My blog is for writers, and readers likely won't find it interesting. I don't post writing or publishing advice on tumblr at all. It's really quick and easy to maintain, and I actually love having a place that's more about quick bits and pieces rather than long discussions or chunky concepts. I have an easy structure I follow (Music Mondays, Tuesday Ted-Talks, Wednesday Word-Love, Thursday Thoughts, Fangirl Friday, and Weekend Reads) where I post awesome general-audience book content, music videos from my book playlists, videos on creativity and inspiration, and shout-outs for things I fangirl over. It's very simple and easy to grab an item, schedule it to post, and have the site auto-post my content for the next two weeks. Plus, it's easy for readers to browse my past content since all the posts are so short. This site is full of things I love, and that means I love posting on it.

It's taken me a few years to add these and get the basics figured out, and I really only got a handle on it when I thought about the kind of content I wanted to be creating and the tools I wanted to use to interact with others over that content. I piled everything together on Twitter and my blog for a while, but what to post about and how much to share it and the struggle of keeping it useful, updated, personal, and fun was just too much. Diversifying content this way means my audience can find the content they want and skip the content they don't, and I have a place for everything I enjoy creating. And since it's limited and organized that way, it's less stressful, which means I post more often and don't see it nearly so much as a chore. It's an outlet, and a conversation, and a great way to get me out of my box.

Do you have any more advanced tips for using social media? Share in the comments!

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