(Today, I’m running a guest post from a friend of mine and fellow Baltimorean. One of Ezra’s business pursuits is helping people build their online brands and drive traffic to their sites. Oftentimes, when people ask to write guest posts for my site, I say no, because I’m like, “Well, what’s in it for me?” In this case, I knew that Ezra would deliver a solid essay, and that I might be able to get a little bit of his social capital)
I spend a lot of time on various social media networks, and communities within those networks. Many authors are starting to realize the importance of social media, especially as print publishing becomes all the more shaky, but a lot of them don’t quite seem to be able to execute. So without further ado, some gentle scolding from a person on the other side of the creativity/filthy capitalism divide:
1) Great Content But No Growth
You’re a writer! You excel at clever posts and spend a lot of time promoting your work with bon mots on Twitter or pithy observations on Facebook – but nothing seems to reach an audience larger than mom and your few-remaining college friends. I see this constantly with writers and comedians I know, talented people who put up great stuff but neever reach a larger following. Now the overall subject could fill a book, but in general following and interacting with people is the only way they will come across you. I wouldn’t be afraid to put a small budget into a Facebook or Twitter ad if you actively have a book or other product for sale, but just following and talking to lots of people will have your follower count climbing rapidly.
Link to your social media accounts from your blog, friend’s blogs and other accounts that have bigger following. Link from message boards and comments on forums or aggregators. If you’re making all this great cotnent its really a shame to not have a lot of people see it.
2) Useless Or Harmful Posts
Consistency is absolutely crucial on social media and I would strongly recommend one-two posts a day. However it’s better to not post at all then to have a stream of useless things. Punchy, witty commentary on a football game may make for a good Twitter feed, but rantings about quarterbacks may turn off a lot of your audience, especially if you happen to be a young adult or science-fiction author. I always strive for share-able, self-contained posts on my public social media, ones that will appeal to the broadest segment of my audience. I happen to love Scandinavian Black Metal, but most of my readers (and frankly, the bands themselves) have little interest or need for the latest rare Norwegian cassette form the nineties to be discovered.
Also I know many authors are passionate about their political beliefs, but I’ve seen a lot of follower accounts go down after the mid-term elections and very little in terms of measurable change in our governance…
3) Too Many Qualifications.
Many author profiles I come across list the person as a “writer, editor, blogger, publisher, poet, cover designer, marketing expert, window cleaner, sandwich artist.” Those of you who have been grinding away at this thing know how hard any one of these roles is and it cheapens your main purpose to list so many things. The main bio space on your social media channels is very important, as it may be the only representation most people see of you. Make sure it is clear, direct and highlights ONE or TWO credentials.
4) No Call to Action
Related to the above, people put enormous work into their social media presence, but to what end? On Twitter and Instagram, you are allowed ONE and only one link in your bio, where does it point towards? Figure out what your express goal is (sell a book? drive readers to your blog?) and make sure you have a pinned post at the top and a bio link that all point towards that call-to-action.
And don’t be afraid to go a little clickbait! Maybe you don’t want to be “Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Would You HAve Sex With?” but an attention-grabbing headline will do a lot to get your reader’s to click through to your Amazon or Goodreads page or whatever the target link is.
5) Too Much Inside Baseball
While it may be tempting to complain about the rigors of NaNoWriMo or kvetch about specific personalities in your genre, I imagine your goal is to reach a wide audience with your writing, and it’s important to keep in mind what they want out of an author’s social media account. Things like productivity tips or content about improving your work are interesting and relevant to many people other than writers but posts about conferences, internal politics, academia etc can all put people off.
Anyway, thanks a lot to Rahul for letting me snag some valuable real-estate on his highly-entertaining blog! My name’s Ezra Winter and I’m a full-time social media and online marketing person, working with clients like the soul singer Bosley, to help grow and take advantage of their public presence. I really love this kind of work so I run accounts on most of the major networks for myself, and I’m beginning to write articles and blog posts about what I’m doing. The most relevant to the Blotter Paper community (and one of my favorites to write) is probably this interview with Daniel Kibblesmith, who is amazingly clever at Twitter, which helped lead to him becoming a published author and writer at The Onion.
The above tips were written from the point of view of Twitter, but apply pretty generally. I find Twitter to be the most effective tool for spreading written or verbal content, though Tumblr offers some exciting opportunities in that regard. If I’ve piqued your interest I hope you’ll check out my blog, and give me a follow on the ol’ social media channels. If you have any thoughts or feedback leave a comment, send a tweet, or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org