Writing is a solitary experience, but it needn't be a lonely pursuit. Writers use social media for discovery, support and inspiration. First, however, they must learn to be RARE! and discover the unwritten ‘rules’ of virtual interaction. Whether you’re an author, blogger or entrepreneur, read on for tips to help start or strengthen your online connections.
Be sure to scroll down to the end of this post to find more community-building wisdom from some of my favorite social media gurus.
1. START SLOW
Long before your first post, take time to think, explore and research. What are your goals for social media? Of course, you want to find followers and be discovered. Do you want support from others in your field? Advice on marketing? A forum for sharing ideas? You need to go slow now in order to get fast and smart.
Your research will help you discover where your readers hang out on social media. Linked In is great for non-fiction and business. Books about food and decorating are Pinterest's most-popular board content for its pinners who are predominantly women between the ages of 25-44. Goodreads and Facebook offer hundreds of genre and sub-genre interest communities. Twitter is full of short, breezy messages about almost anything.
To keep from being overwhelmed ....
2. ESTABLISH A PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNT
Set up a separate social media account to share information about your business (yes, writing IS a business!) in the social media channel you select. Aunt Suzy will appreciate her vacation pictures staying private, and you can still boast about silly pet tricks to Cousin Ed without confusing your authorly persona.
3. HONOR GROUND RULES
Most groups have guidelines in the 'about' section that summarize their purpose and define how they operate. Some are devoted completely to book promotion. Others share resources or tips, banning self-promotion completely. Find out what they are, so you know how to tailor your comments.
4. "ENGAGE!" – Star Trek
As research arms you with confidence and knowledge, follow Captain Picard’s advice: engage.
Ask questions or comment on posts that appeal to you. Get comfy and then jump in to write your own post. I was so nervous about my first social media post! I spent 10 minutes writing a draft. It gets easier each time. Now, I whip ‘em out and even use native tools and apps, like Hootsuite and Buffer, to write and schedule posts in advance.
Since you're building your brand, your actions should reflect genuine insights into you as a person and a professional. I also make sure my choices reflect my genre. While I read historical fiction and fantasy that have content beyond a PG-13 rating , I confine writerly endorsements from my professional account to topics aligning with my family-friendly books.
5. BE SOCIAL WITH CONTENT
There are many theories about what percent of content type to post. Here's the rule of thumb: social media is all about, well, being social. It’s not about you and your books or product. The majority of posts should be sharing and commenting on others' content. It's surprising how many people don't know that.
Unless running a promotion, my posts are roughly 10% about marketing my books, 60% sharing others' content, and 30% reflecting personal interests that shape my writing and that my readers will enjoy, too.
Fast Company offers Gist.com’s 5-3-2 rule of social media sharing. It's based on a ratio for any group of 10 updates posted over a given time.
6. OFFER VALUE; SHARE CREDIT
I see you shaking your head and thinking, What can I offer? Yes, there are a gazillion people in cyberspace today, but no one is YOU (See #11, Being R*A*R*E!) Use your talents as differentiators to demonstrate how you'll add to the conversation.
Research and subscribe to newsfeeds to be on top of your interest areas. You can pull newsfeeds together through tools like Feedly, Buffer and Hootsuite. Then share those wise ideas to demonstrate your value.
Generously credit others' ideas when you share. That’s easy to do on Facebook and Twitter Adding the @ sign in front of someone’s name automatically tags people and alerts them to your post.
I discovered early on that the more I share, the more others respond to and support me. How cool is that!
7. GET VISUAL
Studies show that posts with good visual images or videos get tons more clicks and likes than straight text. Try uploading free-use photos through Creative Commons, Pixabay, Morguefile, UnSplash or Photopin. Or use your own photos, if they’re good quality.
8. REPLY WITH GRATITUDE
As people interact with you, respond graciously to them as soon as possible. Extra points for thanking people for their opinion, even though you disagree.
There's a timey-wimey aspect, too. I don't hang out on social media all day or get those distracting instant comment notifications. But I respond on a personal level, using the individual's name, within 24 hours or less.
9. EWWWWW…..GET OUT OF MY DIRECT MESSAGE BOX!
A final tip.....don't "direct message" in reply to a friend request or tweet with a plea to Buy my book! or Please like my-INSERT SOCIAL MEDIA LINK! That’s the virtual equivalent of a plaid-suited salesperson hawking something selling for $19.99. Huge turn off.
10. SLOW PROGRESS IS PROGRESS
Building your online presence is like building a wall. The foundation must be firm, and the rest is assembled from there with care and precision. Cutting corners could bring the whole structure crashing down.
Sometimes, I feel like screaming because establishing an online community takes so much time and effort. When I started three years ago, it seemed like eons before I got traction, no matter how much time and sweat I put into it.
11. BE R*A*R*E!
People will follow you as they experience the RARE! online voice that is Y*O*U being respectful, authentic, reciprocal, and expert.
Good luck on your adventure in building community! If we're not already, let's connect on social media. I'd love to know how you’re progressing and learn what strategies work for you. There is always much to share and learn!
Building your online community won't happen over night. But it will happen. Hang in there! You can do it!
Find more ideas for crushing community building from these wise social media gurus.
Anne R. Allen
Please join the conversation in the comment section.
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