Put the Social into Social Media

“Can’t I just pay someone to run my social media accounts,” begs a participant at a workshop entitled “Build Your Author Platform”.  The resistance to taking responsibility for social media is understandable from authors who “just want to write”.  But author and workshop presenter, Allison Tait, convinces us that having someone else run your social media account would be like paying someone else to be you.  “It wouldn’t be your authentic voice which is what social media needs to reflect.”

Allison adds that your social media friends will give you the flick as quickly as in real life if they sense it is a one way relationship or that they are being used.  So it seems that on-line relationships flourish or fizzle, the same as face to face relationships if they are not give and take or if they are viewed as just self-promotion.

Just like writers had to embrace the word processor and email, it is now time to embrace social media.  It’s just another painful change.  Why should we bother?  And yet we know the answer because that is why we are here.  Allison reminds us, “Today social media is essential because it allows you to amplify anything that’s said about you.  It is about creating a perception of yourself.  People become invested in you so that when you publish they already know about you.  Traditionally publishers promoted a new book for 2 weeks.  This is no longer enough to get your book sold.  Social media needs active management because Google search likes sites that add new content regularly.

But how to find the time?  “Wedge it in between things, while waiting for the bus,” says Allison.  Allison takes 20 minutes a day to respond to tweets and another 20 minutes to schedule tweets using an app called Buffer.  “The most time-consuming stage is the set up in the beginning.  Limit your focus.”  Allison focuses on her dog, her garden and her writing.

Alison responds to our confused frowns by concluding with a sigh, “It is a long game if you want a career as a writer.  Add one person at a time.  But it is not just about attracting readers.  Look for industry contacts.”

During the last part of the workshop Allison describes each social media platform, its use and offers a few tips:

Blogging is a journal for public consumption.  It is your shop window.  It is bringing them to your home to serve them what you choose. Don’t blog about outrage or how hard it is to write.  It is not about skiting. A blog needs to have a great ‘About Me’ page with one paragraph in the third person that mentions awards and publications.  The contact details page needs to be up to date.  Newsletters are an opportunity to market to people who have already elected to hear from you.  They should be one page and include interesting, useful information and some giveaways.  Best kept secret about blogging is the potential to connect with other bloggers’ readerships.

Facebook is good for “the ripple effect”.  Decide whether you want a page (good for reaching the public) or a profile (good for the personal updates with tight privacy settings.  Keep abreast of changes to Facebook.  Invite people who like a post to like your page.

Instagram is good for youth and book bloggers.

Pinterest is good for trafficking blogs.

Twitter is best for industry networking.  Twitter is like arriving at an amazing party.  It can be overwhelming at first and you may choose to be a wall flower for a while but for a writer who is isolated, it is the workplace “water cooler, it is small talk with big results”.  Check notifications first and respond before checking your feed.  Actively help others.

Instagram is the best for images that give readers a tiny glimpse into your life.  Avoid anything too personal about your life and turn off your location services to protect the privacy of your location.

If workshop participants were daunted at the beginning they are overwhelmed by the end.  “Which is the best platform to use?”, one participant peeped in a desperate attempt to simplify life.  Allison answers, “The ones you enjoy using, as you have to be there regularly.  No point being involved half-heartedly.  Follow publishers, booksellers, writers’ centres, writers, book bloggers and book reviewers.”

It is lunchtime and it is not just food that we needed time to digest!

(The workshop was orgainised by the South Coast Writers’ Centre and was held at Wollongong Central Library).

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