A Social Media Primer for Writers
I heard the collective groan when you all read the title: 'Ugghhhhh, not social media.' But that’s okay, I understand that reaction, because it was the same reaction I had several years ago when I realized I was going to have to crawl deep into the belly of the social media beast. But I am here to tell you that—now that I’ve tunneled my way inside—it ain’t half bad. That is not to say that I didn’t have the occasional bump in the road, which is why I decided to dedicate this blog post to the issue to keep you tweeting smoothly.
But before we get to the how, let’s discuss the why. Why is it necessary to become a social mediaphile? Or, perhaps, before that: Is it necessary to become a social mediaphile? The answer is, of course, yes—unless you are Hillary Clinton or some other household name. (And you are not, because you are reading this blog—Hillary avoids it like the plague.) Okay, then, now that we have firmly established the need, let’s explain why. And the why is.... 1) no one knows who the heck you are, other than you’re mother, and she is expecting a free advanced review copy of your book; 2) social media feeds you a host of resources that will make you a better writer and help you find an agent and/or publisher; 3) the publishing companies expect you to do more and more (and more) of that promoting thing (you know, that thing many writers hate).
Okay, the long awaited how. Very simple. Create Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts if you don’t have them, and start a blog by typing Blogger into your browser and following the simple instructions. There are many other ways to utilize the Internet in general and social media in particular, but these four are plenty to get you going, and, if used well, they may be all you ever need.
1) Facebook: Let’s start with the original, and still the best, in my opinion. Consider Facebook to be free advertising, because that’s what it is. Facebook allows you to reach hundreds—even thousands—of people at no cost. That’s free advertising. Even better, it’s free, targeted advertising because you select the people you reach, and they all have a vested interest in you because of your already established relationship with them. For example, many of your high school friends would love to buy your book, if they only knew about it. Facebook lets them know about your book, your blog, your website, and your upcoming appearance on the David Letterman Show (you know you want to!). As this is a primer, I will leave it at that, but suffice it to say that you can do a lot more with Facebook once you have learned the basics, and the best way to learn the basics is by Facebooking—yes, that is a verb.
2) Twitter: What the heck is a Tweet, anyway? A Tweet is short message (140 characters or less) that you send to your followers on Twitter. I know, I know, it sounds a lot like a Facebook post. But there is a fundamental difference, and it relates to the people who receive the message. A Tweet is seen by all of your followers, who, unlike Friends on Facebook, don’t need to be people you know. The advantage is that you can have many, many followers—tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands—who will receive any and all messages you send them, such as announcements about the release of your second book, an attached blog post featuring your new short story, or a picture of your daughter. Twitter is a great way to keep your fans connected to you between releases of your books, as well as a way to build up a loyal following before your first book is released.
3) LinkedIn is a network of professionals, and is quite different from Facebook and Twitter. I have had much success with LinkedIn as a consequence of the fact that many publishing professionals (agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, book publicists etc.) use it as means of networking. In addition, you can join large groups of like-minded professionals (such as The Fiction Writers Guild) and share your news, blog, stories, comments, etc., with the other 18,000 members, who, by virtue of their membership in the group, you can be sure are interested in fiction writing. I belong to an ebook group that has over 60K members, many of whom are very knowledgeable and willing to share what they know, so you can learn as well as get your stuff out there.
4) Blogger is a free blog creation and publication site, and is a must for the aspiring writer. (WordPress is another choice.) If you plan on being published in any venue, traditional or otherwise, you have to have a blog. But you shouldn’t be looking at it that way in any event. You should want to blog! If you have previously conceived notions about blogging, discard them and look at the discipline again. Blogging is a great venue to promote your writing, but it can be much more, such as a way to network with other writers and readers, a media to experiment with different genres and writing styles (I use a much lighter and hopefully more humorous tone in my blogs), and a great way to build your audience and readership.
In a future post (on http://www.phogenkampvt.blogspot.com) I will discuss more advanced uses of social media to include reach amplification sites that can get your work seen by many eyeballs, but first things first. And remember that the best way to build a platform is through good content, not widgets or gimmickry. I will end here and hope I leave you wanting more (and I need to weed my asparagus bed). Thanks for your attention; please check out my author website at http://www.peterhogenkamp.com. And thanks again to my fantastic agent Liz Kracht for giving me this opportunity. If you are interested in learning more about Liz (and you should be) watch my blog for a soon to be published interview with Liz. Ciao.