Sunday, 30 November 2014

Getting Social

In my post, Steps to Self-Publishing, I set out a list of the key things I'd done prior to putting Inner Fire on the virtual book shelves.

This post covers the second item on that list: Social Media.

Writers seem to either love social media and embrace it wildly, or they run from it, only interacting when they have to.

Do you need to have a social media presence as a writer? No. Of course not.  Does it help you be a better writer? Probably not. Does it help you sell more books. Ah, well. Yes. Probably, it does. Note the probably.  This is because measuring Return on Investment (ROI) in social media is always an approximation.  Even large companies struggle with calculation of investment return. That's why it's really helpful to have a website with google analytics; you have a tool that allows you to see the outcome of any social media presence. (Funnily enough just as I type this I'm also listening to a pod-cast by Joanna Penn exactly on this point).

Most people know how to use twitter, Facebook and so on so I won't do a huge post on how to do posts, because I am so definitely not an expert on this. However, I thought I'd note a few things I've found that have worked well - unlike my kids I'm not in a native child of the internet, so social media is not a space I play in naturally.

Tips for Using (and Enjoying) Social Media

  1. Stop focusing on the 'likes'. I don't know why people get so obsessed by how many followers they have. I hate to say it, but most of your followers are probably not going to buy your books. Actually, probably a lot of your followers are not even real. You can usually tell the non-real ones; they offer you a 'good time', food that contains strawberries (for some reason instagram bots seem to have a thing for strawberries. Maybe the red shows up well or something), and generally, they are young women wearing bikinis.  
  2. Focus on engagement. I like social media because it allows me to talk to people. I like it because it helps other people to find out about me; it allows me to find out about other lives. I'm way more interested in how many people comment on a post (except my blog. I don't ask people to comment here, because I'm too lazy to reply).
  3. Cross-post and save time. If I post on instagram I can put the same image on twitter, tumblr and Facebook. I pin images from this blog onto pinterest; this allows other people to find this content. I tweet about my new blog post; I tweet about my old blog posts. One day I might turn this blog into a book. Who knows? 
  4. Content is king. Maybe I'm old, but I kind of hope that real content is way more useful and interesting to readers than cat memes. And personally, I feel more comfortable sharing things that are actually useful. So hence this series of blog posts on Things that I Have Learnt. Besides, if you provide good content it can re-purposed (thanks, Joanna Penn, for your podcast!).
  5. Social Media is not about advertising - it's about sharing. Social media is a very valuable tool. For example, I use pinterest a lot because it's a very easy way to provide content that readers, librarians and teachers love.  I have boards that I've pinned background research to. This includes videos or books, and readers seem to enjoy being able to watch sword fighting and stuff. I can add this link to my website, so students reading my book can easily access the research that sits behind it. As an example, here's the link to the pinterest board for Inner Fire
  6. Social media is exciting. The use of hashtags and the ability to comment allows really creative play on words, which as a writer I find fascinating. Social media is really innovative. At the moment, I'm very interested in instagram and how instagrammers see the world. The novel I'm currently planning has an instagram hashtag as a title.

The trick with social media is not to let it overwhelm your life, to spend a little bit of time on-line regularly and to content check with your (real-life) friends and relatives. It's always alarming when people I actually know comment on my blog or my Facebook page, but it's also a relief, because then I have confidence that what I'm saying is interesting! And quite often, people I've met through social media have become real-life friends. (Much to my teenagers' amusement - 'you are meeting someone you met online'?)

Through social media, the separation between virtual and physical is becoming increasingly blurred.

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