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Setting out on the Social Media Highway 

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Fasten your seat belt. You’re about to set out on the social media highway!

You’ve started submitting your writing online. You’ve done the legwork, found publications or websites that seem to match your style, and you’ve taken the plunge.

But a question keeps popping up in the submission process: what’s your platform? Your web presence?

Gone are the days when submissions were sent in by post, with stamped, self-addressed envelopes for the decision letter to come back to you. In those days, you were among a very small minority if you were online in any form.

Today, it’s all about being online. You read online, you search online, you submit online… and so it follows that you need to also exist online if you want to be read, found and followed. Social media is the answer!

So how do you go about establishing a web presence? You know, beyond the obvious things like setting up a website and joining a forum? Well, we asked a couple of social media experts for their guidance, and we think their insights into navigating the social media highway are going to be very useful for your journey if you’re still driving in the truck lane.

laurent francois

Laurent Francois
Creative Strategist

Laurent Francois runs a creative and digital agency in London called RE-UP, which develops strong social media strategies for clients like L’Oréal, Clarins, and Nestlé, and also for start-ups in the tech industry.

Paul Jarvis is a web designer and best-selling author who writes about, and runs courses on, creativity, freelancing, and getting published, and has a neat little website which you should check out. Its simplicity is deceptive – you can really glean some tips from how it’s been crafted.

OK, first things first: I’m a writer, and I want to get myself on the web. Where do I start?

It’s not just hot air: hard work will get you places. You are going to have to set aside some time to do the research.

“Read,” Laurent says, “A lot.” Get yourself over to Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Goodreads – wherever groups of people like you might convene – and read what people are saying in the areas that are of interest to you.

“Once a line starts to create an echo in your mind,” Laurent goes on to explain, “It’s probably a good sign that maybe this platform is more suitable for you [than others you’ve tried]. I would open an account, see how it works. And maybe start by commenting on existing content, instead of putting too much pressure on creating the very first original content.”

How do I choose which social media platform(s) to join?

It’s more than just picking a platform. Platforms come and go, says Laurent, and it’s better to not to become dependent on them. It’s more about the community on the platform than the platform itself. “More than picking the tool, you need to know what sorts of people you’d like to talk to,” he claims, “Because you’re going to grow with them.”

“It must be right with who you are,” Laurent continues. “Some authors hate Twitter because of the journalistic microcosm or the quick saturation of experts’ debates. Others prefer a good old email ring. Some authors arrange video conferences or Google hangouts because they like to ‘see’ people.”

pauljarvis

Paul Jarvis
Writer & Designer

Rather than different platforms suiting different personalities, Paul agrees it’s more about finding where you as an individual fit in. “I think whatever platform works best for each person is the one that suits them best.” In other words, if you find it’s too much effort for not much reward, try a different platform because a different setup could work better for you.

All right; I’ve signed up to social media. What next?

Read first; find your footing. Then, once you’re comfortable, get involved.

“It’s all about finding where you’re comfortable,” says Paul. “And then pushing against that comfort a little, and being a real human being to your audience.”

According to Laurent, “you don’t have to over-think the way you need to talk to people: you just have to be yourself.”

Paul echoes this sentiment strongly; in fact, it’s the essence of his newest publication, Write & Sell Your Damn Book. “Be yourself,” he states. “Too many people on social media try to be super professional or act in a way that doesn’t suit them. An audience is drawn to realness, so let your own personality shine. It’s just like how if you find and foster your own unique voice in your writing, it draws an audience in – the same applies to social media.”

But isn’t being online an opportunity to not be yourself? What if people think I’m boring?

Hey, we’re all unique. And we all have different things that make us tick. One person’s boring is another person’s fascination. If you’re brave enough to write and submit, that means you’re brave enough to let your voice be heard on social media, too.

Paul’s voice and identity come through very strongly on his website, and even in his books’ titles (another of his books is called “Be Awesome at Online Business”). For an author to maintain their identity across the various platforms they’ll be using for self-promotion, Paul says, “it’s very important, because it builds consistency.”

Paul continues: “I sound like me in the books I write, the articles I publish, the platforms I’m on – hell, even in the welcome message to my newsletter, The Sunday Dispatches: it’s not a stock welcome message, it’s something I took a lot of time to craft to match my voice and tone. That way people feel like they know you better, when you’re you in everything they read, see or hear.”

But it’s a social media jungle out there. How can I stand out from the rest?

New ways of writing are skyrocketing, Laurent tells us. “How about asking your readers to define the possible ends of your novel? Why not make your characters talk to each other on Twitter? Why not infiltrate a forum with one of your heroes to make your story even more tangible?”

“Social media is a massive opportunity for authors to be able to ‘daily tell’ a story,” Laurent concludes. “Authors are only the pen-holders of deeper thoughts or agitations: they need to share the reputation, the existence of their ideas with readers.”

Be brave, and let your imagination loose. You are a fiction writer, after all.

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Our Chief Editor, Cheryl, has been with MASH since day one. Her poetry has appeared in Riot Angel magazine, and one of her short stories was published in This Is It. Cheryl’s creative streak also reaches to art, craft and photography, and her favourite way to combine all these passions is in art journaling and mixed media. You can view Cheryl’s work by visiting her website: www.cswhittaker.com

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