Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Social Media for Writers (Or Anyone Else) by Ralene Burke

Every time I talk to writers about social media, I get the same responses.

“I don’t have time.”

“It’s too much work.”

“I don’t know what to post!”

Truth is social media isn’t as hard as some people think, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. In fact, for most people social media should border on fun. Yes, I’m serious. The key is finding a way to unite you/your personality with the target audience that will engage with you using the most fitting social media platforms.

“Ralene, that doesn’t sound simple.”

Well, it is when you break it down. Here are the 3 Ks of social media.

Know Yourself

First step is always the hardest. Okay, this one shouldn’t be hard—who knows us better than ourselves? Still, nailing down who we are can be tough.

I like Kristen Lamb’s suggestion in her marketing book for authors, Rise of the Machines. She suggests that writers make a huge word cloud that describes them, their likes/dislikes, hobbies, etc. Any little bit about them. Even have family and friends contribute. I had such a blast doing this exercise myself—I found fun tidbits to put in my bio, potential blog posts, and tons of interesting post topics.

Next, determine why you want to be on social media. What do you hope to accomplish? What many writers need to realize is that social media is not going to garner a lot of new readers. It is about connecting with people—usually fellow publishing professionals and loyal readers. It is through those people that you’ll find new readers.

The final question to consider is this: Why do you write? Do you have a message? This reason will influence your online personality and the direction/tone of your posts.

Flickr by Cliff
Know Your Target Audience

The end goal of social media is engagement. In order to convince people to not only follow you, but to actually respond to your post/tweet/etc. is for those people to actually care about what you post. If you’re sharing funny kid memes on your thriller author page, you’ll confuse your audience. If you’re posting political diatribes on your light comedy author page, you’ll anger and then lose your followers.

Knowing your target audience is key.

So, who is your “ideal reader”? This answer will influence everything from what colors/fonts to use on your website and platforms to what topics to post for optimal engagement to where you should be looking to recruit new readers.

You know those character questionnaires writers sometimes fill out? You need one for your ideal reader. Answer questions like age, gender, marital status, job, hobbies, likes/dislikes, favorites . . . Be as specific as possible.

Know Your Tools

All authors should be on Facebook and Twitter. There, I said it. Please, don’t shoot me.

With all the talk going around about Facebook reach, the fact is Facebook is still the largest social media platform. It’s still the best place to connect with loyal readers and writing friends. Yes, you might have to pay to advertise book releases or other promotions, but that’s just a reality we have to face.

If you’re engaging your audience, your reach will grow naturally!

Some authors have opted to use groups instead of a fan/business page. While I support this for current readers and writer friends, Facebook pages are easier to find and are places new/potential readers feel less awkward and more like engaging.

Twitter is a great place for writers to connect with “business” people: agents, editors, cover designers, book bloggers, photographers, etc. It’s all about networking and making new friends. I’ve met some amazing people who have become great supporters even though I’ve never edited for them or they’ve never read my novels. They see my blog posts and know I share stuff of value to them, so they follow me on this journey.

Many other platforms exist for writers to choose from, but you should be considerate of the time you have to spend on social media and of your target audience. If you’re target audience isn’t hanging out on Google+/Instagram/Tumblr/Snapchat, it’s not important for you to be on it. It is better to do a couple of platforms well than to be on every platform and be ineffective. (My friend and social media guru, Jen Bennett of iBloom, is always saying that!)

Now that you know who you are, and you’ve discovered your target audience, and you’ve settled on which tools to use, you can develop a social media strategy that is fun for both you and all those potential followers out there. Let your unique light shine through every post and tweet. Use images, memes, questions, and personal anecdotes to engage with your target audience. You know what they want!

Whether she’s wielding a writer’s pen, an editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to make it SHINE! She spins fantastical tales of that place where the light pierces the darkness. She’s worked for a variety of groups/companies, including The Christian PEN, Realm Makers, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, Splickety Publishing Group, and as an editor for a number of freelance clients.
When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

Your Challenge: 
  1. Make a word cloud!
  2. Share one reason you want to be on social media
  3. Narrow it down: Who is your ideal reader?
  4. Share your favorite social media platform
(Don't forget to use the hashtag: #ttmediachallenge when you share!)

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