Recently, someone told me I was a Twitter maven, which made me LOL for real because I’m so not a Twitter maven according to all the social media and marketing and VERY IMPORTANT writing and publishing people* out there who tell you that you need a googol<fn>equivalent to ten raised to the power of a hundred (10100).</fn> number** of followers or you’re NOTHING in this publishing town.
Lord have mercy. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
You don’t have to be awesome at social media. It’s acceptable to be mildly okay, which is better than being lousy, I suppose. And doing some of the work now helps so that it doesn’t feel so painful later when it counts: when you want to make writing your day job or at least sell a couple hundred books to your closest family and friends. A little time investment in social media ain’t gonna kill you.
Think about it: A software company would never spend 10 years on a product, hit the Go Live button***, and then never tell anyone about it. Yet, that’s what so many writers do as soon as they hit Submit and wait for the publishing angels to grant them fame or fortune or at least a little pat on the back to go along with the pennies they’ll earn. And please, don’t tell me about the exceptional folks out there who don’t have to do any social media marketing whatsoever. Most of us writers out here are not exceptional. And by exceptional, I mean someone like, say, the Fifty Shades of Grey lady.
Y’all can debate me all day on that one. But I’m going with it:
There’s something exceptional about a self-published book that sold well on its own and then got a book contract and then went on to sell a bajillion copies more. It doesn’t matter that the returned copies are being used to create forts in some book shops. That publishing scenario is a classic case of exceptionalism. Come at me, bro. I’ll defend it. For the unexceptional, we have to work a bit harder if we want our words to travel beyond our social circle and into the wider world.
Now that I’m in the business of being an author (because it ain’t no hobby, son), I want to ensure that I do what I can with social media while leaving time for my job and my writing and my life. Here’s my super special social media management plan.
Facebook: Family and friends
There’s your personal Facebook and your “author Facebook.” I use the first one strictly for family, friends, former coworkers, people I’ve met and instantly bonded with and can no longer live without. Facebook is more important on the local marketing level, for encouraging people to show up for things like events or readings and whatnot.
My other, public Facebook profile is rarely updated. Occasionally, I’ll throw it a bone.
I’ll let someone slip behind the velvet rope (honestly, it’s more like a bungee cord). But it’s totally weird when a random person shows up in my Friend Requests. Facebook is not a cocktail party like Twitter. It’s a house party and there’s a strict invite list and most people aren’t invited because I hate house parties.
Overall effort: Minimal
Tumblr: Fanfic pre-teens, allegedly
According to people who analyze these things, Tumblr is only for tweens who write fanfic. If loving the content of 13-year-old fanfic writers is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
I used Tumblr as my blog before I decided to get a WordPress site. I was hot and heavy with Tumblr for a while, but then I got bored. Plus, Tumblr has a ton of repost links and comments that clutter up the page. It became visually unappealing. But occasionally, I’ll return to it and feel young again and create secret Tumblrs.
Overall effort: Minimal
LinkedIn: People you work with or want to work with
I keep my LinkedIn going because I’m a freelancer and it’s a passive way to stay in touch with former coworkers who may have insight on a job or may want a reference or an introduction to someone in my network. I don’t intend to use it for author stuff. If you’re not looking for a job, I’m not sure how or why you’d use it. Someone can prove me wrong or already has, I’m sure. I didn’t research it. Because that’s how little I think about LinkedIn.
Overall effort: Minimal
Instagram: Pretty pretty!
I work from home, so I rarely leave the house. That means, my Instagram is slim pickins. There are only so many cat photos one can take.
But I like to browse other people’s Instagram accounts because it calms me. Like Twitter, I don’t feel the need to follow anyone who follows me. I don’t like sales pitches or inspirational quote posts unless they contain laser cats. And I hate terrible fonts and ugly colors. Post pretty things or GTFO.
Overall effort: Minimal
Twitter: My people, my places
Oh, I am hot and heavy with Twitter, folks. It wasn’t always so. It took me a while to get used to the layout and I got a little vertigo-y with the text scrolling. But then I discovered cool people and Twitter Lists and everything changed. Sometimes, I only have time to check in on my friends to see what they’re up to. I created a list to do that so I can avoid getting sucked into the rabbit hole.
- TweetDeck: I tried it. It made me feel like I’d have a seizure. I quit using it.
- Hashtags: #amreading, #amwriting. That’s really all I do. #andifeelfineaboutit
- And don’t ever ever ever auto-DM your followers. That’s a d-bag move.
Important features: Don’t want to see someone’s tweets but don’t want to be rude about it? Use the Mute button. Someone’s being a butthole? Block them.
Overall effort: High, but it doesn’t feel like effort because I enjoy it and follow people I actually like vs. trying to get as many followers as possible, which is lame.
When I update my social media.
Usually, in the morning while I’m waking up and drinking my coffee. I’m not a morning writer. I’m lazy and hate to get right up and at ’em. Social media is fun for me because I approach other people on social media the way I would approach them in real life:
Are you cool? Okay. We can hang out. And I don’t even have to put on a bra! #winning
When should you start using social media?
Instead of looking for stats on when to start, use the 30+ minutes you might waste searching for info that disproves your gut feeling and do this instead:
- Retweet or repost something someone you admire or like said.
- Write something funny or smart or relevant or important to you and post it.
- Post a pretty picture of your bookshelf or the book you’re reading or your cat.
5 minutes a day or 5 minutes every Wednesday during lunch for one month adds up. It’s not a huge time commitment unless you wait until the last minute to get your social media house in order and someone important is breathing down your neck and telling you to do it. Get ahead of the game and the anxiety.
How I figure out what to blog or post or write about.
Yeah, we’re on social media because we’re writers and have a product or hope to have a product available to the masses one day. But it’s about more than pushing your product. Make friends. Make connections. Make fun.
Me: Kelly, what kind of things do you like besides writing?
Me: Oh, lots of things. Giant cats, cupcakes, my TV obsessions (have you seen The Americans, How to Get Away with Murder, The Catch, Veep, Broad City, Drunk History…) sausage gravy and biscuits, books that slay me, cake, bread (lots and lots of bread), random conversations that feel Portlandia-ish but are probably only funny to me, southern weirdness, LGBTQ life and blergs thanks to the puritanical nature of our country, stupid shit that makes me LOL for no good reason, my favorite restaurants.
I’d like to post more about the difficulties of curly hair and curves, but I don’t have the time.
Stats and analytics and follower numbers.
I don’t pay attention to this. I check the stats on my website more because I’m addicted to that for reasons I don’t even understand. My follow-back policy is as follows:
- Facebook: Do I actually know you? Okay. No? I’m sure you’re lovely. Feel free to check out my public author page!
- Tumblr: I don’t pay attention to followers. I might have 100. I don’t notice if people follow me.
- LinkedIn: Do I know you? Can you get me a job? Okay.
- Instagram: Do you have a delightful design presence? Do you understand the power of eye rest and a good font? Yes? Great. No? No.
- Twitter: Do you have over 20k followers? Are you trying to sell me something? Do you like the same things as me? Are you cool, or are you unhinged? Do you love The Americans?
Fear of trolls and the fear of how I’m perceived.
I don’t have a fear of trolls because as a woman in various IT departments, I’ve had to deal with a lot of them in person. I unfriend, block, and mute anyone whom I deem problematic (racist, sexist, megalomaniacs, etc.). This includes family. I don’t care. Be decent or GTFO. Life is too short for shitty online interactions.
The thing I worry about the most is how I come across. I used to work for a company that espoused an abrasive feedback policy. Basically, people had permission to give harsh feedback whenever they felt like it because hey, they were being honest. And isn’t that courageous? Whatever, dude. There’s a time and a place for honesty, and my years in the workplace have taught me that most people confuse “cruel and unnecessary” with “honesty.” There’s a difference.
Before writing something, I think: Would I say this to someone’s face? If not, I email my girlfriend and complain to her instead. You need people like that in your life because online is not the place to say what you really think sometimes, whether you’re a writer intent on publishing or not. Or at least, run it by your person or your close friends for an “is this cool?” check. They can be your first line of defense for foot in mouth disease.
Like “they” say: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Honestly, social media is the small stuff. The best thing you can do is ensure your manuscript is:
I am by nature an anxious person, and putting myself out there on the interwebs was and is still a little terrifying. I spent years only retweeting other content because I didn’t feel like I had anything useful or important or funny to say (the tyranny of trying to be funny online is a post for another day). And I like to keep my private life private, which I’ve been told has the effect of making me seem uninterested or unapproachable. But I’ve learned that you can reveal a little bit of yourself, a little bit of the time, and eventually you no longer feel so worried or anxious or unapproachable.
And the thing that you thought you were terrible at? You became a little awesome. Or at least mildly okay.
* There’s an abundance of writers writing with “authority” about such topics but who have not actually published anything aside from content on their own blogs. I’d check the source before you go wandering into their caves of “wisdom.” But then again, I’m giving you advice. So…
** My brother and I were hip to the word “googol” in the 80s. Forget “infinity and beyond.” When you dropped “yeah, well I bet you a googol” in a battle of increasing odds, you were automatically the winner.
*** There’s no Go Live button. There are a series of steps involved to “go live” with software, but it’s boring, so I’m improvising.