Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Social Media Can Make You A Better Writer

Earlier this month I was asked by the good people at Scarritt-Bennett Center to host a conversation on social media for writers during their Room to Write retreat. Having had the privilege of attending one such retreat myself in December, I was honored to accept.
The familiarity with social media ranged from "What's Twitter?" to network-savvy folks who just haven't quite figured out how to get all the cogs in the wheel working together.

The biggest questions concerning most of the group were these:
1. "Which social networks do I need and why?" This question consisted of everything from, "Do I really need a Blog" to "Why do I need a Facebook page if I already have a Profile?" and more.

ANSWER: The first step in knowing what social networks you need, is defining your goal or goals. Are you trying to get an agent, editor or publisher? Are you looking for a writing group? Are you looking for tools to help you with your writing? Are you trying to promote your new book? Are you building your brand or author platform, as one of my favorite authorities on the subject, Joanna Penn stresses in her must-read blog The Creative Penn, as well as in her FREE ebook Author 2.0. It's slightly dated, but choc full of nutty goodness on what you need to know. You must know your goal(s). Write them down. You're a writer, do it. The goal or goals determines how you maneuver within your social profiles.

2. "Okay, so I know my goal. Now What?" 

ANSWER: This answer in and of itself could be a whole e-book. However, the quick answer is this -- I believe that all writers benefit by starting with a blog. You're in a comfortable zone, writing, and it's the first logical step for a foray into social media. In addition, blogs these days really can double for mini-websites where you can build your personal brand by designing and packaging it to communicate your personality and goals.

Others feel more comfortable starting on Facebook because they already have a profile there and know the platform, so they start by joining or group or starting a business page as a next step on the social ladder, depending on the goal.  Facebook business pages can do a lot more than groups, but groups are key for feedback, sharing and more, and are a bit easier to wrap your head around if you're just starting out.

TOOL to help: Check out this post from Social-Media-For-Writers, a handy blog for those who live by the inky sword, called Facebook for Writers.

3. "How will I ever find time to write my book if I'm always having to promote myself on social networks?"

ANSWER: Remember the 3 C's -- Communication, Commitment, Consistency.
  • Communicate by letting your audience, readers or friends know when you're available. Have an auto-reply in your emails letting people know when you return them. Have the times you participate on Twitter easily readable in  your bio section of Twitter. Make it clear on your blog how often you post...and so on. 
  • Commit by getting down on one knee and saying "I-freaking-do." Promise yourself and your audience that this is important to you. Show them. 
  • Finally, be consistent by showing up, and becoming part of the process. Flex your social media muscles. They might be all flabby and awkward at first, but in time, they'll get in shape.
TOOLS to help:
  • Threadsy -- email, chat and profile aggregator -- Twitter, Facebook, IM and more all in one beautifully easy-to-use location. Downside -- no tracking with their URL shortener as of this post.
  • Hootsuite -- SM profile aggregator. Also have the ability to manage teams, schedule tweets, track and measure popular tweets and links with their URL shorteners. I'm a BIG fan. Others in this area that I hear good things about are Tweetdeck and Social Oomph.
  • Wordpress -- Yeah, yeah, I know I'm on Blogger, but not for long. This is THE place to host your blog (or mini web site). It can help you monetize faster and easier (if that's your goal), it works extremely well with email marketing apps like my fave, Mailchimp, it's got great design themes, can hold many pages, user-friendly and more.
  • MailChimp -- integrates easily with Wordpress, Twitter, Salesforce and more; has one-click Google analytics tracking, the templates are VERY easy to use for first-timers, and it is FREE if your mailing list has less than 500 people on it.
4. "Social Media is gonna make me a better writer? Prove it."

ANSWER: Here is a wee sampling of how social media can up your writing game --
  • RESEARCH on book topic -- search.twitter.com, wikis, groups, blogs on topic
  • FELLOWSHIP-- you're not alone...just look at this from Mashable
  • FEEDBACK -- join online writing groups
  • TALK to PROS on Twitter -- #askagent, #litchat
  • you can find your AUDIENCE
  • writing coaches, newsletters and blogs with TIPS ON THE PRACTICE AND APPLICATION OF WRITING, as well as the wacky lifestyle coaching that goes hand-in-hand with that. -- #writegoal, #amwriting, @wordstrumpet
  • PROMOTE yourself, your book, your blog, your iPhone app and more. One great example of how video can promote a book.
  • WRITE your book online at places like The Book Patch where you get many of the listed above
  • it can INSPIRE you -- check out Inspiring Authors on YouTube or Authors@Google is a great resource here, too.
I have a talking points presentation with a little more information on this topic of social media for writiers, which I'm happy to share with you here, but it is only a place to start. Also, it was written pre-"Like" button on Facebook for Pages, so just as everything else in the fast-paced world of social media, this is an evolving topic.

If I haven't completely overwhelmed all the writers out there looking to dip their big toes in the social media pool, I hope instead I've given you the tools and the tips to rather dive in, and join the party. It's summer after all.

Okay, so what did I miss??