Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers

Maybe two of the most over-worked "buzz" terms for writers are platform and social media. The two are often connected, because it's generally considered that writers need to use social media effectively to help build their platforms--and for the most part, that's sound advice.

Do you think social media is for the birds?

For my career, social media has played an enormous role in my successes. By using blogs and social media sites, I've made easier connections with other writers, editors, and agents. Plus, most of the invitations I've received to speak at writing events have come specifically via Facebook over the past few years. Another invite originated on Twitter. (Check out the tangible benefits of social media.)

Popular Social Media Sites for Writers

Before you can get started digging into social media sites, you need to know what exists. To help out, here's a list of the various sites with links to tips on how to optimize your experience. Notice that I did not list every imaginable site ever. Instead, I focused on the big ones as I know them. If you want to make a case for another social media hub, do so in the comments and maybe I'll add to this list.
  • Facebook. This is still the big social network. It's where the people are...and their friends...and their pictures...and their status updates...and their messaging. Here are some Facebook tips for writers to get you started if you're not there already (or if you are, but aren't quite sure what you're doing).
  • Twitter. This is a microblogging site. Every tweet must be 140 characters or less. That's really economizing language, and here are some Twitter tips for writers. This site is part social, part newsy, part crazy. If you can build a good follower base, it's also a great site for referral traffic to your blog or site.
  • LinkedIn. This social network has carved out its own niche as a professional networking site. It's probably of greatest use to academic-minded and professional/technical writers, who are often looking to build relationships with institutions and companies more than the average freelancer. However, I've even seen poets use this site to help prep their speaking tours. Here are some LinkedIn tips for writers.
  • Google+. This site is still new and going through the growing pains of a new social network. Initially, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the launch of Google+, but that's now died off a bit--and many users have abandoned their use of the site. However, I wouldn't write off this site just yet. For one, I've previously abandoned Facebook and Twitter--only to return more furiously than ever. For two, this social media site is powered by Google--the largest search engine on the planet. Here are 11 Google+ tips for writers.
  • Pinterest. I have an invitation from my wife to join Pinterest, but I've just been too busy to check this site out the way I'd like so far. That's my bad, because a study recently found that Pinterest refers more traffic than Twitter, which is huge news. Many traditional media companies, including Better Homes and Gardens, are making big pushes on this visual social media platform. Here are 10 tips for using Pinterest well.
  • Goodreads. This social network caters to readers, who also happen to be the audience of...umm...writers! So it makes sense for writers to hang a shingle, make connections, and have a strong presence on this popular social media site. Here are 2 ways to make the most of Goodreads.
  • RedRoom. Red Room's tagline is "where the writers are," and they have their own set of RedRoom tips for writers. This is one of those sites I always hear referenced as a great place for writers, but that I don't actually use myself. (Btw, don't feel that you need to maintain an active presence on every social media site. That can wear you out and make it impossible for you to write. You should experiment and find the communities that are the best fit for you.)
  • Tumblr. This is another great referral site that doubles as a popular blogging site. It's not my cup of tea, but I know people who love it. Here are 10 tips for making the most of Tumblr.
Another important social networking site is YouTube, which is the second largest search engine. The only reason I don't have it listed in the normal list is that I think of this site as more of a content site than a social networking site, though maybe I just don't use it the right way. Regardless, here are 12 tips for using YouTube to promote your freelance business.

Tips on How to Use Social Media Sites for Writers

Once you find a social media site (or three) that you enjoy using, you need to know how to make the most of that site. In the past, I've shared social media etiquette for writers and explained the process of dealing with interface changes (because sites like Twitter and Facebook are always changing their interfaces).

Here are my main tips on using social media sites that are applicable to any and all:
  1. Complete your profile. Whenever you sign up for a new social media site, it prompts you to complete your profile. Do this. Enter your name, your e-mail, any URLs, pictures, work experience, etc. Make it easy for people to identify your profile as uniquely yours.
  2. Include image of yourself. It amazes me that many writers still hide behind an icon or comic character or famous person photo. Instead of having your avatar be someone who's not you, use a headshot of yourself (even if you're convinced the image isn't flattering). People like to connect with other real people--even online.
  3. Be selective about friends and follows. Some profiles on these social networks are bogus, so check out potential friends or people to follow before connecting. You don't need to make them share their references, but check out their profiles first--just to make sure it's a good fit.
  4. Don't expect anything. Sure, social media can help people with their careers and platforms, but don't expect anything specific when you start investing time and energy in social media. Instead, be open to serendipity and finding new paths that you didn't know existed.
  5. Communicate with others. Avoid just always throwing out content without listening. Also, avoid just lurking in the shadows without ever sharing your perspective or experiences. Get engaged and join the conversation.

You Have the Time to Do Social Media

One of the gripes I hear often from writers is that they don't have the time to handle social media in addition to everything else. I don't buy this argument, and here's why: I have 5 kids (3 who live with me in Georgia and 2 who I visit at least once a month up in Ohio), volunteer as a den leader for Cub Scouts, have a full-time job as an editor, write and submit poetry that gets published in online and print publications, blog frequently on my "own time" at this blog, take Sundays off for my faith, and I still find time to connect with people on social media sites.

You have the time to do social media. The question is whether you're willing to take the time to do social media. Unless you have 6 kids spread across 3 states and work 2 full-time jobs while doing a crazy amount of volunteer work, I'm just not buying the "no time" argument.

How to Amplify Social Media

Finally, I just want to touch on the power of social media when used in conjunction with other pieces of a platform. You see, social media alone does not make a platform--or if it does, the platform is pretty flimsy. No, a platform needs several posts to make it sturdy and stable. As a result, I advise writers to have some sort of regularly updated online hub, whether that's an author website or blog.

Social media alone is useful, but writers can amplify results by pairing up social media use with consistent content on a blog or website. Content gives you something worthwhile to share on social media sites, and sharing content on social media sites drives traffic to your blog or website. It's a win-win.


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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:


Laurie Kolp said...

Loads of valuable information, Robert. Thank you!

Mihaela said...

Thanks for sharing all this. I was just looking for information on how to use social media for my traveling site.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks for the comment, Laurie!

Good timing, Mihaela. :)

Sandy Green said...

Great information! Don't forget StumbleUpon where you can add your blog posts or any other site you find interesting.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Oh yeah, Sandy, StumbleUpon is a good one for referral traffic! I'll have to get that added.

Catherine Johnson said...

Wow, thanks for all these tips Robert. I've recently delved into Pinterest and I love it. All those pictures make great poetry prompts and even help me with a regular feature on my blog.

Monique Liddle said...

This was very informative for me even though I have done much reading about social media and how it helps writers/bloggers. What surprised me the most was how Pinterest could be used to help us. I had an acct for 2 hours and got sucked into making my favorite color/pic boards, that I deleted the acct. I did not consider using it as a writer and soon-to-be blogger.
You also mentioned Google+ and, in the past,you even did a post solely on it(7-13-2011). I would love to see you more on G+ because I have really begun to use it recently, and it would be great to interact with you and other bloggers that I frequent.

Jane VanOsdol said...

Thank you so much for posting this. Super helpful!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

I'm really itching to get over to Pinterest, Catherine and Monique. I've heard nothing but great things! Just have to make it through the busy time of the year (as far as my production schedule) first.

And maybe I can get back to hanging out on G+ more too. After the initial rush of excitement, I admit it felt a little barren, though I know that's starting to change.

Thanks for commenting, Jane!

So Ebs Says... said...

Hello from your neighbor in East Point, Georgia!

Great article Robert. Very helpful tips for managing time and the platforms. Thank you,

Jeanne said...

Thanks for trashing my arguments as to why I don't have time for all this, Robert ;)

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the information. I am new to the blogging world. I love the paragraph about time. I agree, there is time to do what one wants to do.

YA Sleuth said...

Can't even begin to tell you how helpful this is. Thanks! Putting it on Twitter right now... :-)

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ebony! It's always cool to "meet" someone from the area.

Funny enough, Jeanne, that epiphany about time didn't hit me until recently while speaking on an AWP panel. But it's true.

Totally, Cheryl. It's all about priorities. Some people watch a lot of TV; some people produce the stuff that goes on TV.

Thanks for commenting, F.T.

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

I love your blog! So much practical, useful information. Thanks!

Donna J. Shepherd said...

That is a LOT of useful information in one post! I'm using most of the sites you mentioned, but picked up some valuable tips. Thanks so much!

Topsy Turvy Land

Laurisa White Reyes said...

This is a very informative post. I am a new author and was invited as a panelist on social media at the Pacific Institute for Professional Writer's conference this month. 2 years ago I knew nothing about SM. Now suddenly I'm an expert. :) http://1000wrongs.blogspot.com

Laurisa White Reyes said...

Oh, and I've got 5 kids, too. And my author sister-in-law has six and she's the SM queen. So yup. We have time.

Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing said...

Great minds are thinking alike today, Bob -- my post is on How Social Media Really Works: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/2012/03/23/marketing-101-freelance-writers-13-social-media-works/

To your list and having great content to share I would add -- have an email capture process and be building a list. Otherwise, you're not really capitalizing on the traffic you draw over from Twitter or wherever. And I'm always surprised at how many people don't.

I recently did a consult with one writer who's getting 8,000 monthly views on her natural healing blog, but never built a list. So she has no one to sell that ebook to that she's writing. Make sure social media connects to a concrete business goal you have in moving your writing forward.

AR said...

Very helpful, thank you for posting this info. I especially like what you said about not expecting anything, good advice! Thanks again!

Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Robert,

Great article - especially re. Pinterest and Google+.

Ps. As a stay-at-home dad to three boys (under five:) you get my vote for being able to write (and work) while taking care of the kids and volunteering.

I'm a new follower, Bob, (er, I mean Robert:)

Julia bade said...

Great article! You even touched on "my excuses." Thank you so much!

Joe Orozco said...

Thanks for this helpful resource. I just found a Twitter client that helps me interact with the site more easily, The Qube, and with that linked up to my Facebook, I can actually make use of my small network. It's generating more followers that seems daunting, but I suppose that's why patience is a virtue. :)

Laura said...

As a new and older writer, I am sometimes confused by social media and overwhelmed at the thought of trying to tackle using it to enhance my developing career. This is a terrific breakdown to get started on some sites I haven't yet explored. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Unknown said...

Great information. Thanks for sharing!

Laurence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allison said...

Ok, so your next post could be about time management for writers. Twitter takes 3 hours of my day to go through (I prefer to do it in one chunk of time instead of interrupting my work every 5 sec.) Once I got on twitter, I had to abandon Linkedin, and I don't even read the Linkedin Groups' emails that keep coming in my mailbox any more. When I have to finish writing, I have to order myself to not check twitter at all for a few days, sometimes a week. So please give us your magic secret. I'd like to know the when and how you do each of the things you mention.

Meg Hays said...

Hey Robert! This was a fabulous article with loads of great information! I was convicted by your "I don't buy that you don't have time" comment about social networking! It's hard to confess that sometimes I am SO disorganized with my time and end up with nothing to show for it!! Thanks for the encouragement!

Laura T. said...

Thanks so much for all this useful information. I will definitely update my Facebook profile and investigate RedRoom and Goodle+ And, you're so so right...I can find time for this.

Laura T. said...

Thanks so much for all this useful information. I will definitely update my Facebook profile and investigate RedRoom and Goodle+ And, you're so so right...I can find time for this.
Laura T.

Julia Tomiak said...

Robert, Thanks again for all the great info. I've been avoiding Pinterest (a lot of people tell me it's confusing- & I thought it was only for crafty stuff), but now, thanks to you, I'll have to explore it. I agree with Allison above: please include a post in the near future on budgeting time! I have 4 kids, volunteer, and am trying to finish a manuscript. Please share your time management strategies!

Anonymous said...

I became acquaintd with your blog through the efforts of Audrey Shaffer at night's chat about using social media. Thanks to the two of you I am now hooked up to GoodReads (whch seems a bit dubious) and Red Room (which I think in order to utilize properly, I will have to donate a few hundred hard-earned bucks). In spite of those drawbacks, I'm willing to give it a try, and I thank you for giving your time to helping folks like me who are trying to get a little more "face time."

Anonymous said...

I have to log on as anonymous in order to get my comment in, but I am Erin O'Quinn, author.

Audrey Shaffer introduced your blog durng last nite's chat, and I have signed up for GoodReads and Red Room this morning. Thanks for the insight and all the hard work you've done to help people like me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing and encouraging writers (and others) to get in there and DO this!
~Laura Hughes

Donna said...

I've been humming and tap dancing, trying to pretend I won't have to get on the social media bandwagon, but okay, I do. I don't want my nearly finished novel will alongside the road to readership. Thanks for your help

Charley said...

Thanks for this link. I think, based on what I've been reading on the blogs of others taking your April Platform Challenge, that "how much is enough" is the frustrating conflict we are experiencing. Having a presence on social media does not mean we have to dive all in on every site.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm not posting my photo on the Internet for any reason. If I have to give up my privacy to make a living I guess I'll starve. People have to say no to putting all their information out there. It would stop if they did.