You Googled My Tweetface
NAVIGATING THE SOCIAL MEDIA MAZEI don’t claim mavenhood—but before becoming a novelist, I did manage marketing and social media for my band as well as another small business. So, from the perspective of a content-generator (someone who makes stuff to put up on the internet) I have some knowledge and some opinions I’d like to share about how to effectively use social media to add value to the lives of your audience members rather than drowning them in an avalanche of spam. (Avalanche of Spam, by the way, is the name of my new punk band.)
MAKE A PLANWhether you’re an author, a musician, or a craft brewer, the key to successful social media is having a plan. Marketers call this a “Social Media Strategy,” but to be honest, I get lost in all the damn buzzwords, so I just call it HAVING A PLAN. Making your plan is pretty simple. Ask yourself these two questions: What do I have to say? Who am I trying to reach?
UNDERSTAND THE PLATFORMSOnce you’ve got those answers, you can take a look at the social media landscape and figure out where your time is best spent. For example, if you’re a writer of teen novels about depression, or a maker of animated cat gifs, Tumblr is probably a must, because your audience is already on that platform. If you’re a headshot photographer focusing on senior citizens, Twitter may not be the best place for you to connect with your potential customer base. As a fan of technology and marketing, I’ve spent time on most of the platforms out there. Here’s my take on a few of the biggest.
TUMBLRPROS: passionate, loyal audience; viral potential of reblogging CONS: A bit hard to fathom at first Tumblr is hard to explain—you just have to start an account and spend some time on it. Most users are not content-generators—they’re more like curators of their own private digital museum collection. You might find one user obsessed with Doctor Who and anime who endlessly reblogs pictures of the TARDIS and gifs of improbably wide-eyed cartoon girls toting katana and crying. But behind all the crazy cat memes are people with clearly expressed interests, and by tagging your original posts, you can attract followers who will like and promote your original content. Tumblr is a group of subcommunties with distinct identities. They can smell self-promotion and inauthenticity a mile away—so it’s ineffective to push your stuff on them. You just have share, and like what they share in return.
GOODREADSPROS: Gobs of passionate readers CONS: Prevalent book-bashing I’m just getting into Goodreads, and I must say it is surprisingly powerful. Some see it as a mean girls club where people trash books they haven’t even read; others view it as the essential platform for interacting with readers. My book isn’t even through the editorial process, and as of today, 92 people have added it to their “want to read” lists. I don’t even know how it got on Goodreads, or how people found it; but the power of the platform is undeniable, and I humbly look forward to learning how to participate in a meaningful way.
GOOGLE PLUSPROS: Ease of posting, ability to choose audience CONS: Relatively small user base, Google backend nonsense This is by far my favorite emerging social media platform. (Although ello shows promise as well.) Perhaps it’s because I am a longtime Gmail user, but I find it easier and more intuitive to post to G+ than its most comparable competitor, Facebook. The post format is beautiful and automatically grabs supporting images and secondary text to entice readers to click. In addition, the Communities are almost like little Tumblr cliques inside of Google. But the best part is that I can share one post with just my high school friends and another with just my family, all without accessing any complicated settings or sub menus. And, when someone adds me to their circles or follows me, there’s no pressure for me to add them back. So I don’t have to worry about butt hurt friends being annoyed I didn’t accept their friend request. Like FB, you can have a branded “page” in addition to your own personal profile. But, unlike FB, your personal profile has no “friend limit.” I created my G+ page a year ago and have attracted very few followers. On the other hand, total strangers have followed my personal profile or added to their circles. This is a testament to the power of organic search relevance, but it also makes my brand page basically irrelevant. For a single person promoting their art, I have found the G+ Page feature to be worthless. It’s just another redundant page I have to feed with content; so, I’m shutting mine down and opting instead to put my effort into my personal G+ profile. The reason I find G+ so promising is that I can compartmentalize my posts so easily. It’s like having a Facebook profile with no limit on the number of friends—so if I want to post something publicly, my fans can get a sense of my personal tastes. But if I want to share something with friends only, I can do so in the same account without making it visible to the public. I can post a vacation photo for just my friends, or share a link to a geeky D&D article and let my fans see it too. They’re not being fed a marketing message; they’re getting a peek into my real life social media interaction. It’s the best of Twitter and Facebook, and the administration and posting are much easier than both. There are some cons to G+. Google essentially controls your identity online; so it took me a long time to get the search engine to recognize my G+ page as my main presence. A year later, that work has proved worthless, because somehow, fans and friends alike are finding my personal page instead. In addition, there’s a concept called “Google authorship” which I don’t quite understand—but it generates search relevance for your website based on your G+ interactions. In my case, this reinforces the relevance of my personal profile and deemphasizes my “professional” page. So I have given up and am shutting down my G+ page in favor of my personal profile. This is a risky strategy, thought, because Google could decide at a later date to limit the number of followers a personal profile can accumulate—in which case I’ll be stuck rebuilding my audience on a new author page instead. In addition, your G+ page or profile is inextricably linked to your YouTube channel in an infuriating way that makes it difficult to change strategies after a year. But so be it, I am riding the monster.
YOUR OWN WEBSITE OR BLOGPROS: ownership, control CONS: time commitment In my arrogant opinion, this is the most important of all: a destination page designed, curated, and administered by YOU. Social media are essentially places to promote your content—but you want to host that content on your personal site. You want to collect email addresses and generate a personal relationship with your fans outside of the ever-changing world of social media. WordPress and Joomla are powerful web-building platforms; or, if you’re more of a DIY, plug-and-play kind of person, Wix and Squarespace are great solutions (as is the fully-hosted version of WordPress.) Jeffgarvinbooks.com is built on WordPress’s self-hosted solution, while The Sweet Sixteens site is on the full-hosted version. My friends Corey Manske (drummer) and Dan Zarzana (book blogger) have had success with Wix and Squarespace, respectively.
THE BOTTOM LINEYou don’t have to do it all—but you should explore your options and pick the platforms that match your interests and, more importantly, meets the needs of your audience. /preach
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Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN. Vegan, Gryffindor, aspiring revolutionary.