Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr are not media. These social networks represent a mode of communal interaction almost impossible to manipulate, constrain, or silence like traditional media. Back in the early 2000s, old-school executives and marketing wonks dubbed the networking sites of Web 2.0 as “social media” because they expected to use the same lazy, aggressive marketing techniques online with the kinds of results they’d gotten for several decades from print, billboards, television, and radio.
Time has proved them catastrophically wrong. For over a decade, corporate behemoths funneled billions of dollars into the web, blaring commercials and plastering banners with minimal impact and a lot of eye rolling from Internet users. Modern consumers shop differently and refuse to be held hostage by the shock-and-awe tactics of old-school advertising. Only in recent years have online campaigns begun to approach the viral appeal of crowd-anointed memes, and only then by adapting to user expectation. So, yeah, social networks don’t resemble media at all, but the name endures.
Anytime you post something online make certain that it’s something you’d comment on or share. If it isn’t, why are you posting it at all? All reports to the contrary, social media is glutted with content—crappy, annoying content. Social media is so packed with irritants and distractions, most content churns by users like a filthy river, and you need a good set of waders to get anywhere.
Want to stand out? Then stand up.
Finding Your Social Media Fit
The Internet connects us, and social media filters the connection to keep it manageable. Even grandmothers are on Facebook now: your readers exist somewhere out on the web, and the right social media fit will help connect them with your books.
Don’t be intimidated by social media. The most introverted author can thrive in the right environment, and finding that safe place is less difficult than you think. All successful technology is designed to be user friendly—in fact, the business model requires it. The right social media hub for you will feel right. You literally will know it when you see it.
Choose wisely! Bear in mind that unused or dormant social media accounts can damage your presence because they create the perception that you are absent or neglectful. The entire point of social media is interaction! If you aren’t using your blog/Twitter/LinkedIn accounts, take them offline so that they don’t show up in search engine results. Instead drive potential readers to places where you are present and posting fresh, branded content.
You want to be personal, honest, and accommodating in your dealings with others. Give people the best you can give in that moment. Don’t take any of these online relationships for granted; you have no idea which of your Twitter followers has a cousin who acquires paperbacks for Ingram or a college roommate who produces for HBO. Hospitality matters because everyone matters. Default to graciousness and generosity in all your dealings.
As ever, return to your brand. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Revisit the author archetype you identified yourself as at the beginning of this section. What type of place would that archetype thrive in? How can your brand be broadcast from that platform? How many social media presences can that brand sustain? How many can your archetype manage? In a social dynamic every member is a potential asset.
Once you’ve selected your social media sites, make sure your readers can find you there. For all of your social media user names, use your pen name, not something cutesy or hard to remember.
Consistency is critical: name, headshot, bio, links. Make it easy for search engines to cross-tag your presence everywhere you appear online. Using the same name across multiple sites helps people to identify you and also cuts down on confusion.
Ask yourself: what is your measure of success in your social networking platform? What are your goals now and in the future? Does dominating social (or traditional) media outlets really trump your desire for success as a genre author? If so, you’re reading the wrong book.
If you aim to conquer the tabloids, then, sure, fulminating social media scandal should be your Battle Royale…but if you want a successful genre-fiction career, you need to ask, “How can social media help me achieve my goals?” Your answer to this question (your answer, not anyone else’s) is your compass and quite probably your map.
© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved