Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Three Tips For Using Social Media to Achieve Your Dreams and Destroy Your Enemies

Y'know, being sociable is tough stuff when you're a writer, not least because we hear so many mixed messages. For example,
  • Keep a presence on Twitter, Facebook, etc. – but don't spam, and don't expect them to sell books.
  • Be real and honest – but don't be negative, political, or confrontational.
  • Build your platform (you're nothing without your platform!) – but really you should focus on writing the next book.
And needless to say, some of us are more peppy and amiable than others.  As my legendary literary lifemate "Evil" Dan Bensen says,
"I feel like the girl in Glee who's crying in the corner. 'I just want to tell everyone how stupid they are. Why do they hate me?'"
But until you can execute your cunning master-plan to crush the New World Order under your jack-booted heel, you probably will have to get along and play nice... for now.  So here are a few best practices we've come up with between us.

This is what we call "phase two."

1. Measure Your Efforts

You know, back when I was doing Biggest-Loser boot camp, they used to harass us about showing up for monthly fitness tests.  The refrain was, "If you don't measure what you're doing, you are watering a telephone pole and hoping it will grow."

Easy to do for sit-ups and mile times!  But for writing, it's one of the most simple-yet-incredibly-difficult things about the whole endeavor.  You wrote five blog posts this month – but are they any good?  You have 2,000 Twitter followers – but what does that actually get you?  Your website got 300 hits today – but were any of them from actual humans?

So maybe we have to look beyond the easy pre-packaged measurements we're given by online accounts, and look for hidden metrics.  When you tweet about some new thing on your website, how much of a traffic bump do you get?  How many people reply or retweet?  Is it more at certain times of day, or when you include an image? 

Of course, not all measuring is good measuring. You could count every crossed T and dotted I in your manuscript without it having a lick of relevance .  Which is why it's so important to...

2.  Know What You're After

As in, what do you expect to get out of what you're doing?

For example, reading out loud for 15 minutes each week, to a group of ten different randomly-sorted people each time, is not a great way for me to get holistic feedback on my novel-length work.  But I still get immense value out of reading at the DFW Writers Workshop, because I meet SO many great writers there, a few of which become my dedicated critique partners and close friends.

And, as Dan says about doing likewise on online forums,
"There's some real utility out of the stuff people have critiqued. And it has stirred my idea-pot pretty reliably (one big conversation=one interesting new idea). I also think (hope) I'm priming the pump and getting some good karma for when I really need help. But managing Tumblr/Twitter/et al is time-consuming and it generates ZERO visits to my webpage. I guess I just need to come to terms with that and accept that I'm doing research and making contacts, not managing fans."
Or to put it another way: you can't know the value of your efforts without measuring them in some way, and you can't know how to measure them until you know specifically what you're trying to achieve.

3. Double-Dip Shamelessly

Look, you're a busy budding supervillain. You don't have time to putz around.  And you already know that great writing is all about 'and'.  That scene needs to further the plot AND explain backstory.  The dialogue needs to convey information AND reveal character.  The description should give the reader a sense of place AND say something about the person describing it.

It's the same thing for your online presence.  The Facebook discussion you sunk an hour into - could you screencap or paraphrase it for Tumblr?  The pictures you took for your novel research - could some of them go on Pinterest or Instagram?  The epic email exchange you had with your evil counterpart - would that make a good double-blog post?

Well, this half of it sure was fun!  Head over to Dan's The Kingdoms of Evil to complete your journey to the Dark Side enlightenment!

Just because I hate everybody doesn't mean they have to hate me too.

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