Infusing social media with purpose and clarity

I recently asked writers what the most challenging aspect of social media is for them. I received a range of answers such as:

“I feel like I’m talking to myself.”
“I don’t feel it’s useful.”
“The more I share, the more it seems irrelevant.”
“I’m not seeing any growth.”

Today I want to focus on two main areas for how to infuse your use of social media with a sense of purpose and clarity:

  1. Why many writers focus on the wrong goals for social media. (And what you should focus on!)
  2. What to share on social media so that it feels authentic to who you are, and connects with others in a meaningful way.

Okay, let’s dig in…

The Purpose of Social Media.

The goal of social media is not to amass followers. I know, you may have heard that agents or publishers have said things such as “I like your book, but come back to us when you have 10,000 followers.”

But they mean is this: “Can you give me some kind of indication or proof that you can put this book into the hands of readers? Because that is difficult to do. We are going to try really hard to do so, but we have limited resources and publish a lot of books each year. Do you know what helps? If you — the person who loves this book more than anyone, who knows it inside and out, and who hopefully has a keen sense of where it fits in the lives of readers — has spent a few years developing the relationships needed to ensure this book will be released to a group of eager readers who will buy it.”

In my opinion, that is what they are really trying to say when they ask if you have 10,000 followers. It’s not about the number, it’s about the relationships it represents.

Will they really publish you if you show you have 10,000 followers? Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead, that metric is an indicator that you are a partner that can not only write a great book, but help it connect with the people who will appreciate it most.

Do you know what else they would care about just as much, or perhaps more than 10,000 Twitter followers? Some examples:

  • If you speak at 30 events per year.
  • If you run a business that has successfully served your market for years, so you have deep relationships to your target audience, and those influential in reaching them.
  • If you are actively a part of groups and organizations that your potential readers love.
  • If you show them any metric that indicates that you have considerable access to the book’s ideal readers – it could be blog, forum, a social network, in-person events, or so much else.
  • If you create and share a marketing plan more thoughtful and strategic than “I’ll Tweet about my book. Then Tweet again.”

The goal of social media is not about followers. Instead, social media is about engaging with other people in a meaningful way. That works two ways: others engaging with you, and you engaging with them.

Sure, we have all noticed people online who have amassed a large following. 500,000 followers. A million. Ten million. Even more! And seeing that, it is easy to conclude: “Followers are the goal. When you have a lot of followers, you can just release something and they all buy it.”

But talked about less frequently are those who have a small but dedicated following, and find incredible success without any impressive “follower” metrics.

What is the goal of social media? Effectively learning to express what you create, why, and who you are. Engaging with others in an authentic manner around shared interests. Establishing a sense of trust in the process.

There are no rules here. It’s worth noting that whatever goals you choose for social media are those that are right for you. How can you develop those goals? Some tips:

  • Consider exploring what you create and why, and how you can communicate that more frequently, and in a variety of ways. If you want help with this step, try my Clarity Cards process.
  • Try new ways — each week — that you can engage with someone on social media. Don’t just focus on what you share or curate, focus on connection.
  • Experiment with different ways of sharing, different channels online and off, or directly with different kinds of people (authors, readers, event organizers, etc.) More on this below.

What to Share on Social Media

I often hear from writers that they are unsure of what to share on social media. Here are some ideas to help you find a path that works for you…

Try new types of content to share. Long text, short text, selfies, videos, flat lay images, quotes, tutorials, etc. Some of these will likely make you uncomfortable because you have to step outside your comfort zone, but I think in that process is where you not only surprise yourself in what you can create, but what engages people.

Find someone who inspires you with what they share, and emulate the types of content they share. No, don’t steal anything or copy too much, but if they take selfies, you should try taking selfies. If they share 10 updates in a row about a book they are reading, you should try that. If they do a random post about something they are wearing or somewhere they went, you can try that. The goal here is to find a safe way to try new things and step outside your comfort zone.

So often people will admire how authentic and real someone else is on social media, but when it comes to their own feed, they just post quotes from famous people. While there is nothing wrong with that, it can sometimes mean that this writer isn’t showing up as who they are, and aren’t allowing their followers to truly see them — what they create and why.

One thing to note here, a photo of you will often be one of the most popular things you will share on social media. Why? Because people who are following you appreciate it when they see you. It is a chance for them to connect with you. I mean, imagine walking into a room at work or with friends with a bag over your head. You wouldn’t do that in person, yet so often we hide when we share online. Consider if there are ways you can become comfortable doing this.

Don’t just try one thing. It is easy to justify that you will just share one or two kinds of things on social media because they are safe and expected. But while this may be comfortable, it can often prevent you from connecting in a meaningful way with your ideal readers. It also prevents you from developing your voice online.

I mean, imagine going to a gym to get fit, but you only use a single machine there because it is the one you are comfortable with. Maybe it’s the one where you get to sit down and move your arms inward with weights, or lift your legs up with weights. You plant yourself on that machine. Surprise surprise… you don’t get healthy. You are building only 2 muscle groups, doing zero for cardio, and ignoring specific areas that you need help with like flexibility. I want to encourage you to expand your range in how you can communicate and connect with others.

Truly engage with others. Even if we just use the example of knowing who the other authors are whose books will be shelved next to yours: Why not follow them. Reply to their posts not just with a “like” but also a comment. Why not reshare their posts? Consider how you can celebrate their books in a way that would truly make their day. Why? Because their readers are ideally your readers. Because these are colleagues who may share a similar sense of appreciation for a certain kind of writing or story. Why not develop these relationships as part of what you share?

Have you found social media to be challenging? If so, click reply and tell me about it.