Emerging writers get digital in BrizVegas
by Charlotte Harper - October 17th, 2011
I’m rubbing my eyes today after waking at 3am to get ready for an early flight home from Brisbane, where a crowd of emerging writers spent a festive weekend discussing all things digital.
As requested by a couple of attendees, here’s my presentation from Saturday’s Working online event (“Our panellists hash out how they make new technologies work in their writing careers, from finding markets, marketing to making money!”).
Hopefully some of the social media tips will be of use.
Self-marketing via social media to build profile and network with your tribe wherever they are (or you are) in the world
18 months ago I had an argument about Facebook and Twitter with a writer friend who worked for a federal minister.
She couldn’t see any business or government application for Social media, believing it would only ever be a tool for communicating with friends and family.
Try telling that to the makers of hazelnut chocolate spread Nutella now. They have 11 million international Facebook fans.
Or in Australia, to Chux. With posts like “who wears the washing up gloves in your house?” they’ve attracted 14,000 fans – all happy to read about dish cloths alongside updates from friends in their Facebook feed.
Facebook has more than 10 million unique Australian visitors per month. YouTube is not far behind with 9.9 million. Blogspot and WordPress combined receive 6.6 million unique visitors, linked in 1.8 million and Twitter 1.6 million.
Social media marketing expert Tom Voirol, of digital agency Reading Room, told me this month that not being present in social media is like cancelling phone lines or email accounts. He also provided a great analogy: if advertising is like archery, social media is like ping pong”.
So it’s not about broadcasting to your followers or fans, but engaging with them, by starting and joining conversations, by sharing compelling, useful, original and relevant content, and by being an authentic online voice.
So, how does an emerging writer get started with social media?
Looking at how others are using digital communications tools is a vital and ongoing part of the process.
Where are the conversations you’d be interested in taking place? Who are the influencers? What are they talking about? When?
The members of today’s panels would be a great place to start. I’d also recommend you follow Bookseller & Publisher, this very festival and ifBook along with your state writers centre.
Once you’ve sussed it all out, you can join in, either as an individual, or by creating a brand as I did.
Either way, choose a niche you’re passionate about and in which you have some expertise, and build your persona around that. It might be corgis or chick lit or cottage gardens. For me it was vegetarian Italian food and, separately, ebooks, digital publishing and related technology.
Lock that brand in for yourself across the major social media platforms and Register domain names.
I recommend WordPress for blogging, Crazy Domains for registering a domain name and JustHost for web hosting.
Set up a LinkedIn profile for professional networking, Facebook page (not a straight profile – for business purposes you need a page so that you can attract everyone rather than just those who actually know you to like your work), Twitter account (to follow anyone in the world who might be talking about an area of interest), Google + profile (it’s the newest of the major platforms, and allows you to divide your networks into categories called circles) and a YouTube channel for video or slideshow content sharing.
Take lots of photos and videos to share. The iPhone 4 and the DropBox app changed my life on this front.
Get some business cards printed. Include details of your social media accounts (make sure you get vanity URLs first).
Start commenting on your blog on everything that happens in your chosen field.
Attend every relevant launch, conference or jam jar opening and post on it.
Pitch opinion pieces, reviews and features to relevant newspapers, magazines or websites.
Comment on similar blogs and related stories on mainstream media sites.
Retweet links to blog posts or articles by fellow bloggers and writers.
Set up a list of your most useful Twitter contacts and check it religiously.
Make sure you monitor all your channels regularly and respond quickly to direct messages and often to mentions. You’ll need to set aside time to do this just as you would for any other tasks that are essential to a business, like paying bills or responding to emails or phone calls.
Share information and knowledge freely and generously … But advisedly. You want to be recognized as a trusted source.
Be a good digital citizen. Respect the copyright of others. Credit and link back when possible. Don’t vilify or defame anyone (and that includes Andrew Bolt).
Post as often as you can, without setting precedents or creating expectations you can’t live up to.
People will ignore you if you just log on once a month to tweet out a link to a blog post, or tell them where to buy your new ebook.
Consider establishing yourself as an influencer on specialist platforms like social reading site Goodreads.com.
Once you’re established, you can think about campaigns to build follower numbers or promote particular events or publications. Tom Voirol suggests building a campaign around a core idea that is easy to grasp for the public, aligned with your overall goals, measurements and success criteria, and, most importantly, has social interaction at its core.
Speaking of measurement, it is important to track your success. Facebook offers great analytics to users of its pages. There are plenty of standalone free and paid tools you can use to assess the reach of your blog posts. Stats like these can help you decide when to post, and which topics have the most traction.
Will any of this work? Like anything, it’ll depend how much you put into it.
For me, the vegetarian blog, vegeterranean.com.au, fulfilled my desire to write restaurant reviews and cookbook reviews, and led to my recipe creator mother having a meeting at Penguin about a possible cookbook.
I’ve devoted more time and energy to ebookish.com.au, which solved my problem of being a former literary editor and tech writer who would love to be more involved in the book industry but is stuck in Canberra. It’s helped me to make friends and build a network of contacts in the publishing hubs of Sydney and Melbourne and further afield.
It led to a paid blogging gig for online bookseller Booku.com [Yay Booku!] which I love, board membership of the ACT Writers Centre, a series of teaching and training gigs in social media, and an invitation to look at doing a PhD on a related topic.
The biggest surprise for me has been discovering that there are plenty of completely like-minded ebook and social media geek friends in Canberra after all. I just needed to get onto global forums to find them.