As writers become more familiar with multimedia storytelling, social media has developed into a powerful tool to gather an audience and promote content -- that is, if you know how to use it.
At the recent ASJA Writers Conference, five experts shared their experiences with social media and how they use it to their advantage.
The panelists were:
- Dorri Olds, freelance writer and social media consultant;
- Kirsten Koza, freelance writer and author of “Lost in Moscow”;
- Nikki M. Mascali, editor, The Blot magazine;
- Jason Gross, social media manager, writer/editor, The Blot magazine;
- Thomas Miller, literary agent, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.
Olds, who has over 30,000 Twitter followers herself, offered this advice:
- The best thing to do on Twitter is to find people that are influential, famous and that you are aiming to emulate. Retweet their tweets, which is a compliment in and of itself.
- Take a moment to find a photo to get more attention.
- Use hashtags when relevant. One recommended for writers is #amwriting.
- Trends change all day, and are very useful for finding topics to write about.
- Again, do not just share your own content, but promote pieces of other writers at the same time. “Every five tweets should be about you but no more than that.”
- Tag influential people to your article post for more traffic.
- Keep in mind that editors and publishers will check your standing in social media to see if you will bring an audience with you.
- Introduce yourself, build a connection with somebody before you ask them for a book review, a promotion, etc. Never begin a relationship by asking something from them.
- Do not request a follow on Facebook through Twitter and vice versa. Focus on the platform you are using. But feel free to share a story from Facebook on Twitter and vice versa.
Writers must use social media to stay relevant, said Olds, especially in this digital day and age.
Koza’s social media recommendations include:
- Use Google+. There is a place for writers to put links to stories and it will greatly improve your Google rank within the search engine.
- Facebook is a primary platform. As a writer, it is really good to have a profile and a fan page.
- Get your friends to like your page and build it. After that, your fan page should be more professional and targeted.
- Boost your page to people who are relevant and avoid “click farms.” To do this, target people in the area or share in the interest your page is about. By culling your audience, you are able to build a more relevant and stronger social media platform.
- Koza has over 8,600 followers on her fan page, consisting of writers, editors and photographers, as well as travelers, since that is her niche. With this amount, she is able to connect with over 100,000 people.
- A good group of followers is very attractive to editors.
- Koza grew her page through book giveaways and raffles promoted through her website.
Mascali covered how to brand yourself as a journalist:
- What makes you a writer? “If you are branding yourself as a writer, show us how you’re a writer.” Post a link to a blog or articles that you published. Show that you are talking to other people like you and with similar interests.
- But, social media is not just self-promotion; it also encompasses sharing things that other people want to talk about.
- Twitter is one of the most valuable tools to get out information. Mascali said it has made her a better editor by being able to get information out in 140 characters or less and “trimming the fat.”
- Twitter and other social media platforms are great “pitch generators.” Trending topics or comments can be expanded into more stories.
- Social media makes it easy to engage with editors and other writers, which in turn may make them want to work with you.
- Research LinkedIn for Journalists, join journalistic groups on the site and follow influential people in the journalism industry.
Gross spoke about etiquette and how to present yourself on social media:
- Avoid “flame wars,” a “horrible unprofessional swear written argument you might get in online.” Heated debates should only be argued with a clear head and facts behind it, but even then you still may get attacked. Remember, it is a public platform and this reflects on you. It will always exist (even deleted posts may be archived) and may be used against you in the future, so be professional when it comes to online discussions.
- Editors and agents may be looking. Keep that in mind when arguing a point.
- Curation is another part of etiquette. Don’t just promote your posts, but articles from others as well to “show you’re a well-rounded person, you’re interesting, and you’re worth following.” It also presents opportunities for others to follow you and, in return, circulate your content.
- Always keep in mind how you put something out there. Pictures always get more traffic, but be conscious of what photo you use.
Miller understands that, as a freelance writer, you are a business owner, so consider what your business goals are:
- Be crystal clear on how you are going to use social media and what you’re using it for. Who are you trying to connect with?
- Create Facebook fan pages for yourself and individual books or successful blogs. Link your Facebook fan page and personal page when it relates to your business.
- It’s ok to send connection requests to people you don’t know (on LinkedIn), but do not bug those people. It is ok to send a query to editors or agents and even a follow-up if you do not hear back within 2-3 weeks, but if you still do not hear from them, do not contact them again.
- Anything over 5,000 followers will get someone’s attention. Follow the right people and they will often follow you back.
- “Use hashtags wisely. Don’t overdo them.” And do not over-tweet.
- You can easily have several Twitter accounts at the same time.
- There is a difference between credentials and a platform.
- YouTube can increase your chances of becoming an expert.
- Link your YouTube videos on your social media accounts and blog.
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