“The bare minimum requirement is this social media platform you’re building.”
BY now, I hope you’re a regular online publisher, consistently uploading articles in your field of expertise. You have configured your website to automatically send your articles to your web of fabulous social media assets. As a result, you should notice you’re attracting a bit of a following – other bloggers, facebookers, tweeters and social media users. If you’re somehow thinking that your titles will eventually reach readers without this process, good news, I am graduating you from Write, Regardless! right now, because this course is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’ve come to terms with the reality that it doesn’t matter if you want to be a traditionally or independently-published author (or life has chosen one of these pathways for you), the bare minimum requirement is this social media platform you’re building.
The endless journey
Here’s a harsh reality: the distribution of your work will be your task for as long as you are publishing. The job of informing potential readers never stops. Let me say that again: it never, ever stops. I recently read No Picnic, the autobiography of Australian film and television producer Patricia Lovell, the force behind the screen version of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Lovell’s book gives a fascinating insight into the journey of the independent creator, and one of her memorable revelations was how the role of marketing and publicising her films was lifelong. Decades after they had disappeared from mainstream movie houses, Lovell was still selling her creations to TV networks, foreign territories, and video and DVD distributors. Each phase of this required new artwork, marketing packages, and adopting new forms of communication. If you want to create, you must make marketing, publicising and distribution a part of your life. It will often take more time and energy than writing.
Doubling your distribution
You may have noticed that using the automated ‘publicize’ function (spelled that way on US-originated WordPress) on your website does not give you much choice in the wording of your posts on your social media assets. When sending them to Twitter, it gives you no chance to add elements like #hashtags to the tweet. This can limit the extent to which your distribution is operating, so here are some simple ways to boost the distribution of your online publishing.
Top Twitter tips
Twitter is one of the greatest shop windows the publishing world has ever seen. Embracing it takes some fortitude, because it’s a shallow experience most of the time, but it is also what you make of it, in a maximum of just 140 characters! The first step is to come to terms with what #hashtags do when used correctly. For many on social media, they’re a clever (albeit useless) way to underline your point, like saying #PeopleCantUseHashtags – see what I did there? Using such pointless hashtags will connect you with no-one, but adding #auspol to your tweet on your review of a politician’s latest book will put that article in the pathway of thousands of political enthusiasts. #Auspol is short for ‘Australian Politics’, so you can probably guess what #qldpol and #vicpol stand for, right? Hashtags I often use include #LGBT, #MarriageEquality and #Writing.
The difference a hashtag makes
Here’s an automatically-generated (‘publicize’ function) tweet. It looks pretty, but there’s no hashtags.
Here’s a manually-created tweet on the same article. Note the hashtags, and the ‘retweet’ and the ‘like’ the tweet attracted, which is a small, but effective, boost for the article on Twitter.
To make a tweet promoting your article, simply copy and paste the URL of that article (the web address – everything that appears in the box at the top of your internet browser) into the tweet. Twitter will automatically reduce it in size to no more than 20 characters, leaving you another 120 to use in the tweet. Watch how other tweeters make tweets work – short and sweet, pithy and pushy, or just plain funny. It’s up to you, have fun!
If your tweet gets ‘retweeted’ it means another tweeter is sharing it with their followers. Give another tweeter a thrill and retweet their tweet to your followers. Retweets are distribution gold.
Facets of Facebook
Walking the Facebook tightrope as a writer with articles to promote and titles to sell can be wearying. Facebook is free, but over time Facebook Page account holders have been encouraged to buy (or ‘boost’) posts, and as that facility took off, Facebook began to curate who sees posts on Facebook Pages (business account) and Timelines (personal account). To counter this limitation, I often manually post an article to my personal Timeline at a different day/time in the hope that it gets a greater reach. Facebook keeps its functionality very secret, so no-one knows how the algorithms really work.
“The most effective way to use these systems is to participate and reciprocate.”
Targeting social media users
One great workaround for the Facebook algorithms is being able to target, or ‘tag’ people into your Facebook post. I use this function to alert some of my followers to an article they may be interested in, or linking to a business, such as a bookshop that is stocking my books. You simply type the @ symbol before the Facebook Page name, or a Timeline name (to tag me you’d type @MichaelBurge:AuthorArtistPublisher) and it creates a hyperlink to that Facebook post, drawing attention to your article and a providing a link to that business, a win-win for you and them.
Public vs Private
All posts from a Facebook Page are automatically public – everyone can read them. Posts from a personal Facebook Timeline can be set to public or private, as you’re posting, or afterwards. If you want a post on your personal timeline to be distributed by your followers to all their followers, you need to set it to public. Keep on top of Facebook’s regular changes to the ways its system works in this regard.
Social media etiquette
There is none, you must set your own standards. Some people will not follow those who don’t follow them back (#TeamFollowBack). Others hate tweets and posts that seek to promote something, and blatant self-promoters get regularly unfollowed. There are all kinds of traps – getting blocked, trolled, overlooked – it’s a minefield, and now and again you’ll see some poor soul trying to ‘keep it positive’ on Facebook because they’re ‘sick of all the negativity’… LOL. Newsflash: Nobody owns Facebook! All you can do is stick to your pathway and not compare yourself to others – be aware that many social media accounts have purchased those 250,000 followers just so they look popular and relevant.
Reciprocity is free
Across my first years on the social media, I found the most effective way to use these systems is to participate and reciprocate. If we expect others to read our articles, we are rightly expected to read theirs. A little give and take goes a very long way. Now and again you’ll feel the heat of a rampant social media abuser. Ignore them or block them, delete the mess they’ve left on your timeline, and move on. Social media fights are ugly.
Real life is still better
Nothing sells your message more than meeting you in person, allowing others to gauge your demeanour, enjoy your personality and your level of humanity. In addition to social media distribution, I encourage writers to put themselves out there on occasion (I force myself to). Go to events – you can post Facebook content from such gatherings, or ‘live tweet’ from them to your social media audience (as a journalist would do), and spend time meeting people who may be interested in your work.
As you create your books for publication, it is important – many, including me, say imperative – that writers build a distribution network. One of the most effective ways of starting is on the social media, but it’s just the beginning of a process that will continue for as long as you seek readers for your books.
An extract from Write, regardless!
© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.