Tag Archives: Online writing

Writer, spread the word!

“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 280 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 260 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.

facebook-privacy-memeSocial 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.

WRITE REGARDLESSRecap

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.

Writer, you’re a journalist!

“We can no longer rely on paid journalism to get our messages out there, we simply need to start doing it ourselves.”

THE international media industry is in free-fall with the continued sacking and redundancy of journalists. I wrote about the social media’s impact on the media in 2014, and things have only gotten worse since. Our newspapers, magazines and television programs are full of what is known as paid content. This advertising vs. editorial battle is as old as the media itself, but when the boards of media companies no longer have one experienced news person in their ranks, it could be said the newsmakers have completely lost any control over editorial content. Even public news services are being paid to host advertising as news. It’s for this reason writers need to start behaving like journalists. We can no longer rely on paid journalism to get our messages out there, we simply need to start doing it ourselves.

PROFESSIONAL PANEL Panellists on ABC's QandA.
PROFESSIONAL PANEL Experts on ABC’s QandA.

Be an expert

There are many names for ‘experts’ in fields, influencers, for example, operating predominantly in the marketing sphere, but increasingly impacting the editorial content of the media. These are the people called upon to sit on panel shows or provide expert opinion in sections of the media. They often operate as brands – a marketing-oriented phenomenon designed to create awareness of themes, words, images and products. As writers in today’s media and publishing landscape, it is essential we take elements of these processes and turn them to our advantage. If you write a lot about the environment, for example, you can adopt branding strategies to focus your output in that field. Tweet and Facebook on environmental issues to your audience. Write articles about the environment on your website. Tag and categorise your metadata with environmental keywords, but know exactly why you’re doing it: you are on your way to becoming an influencer in that field.

Keep it real

Influencers and brand adopters are not required to be shallow, purely commercial types. If you are writing and researching subjects that you love, becoming an expert in those fields will come naturally. Write opinion pieces about current events related to your work. Publish reviews about new publications related to your expertise. This is all great fodder for your writing program.

“You don’t need a degree, permission or professional qualifications, you only need journalism skills and consistency.”

Share the love

When you’re ready, start to connect with other online writers and journalists – start with me, if you like – and talk about your work and where it’s taking you. Be prepared to be asked to contribute to other sites – this is a brilliant way to spread your metadata around and can be achieved in a number of ways. Other sites can reblog your posts directly from your site (and you can reciprocate), or you may be asked if you’d like a user profile for another blog, to upload and publish your own contribution – a very common way websites accept contributions. Don’t expect to be paid for much of this output, rather, come to accept it as excellent distribution for your work that will generate followers on Twitter and Facebook, which increases your reach as an expert in your field.

Citizen journalism is not for the faint of heart

One of the most effective strategies I adopted as an online publisher was becoming a citizen journalist. I wrote about the process in two parts – Voyage to the new news world – a process which not only led to increasing my readership but to paid work as an online journalist. I offer a gentle warning about citizen journalism – it’s very accessible, but also highly contentious, because it’s being relied on more and more by established media networks as a way to attract free content, and professional journalists can be very wary of citizen journalists. I wrote about this phenomenon in Stand up, citizen journalists. Citizen journalism is a minefield for writers who are also activists (or become activists over time, through their writing, like I did), so it’s helpful to ponder the fine line between reporting and activism, and freedom of speech. I wrote about this in You cannot burn a mummy blog.

Journalism standards

Adhering to some kind of personal or professional standards as a journalist is not compulsory, but in the online sphere, where readers lay waiting to catch every typo and piece of plagiarism, it’s wise to follow some basics if you’re just starting out. Here’s my best tips for anyone embarking on their own journalism.

Say no to naysayers

Large sections of the international media readership remain under the illusion that the content they read is created by newsrooms full of busy journalists poring over editorial schedules. The reality could not be further from the truth – newsrooms are mainly empty, solo journalists are juggling the jobs that entire teams once did, their hours taken up with meeting the advertorial agenda of management to produce the paid content in their masthead. Citizen journalists are filling the gaps, although whenever the readership complains, they often let off steam about media conspiracies and lazy journalism. Don’t let any of that stop you writing as an expert in your field. You don’t need a degree, permission or professional qualifications, you only need journalism skills, consistency and guts. Check my article on How to write wrong.

WRITE REGARDLESSRecap

As a writer and published author, you’re going to need to forge relationships with journalists. The best place to start is by becoming a journalist yourself. Work out what you’re expert in, and publish quality journalism on that. Keep an eye out for other journalists wanting to connect with you – these are invaluable future connections.

An extract from Write, regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Writer, find your style!

HOPEFULLY by now you have started a regular online publishing schedule. If not, scoot over to Writer, start online publishing! and get up to speed. In this session, you’ll probably be pleased to read we’re going to start getting to grips with some writing technique.

What kind of writer are you?

If, like me, you started regular online publishing without much direction, it’s time to start refining your style. To achieve this, analyse what you’ve written to date on your site, and the work you have written in the past. What does this work have in common? Is there a theme, or several themes? If someone were to ask you what you write about, what is your answer? If you don’t have a response, it’s time to work it out. After publishing online regularly for a few months, I realised I was writing about writers, performers, artists and others who took risks. When asked, I said I wrote about creative rebels.

Check the menu

When you have isolated your writing themes, ensure you include these in your site menu (if you have created one. If not, you’ll want to consider at least one site menu). Menu ‘buttons’ give readers a guide to what kind of writer you are. Most websites have a ‘home’ button (navigating the reader back to your home page), an ‘about’ button (telling readers about you, the writer) and a ‘contact’ button (allowing readers to get in touch with you). Most WordPress themes will allow extra menu buttons, so use these to tell readers what themes they can explore in your online work. In order to achieve the best SEO (‘search engine optimisation’) ensure these themes are listed in your site menu buttons and your site categories and tags, as this will guide the internet to make your name synonymous with certain subjects, genres and styles. Your site buttons can be the same as your tags and categories, allowing readers to aggregate and read your articles in the same theme. Over time, I have become synonymous with LGBTI equality, writing, politics and the arts, all through my site menu, tags and categories.

imgresKeep yourself nice

As an independent online publisher, regardless of what you write about, you are now in the driver’s seat of you own publishing empire. The buck stops with you. If you doubt this, have a read of my article The Publish Button killed the media. It’s important that you take on board the level of responsibility you have in ensuring not only good quality writing, but staying out of trouble when it comes to publishing work in the public domain. Think of the internet and social media as an international noticeboard, and ensure everything you publish there is ethical in addition to being entertaining.

Tips on writing and publishing style

I have written a series of articles on different online publishing genres. If you’re interested in writing general news and lifestyle articles, check out How to write excellent articles. If you’re interested in writing reviews and critiques, check out Critiquing guide for armchair critics. If you’re interested in writing food-related articles, check out Eating your words. If you’re writing under commercial agreements, or you’re planning to, check out The truth about writing advertorial. If you’re planning to write commercials or commercial material, check out The truth about writing commercials.

The big picture about images

WordPress has sophisticated image publishing components that allow online publishers to illustrate articles in a variety of ways. Featured Images are those that illustrate an article on your home page and stay with the story’s URL as you distribute it through the social media, but images can be inserted throughout an online article. Copyright governs the use of other people’s written content, but it also protects the use of their images, so be careful about using images that are not yours, or not in the public domain. Wikipedia and its arm Wikimedia Commons are a great source of copyright-free images (those that are in the public domain). Click on images in Wikipedia to check their copyright status, and use the image search facility in Wikimedia Commons – you’ll be surprised what is free for you to use. Often, you’ll need to attribute the photographer or the owner of images. Do this with a hyperlink from your article, and/or a caption. Adding your own photographs is best done with a watermarked caption/copyright statement to ensure others know it belongs to you.

Publisher levelling off

How are you going with your regular online writing schedule? Did you try to be too prolific, or weren’t you prolific enough? I post one online article every week. That works for me. Adjust your schedule to make it achievable for you and consistent for your readers. When I am pushed for time, I dig into my body of work from the print media and publish something from years ago to give it new life.

googling-myselfGoogle yourself

Here’s the fun part! It’s time to check on how well your metadata is working for you, and what position your website comes in at on a Google search. After a few weeks of online publishing, I appeared on page 47 of a Google search of my name. After another few weeks, I was in the top ten. After a few more weeks, I appeared on the first page every time, and have stayed there ever since through sheer prolificacy.

WARNING: Computer algorithms are so sophisticated that your device will start to put you in the No.1 spot as a matter of course. This does not mean everyone is seeing you in that place on every computer. Try googling yourself from another computer for a clearer picture of where your SEO is at. Remember, publish consistently, ensure your online articles are sent to Twitter, Facebook and your other social media assets (your ‘Web of Fabulousness’) using the WordPress ‘Publicise’ function. For a reminder about the importance of this cluster of online accounts, skip back to Writer, show off your assets!

Recap

WRITE REGARDLESSAnalyse your writing to date. What kind of writer are you? What subjects do you write about? Isolate your themes and ensure they are reflected in the menu buttons of your site and the tags and categories of each of your online articles. If that means adjusting your site content, take the time to revisit and reset all your metadata. Google yourself to see how well your SEO is working, and ensure you’re using copyright-free images.

An extract from Write, regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.