Whether you’re just starting out or just starting to take social media seriously, keep in mind that social media is a place where people socialize. This may seem like common sense, but plenty of people have managed to forget. Use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ as they were meant to be used and you’ll finally see what all the fuss is about. If you’re trying to enter any kind of market (the publishing market, for example), you have to understand how to use social media channel before you attempt to do so.
First things first, what do you bring to the table? That needs to go in your bio. I can just hear you now.
“Well, gee, that’s a broad question. I can’t very well list my skills and qualifications from my resume on my Twitter profile. They only allow so many characters. This isn’t helpful at all!”
Pretend you’re playing a role-playing game like Titan Quest or Everquest or World of Warcraft. The first thing you do is make your character. You choose what kind of character to create based on which role(s) you might like to fill within a group. In gaming, you have three basic classes: fighters, casters, and healers. Each class has specific duties they are expected to perform. For example, the casters aren’t expected to tank (take the majority of damage in a fight). Authors aren’t expected to give legal advice. Plainly state your role in your bio so that people know what they can expect from you.
No matter which industry you’re trying to enter via the social media scene, you are playing a role, just like a gamer. Doesn’t that sound like fun? So what’s your role? Are you an author or an editor? Or maybe you’re a model or a photographer. I have experience in the publishing industry, so I’ll stick with those examples, but this applies to everyone. In your profile, state which role you hope to fill.
You don’t have to list every role you fill in your daily life. You’re a gardener, writer, swimmer, parent, spouse, etc. Do you want to be mentioned in tweets regarding gardening or are you joining Twitter, for example, to meet readers, other authors, and other publishing industry professionals? Whatever role you hope to fill within your groups of connections, include that in your bio. In EQ, you might see something like 25 Pally LFG (looking for group). That single line tells us how much experience this player has (25 levels worth, on this character alone), what role they may fill (a Paladin is typically a tank or support damage), and whether or not they are available.
Once you’ve established the role you hope to fill, the rest of your bio should include more details that support your capability in the role or display your qualifications with regards to that role. Give it a personal touch, social media is a place where people go to get to know you. Many times, they start with your bio. Let people know what level you are (your experience) and whether or not you want to join a group (be hired or join a team).
Even though many social media users may find your bio before interacting with you, there’s a chance they’ll find you by reading something you’ve shared. Here’s the thing about that, though, and this goes for Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and other platforms, too: they can’t see your posts if they aren’t following you, and they can’t follow you if they can’t find you.
“So what can I do? Sounds like I’m up the creek without a paddle.”
Retweets (RTs) or shares are one way to increase visibility, but this isn’t something you can control. Only your followers can decide whether or not they’ll RT (or share) your post. Using popular hashtags is another way to meet people with similar interests, especially on Twitter. The catch to that is many people use those hashtags to get attention, not to communicate. But you have to start somewhere, and this is a good place to do so.
Find articles, pictures, Facebook or Google posts or tweets, gifs, memes, or whatever media you prefer and share them across your preferred platforms. Use hashtags and write a brief introduction for each item you share. Tell people why you like it so they can decide if they might like it, too. Now, remember they won’t see it unless they’re following you or someone they are following shares your post. Gaining followers (like making friends) can be a slow-going process. The more active you are on social media (just like in real life), the faster and easier this becomes. The more followers you have, the greater your chances of an RT or share and the more people you then reach.
“But how do I meet people in the first place, or even get them to see my profile?”
Sharing the posts or tweets of others is a great way to introduce yourself, but not everyone plays by the same rules on social media. If your RT or reply goes ignored, don’t take it personally. Don’t keep trying, either. Some people just don’t want to socialize, even though they’re on social media. Others many not see anything in your profile or timeline that helps them understand why you’d want to socialize with them. If your attempts to connect with a specific person continue to fail, move on until you find your people.
For people to get to know you, you have to share what you’re up to as well. If you have a blog, share each new post across your social media platforms. It’s okay to share old posts, too, as long as your feed doesn’t display nothing but links back to your own work all the time. It’s also okay to share your posts multiple times; in fact, you have to if you want to reach followers who are active on social media at various times during the day. On Twitter and Facebook especially, new posts are shared so often that “recent” means “in the last five minutes”. Share and share again, but don’t overload your timeline with nothing but your own posts.
Research and use hashtags, especially on Twitter (some will say only on Twitter).
“Awesome, I’ll just start hashtagging away! Who needs research? This is just social media. Any old hashtag should be fine. Right?”
Wrong. Don’t just pick one and assume it’s cool to use. Do the research, find out if they’re in use and what they’re about. Some of those hashtags, like #MondayBlogs, come with rules and a heavily armed Bad Redhead with an army of cavalry and infantry who enforce those rules.
Another reason you want to research hashtags you plan to use is to make sure you’re sharing relevant content with people who want what you’re offering. If you’re serious about entering the social media scene and making an impact, not only do you have to provide valuable content if you’re sharing blog posts, but the additional content you share needs to be relevant as well.
You don’t need followers, stop jumping on the follow train. A lot of those auto follow and follow back accounts are like empty calories; you eat a whole bag of chips and thirty minutes later you’re hungry again. If you eat nothing but chips for a whole year, your health will deteriorate. Right? Same with social media.
Say you build up a following of 30k (k being thousand) followers, then publish a book and follow all the rules of tweeting but still no one RTs your book promo tweets. You’re going to be frustrated, angry, depressed, confused, discouraged, etc. This leads to bitterness, despair, and a lack of faith in your own work. Don’t do that to yourself.
Make meaningful connections with folks you’re genuinely interested in, entertained by, or who share common interests with you. Use those same hashtags you researched when sharing posts to find those people. Read through the tweets or posts and follow the links in those that capture your attention. When you read a post you enjoy, share it. A heartfelt introduction to these posts goes a long way. If you were moved or entertained, say so.
Social media is a great way to meet people who share common interests with you. If you’re entering an industry for the first time, or just getting serious about what you do, then behave on social media the same as you would in the office. Authors may meet readers, and they should treat them like customers or clients or even friends. Editors may meet authors, and they should do the same. All the people you’ve ever wanted to meet are out there, waiting to meet you. Above all, remember that social media is for socializing and you should be just fine.