When people talk about building a platform, they often think immediately of social media. I suppose it’s because the word “platform” is often used to describe them: Facebook is a social media platform, Twitter is a social media platform.
It’s referring more to the technology that makes it possible for that service to run. But no wonder it’s confusing to talk about our writing platform and to toss the words “social media” into the mix.
We can build a writing or author platform in many ways unrelated to social media efforts, but today I’d like to suggest first steps you can take to launch your social media presence as part of your platform-building strategy.
Explore the Possibilities of Social Media
Because just think about it. We have, right at our fingertips, avenues to reach out into the world to anyone with Internet access. We can meet people, share information and resources with them, participate in a group discussion, offer encouragement and support…all while sitting at home or a coffee shop. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. And it would be crazy to not at least explore the possibilities.
And possibilities? Oh, man, there are so many new social media options popping up, it’s hard to keep up. We’ll have to see what’s next and what audience it best serves. Maybe we’re bold enough to be an early adopter to a new upstart and just when we get used to how it operates, it evolves into something unrecognizable from what we’ve known, or fades and simply disappears.
Others stay strong. At the time of this recording, Facebook doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, Pinterest and Instagram are expanding, YouTube and LinkedIn continue to serve a strong purpose, Twitter is still in the game.
Avoid Social Media Overwhelm
It’s tempting to jump into several at once—either we resolve to learn it all or we’re pressured to do so by industry experts who insist we’ve got to have a presence here and there, on this and that platform.
You click around and try to understand how they all work and end up confused, struggling to keep up, overwhelmed by the activity required. Instead of going slow, you’re spent. You’re sick of it. Nothing seems fun or friendly. Forget it.
Listen, if you’re like me and you’re a one-man or one-woman show, you will feel overwhelmed if you try to tackle it all at once. It’s too much to juggle every area of social media on your own and sustain efforts over time—especially while you’re busy trying to pull off all the other aspects of writing and pitching and whatever else your writing efforts require.
So take a deep breath. We don’t all have to be Gary Vaynerchuk, who’s on every social media platform out there.
First Steps to Launching Your Social Media Presence
I want you to stay curious, creative, and productive, and if poking around and testing the waters on Twitter and Instagram feels like fun, go for it. But if you lean toward being overwhelmed at the thought of continual activity and that sucks the life out of you, there’s no need to rush. Instead, let me offer a simple approach that positions you to expand later if you choose.
Establish a bare-minimum presence at several social media platforms by simply setting up your username and profile at the places you think sound fun or useful and where you think your readers will hang out.
Many writers—probably most writers—are building a brand or online presence based on their name, so that’s a good place to start. See if you can snatch your name when setting up your profile at these social media services.
This may take a few days because you’ll want to read about how each of the services works. Fill out the bio section. Add your website and whatever contact information you’re comfortable sharing with the world.
Almost all of these—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest—will grow best when we’re actively adding content and interacting with people. And as I said, I don’t want you to be completely overwhelmed, so don’t go crazy tweeting or setting up an Instagram schedule if you don’t intend to keep it up right away. Simply having your profile there, ready and waiting for the day you do have time to invest—for the day you feel like a social platform seems fun and playful—is enough for now.
Go Ahead: Set It and Forget It (for now)
We’ll talk next time about a sustainable social media effort for newcomers to these spaces, but I’ll leave you with this.
A month or so ago, I was telling a friend that of all the social media platforms I’m on, I spend the least amount of time at LinkedIn. Years ago I set up my profile with basic information, made sure to mention “writing coach,” and sort of let it be. It was like a crock pot: I just set it up and forgot about it.
Two days after I mentioned this to my friend, I received an inquiry about my coaching services. This writer and I discussed the possibility of working together, and as we were winding down the conversation, I asked, “How did you hear about me?”
At first he said he Googled “writing coach” and found me that way. Then he said, “No, wait. I think I found you first on LinkedIn, and then I Googled you to find out more.”
LinkedIn, the neglected platform, helped someone find me.
Isn’t that crazy? I mean, crazy-amazing?
I make an effort to tweet links and updates on Twitter and engage on Facebook. I’m having fun learning how to best use Instagram. I pin on Pinterest. But how fun to find out that someone found me and sought me out because of my set-it-and-forget-it profile over at LinkedIn.
If you’re new to social media, try my simple startup plan: learn the basics of setting up a profile at the places you think your reader will be—and places you think you’ll enjoy. And for now, that’s enough. You’re simply positioning yourself for phase two.
And by all means, continue engaging with people in the places you already enjoy and understand. That’s why they call it social media. Get social in the year ahead! Just don’t sweat it when you set these up. “Set it and forget it” for now.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
- 19 Quick Ways to Grow Your Author Following on Social Media, via The Write Life
Building a platform sounds overwhelming, exhausting. Where do you even start?
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