If you scroll through my Instagram feed, it won’t take long before you’ll see quotes on pictures, quotes with colored backgrounds, sourced images and my own snapshots all jumbled together. It’s not pretty.
You’ll see travel pictures and book after book lying on a marble table, which is one of two or three decent backdrops in my home.
The captions vary. Some are long, some are short. Sometimes I write stories to go with the image; other times, I simply add a little quote or brief explanation.
Then there are the Stories. My Instagram Stories aren’t overly planned out and I don’t add a lot of embellishment. I just talk for 15 seconds and then send it off.
There’s no rhyme or reason to any of my Instagram content. There’s no grand plan.
It’s an experiment.
It’s a playground.
On Twitter, I have a more thoughtful approach. I have a philosophy of sorts going over there…a purposeful flow of content I’m tweeting out. Same with Facebook—it’s fairly easy to figure out what I’m doing there. And I follow a straightforward schedule with predictable content on my website and podcast.
But Instagram is where I mess around and try things out.
One day I may commit to a smarter approach that matches my overall brand, but I think it’s important while building an author platform to reserve a place to play.
While Building a Platform, We Need a Place to Play
In an era when writers must take personal branding and platform-building seriously to be considered by traditional publishers, we must be smart about establishing our online presence.
We set up our digital home base—our website. Then we secure “satellite offices,” if you will, on social media platforms. We show up as the author of a guest post on someone’s website or find ourselves interviewed on a podcast. We stay on topic. We strengthen our brand. We build an audience that appreciates our message and our voice.
In the midst of those efforts, I like to set aside one space where I can be more natural, casual, and real—where I can test story ideas and experiment with my voice a bit.
If your brand exudes a natural, casual, real vibe everywhere, cool! You live with more freedom than some writers, you lucky duck. Some writers, given their topic, convey a more put-together feel on social media and write in a professional tone as part of their brand in order to reach their primary audience.
They need a place to let their hair down, and the good news is that these days, readers enjoy seeing even put-together professionals in their natural environment.
Writers—They’re Just Like Us!
Have you seen the “Stars—They’re Just Like Us” section of US Weekly magazine? “There’s Kerry Washington buying lettuce at Whole Foods! She’s just like us.” “How fun to see Zac Efron walking his dog! He’s just like us.” “Wow, Cindy Crawford pumps her own gas—she’s just like us.” “How about that—Ann Kroeker reads entertainment magazines! She’s just like us!”
Uh, a quick disclaimer: My mom gave me a gift subscription to US Weekly and Taste of Home back in 2012, so for the record, I didn’t seek it out myself and the subscription ran out several years ago. And I don’t flip through it at the grocery store checkout stand. (Well, at least not that often.)
But if I did, that would be one of the features I’d flip to. Because I think it’s fun to see the movie or music stars I usually see dressed up and walking the red carpet spotted in normal places in ordinary clothing, shuffling around in flip flops slurping an Orange Julius, just like us.
You’re Someone’s Star
Maybe we writers working on building our platforms aren’t big stars—at least, not yet.
But someone is already looking up to you.
Some reader has arrived at an article you wrote for an online magazine or for your own website and thought, “Wow, I never thought about it that way before.” Or, “I could never write like her. She’s amazing.”
Even if your style isn’t dressy or formal, your brilliant writing dazzled this reader, like a movie star on the red carpet dazzles her fans.
Readers and followers hear you interviewed and feel inspired. They sign up for a webinar you’re leading or attend your session at a conference and learn from you and admire your talent and experience. They’re picturing you as an authority on a topic, or an expert in your field, or the best novelist they’ve ever read.
They’re hanging on your every word.
Keep It Real, Somewhere
And just as they might appreciate seeing a snapshot of the Kerry Washington holding a head of lettuce, they might enjoy seeing you online somewhere—on Instagram or Facebook, let’s say—looking a little less polished and a little more real, a little more experimental.
They might show up there and say, “Hey, this is cool. She’s as clever as she was in that essay I read (or as funny, smart, or informative, or however you write) but she also makes homemade granola and drinks from a Spider-Man cup.”
They think, “That writer is just like me! She struggles in the same ways I do. She feels the same way I feel.” All because you’re keeping it real over there in that playground where you look a little less put together.
You’ll build a connection with your more intentional writing in more “branded” spaces, and then you’ll build another layer of meaningful connection by pulling back the curtain to open up your life a little bit—by letting yourself be vulnerable.
Your Testing Ground
Give yourself permission to try new things in your playful place. Be yourself.
If you haven’t tried video yet, maybe this where you give it a go. If you haven’t told stories for a while, try it here. Or if you tell stories all the time in other places, throw out tiny teachable nuggets here, instead.
In time, you’ll figure out a plan and purpose for that platform that makes sense. In the meantime, just play.
Over Time, Figure Out the Best Use of a Space
Maybe one day my Instagram feed will emerge as a consistent pattern or I’ll use flat lay techniques that wow people and look professional and intentional.
Right now, it’s the place that most resembles my everyday life: mismatched, unpredictable, unscheduled, random. It’s a place where I tell an occasional personal story, like a mini-essay. It’s a place where I post a photo of trees, flowers, and pets. It’s a place where I share quotes that strike me.
Through trial and error, I’m figuring out the best use of that space. For now, it’s mostly trial and quite a bit of error.
It’s messy. It’s playful. It’s fun.
Find a place like that for yourself.
- You Can Impact Readers Right Now Through Social Media (Ep 57)
- Now Is the Time to Start Building Your Platform (Ep 85)
- Ann’s Patreon account
- All podcast episodes
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