I was inspired by this post in Angela Connor‘s blog. If you don’t know Angela Connor, I urge you to check her out; her blog is extremely insightful and is still one of my favorites.
Her ideas make a great deal of sense, and I think some of this is why the Blizzard forum experiment in real names for users was such an immediate and egregious flop.
The ‘net, like it or not, is for many people a place of masks. You pretend to be younger and thinner than you are. Or you pretend to be unmarried. You pretend to be a Klingon. Or you’re a teenager and pretend to be an adult. Or you pretend to be another gender or richer or lovelier or more conservative or whatever.
And the masks can be freeing to many. Perhaps they were freeing when the ancient Greeks donned them while performing “Oedipus Rex” for the first time. I think there is more of a place for them than perhaps we’d all care to admit. Because there seems to be a value to being able to spread war paint (or lamp black) on one’s face, or wear a Halloween costume.
Screen Name Unreality
And this is not the same as our reality. It is related but not identical. Maybe the librarian who goes out for Halloween dressed as a dance hall girl wants to be known as someone who takes risks (and maybe foolish ones, at that). But when the morning after rolls around, she’s back in the library helping others do research.
This kind of anonymous commenting allows for something like this. Because the sympathetic guy who’s really seething inside gets to call people out. He gets to be a bully and be an all-around racist jerk (I have worse names, but don’t wish to besmirch my blog) behind one screen name. But then he surfs to a different site where he can chat up the ladies with his sensitive New Age guy demeanor, all behind another screen name. And then when the time to log off comes, he goes home and kisses his wife and plays with his children. And this is all one guy.
To comment openly through a full, correct name (usually) medium like Facebook would be to cut off the dance hall girl. And it would stifle the racist jerk, the ladies’ man, and any number of other secret selves in favor of a drab and ordinary world. Even on a news site, which is pretty much the definition of drab unless there’s some sort of a hot story, the jerk, the dancer and the Romeo all want to be free.
But we shouldn’t take their opinions as seriously as the real people. Because, even though those personae live in real people’s skins, it’s the real people who vote, marry, pay taxes, work, make the news and are members of our real society.
The trouble is telling them apart and knowing which one is real.
A look at character sexuality can take you in any number of directions.
First of all, you need to listen to your characters. Are they telling you who they like? Maybe they are, or maybe they’re a little shy about that. Can you see your characters with someone of the same sex, or with anyone, for that matter? Because remember that your own characters’ sexualities need not reflect your own.
So consider how you will present it. For a great, matter-of-fact presentation of character sexuality, just look at Sulu in Star Trek Beyond. Because without saying a word, all that happens is, he is greeted by a man with a little girl, he hugs the girl, and then the three walk away as Sulu and the other man (it’s unclear whether they are meant to be married, so I’m hesitant to use a word like boyfriend or husband) go arm in arm. And that’s it. It’s subtle and loving and sweet.
And of course people protested. Because change can be scary to a lot of folks, I suppose.
Flipping Your Own Personal Script
You have probably been the same sexuality for much of your life. And while gender and sexuality can be fluid, that is not the case for everyone. However, there is a spectrum. Hence even if you have been, say, heterosexual your entire life, you may find you are not completely, 100% ‘straight’.
Furthermore, consider a thought experiment. Why am I suggesting this? Because a writer should be able to think about any number of characters and types of characters. And that includes those who have differing sexualities from the writer. After all, don’t we write about men if we are women, or women if we are men? Stephen King wrote about Dolores Claiborne. Harper Lee wrote about Atticus Finch. And even though most writers aren’t in their league(s), you can still make the effort.
Hence this means also looking into not only gay and lesbian characters, but also asexual characters, bisexual ones, and even characters into other things, like, say, S & M.
Character Sexuality: Some Takeaways
None of this is required, of course. But a thought experiment, I feel, is never a bad idea. You may find a character who speaks to you and who you really want to write. Or maybe you won’t. Only you can know that.
So, the truth is, analytics are a term that scares a lot of people. But don’t panic.
You’ve got a community. And you’re working hard on it. It’s growing. But you have no idea whether what you’re doing is having any sort of an impact whatsoever. This is where analytics comes in.
Now, don’t panic if you don’t have a data analysis background. It’s not strictly necessary. What you do need, though, are (a) a means of measurement (preferably you should have a few of these) and (b) the willingness to measure. Really, it’s that easy. You do not need a degree in Advanced Statistics.
First of all, the primary measurement stick you want is Google Analytics. And it is free and very easy to use. It’s also a rather robust measurement system, showing trends in Visitors, Absolute Unique Visitors, and more.
In addition, it shows, among other things, where your traffic is coming from, where your users land, and where they departed your site from. It also shows Bounce Rate, which is defined by Measurement Guru Avinash Kaushik as, “I came, I saw, I puked.” In other words, the visitor only visited one page of the site.
Keep in mind, it’s possible your visitor loved your site but got everything they needed in just one page. So, while they may have bounced right out of there, it might not have been due to any fault or failing on your part.
So, try not to take it personally, okay?
Thank God for AHRefs. While free website measurement tools have come and gone (apart from Google Analytics), AHRefs will review whatever is out there.
So, one thing to keep in mind is that as this post is updated, I keep finding new yardsticks. And then they go away after a while. At least AHRefs is still hanging in there. Whew.
And another yardstick (albeit a far less useful one) is Alexa. Alexa really only works well for anyone using Alexa’s own toolbar for their search. Still, it is of some use, and it is free. Hence as an aside, ask your users if they will prepare a write-up about your site on Alexa.
Analytics From More Yardsticks
Furthermore, there are also measuring websites specifically designed to help you comprehend how you’re doing on Twitter and elsewhere, namely:
HootSuite – count the number of clicks you receive on shortened URLs, to supplement your Google Analytics click counts
HubSpot – measure how influential you are (with a hugely helpful diagnostic) and
Tweet Reach – measure how many people are receiving your tweets and any retweetings of your messages. Note: this one is no longer free!
Using Your Findings
So what do you do with all of this information once you’ve amassed it? Why, you act upon it! Does one page on your site have a far higher Bounce Rate than the others? Check it and see if the links on it are all leading users away from your site. If that’s not the culprit, perhaps its content isn’t compelling enough. Got a series of links you’ve tweeted that have consistently gotten you the most clicks? Then check to see what they all have in common, and offer similar links in the future. And maybe even build some onsite content around those subjects.
Has your HubSpot grade tanked in the past week? That might be due to external factors beyond your control, but check to see if any of it is within your purview. Perhaps your server was down.
Finally, small fluctuations over short time periods are perfectly normal and are no cause for concern. However, much larger hikes and drops, or trends over longer time periods, are more of an issue. But you’ll never know about any of these things unless you start to take measurements, and read and use them.
Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)
Verbal elements? Twitter is, of course, utterly verbal. It’s just about all text. But not all of that text is tweets.
One piece is the profile. There isn’t a lot of space here. The good news is that these verbal elements are searchable. If you want to make it clear that your company is green, you can put that here. Separate short messages with delimiters like pipes (|) or asterisks (*). Don’t use semicolons as they can end up being converted to code. This is an easy section to change, so consider changing it as needed, perhaps as special events come up.
Another area is the site URL. In order to be better able to track traffic coming in from Twitter, how about using a unique URL here, say, http://www.yoursite.com/twitter? That page could contain a customized welcome message to Twitter users. This is another readily editable area of Twitter, so why not switch it up as circumstances change?
Your location is another verbal area. Of course it need not be a real place, but for a commercial Twitter account you can’t get too whimsical here. However, if you’ve got a multi-state presence (and want to get that across but not create separate Twitter accounts for each state), there’s nothing wrong with making your location something like United States or New England or Great Lakes Region.
Verbal Elements: Names
Another area is the name behind the account. This is a searchable field. A company can add a tiny bit of additional information here, such as the general company location. Hence the user name could be Your Company but the name behind it could be Your Company, Cleveland.
Yet another area is the name(s) of list(s) that your company uses to follow others. Does a company needTwitter lists? Not necessarily, but you can still use them to make certain accounts stand out. What about lists like customers or distributors? Perhaps not very imaginative, but these could prove useful in the future if Twitter ever makes it possible to send certain tweets only to certain lists.
Finally, although it is an issue to change it, the username is another nugget of non-tweet verbiage. Instead of changing it, what about creating a few accounts to cover different eventualities? Able2Know used to do this well (although some of these feeds are abandoned these days). Able2know had split off a few feeds as follows:
Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (offsite connections)
Offsite connections. Because Twitter is so bare bones, any number of applications have sprung up around it in order to help you manage it and become as great as you can be. Try Twellow (many thanks to Bobbie Carlton for this particular tip).
This is essentially the Yellow Pages of Twitter. Put your company name here. You’ll have a bit more space to describe your site versus what Twitter gives you, so use that space wisely. Since most of the people checking you out on Twellow are also going to search for you on Twitter (probably after seeing your Twellow profile), make sure that your information is supportive and bolstering, but not redundant vis a vis your Twitter profile.
CrowdLens and Other Software
Another idea is CrowdLens, my friend Nick Ashley’s app. CrowdLens is designed to help remove redundancy (all that retweeting!) from your Twitter stream. CrowdLens can sometimes be slow. Here are some more sites to check out:
HootSuite – a tweet scheduling service (and more) whereby you can track stats and import your lists.
Tweet Stats – a graph of, among other things, daily aggregate tweets, your most popular hours to tweet and who you retweet.
Idek – a url-shortening service that tracks metrics.
Twitter Reach – exposure and reach information, such as impressions and mentionings of any topic, word, phrase, userid or hashtag.
Offsite Connections: The Upshot
As Twitter continues to mature as a business tool, I predict that more and more of these off-site services will spring up. The most successful one will, in my opinion, combine the best features of all, coupled with ease of use and an ability to show trends over time.
And finally, Twitter changes things almost as much and as fast as Facebook does. So keep in mind, these instructions may need some tweaking.
Last Little Bits. Now, there’s more to LinkedIn than what I’ve already covered. And, truth be told, the number and diversity of add-ons and features is only going to keep growing. As with any other truly viable online business, LinkedIn keeps adding new bells and whistles, and constantly A/B testing. It is already a far different site from the one I joined a few years ago. And, by the way, I have never gone Premium. I think it’s a waste of money, particularly for job seekers who are often watching every dime.
However, there is an appreciable difference between making and keeping your page lively and interesting, versus making it too busy. I don’t think that you need everything. Really. I think a bit of restraint is in order.
Instead, the site offers groups. Create a group, and invite likely people to join it. Your High School’s graduating class, or your sorority chapter might be good choices, as your High School is probably already represented and your sorority might be as well. But these groups provide more specificity. Of course, not everyone you invite will join one of these groups, but it’s worth a shot. Still, LinkedIn is no longer trying to be like a CRM system. That’s, I feel, for the better, as it gives the site more focus as a networking platform.
Another tool that is gone is events. A pity, in some ways. But again, the site is looking to focus itself better. That includes eliminating some of the fat.
Following a Company
LinkedIn provides the ability to follow a company. If you are in charge of your company’s LinkedIn profile, you can help to stimulate this information stream by listing comings and goings, promotions and transfers. Got an event going on, with an interesting or attractive look to it? Take a picture and post it!
Profile Page Shortcut
The shortcut to your profile page is an easy way to make yourself stand out a bit more. Just select a reasonable shortcut for yourself. Mine is my last name, because it’s unique.
The Interests section (found under your Profile) is useful for adding not only keywords but also some personality to your profile. Do you play the violin? Do you like to cook? Safe, positive information is good here, so long as it’s not extensive (you don’t want this section to overwhelm everything else). It’s probably not the best place to mention, for example, your extensive action figures collection.
The Personal Information section is what you make of it. I keep in my birth date (because it generates a status update on the day in question) but not the year. And I list my town but not my full home address. Although that is easy enough to find elsewhere online. Furthermore, I list myself as married, but you certainly don’t have to. I keep my phone number off as I don’t want to perhaps have LinkedIn become a vehicle for calls I don’t wish to receive – if someone wants my phone number that badly, they can connect to me and ask.
You Profile Photograph
The last, and perhaps most important bit is your profile picture. To add, or not to add? I say, add it. It’s not like you’re going to hide your race, your age or your gender if you meet someone. So you may as well come forward so that, if you meet in person, they can recognize you. Use a recent, clear headshot, and for God’s sake, smile! Mine is of me wearing a dress with a blazer. Look professional and try to keep it current. That reminds me; I should update mine.
There will undoubtedly be more changes and last little bits as LinkedIn dreams up new ways to connect business persons. Perhaps video demos, or real-time conferencing, are in its future. Stay tuned – I may blog more about LinkedIn and its last little bits as it continues to reinvent and improve itself.
Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!
Go offline. Yes, I really and truly want you to do this. I want you to go out and meet real-live, honest to goodness human beings. You know, members of your own species.
But, but, but, I hear you saying, why am I on on online networking site in the first place? Isn’t it to build a network online?
Well, sure it is. But nowhere in there is the word only living. Online, yes. But not exclusively there.
Not by a long shot.
Traditional vs. New-Style Networking
Traditional networking involves fairly formalized, ritualized meetings between job seekers and employees of companies where the job seekers wish to work.
Here’s the drill: the job seeker gets an introduction via a friend, or a friend of a friend, and goes to the contact’s office. The job seeker brings his or her resume and the two of them chat, maybe for a half an hour or so. And the job seeker leaves the resume and, if he or she is good at follow up, sends a nice thank-you note. The contact may or may not respond, promising to get in touch if something comes up, or if the contact thinks of someone else for the job seeker to talk to. And the cycle either continues, or it dies on the vine. And so it goes.
LinkedIn Changes That
With LinkedIn, the drill differs. Here is what I found to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, or you may come up with something else. So, instead,
You find a person you want to meet. They may be in your industry, or an industry you want to get into. Or they are in a company where you think you’d like to work. Make sure they are close enough to you that getting together is feasible.
And you ask them to link to you.
You do this with about 19 other people – this is a numbers game, and not everyone will say yes. My experience has been, out of over 200 of these, only one person has flat out said no. However, over half either ignored my link request or just never got around to it (I have even met some of these people under other circumstances – it’s not hostility that keeps them from linking to me, it’s that they are busy and processing far too much information at any given one time). So, give yourself better odds. Mine have been about 45% have said yes to the link request.
Someone says yes. Great! Send them a note, saying something like, Thank you for linking with me. Would it be possible to meet briefly for coffee? I am interested in going into ___/working at ___ company/working as a ____ and can see that you have done that, and I hope that you have a few tips you can share. Thanks!
Repeat this with anyone else who’s agreed to link with you, pursuant to your initial request. My experience has been that, out of the people who linked to me, I contacted about 55% of them to ask them to coffee (for the others, I realized they were either too geographically remote or they let me know they could link but were busy, e. g. they were new parents) and then, out of that group, about 25% of those actually got as far as scheduled meetings. Hence my success rate was that I met with about 6% of the people I initially wrote to.
So block off an hour or two, but tell your guest that you only want 20 minutes of their time. Hence that way, if the meeting goes over, you’re covered.
Don’t bring your resume! Instead, bring either a laptop or your smartphone or a pen and paper. And bring a paper list of companies you’re targeting. Because if the conversation flags, you can always ask your guest what he or she thinks of those companies, or if your guest knows anyone at any of them.
Furthermore, have your guest select the date, time and place. In addition, give a couple of choices of dates or places for meeting offline, if your guest is having trouble deciding and
Offer to pay for coffee. Even if you’ve been out of work for a long time, most people are sensitive enough, and realize you’re probably watching your funds. However, you must ask.
Meeting Offline Specifics
As for the meeting itself, make it whatever you want it to be. And if the conversation flags, remember it’s only 20 minutes out of your life. So you can always claim a prior appointment. However, if the conversation goes well, be sensitive to your guest’s time – just ask – do you need to go? And then just follow their lead.
So follow up with a thank-you email, and send a note every few months or so, to maintain the connection. Just send along an article or blog post that you think that your guest might enjoy. And it is also a courtesy – although not strictly necessary – to follow them on Twitter and/or read and comment on their blog, if any.
So will it work? It can. I did not meet with a lot of people in terms of percentages. However, the people I met with gave me very good information, and introduced me to others (or informed me of upcoming events) which helped me out even more. And it also was incredibly helpful to me in my work, as I had a good, strong network to draw on when we had events and needed to fill a room.
This kind of activity will certainly get you out and about, and give you exposure to people in your current or future field. Finally, meeting offline counts as making a job contact for virtually any Department of Unemployment.
There, now, meeting offline wasn’t so bad, was it?
Social Media Tips? Yes, please! A while back, Grassroots Giving Group published some great Social Networking tips. I agreed with their ideas but would like to expand upon them a bit.
And they were essentially exploring when Facebook and Twitter are useful. Here are some of their ideas.
Announcements – don’t just announce upcoming or new things but also add links in order to drive traffic. Agreed! However, I would add a targeted landing page. If you’ve got people coming in from Facebook, why not create a new landing page to personally welcome them (e. g. Welcome to our Facebook Friends!). The best part about that is that, since it’s a separate page, Google Analytics will track the clicks separately. You’ve got a fighting chance of getting good metrics, so you’ll know whether your announcement of the opening of a new branch of the Widget Factory played better on Facebook or on Twitter.
Sending shortened website addresses on Twitter – use an URL shortener. Of course! But why not use one (such as from HootSuite or Social Oomph) where you can get some click metrics? Using both a personalized landing page and an URL with click metrics can give you an even clearer idea of how traffic flows. Oh, and they don’t tell you why you should shorten an URL on Twitter (even if the URL fits), but I will: to make it easier for people to retweet.
Planning in Advance – nothing new here. You should keep up with things and plan in advance. Absolutely. And that means, when you’re hot and creative, write, write, write! Keep drafts and ideas going, and also think about how you can expand on your own blog entries or others’ (such as this blog entry). Get yourself a stable of other blogs/blog writers, news sources, etc. Who inspires you? Who interests you? And don’t repeat or steal, of course. Rather, expand and comment. These are perfectly legitimate ways to update your blog.
This Day in History – Commemorate occasions in your company! There must be something you’ve done that is good blog fodder. Of course, not every day is memorable, but it’s another way to keep the pipeline going. If July 12th is an important day in your organization, make sure that the July 12th blog post and Tweets are ready to rock and roll, and they are updated to the correct year. Heck, in HootSuite and SocialOomph (mentioned above), you can schedule Tweets. Why not schedule the Tweets for July 12th (or whatever your special day just so happens to be) and be done with them?
Quote Collection – I like this idea, and I think it can be used for a lot of purposes. This is not only quotes about your specific organization or its work, but even more generalized quotations. Surely there is something from Shakespeare (My Kingdom for a horse!) or the Bible that could work for you in some capacity or another. It can be another jumping off point for creativity.
Ask Your Audience Questions – I think this is more useful if you have a somewhat large and actively commenting readership. While a rhetorical question is lovely, I think it’s just better if you can get at least a little feedback. Otherwise, it feels like you’re just shouting out to the wilderness.
Staff Introductions – this is another great idea. While your site might already have staff biographies, that’s another way to get the readership acquainted with who’s making the product.
Notes From Your Day
Notes from Your Day – I don’t know about this one. Your day, maybe. Mine? I guess this is, in part, centered around the event reviews I’ve done. But otherwise, my days tend to be spent, well, here, blogging. Which may or may not be thrilling to others. But I can see where my coworkers could have some very interesting days. The process of invention is pretty fascinating.
So there you have it. Some pretty amazing ideas for getting and keeping things going. And, while the post wasn’t, specifically, about blogging, it rings very true for that very specific – and sometimes challenging and elusive – task.
Finally, many, many thanks to the Grassroots Giving Group.
Your Network is important. So you’ve decided to join LinkedIn. And you’ve even posted your resume. That’s great! Now what? What do you do about your network?
You may have already received an invitation or two to connect. Or you may be starting to realize that having a resume out there isn’t enough. You’re right. You need to forge bonds with others.
So, who should you link to?
The short answer is: everyone.
The long answer is also: everyone.
Two Schools of Thought
Now, there are people who will disagree with me, and such is their prerogative. However, the truth is, when you’re looking for a job, you tend to need all the networking help you can get. Your dentist. And your former college roommate. Your brother-in-law. Because a traditional network goes beyond just former colleagues and classmates. It branches out and eventually begins to include people who are friends of friends. The same is true online.
Finding Connections Among People You Know
So one thing you can do is, open up your address book to LinkedIn and allow them to send a networking invitation to the people in it. Your present and former colleagues are probably either already on LinkedIn or are contemplating joining. Most will be receptive to your invitation. And as for your family, they will probably also be fairly receptive to linking. Even if your cousin is geographically remote and in a very different industry from yours, that does not mean that the connection is a complete waste of time. As for the other names in your book (your babysitter, perhaps), use your own judgment. Personally, I think you should ask everyone, but I can see where someone might balk at asking everyone they’ve ever known to link to them.
And that’s all right, but you may have unnecessarily cut yourself off from potential opportunities. So, what’s next?
Growing Your Connections List
Beyond the people you know, there are not only the people they know, but also people who you want to link but you don’t know them yet.
What? You don’t want to meet new people?
Then, with all due respect, why are you on a networking website to begin with?
I don’t mean to sound flip. But the concept behind networking is to, well, network. So that means you need to meet people you don’t know, and go outside your comfort zone a little bit.
But, you say, they’ll know my name and address. Your name, yes. As for your address – no, not unless you’ve got it in your online resume. And you shouldn’t have it there, although at least your general location can most likely be inferred, given where much of your network lives. Yet to that I say, so what? Your address is on your mailbox, and in the telephone directory. It can be found in tax records and vote registration rolls.
It is not hard to find. And you are neither hiding it nor better preserving your identity or your privacy in any way by not opening yourself up to this kind of linking.
So, link. Indiscriminately? Not exactly. Avoid known spammers. And, if someone you’ve linked to turns out to be a spammer, drop and report them. You don’t need to be tarred by that.
And, how do you attract people? Should you be just messaging people, willy nilly? No. Instead join any LinkedIn LION group.
What’s a LION? It’s a LinkedIn Open Networker. This will signal to people that you are open to networking with anyone but a spammer. Too many invitations? Just leave whichever LION group you’d joined. You can always rejoin later.
Targeting Connections at Target Companies
Who else? Try connecting with people working at companies you’re targeting. And, if it’s a very large company, try narrowing your connection requests to just people in the departments, and/or with the job titles or descriptions, that you are directly targeting.
The Art of Asking for a Connection
How do you ask for a connection? There is a ready-made note that LinkedIn pops up for you. It’s fine, but you should modify it. First, call the person by name! I don’t want to positively respond to a generic note – do you? So, call me by name! What else? Make sure you thank the person.
Anything else? One last thing – tell the person why you want to link with them. It can be brief, just one sentence is fine. You want to link to me because of my work at a particular company? Then say something like, I’m interested in linking to you because of your work at ___ company. Want to link to me because of a job I’ve had? Then write something like, I’d like to link to you because I’m looking to become a ___, which I see you’ve already done. Understandably, these notes are not too terribly exciting, but they are short and to the point and they get the job done.
Be aware that, if you are dinged enough times by people who say they don’t know you, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to link later. So, proactively go out to link with the following people:
Friends and family
Current and former colleagues
People in companies you want to get into, but only if you send them personal notes and do so sparingly.
Who should you allow to link to you? That’s easy – anyone but a known spammer.
Grow your network. Here’s an area where size really does matter. Quality matters, of course, but quantity is going to open a lot of doors as well. Like it or not, an impression is made by a large network. So go plant those seeds!
Welcome to The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)
Neurotic Writers. I know aspiring writers.
You probably do, too. There are lots of people with a manuscript out there … somewhere. Perhaps it’s just in a hard drive. Or maybe it’s been uploaded to a fiction site. Or perhaps it has gotten a little exposure by having a chapter or a tantalizing fragment tossed onto a forums site. It might take the form of a blog (Gee, I wonder if I’m doing that …?). There are some that are typed (Remember that?). Others are only in long hand. And still others are locked away in brain form only.
Attention Monsters, All
Whatever form it has taken, there is one thing I have learned about aspiring writers (And this includes fan fiction writers, by the way. Don’t dis ’em; they care about what they do, too!). This may also be true of established writers as well. I’m not even so sure where “established” starts happening. If it starts when you’ve gotten a check for writing, then count me in the established camp. If not, well, then it might be that I am still waiting for my established writer card. But I digress. What have I learned about aspiring writers?
It’s that we are all attention monsters.
We all crave attention. But it’s more than just “Look at me! Look at me!” Instead, it’s more like, “Please oh please oh please read my stuff and leave detailed feedback so I know you really read it and don’t forget to tell me how kick-bun awesome I am!”
Now, pretty much everyone on the planet adores hugs and positive attention and love and happiness. For aspiring writers, though, it’s poured onto a page. The soul is naked, for all to poke at (Erm, that wasn’t meant to evoke an NC-17 image. Shame on you for thinking so. And now that’s all you can think of, am I right?). It is scary and it is daunting. And it is exhilarating when you get even a scrap of positive feedback.
Enter Social Media
For aspiring writers with a backbone and a somewhat thicker skin, social media can be a way to get some of that craved feedback.
The first and probably most obvious method is to have a Twitter stream dedicated to your writing. I doubt that most people want to read about writer’s block, so you need to have something going on. Perhaps you could write about inspirations, or earlier works, or how things fit together in your universe.
Hence I am also talking about a blog. You can blog about writing. The creative process can be fascinating for people who are into it. Maybe you’d like to review your own work, and comment on what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown as an author. Put both of these together, and you’ve got a pretty dynamic combination. You write, you blog about it and then you tweet about your blog posts and your writing.
Plus writing begets writing. Even blog writing (which is a rather different animal from book-writing) can help keep writer’s block at bay. It helps to exercise these muscles fairly regularly.
Post on social sites. Hence for fan fiction, there is Fanfiction.net. And for purely original stories, they have a sister site, Fiction Press. Or try Wattpad. In addition, plenty of more specialized fiction and fan fiction sites exist. Google is your friend!
Be aware of scams; they do exist. Furthermore, putting your work out there does not guarantee that you retain full rights to it. And this is despite the laws in your own country. In addition, understand there’s a lot of plagiarism and downright theft out there. So remain as cautious as with any other information you put online.
Understand, too, that if you neurotic writers are going to submit to a traditional publisher, they often don’t want you to have posted your story elsewhere beforehand. Because this has to do with the full rights to your product. Hence you might want to put out your smaller or less important works, and save your really big one, if you are ever planning to submit to a traditional publishing house.
Yet another option is competitions. Here’s one, at America’s Next Author. Because the inspiration from this blog post came from learning that a friend had a story in this competition. The competition ran as a pure social media experiment. Hence, while good storytelling and story-crafting matter, so does publicity. Like with any other social media site, “likes”, comments and popularity all play a role. For my friend, and for others trying to make it, putting the link onto Facebook or Twitter is essential to getting the word out. Even this blog post is helpful (FYI, and just for the record, this post is my own idea and she did not request or suggest it).
The Reader End of Things
The community of aspiring writers is, truly, a community. And that means give and take. What kind of give and take? The kind that goes along with reviews and comments. Because for those who are trying to write for a living, commenting and reviewing should be a part of that. Readily and cheerfully provide constructive criticism, if desired.
Aspiring neurotic writers write for exposure. And often they get exposure from fellow aspirants. What better way to forge a sense of community than to read one another’s works, and comment thereon?
The Upshot of It All
For those of us neurotic writers who put it out there every day, who bare ourselves and our souls with prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction, fan or wholly original, short story or multi-novel series, we all have a major issue in common – we want recognition. We don’t even necessarily want to be famous, but we want to be the one at the fireside who spins a yarn as others sit, enraptured. And with social media, we hope, there just might be some people listening.