For years, I have slogged through the swamp of managing social media. What sites should I be on? What kinds of things do I need to be posting? How often? And how can it possibly take this long? Well, I’m happy to say I have at least discovered some of those answers.
The truth is, all authors should have a Facebook and Twitter account, especially if writing anything targeting young adults, college aged groups, or older. But sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn are also incredibly useful. Even though they are geared toward photos or resume stats, there are ways to make them work for you. The question remains however, how the hell do I use all those sites without eating up all the time in my day?
First let me back up a bit, so that the answer to this question is completely transparent.
Why do we go on social media? I mean, why are you on your smart phone looking through memes on FB or scrolling through blog entries about bacon? The answer is: data. You want information! You want knowledge. You don’t want to read someone talking about the new product they want to try to make you buy. If you want a product, you’ll go find it yourself and research it. So, by this logic, if we think of your writing as your product……
No one wants to hear about it.
What they want is a person they know, trust, can laugh or cry with, who funnels exactly the right data to them for their tiny Social media blitz done while they’re watching Law&Order. And when they have gotten to know you a bit, and you happen to mention that you write books (especially fiction) they’re more likely to say, “Oh yeah! That guy/gal is hilarious. I will totally pick that up…using the link generously provided on this post.” Or something like that.
So in essence, MOST of what you’ll be doing on your blog or social media app is curating data, not producing it.
There is a simple rule: 80/20; 80% content from others, and 20% content you create. Now this depends entirely upon the brand you have crafted around your work. If you are a memoirist, your content will naturally tend toward personal experience, meaning that even if you repost someone else’s life story or talk about their work, you will be expected to reflect upon its meaning a bit. This will skew your 80/20. If you are a crafter or cook, your content will be almost entirely derived of other people’s projects and end results, with a few mentions here or there of your work, your latest recipe, etc.
But if 80% of what you’re posting isn’t your original content……where the f#^¥ does it come from, how do you find it, etc?
It can be anything. For example, I am a nerd. I do need things like read comics and make costumes. 60% of what I post is related to those topics. I just recently developed a conversation with a group of leather restorers who make a product called Rub n’ Restore which can be used to color-change or restore leather. It has immense costuming implications, and I will soon be posting about it, so that people who have learned to see me as a source for all things “costume” will see it. I visit websites like AllTop, which allow you to indicate what interests you, say “science,” and gives you lists of recent blog posts from places like Scientific American or medical websites etc. it’s up to you to determine what your readership is most likely to enjoy and funnel it to them. They need to see you as a data source before they trust you to take them to another world, or give them new fake-friends to care about.
So what’s the other 20%? Blog posts about your latest book project and how that’s coming, characters, plot points, surveys, calls for beta readers, conferences, etc…….or in my case, funny quotes you overhear, bizarre occurrences you capture, images you find hilarious.
Which brings me to images. You must have them. Even for text-based posts. Quotes you shoot out should have images behind them. Pictures capture attention! There are any number of apps you can use to do this, but for me I don’t like stock imagery so much as pics i capture. Depends on you.
Now, you have your 80/20 idea. You know where to get articles, pictures, blog fodder, but how do you keep it from eating all you’re time? Come on Kristina, that’s the title of the entry.
There are a couple answers, but the one that works for me: HootSuite. This is NOT free (or at least not if you want the useful version) but it is worth the $15. HootSuite is what we call a “content scheduler”. It allows you to create a queue, or stockpile of clippings, images, links, and your own original tweets/posts and determine when you want them to be posted. It them posts them automatically for you at the preset time, which you can even set automatically based on your data. What do I mean? Well say you are a business/finance writer. You know (or have learned through site analytics provided for free by your blog provider/social media account etc) your highest traffic times are in the evenings between 1pm and 7pm. You can set the autoscheduler to post only during those times, and to only post up to some number of posts. And the best part? This is across multiple platforms!
I have, while working on this blog post, tweeted five times, posted on Facebook once, and made several posts to an unrelated site I manage, all at the same time, while still typing this entry. It’s automated. All the content it distributed was generated or queued by me abot 3 days ago, from my cell phone, while I was scrolling through AllTop while watching “Stalker”. Yeah. Pretty bad ass.
So just to clarify, this entry was posted today at whatever time it airs…….but it was written about two days ago….and automated through HootSuite. I mean, it’s like content creation time travel and shit!
Yeah, Kristina, but how hard is it to learn? I’m not gonna lie. It took me a couple hours to figure out, so if you’re not tech savvy, it may pay to hire your nephew for the original setup, but once you’ve set up the heats, it’s all flawless. What does that mean? So go to HootSuite, get an account. Pay for it, especially if you have a normal profile and a pseudonym (I have two as I write in 3 genres) which means I have 3 Twitter profiles, 2 facebooks, etc. See what I mean about still having time to write?
Once you have the HootSuite account, you add in all your profiles for the social media sites. You allow HootSuite to access them and curate on your behalf.
The next step is to add the HootSuite gizmos or buttons to your web browser. So for example, if you use Google Chrome to browse the Internet, or Internet Explorer, or whatever, you’ll have to add the little HootSuite button to the browser. It takes a couple minutes. If using the app on your smart phone, it’s a little more complicated, but thankfully, instructions are provided. Once these steps have been done, you can now go to any webpage and if you wish to add it to your content queue, click the little HootSuite (owl) button. It will allow you to select on which profiles you wish this page to appear, and will also let you type a customized message/choose the timing of the post. In the app, you will bookmark to HootSuite and the same rules will apply.
HootSuite also has another app that will suggest and autoscheduler content for you based on likes.
Then when specified, the content will be automatically distributed to your blogs, profiles, feeds, etc, BUT ONLY THE FEEDS SPECIFIED BY YOU! which allows you to keep your personal and professional profiles separate, or your two pseudonyms from bleeding together, etc.
And the best part is, that it’s so fast that you can do it while exploring the content you yourself were already reading! Like yesterday when I found this amazing painter who does 17th century Dutch and Flemish styled paintings of superheroes….and was gahgahing over his Batman….and set up HootSuite to post these pics to my pages at intervals so that I didn’t have to.
And as I said, it will even work for your blog posts and created original content.
Is it the only content scheduler? No. There are several sites/apps, and you may find one you like better. Even if HootSuite is not for you, I highly recommend you invest in this wonderful idea. It’s the only way you’ll ever be able to vacation or write while still being active in your writing community.
And that being said, you should be spending at least 30 minutes a day socializing…meaning that you answer questions, chat, retweet, favorite etc, what other people have given to you. Otherwise you’re just a broadcast journalist.
Get creative with it. Write five blog posts that are about dialogue writing tips, and set it up so that they come out every week on a Monday, or in advance of your next release, set up the autoscheduler to release links to your books every two days.
But with all this automation….how many times a day should I be posting?
2-3 Facebooks (including original or reposted content)
2-3 blog posts a week
And that’s for every profile.
As you can probably tell, I have only just begun implementing these rules for myself, but that is because I have finally been able to find the time, thanks to autoscheduling. Isn’t technology amazing? Now that I have solved this problem, I intend to track the analytics of my HootSuite content (a service they provide), to see which posts got the most play, which got not so much, and hone accordingly.
I hope you can do the same and save yourself some time. As this blog entry posts, I will probably be at some local cafe, eating something delicious….or possibly doing laundry.