When it comes to social media networking, writers are above the curve. We schedule, post, update, Tweet, pin, recommend, at, like, share, hashtag, stumble, and digg with abandon. And yet, any time a new social networking platform crops up, we’re among the first to groan.
There’s a correlation.
Most of us are doing too much. As we spread our ever-thinning online presence across too many social media channels in an attempt to be everywhere at once, its easy to feel overwhelmed by social media. Fear of missing out has been identified as an anxiety condition related to social media, and writers can be especially vulnerable. This fear stares me in the face whenever I give a presentation at a writing conference.
It’s a fact of the writing life that we need to stand out to land a traditional contract or to sell a self-published book. This makes the use of social media mandatory for most of us. We do our best to network online, often with only a vague idea of what to do or no strategy at all.
Here’s the sad truth: networking wrong is worse than doing nothing. Here are some examples of what I mean.
1. Constant self-promotion takes your time and energy and is ineffective at best. At worst, it erodes your followers’ trust in you and turns potential customers off. This is can happen even without your planning it. For instance, if you automate promotional updates, and then never get around to networking and sharing other people’s links, you will be perceived as a spammer. Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, advises that it’s best to use a 20-1 rule, meaning that only after 20 relational deposits can you make a marketing withdrawal. He argues that the focus of our social networking efforts needs to be giving rather than taking. A relational deposit can be sharing another person’s content, commenting on a blog post , providing a genuine personal update, and so on. The golden rule applies here, as well, I think.
2. Maintaining a presence at too many social sites means you will probably not be effective at any. Trying to be all things to all people only divides your resources or time and talent. There is one thing I have to remind writers of whenever I speak. You don’t serve social media. It is a tool that serves you. Unless you have outside help managing social media, it’s best to pick just one, or at the most two, social media sites to focus on. Figure out where those your writing serves are found online and concentrate your energies there. Tailor how much you do to the amount of time you can give this. That should not be nothing, but you’re doing too much if it regularly encroaches on your writing time.
3. Failing to keep track of people online will keep you from advancing. Use the list features at Twitter and Facebook to help you at those sites. You can also add names to a file you keep on your computer or even maintain a social networking binder, if that’s what you prefer. It’s a good idea to engage with a core group. Connecting with people at a higher level than you can be a good strategy at times, but stick with those at a level similar to your own for better engagement. That way you’ll have many of the same interests and can support one another as you progress.
4. Approaching social networking without a strategy can turn it into a time sink. It’s all too easy to wind up watching funny videos of animals, get caught in a conversation about a post or image that has nothing to do with your writing, or find yourself immersed in an intriguing news article or blog post. A good strategy aligns to your goals and provides objectives with time limits to help you stay on task. If you lose track of time or lack discipline set a timer or use software like Rescue Time to curb you.
5. Spending too much time social networking is counterproductive. Once when Facebook went down I happened to catch a conversation on Twitter between a couple of agents. They were joking about the flood of new submissions they would now receive. That observation was a little disrespectful of writers but I believe held a grain of truth. Social networking can be used as an excuse to procrastinate from writing. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 20% of the time you set aside for your writing business on all your promotional efforts, including social networking. Having an accountability partner can help.
Hopefully this post will relieve you of some stress and serve as a wake-up call if you need one. Remember that when it comes to social media, the tail should never wag the dog.