Professional Presence: Social Media For Writers, Part 5
All writers start out working for free - whether it's coursework at school or a novel in our "spare" time. Like Olympic athletes, we're amateurs, literally doing it for love, not money. And like those athletes, many of us dream of going pro, whether that's making a few bucks on a book or bringing in enough cash to leave your other job(s).
Social media is part of being a pro - yes, it's fun, but when you’re on Writing Twitter, you’re also at work.
Social Media Tip #6. Use social media like a pro.
And by “pro”, I mean professional. Here’s what I do to establish and maintain my professional presence on social media.
1. Build community.
Create lists of people you want to support and interact with. As your account gets bigger, this will be essential to prevent your feed from becoming unusable. Set your Twitter lists to “private” unless there’s a good reason not to – public figures often don’t like being on shareable lists because trolls use lists for coordinated harassment and abuse.
First list: close friends and trusted critique partners/beta readers. This is your critical support network – you’ll interact the most with people on this list. Obviously, this is because they are brilliant and amazing, but also because you are boosting each other and increasing the profile of everyone in the group.
Second list: mutual supporters. Maybe they do the same writing prompts as you, maybe they move in the same circles or just seem like good folks. Visit this list a few times a week to keep up with your friends, because your general feed won’t always show you their posts.
Third list: influential writers, both inside and outside of your genre. This is a great way to learn from people who are highly connected in the industry and stay on top of relevant news and discourse. You don’t always have to wade into said discourse, but I recommend you at least consider your own position as it contrasts with other viewpoints. This is your industry now, and a nuanced understanding of its undercurrents will help you navigate your career.
Fourth list: agents, writing organizations, and other potential professional contacts. Again, these accounts will give you important industry insights. You can add people to a list without following them; in fact, you might not want to follow a hundred agents when you’re brand-new on Twitter.
2. Work the algorithm.
I don’t really know how the algorithm works. But here are some strategies that helped me convert Twitter from an empty wasteland to a friendly place full of people to talk to.
Most sources recommend posting every day. Coming up with original content every day can be a lot of pressure, so mix your original posts with retweets, writing prompts, and other posts to give yourself a break. Use hashtags like #writerslife, #amwriting, #amediting, and #amquerying (where relevant) to help interested people find your posts.
Have a pinned tweet. For the first little while, you can use your most successful tweet as your pinned tweet. When you start to build a writing dossier – contest finals or wins, a manuscript you are querying, upcoming publications – make that your pinned tweet (and put it in your bio).
Images or gifs attract more attention than text alone, I find. Images should conform to your brand.
Balance retweets with original content. I’m not a publishing professional, but if I were, I would be looking for people’s own words when checking out potential clients on social.
3. Act like someone you'd want to work with.
We've all worked with jerks who took more than their fair share of breaks and less than their fair share of chores. We've all had coworkers who stole other people's work, blamed others for their own mistakes, screamed at people for doing the exact job they were asked to do, and didn't clean up their own messes. If I were a publishing professional, I would actively try to avoid the writer equivalent of the local workplace a$$hat.
4. Get off social media.
Social media is built to be addictive, to feel realer than real life even though it’s performative and highly curated. It often feels bad, but somehow it feels good at the same time – if you’ve ever had an unrequited crush, you know exactly how powerful that mix of pleasure and pain can be.
Scrolling through Writing Twitter can feel like writing, but it isn’t – the same way that using a hashtag isn’t the same as actually fighting, in real life, for the cause that hashtag stands for. If you’re prone to falling into Twitter and looking up only to find the sun set hours ago, put a time limit on your social media apps (easy to do on most devices). Yes, you can disable limiting apps, but at least they’ll alert you to the minutes and hours you’re spending not writing.
That’s the end of my series on social media for writers – be sure to check out the four companion posts as well. 😊 Catch you soon for a post about Pitch Wars!