7 Things I’ve Learned About Myself from Social Media

Last spring I, along with others, took a Lenten break from social media. When I returned, I wanted to know more about my presence on social media, including my blog. That’s when I turned to Frances Caballo and engaged her to check my social media sites as well as my website.
The results of Frances’s assessment provided good information, both positive and some not so positive. Eager to see what I could do with her suggestions, I moved ahead full tilt. And as reported in this post, I noticed some rising numbers and growth changes.

Frances even provided a schematic or schedule for posting to the social media sites I use. I have worked hard at prescheduling using Buffer and Hoot Suite. Of course, before you start scheduling, there is the step called curation, which also takes time. After curating and prescheduling, I felt an overwhelming strike against my writing time. Not only against my writing time but against my ability to keep up with certain blogs where I believe my community contacts are strong.

As a result, I’ve learned some things about myself. Most of them I already knew; some of them I didn’t realize until now.

Flickr via Sagle
Flickr via Sagle

1. I don’t like numbers, and I dislike counting them even less. I never liked math in any form growing up. I still don’t care for math which leads me to my newest discovery about self: it’s all about numbers. Not only do I not like numbers, I like analyzing and counting them even less.

I have heard all the arguments about numbers of followers, social analytics, and platform building. But I’m not sure I agree totally with their arguments. It seems those who enjoy social media and do well at it, and therefore accumulate the necessary numbers for a proper platform, are number lovers and counters. They enjoy the thrill of the chase. Everyone seems in the big race to see who can get the most followers, friends, likes, shares, and on and on and on. None of this holds any great interest for me.

I want to spend my days writing, not counting and analyzing numbers.

2. I’m an introvert who does not like crowds any better online than at a social gathering. Yes, I am an introvert. I’m happily married to an introvert. The good news is I can make myself “perform” at a social gathering doing the mix and mingle dance, but I don’t like it. My husband says I’m better at this than he is. On social media, the party or gathering includes people who follow you who have no profile info posted, the ones who want to sell you Twitter followers, SEO and marketing experts, software application outlets, and the beat goes on. I equate these to the dinner hour marketing phone calls we receive. I prefer to spend any time I have beyond writing communicating with those writers and readers I’ve come to know blog-to-blog outside the confines and requirements of social media. Lately, I feel I have lost touch with these fellow writers. And yes, spending time with them means I’m safely hidden away in my writing corner at home with my laptop and my kitty.

Dragonfly Coffee House
Dragonfly Coffee House

3. Lest you worry about me socially, I do have a few writing friends I gather with personally here in Portland and workshops I enjoy attending. Through the time social media extracts from my days, I had less time to spend with these people. I quickly learned I preferred being with these few than with the masses on social media. Sometimes it’s over lunch, over coffee, or browsing one of our great bookstores in Portland. We talk writing, share our work, and even give time over to fostering friendship between us. It’s the way I like to do business and friendship.

4. Some of the time I spend on social media detracts from my continuing education in the art of writing, and I consider ongoing education prime to my efforts. With the writing community available to me here and just down I-5 South, I have so many opportunities. It is often difficult to choose which one to take advantage of first. There are multiple Meetup Groups for writers in Portland, as well as Willamette Writers and Oregon Writers Colony, with Indigo Editing and PDX Writers offering workshops and classes, and people like Gigi Rosenberg, author and artist coach, who have found Portland to be the place they want to craft and teach (more about Gigi in #5 below). With all these entities offering so much, how can I spend time on social media and not increase my knowledge of my craft? Personally, I can’t, and I won’t.

5. A short time ago Gigi Rosenberg wrote an eye-opening and inspiring blog post, Be Your Own CEO. This post made an impact on my feelings about how I spend my days. In the post, Gigi talks about one of the assignments she gives when coaching artists. The assignment comes in two parts as you’ll see when reading her post. I decided to work through the assignment, knowing already what the answer would be.  Mine is the same as Gigi’s. And this is what she had to say:

For me, the one thing is to finish this revision of my memoir. Everything else in my life needs to support that one mission. Because I am the CEO of Me, Inc., and what I say, goes. …

Everything else is going to revolve around that one thing I want. Because I want it and I’m the boss of what I want.

Now, I know what you’re saying: That’s pretty selfish. Not really. We all want something, and most often we want it badly. So badly we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Why shouldn’t a writer, musician, artist, aspiring doctor or lawyer, other professionals, star athletes not do the same?

6. None of the above have mentioned my life outside of writing.  In order to cram everything into a 24-hour period with 5-6 hours of sleep each night, I have ignored my husband, necessary work on our small businesses, cleaning our home, cooking at my best level for two meals each day, making proper time for personal devotionals and prayers, forsaken my music participation with my husband, and for the most part have given up my love of needlework (quilting and knitting). Cutting out these things meant I had enough time for social media, the blog, and some of the book. Nothing about that seems quite fair, at least to me. There should be an hour or two each day to enjoy another creative outlet. And I’m going to do just that. Let’s not forget we should all be committed to our health and physical well-being, and I’ll admit I’ve been neglectful of mine of late.

7. The decision is made, and no one can change it. I am going to spend the bulk of my waking hours writing–my memoir, short creative nonfiction, blog posts. Also, I will take back my domestic duties (which I enjoy) and clean my home, do the laundry, and cook decent meals and in good weather help Farmer Meyer with the outdoor work. I intend to make sure nothing is left undone about the two small businesses Bob and I run. Church and daily prayer and devotion will take a greater priority. This is what I want to do, and I choose to do it.

Via QuotesCover
Via QuotesCover

I know there will be naysayers about the time needed for social media. Others will debate whether or not a person has to count numbers or not. Some will argue that I’ll never sell a single book without platform based in a grand social media presence. Even more will disagree with the time I spent on social media providing enough time to pick back up the chores at home and the things I do for others. And there may be some who will find something to say I haven’t even thought about yet.

They are entitled to their opinions. That’s why we choose to do all we can to keep this country free. However, as we used to say when we were kids, “Nobody is the boss of me!”

No, I’m the boss in this office, and I get to choose what priorities I set. I’m also allowed to choose which tasks I don’t need or want to do, especially if I find them hindering my best efforts in my chosen creative outlet, writing.

I hope you’ll find a moment to join in discussion and conversation below.

Return from Lenten Leave from Social Media and a Visit from a Social Media Guru

Google Images via treecommunicacion
Google Images via treecommunicacion

On February 16th I announced my intention to honor the Lenten Season by stepping away from social media. I began my “leave-taking” on February 18th. I returned last week having been away for a total of seven weeks. Here’s what I can share with you:

  • I do not regret one minute away from social media.
  • I breathed easier, wrote more, spent more time with my family, and found rich blessings in everything I saw and heard.
  • I missed my social media connections, and I found myself thinking about taking a “peek.”
  • I enjoyed a few days writing in unbroken time and solitude at the Willamette Writers Writing House; more about this in a future post.
  • I delved into books dealing with the legal aspects of the writer’s life, the intricacies of grant and fellowship application writing, traveled the writing journey of William Least Heat Moon in his new book, Writing BLUE HIGHWAYS: The Story of How a Book Happened, and finally read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
  • Together, Bob and I focused on the Lenten message in our morning devotionals.
  • Bottom line, I relaxed a lot.
Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

And then one day I stepped outside my usual box called “Comfort Zone” and emailed my friend (and probably yours too), Frances Caballo, the mastermind behind Social Media Just for Writers. My email had one purpose behind it. Ask Frances to help me!

I have always stumbled along creating my blog, creating accounts on several social media sites, attempting to understand what I’m doing on each of those sites, and questioning if my blog was as user-friendly as possible. One of Frances’s many talents and services is analyzing social media profiles and pages and providing you with a written assessment and the next steps you should take. I knew I needed Frances to work with me to improve.

Frances looked at each of my social media accounts and my website, within several days provided me a typewritten assessment with suggestions about social media and my site. Her tips were outlined with clarity and the benefit of technological experience I don’t have. I am a happy social media camper and blogger now. Because of Frances, I’m moving through my postings to each account with ease, scheduling using HootSuite and Buffer, and I’ve updated my blog. Here’s a testimonial from me on Frances’s site.

And now here’s a word from Frances:

I can take a more in-depth look at your social media. For $297, I will examine your social media profiles and pages closely and write an assessment and next steps for you to take.

Your audit will include a complete review of:

  • Your Facebook page posts and About Section
  • Keyword placement on your LinkedIn profile and a general review
  • Analysis of your tweets and tips to improve engagement
  • Suggestions on how you can get more out of Google+
  • A review of your Pinterest account with suggestions for new boards
  • A review of your website and blog with ideas for improving them

Perhaps you already have someone like Frances working with you on these issues. However, I am so pleased with the work Frances did I could not help giving her a shout out on my blog.

Who Is Your Audience? by Patricia Fry

Today it is my pleasure to introduce my guest, Patricia Fry, to you. Patricia is a writer, editorial consultant, and speaker. With over four decades of writing behind, Patricia has written many articles as well as 45 books. Her experience in publishing and editing makes her an ideal consultant for projects of many kinds. More about Patricia in her bio below.
Join me in welcoming Patricia Fry to the blog.

Patricia Fry, writer and editor

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Before putting pen to paper, I always recommend that hopeful authors study the publishing industry before getting involved in this highly competitive business. Most new authors consider publishing an extension of their writing—something they can ease into once the writing is done. But while writing is a craft, publishing is a serious, complex business. Before ever entering into it, an author needs to know something about his or her publishing options, the possible ramifications of their choices and their responsibility as a published author. Nearly 78% of all authors fail—that is, they sell fewer than 100 books total. And the two main reasons are, they do not fully understand their publishing options and, either by choice or ignorance, they do not put enough effort into promoting their books.

By getting your stories published, you are creating a following – by landing an article writing assignment in appropriate magazines and newsletters you will get attention from your target audience. This is building the authors’ Continue reading “Who Is Your Audience? by Patricia Fry”

7 Lessons a Team of New Novelists Learned in Their First Week

My guest today is Kay Ellington, co-author with Barbara Brannon of The Paragraph Ranch. Kay is sharing lessons the two writers learned while navigating the process of platform building, writing their book, publishing it, and now using social media to market their début novel.
Please join me in welcoming Kay to the blog!

Kay Ellington, Author

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WIP seems to be the acronym du jour for authors. Work in Progress. That’s a pretty apt way of describing the massive undertaking my co-author, Barbara Brannon, and I are attempting— to capitalize on social media to market our debut novel, The Paragraph Ranch (Seattle: Booktrope Editions, 2014). If we’re successful, watch for the sequel next year.

For authors, our primary job—besides writing the book—is to build the platform, the audience, the fan base, if you will. But how do we do it? Here’s our WIP and the thinking behind it.

1. Rule number one, there’s only so much you can say about The Book. We knew that going in, so we picked topics and themes in our novel—creative writing, care-giving, and family—that would lend themselves to social media marketing.

We’re building our social media presence based on loyalty. At the top is email marketing. Your newsletter is social media, even if it doesn’t have a cute icon that you can hotlink. Why do you need it? To connect with your proven followers when you have something new they want to hear—and your email provider won’t let you mass-mail to a large list.  Followers who sign up for your email newsletter have a genuine interest in you and your work. We’ve both worked in publishing for decades—me in newspapers and Barbara in book publishing—and through the years we’ve collected emails as though they were rare, precious truffles and nourished those contacts, so that when the time came to launch our author newsletter we wouldn’t be dinged with spam reports.

We mailed our first issue earlier this month to 1,264 people. Our 29% open rate was pretty high by industry standards, and we had only a few opt-outs. We hope that following this intro letter, we’ll fine-tune topics to be of interest to our followers. There are many well-known solutions for email newsletters. We’ve done Constant Contact and MailChimp; we like MadMimi. It’s fun and not so technically challenging.

2. After the newsletter Facebook is next on the loyalty scale. We’re assuming that if you’re reading this post, you’re savvy enough to have your own personal Facebook page and a separate Facebook author page. The latter should avoid photos of your poodles and grandchildren, unless, of course, your book is about poodles and grandchildren. And to minimize Unlikes, make sure only 1 in 4 of your posts relates to The Book. To grow your community of loyal followers, post about the general interests contained in the book and the people you wrote the book for.

We wrote The Paragraph Ranch for writers, people who love Texas, caregivers, farmers and ranchers, and women who love romance, and we’ll post on those topics. We started at square one in May, kind of late in the game for a September pub date, but right now we’re closing in on 500 Likes. When we start having book events later this month, we think we can rachet those up.

3. Twitter. We’ve followed everyone and their dog, it seems, on Twitter. How did we choose? We started with author, bookseller, and local friends we already knew. And then we spied on their profiles and followed the influential authors, publishers, bloggers, and reviewers they knew. If we had read and genuinely enjoyed a book, we tweeted praise. If someone we didn’t yet know followed us, we tweeted thanks. And we retweet interesting bits on writing and authors we know, and interests we share.. We’ve hitched our tweets to the hashtag wagons of similar topics as well. Within the first week we expect to crack the three-digit mark. The 1-to-4 posting ratio for The Book–to–everything else includes Twitter.

4. Pinterest. Best practices say that authors should create five bulletin boards on Pinterest. We’ve been at it for about ten days, and we have six bulletin boards that range from social media for writers to Dr. Dee’s Rules for Writers, drawn from our own book. We expect followers to number in the hundreds by the two-week mark.

5. Instagram. We’ve taken Instagram pics of the book and we’ll use it to post photos at our signings and events. We were tickled pink when one of the 51 people following us asked us to provide a link to buy the book, which we promptly did!

6. Google+ We’ve used Google+ to promote our full schedule of book-signing events this fall, and we’ve tagged content in the book, and linked to how to buy information. We’ve exceeded 200 people in our circles.

7. We started this posting by talking about a long-form tool, and we’ll wrap up with another. Our blog is called The Working Writer (a nod to the fictional writing guide in our novel). We recognize that writers follow many paths to publishing. We’re working to build a community of writers helping one another with best practices to achieve the greatest success possible from their words—whether through sales or self-fulfillment.

Join the conversation at The Working Writer.

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A BIT ABOUT KAY ELLINGTON

Kay Ellington, co-author of The Paragraph Ranch, has spent three decades working from coast to coast in newspapers for companies such as Gannett and the New York Times Regional Group. She consults with clients on traditional and new media at MediaGarden.

Connect with Kay on the following media:
Facebook
The Working Writer
Email: ParagraphRanch@gmail.com
Paragraph Ranch
Twitter (@paragraphranch)

Find The Paragraph Ranch at these sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.

See Affiliate Disclosures.