How to Make Friends and Influence People, aka Establishing A Reasonable Online Presence
Thanks so much for having me over, Natasha!
I have a confession to make: this is my very first guest blog post. Ever.
Before you all run away screaming, I can say that it’s not my first blog post, if that helps? A little?
But ok, yes, while I’ve been writing fiction for years, I’m pretty new to the blogging world – and to the social media world in general. I’ve been stumbling through blogging, Twitter, and Google Plus for about ten months, now. And more than anything, I wish someone had given me a guidebook on how to use these darn platforms, and actually attract readers and followers.
I can’t say I’m a raging success or anything – 141 Twitter followers does not a superstar make – but I can gladly share some tidbits of wisdom I’ve learned in my stumblings and bumblings this year.
1. Make Friends, and Mean It: Most writers get online to promote themselves and their work – an increasingly important ability in the eyes of publishers – and therefore need to connect with readers. This doesn’t happen if all you do is write a blog and post it, no matter how good your blog is (trust me, I tried that). It also doesn’t happen if you just ask everyone you meet online to read your blog. If you want to connect with people, you need to connect; only then will people be happy to help you promote yourself.
How do you connect? The simple answer is: the same way you do in person. In other words, find people you share interests or a sense of humor with, and talk to them; and most of all, be sincere.
First, find blogs you like, and leave insightful comments. Now, I leave a lot of comments – all of us do – so not all of them can be deeply insightful. But when you do leave one you put some thought into, you’re doing more than leaving a comment: you’re starting a conversation. That blogger will then come to your blog, and leave an insightful comment. You start having warm feelings about this person – they took the time to really read what you wrote. The insightful comments continue back and forth, and eventually you realize you want to read this person’s blog, and leave more comments. And before you know it, you’re following this person on all available platforms, and they’re following you, and you’re gladly tweeting a promotion of their book/blog hop/promo/contest because you like them.
Second, return all favors: if someone leaves a comment on your blog, do the same on theirs; if someone retweets one your tweets, find one of theirs that you like and can share, and so on. Third, put in the effort to share a post you liked that someone else wrote, or to retweet something of theirs that you found interesting.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that all of these things really only work when you mean it – when you’re doing it because you liked something, not because you have to. Some people retweet everything, and I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t feel quite so thoughtful to me – and I don’t feel quite so grateful! Exposure is good, but exposure based on sincere interest is much, much better.
2. Get Organized, and Be Disciplined: Yeah, this isn’t a new tip, but jeez, it’s important. This means not only writing blogs posts on a regular schedule, but being a regular poster on all of your platforms.
First, be realistic about this, or it won’t work. I only post on my blog once a week, because I know myself – I overwrite everything, to a ridiculous extent (have you noticed how long this guest post is?) and don’t have time for more than one stupidly long post per week. But I post every week, without fail, so my blog never gets stagnant, and I always say something ahead of time if I’m taking a vacation from blogging. I also only joined Twitter and Google Plus, because I knew that two platforms would be more than enough to handle, and I wouldn’t have time to write if I joined other platforms, too.
Second, say stuff every day. I was on Twitter for a long time before I figured out that no one would follow me unless I tweeted stuff. Go figure. And I don’t just mean every now and then, I mean every day, more than once a day. There are great apps out there that can help with this: I use Buffer, an app that lets you write tweets and posts ahead of time, and posts them for you automatically. When I see something cool I want to share, I enter it into Buffer, and then I don’t have to worry about remembering to post it.
3. Join the Parties: People have to find you online before they can follow you, right? So…how do they find you???
Well, posting regularly is a good start – Twitter actually promotes people who are active Tweeters, which is a great way to find new followers – but it’s not enough. You need to find a community, and join it. Blog hops are a great way to do this, as are forums and groups.
The best things I did when I started out were to join the Insecure Writers Support Group, created by the truly astonishing Alex J. Cavanaugh (who knows everyone online), and to take part in Melissa Maygrove’s Follow Fest. I found a ton of new blogs and writers this way – including Natasha!
As always, know yourself and be realistic: don’t join every single blog hop you read about, but join the ones that interest you, that will have a good return on the time you invest, and that you know you can keep up with. The IWSG is a totally manageable once-a-month commitment, and I made sure I cleared some time in my schedule the week of the Follow Fest, which only happens once per year.
I’m also going to participate in Alex Cavanaugh’s A-Z Challenge in April, and I’m planning to write short posts (a good challenge for me), and to write a bunch of them ahead of time. It’s a big commitment, but considering that almost 1,000 people have signed up already, it’s totally worth it.
That’s it! I hope these help, and good luck! Stop by my blog and leave a comment, and let’s strike up a friendship
I’m a massage therapist by day and a writer by night/days off/lunch breaks/breaks between clients/any minute I can grab/etc. I’m currently querying my first novel, a literary fiction with some fantastical elements, tentatively titled Cloudland, and Other Stories, and am working on developing my second novel. I’ve written numerous plays that have been produced at minuscule theatres in NYC and Boston, and I have a super-duper practical degree in Performing Arts from Emerson College that I wouldn’t trade for any more useful degree in the world.