Good morning, sorry for the delay in blog posts … lots of things have been happening since we last spoke. But today, fewer things have happened so far, so let’s have some blog, shall we?
We’re going to look today at a fictional “company”, though you can easily make this about yourself as a writer, or you and your friends making a game or just you making widget cozies out in your garage. I’m not using the word company as to encourage a discussion of various LLC or S-corp models, in fact, I’d prefer to stay the hell away from that stuff (it’s confusing and people are quick to claim superiority, and really this post isn’t about which bureaucracy you’re engaging).
No, we’re creating a person/company so that we can talk about how that person or company tells other people about whatever they’re making – a book, a game, a thing.
This is not to say that a lot of people suck at telling others about what they’re making or have made, but a lot of people suck at telling others about what they’re making or what they’ve made. First, let’s cover three quick points:
It is NOT bad or wrong to talk about something you’ve made. Lately, I’ve heard a lot of people express varying degrees of some idea that discussing accomplishments is somewhere between “bragging” or “selfish”. I’m sure if all you did was talk about the particular accomplishment that might be bragging, but that selfish idea eludes me. Granted I hear that more from people who don’t like to take credit for what they do, the people who get mousy and small in the background, eager to minimize their accomplishments because they feel less deserving … but we’ll get there. For now, just remember it’s not selfish to talk about what you’ve done to someone else.
You have to do more than just talk about the product. Later today, after therapy, I’m going to make enchiladas. I’m looking forward to it. If I keep talking to you about the enchiladas, you’re going to get really tired of me saying enchiladas and really tired of listening to me extol the virtues of enchiladas and either ask me to talk about something other than enchiladas or stop listening to me until I stop talking about enchiladas, and hope that I don’t suddenly start every day with a rousing discussion of how great the enchiladas were back when I last made enchiladas in between hopes that future enchiladas are as good as the enchiladas most recently consumed. See how irritating that is? See how you sort of glazed over while I wrote enchilada over and over again? Do more than talk about your enchiladas.
Social media communication is a two-way communication, not street corner newspaper hawking back at the turn of the 20th century. It can be very tempting and very easy to lead yourself to think that in the social media age, everyone has to scream and draw attention to themselves in order to sell their products or get an audience. A lot of people use social media as their street corner, shouting at people who pass them by, then being angry when no one stops to toss them a nickel and pick up their product. For all the volume they shout with, it’s still a passive way to engage an audience. Also, it’s annoying and tends to be a lot like the enchilada discussion from above. Letting people respond, and then responding to them, you know, the way we have conversations, is going to build you an audience more than just haphazard shouting about where someone can go to sign up for your webinar about the power of a ficus or the book you wrote about how if you sit in your closet an hour a day, your perfect relationship will begin in the kitchen.
Now, bearing those three points in mind, let’s develop a strategy. I’m going to try and keep this plan open and applicable to ANY social media platform (I’m familiar with Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, though I recognize others may exist that I’ve never used or heard of).
1. Make sure you’re using the best way to engage the stream. For some media outlets, there’s an app or a program you can use to make corralling all the information better. For others, there’s only a website. But, there are tools you can get for your browser (like Social Fixer for Facebook, for example), that can help manage the flow. The hard part about social media and discussing your material is knowing where to start, so any tool that you can find easy to use, applicable and adjustable to your needs and something that doesn’t detract from your intended goal is worth at least trying.
2. Make sure your idea is appropriately packaged for the type of media you’re using. Twitter, for example, chops text past 140 characters, including links and people you’re addressing specifically. This has the remarkable affect of making the letters you type (therefore the words you use) very precious and puts a premium on specificity in communicating. If your social media presence involves family, then maybe that’s not the place where talk openly about topics that your family pretends don’t exist or aren’t a problem.
3. Organize your idea. I am a verbose guy. I can talk and talk and talk most days, and ramble pretty effectively, swerving through conversations and through the thickets of ideas. But when it comes to social media, that rambling can often distract from the goal of informing people about what’s going on or what I’m trying to make available to them. So, if I’m tweeting about Noir World, I’m using the hashtag #noirworld and I’m tweeting from the @noirworldrpg name, so that the message has a specific start point and isn’t lost between my personal tweets about cooking or art or burritos or whatever. Even in spaces where I can write and write, organization keeps the reader focused.
4. If you’re intimidated or believing (mistakenly) that you have to stoke these fires everyday, schedule your social media engagements. For many people, the idea of sitting at the computer “doing nothing” or “not taking care of other responsibilities” can be frustrating and intimidated. Excuses fly that people are too busy, not smart enough, that they don’t have anything to say or that they think no one will listen, or insert-your-own-here. What I suggest to people is that you schedule your media. Maybe every Monday, you tweet about the weekend, and what you’re writing. Maybe every Thursday, since you leave your dayjob early, you can write blogposts about how writing scares the snot out of you. You’ll have to have a good sense of your schedule to make this stick, but scheduling this stuff can take a lot of the intimidation factor away.
5. The media isn’t out to get you, it’s a tool you use. Somewhat related to #4, I’ve lately seen a lot of people say that using social media isn’t good because it exposes them to all kinds of fraud or idea-thieves or some kind of evil internet criminal, which I imagine is some creepy guy with a mask on, staring at a computer, waiting for someone to type “cumquat” so half a world a way, the diamond store gets looted. Yes, while there are douchecanoes and dickwagons and all varieties of coochnuggets who will steal or lie or be jerks, that isn’t the majority of people. Not unlike going out in person, most people at your grocery store for example, aren’t planning on infiltrating your hard drive and only taking the manuscript for that faux-memoir about your life as the child of trained assassins. Instead, like a shovel, a broom or that hedge trimming thing you got that one year when you really wanted a Playstation 4, it’s a tool, to be used competently and respectfully, else you’ll hedge trim your toes and face off.
6. You can admit you don’t know what you’re doing. Not everyone knows what they’re doing. I, for example, absolutely suck at gift wrapping, asking my soon-to-be-wife about things I’m embarrassed to talk about, and tying knots in balloons. If you’re following me on Twitter, or reading this blog, you’re well aware that I will talk about what I’m doing wrong just as easily as what I’m doing right. This has two purposes: a) it makes me human and relatable b) it helps me choose my words carefully and curate messages large and small so that when I do have something to say, I know how to produce it and disseminate it. Also, frankly, I’ve become so used to sharing my life in a transparent fashion that I can’t easily go back.
7. Don’t mistake silence for failure. There are millions, if not billions of people on the internet at any given time. Some people are there to look for pictures of naked attractive people, some people are there to move their digital orc from continent to continent, some people are there to tell you all about their new inspiring Google Hangout about how the best teachers for flirting are single people. A lot of what gets said out there is not responded to. Sometimes this is more a function of population and reach than how the message is crafted, but often it’s a combined effect of packaging ideas poorly and not aiming them to interested parties. So when the world does not beat a path to your door, understand that while what you have to said may be exactly what could help them, maybe how they heard it or how you described it or to whom you said it, warded it off. Silence is not failure. Silence is opportunity for retooling and development.
8. Stock your media with who you want. Let’s say your product is a book of some kind. To get support (not sales, just support) for your efforts, it would make sense to have people who write or have written similar things in your social media streams. If you want to get advice on crowdfunding, you should make sure to talk to people who have succeeded at it. If you’re thinking you should just grab all the people in the world and sort of force-build an audience, you’re going to get frustrated quickly. Audience building is a function of investing passion and creative juices into things you make, and then sharing the journey and the results with others, then repeating that in the most transparent ways possible, so that you’re showing yourself to be a person who makes awesome things, not a sales-o-tron 9000. Audience isn’t a number, you don’t “win” if you have X number of friends or followers. Audience is community. Audience is customer and supporter and critic and fan and friend and loved one and some enemies and the disaffected and new people. Audience is grown organically, like Groot.
I hope these ideas help. I know they’re not a step-by-step medium-by-medium breakdown, but I can’t give that to you, because I’m not you, I am never going to be you, and I can’t play to your strengths as well as you can. So tailor this. Jeet Kune Do it, taking what works for you and discarding what doesn’t. Just don’t ONLY sell your book and appear heartless.
Happy creating and marketing.