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Kate Feld on developing your social media presence

Written by Kate Feld

Writers are often encouraged to ‘do some social media’ in a vague way, like that will solve all their problems. It won’t. It’s not necessary to do any social media at all to be successful as a writer, but it can help with raising your profile, getting published, selling books, finding paying work, engaging with your readers, staying inspired and many other things. It’s also fun – if you do it right. Here are a few tips for those just starting out.

1. Shelve the hard sell

Using social media to promote your own publications, performances and projects is fine – up to a point. If your output mainly consists of plugs for your (and your associates’) own stuff, it’ll make you seem a wee bit self-centred. Aim for a well-balanced diet of self-promotion, funny or relevant reposts, direct interactions, original content that is nothing to do with your work, and news or opportunities others might find useful. And when you have to promote your own stuff at least make an effort to be charming or funny about it.

2. Be yourself (but be careful)

Don’t be afraid to get personal. Selectively sharing your real-life experiences gives people a sense of you, the actual person, and they usually respond positively to the evidence that you have a life outside your work. But think through how open you want to be, and establish some boundaries. There’s a fine line between being a real person on social media and oversharing, which can come across as needy and make people wonder why you don’t have anything more important to do. Also, privacy is precious. Don’t violate your own unthinkingly – it’s all too easy to do.

3. Be nice. No, really

And don’t just be nice to people who might be useful to you, or to people you already like in real life. That doesn’t count. Try to be an uncalculating force for good in a digital world that is already full of people determined to suck all the joy out of life. Use your bandwidth to share enthusiasm for the writing and art that you love, for projects you support and for the random interesting things you stumble across in your travels. Be as unstinting in your generous support of meritorious writing and literature endeavours as you possibly can (any stinting should be done privately; writerly feuds are a colossal bore and will not reflect well on you.)

It’s easy: If you read something you think is fantastic, do a tweet or a post and tell the author and the rest of the world how great it is. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of these compliments from out of the blue you know just how much they can mean to writers who (several times a day) feel certain that no one ever actually reads their work. And I’ve lost count of the wonderful essays and stories I’ve found thanks to a Tweet or Facebook post. Share the love.

4. Find your niche and stick with it

Maybe Twitter’s 140-character banter bores you senseless, but you love the image + text possibilities of Instagram. Maybe anything other than devoting all your energies to Facebook seems crazy to you, since that’s where all the people are. Or maybe you like the regularity of a weekly blog post, where you have leisure and space to really let your thoughts unfold. Experiment with social media platforms and find one or two you really like. Do not feel compelled to kill it on all of them simultaneously. It is possible to do this, but at the expense of doing anything else, like, you know, writing.

5. Get out there.

Pity those unfortunate pre-digital writers, they never had it this good. Social media allows us to build a robust community around our writing and the literature we love across continents and time zones. Social media is a glorious, perilous wilderness where ideas are developing and writing movements are forming in in real time – so get stuck in. Follow, friend or ‘like’ the people doing the writing or publishing the books or translating the poems you love. Find writers who use social media well and study their methods – what are they doing, and why does it work? Retweet things that make you laugh, comment when you have something to add, start your own hashtag-led guerrilla Twitter campaign, jump into a Facebook comments debate or publish a series of micro-stories on Instagram. The possibilities are endless.

Kate Feld

Kate Feld is a writer based in Manchester. She lectures in digital journalism at the University of Salford and works at Manchester Literature Festival.  She writes fiction and essays which have been published in Minor Literatures, Caught by the River, Litro, Neon, Mostly Truthful: The Flax Anthology of Creative Nonfiction and is forthcoming from Banshee.

She runs Manchester nonfiction writing project The Real Story and tweets @katefeld

External resources

Manchizzle
Kate's blog and an example of successful social media work
Kate's website
Follow Kate on Twitter
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