I’ve been thinking about online presence quite a bit lately. This is due, in part, to running social media for myself and four different organizations to some extent, but also because I’m helping college students understand some key ideas to having success in a digital and technological world.
In discussing this with a colleague recently, I realized I still had a lot to learn. Todd Petersen is a published author who is also very engaged project-based learning and active in the higher education community. His website reflects this as well as other interests that help people understand a bit about him.
My website was not what I wanted a while ago, so I moved it, and have been slowly (too slowly) working to improve what I have there. There can be a great temptation to be online “develop a presence”, so much so that people forget that before the internet, we dressed for the job we wanted to have, we highlighted ways you were involved in the community, at work, and the skill sets we had.
Just because we can do this more easily doesn’t mean our message can all of a sudden get sloppy.
1. Think about your audience.
John Lee Dumas is a very successful entrepreneur, creator of eofire.com and the associated podcast. He explains the necessity of really considering our ideal client, or what he calls, our avatar. This means we need to lock in and think about who is going to be looking for us.
When I first started blogging, I knew I needed content but didn’t know what. I actually had two blogs before working on the one I have now, and the first was called Random Thoughts of a Mom. What did I blog about? Whatever came to mind. That might have been a book I liked, something funny my kids did, that random quote I saw that I liked, or if there was a challenge that sounded fun. My only followers were family, and that may have been out of relative obligation.
Fellow TTOF contributor Elaine Vickers has done a great job thinking about her audience: she writes middle grade, her site reflects that. Her Pinterest board explores all sorts of middle grade novels, with pretty much any category you might imagine, and she sent advanced reading copies for LIKE MAGIC, her book that received a Kirkus star last week. She has considered her audience, has worked to make her posts reflect that, and it is scaleable.
2. Allow your audience to get to know the real you.
This can be a scary part. You don’t have to let them know your deep dark secrets (I wrote a character who loves spiders but they seriously creep me out). You do want to give them an insight into who you are though.
Rita award-winning Laura Drake does this well. She posts pictures on Pinterest and Facebook that showcases what she likes (writing things, the west, beautiful and secluded settings, funny and/or cute animals with cats and horses being at the top). Following her on Twitter allows her audience to know that she like writing and cowboys because she posts a writing quote of the day and cowboy quote of the day. She also talks about fly fishing, riding her motorcycle or pedal bike, and life in Texas.
Sharing a bit about the person behind the craft allows our humanity to come through and creates the opportunity for readers to connect beyond what we create, and even has the possibility of drawing new readers to what we write because of what we are willing to share.
3. Steady, consistent content is key
PLEASE don’t flood your readers with tons of things, and really think about how you can make each platform unique. Those people who share the same thing on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all the time think they are saving time, but really, they are dissuading readers from following them everywhere because everything is the same.
There is a mantra out there that suggests our postings should be 80% about cool things others have done and 20% promotion of our own stuff. Share books you’ve loved, engaged in online communities, have conversations with people, and nudge occasionally regarding what you have been doing. Seriously think about the kinds of people you will find at each place. As a women’s fiction writer, I have a great chance to access to my readers on Instagram and Pinterest, with Facebook probably next and Twitter toward the end. However, as a contributor to a professional community, I know that my interactions with other writers will most easily take place on Twitter, that I can develop deeper relationships with other writers through Facebook, and that sharing insights about me are better served through Pinterest and Instagram. I do have a Tumblr account what goes through ebbs and flows, and I’ve not yet seen a reason to explore Snapchat but it could be valuable to younger readers.
Not sure which platform gets the most use for you professionally and for building and interacting with your audience? Think about writers who have been in the game longer than you, search them on each of the applicable platforms and look at the REACTIONS to their content. Not how much content is there, but how much people interact. At the very least, register for an account on each platform you know of so that, if at some time in the future, you want to use that platform, you have already got your accounts to reflect who you are.
Which brings me to my last point.
4. Have the same username/profile name/web reference across platforms.
While you might be super excited about a project you have on deck, your next project might be totally different. You want to make sure that you are easily found, and similarly found, on every platform out there. In the olden days, people used to joke that “X” marked the spot. In the digital world, it is your name, your consistency, your content, and your accessibility that mark your spot. Make sure it is solid and your audience will find you.
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.