Social Media for Writers, Part 1: Define Your Brand

You’ve found this blog, so you have at least a working knowledge of the online world. Maybe you have a Facebook account or you send out the occasional tweet. But are you diving into social media in particular to sell yourself as a writer?

Whether you want to find writing assignments or become a staff writer, social media can help you get noticed and meet your goals. Today, we’ll look at building a brand. Next time, we’ll look closer at the tools and how to use them. In a future post, we’ll take these lessons and apply them to selling your writing directly to readers.

Define Brand You

Selling, be it through TV, direct mail, radio, or another medium, is just one type of marketing. You want to engage in another type: branding. Your job is to find your audience (those who will hire you) and help them get to know you. You want to demonstrate your writing skills and topic knowledge and keep potential employers or clients thinking about you so that when they need a writer, they’ll call you.

The first step is to define your brand. Ask yourself some basic questions:

  • What type of writer am I? Am I a journalist? A tech writer? A copywriter?
  • What qualities define my professional work style? Am I a fast writer? A precise writer? Do I prefer to be a freelancer or employee? Do I prefer to work in-house or at home?
  • How experienced am I?
  • What else defines the kind of writer I am and what I have to offer?

For example, you might be a science writer with over a decade of experience writing science copy for a general audience. You have a large network of sources and you prefer to write for several clients rather than for just one employer.

You’re a Brand. Now What?

So far, most of this sounds like how you might prepare to update your resumé, apply for a job, or pitch a client. Knowing who you are is important for presenting yourself on paper or for convincing someone to hire you. The next step is where you become proactive instead of reactive. You have to build a brand presence.

Branding is going to your desired audience and being helpful. You introduce yourself. You get to know your audience, and let them get to know you. If you specialize in a certain topic, demonstrate your knowledge of that topic. Listen to your audience and find out what their needs are. Do they need a go-to writer who can whip something up for them on a moment’s notice no matter the topic, or do they need an expert in their topic who can take on occasional assignments?

Your goal is to build a brand presence. Be visible where your audience is. Prove your brand by sharing your knowledge. Whether it’s knowledge about language or a topic, what you share will keep people thinking of you.

Where once you might have mailed brochures and resumés, cold-called potential employers, or pitched a story to an editor (and you may still), you can now go to people online in places where they expect conversation.

Enter social media.

If you join Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any number of other social media platforms, your goal is to connect with other people. Those you connect to expect you to talk to them; no lurking allowed. They don’t want to be sold to, so this isn’t a sales pitch. It’s more like a cocktail party: you share interesting news or ideas, find out about the other person, and share a little about yourself. Be helpful by answering questions and offering links or advice. This free help builds goodwill. People think, “Oh, that John Writer always has something interesting to say about my subject. He really seems to know his stuff.” Next time they need a writer, they’ll want it to be you and they’ll call you.

Keep your audience engaged. Remember, it’s an ongoing, two-way conversation. Ask them questions and keep the conversation going. Encourage them to post comments on your blog or to seek you out on other platforms. The idea is to keep your audience thinking about you, what marketers call staying top of mind.

So far, so good? Next week, we’ll choose one or more social media platforms and talk about how to tie them all together. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, think about your brand: Who are you as a writer? Who do you want to write for, and what do you want to write about?

Drop me a line if you have any questions.

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug...hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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