Social Media for Writers, Part 2: Tools of the Trade

by Erin Brenner on February 10, 2011

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

Choose a Social Media Platform

Online, you’ll be in many places, but you can’t sell yourself in all those places. Those places are where you prove yourself and get people to come to where you can sell to them, be it your blog or your website or some other platform that allows you to make the hard sell. So where do you go to find your audience?

If you know who your audience is, go to where they are. Comment on blogs that your audience reads. Use a recognizable handle and always include a link to more information about you.

Many people have profiles on one of the Big Three: LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Some are on all three. Others might be on FriendFeed, MySpace, Google Buzz, YouTube, or a custom-made platform. Go with one or more of the Big Three, and you’ll likely find your potential audience.

Each platform has its own style. LinkedIn is very professional. Your profile on LinkedIn looks a lot like a resumé. You can post short comments on your page, connect to other people, link to your website or blog, feed your blog posts to your profile, search for jobs, and, oh yeah, join topic-related groups in which to demonstrate your brilliance.

Facebook is a more casual environment. Your profile will contain more personal information, such as your favorite books or movies, and it’s likely that Great-Aunt Harriett is on there. But there are also plenty of professionals on Facebook, sharing thoughts and links that relate to their topics. New Hampshire Writers’ Project is there, as are MediaBistro and Freelance Writing Jobs. Search on your topic as well to see what associations or publications are making the most of Facebook.

On Twitter, your profile page offers only a little information: a brief bio, a picture, and maybe a link or two. You’ve got just 140 characters to impress people: it’s a great writing exercise. I often post links to this blog or to interesting information I’ve read. I also respond to others’ queries and basically make small talk in a professional vein.

The Hub-and-Spoke Model

Once you start building your audience and creating content that builds your brand, what’s next? The goal should be to lead your audience to where you can sell them on your services. The hub-and-spoke model is a great way to do this.

Your hub is your main location online. It might be your website, where you advertise your writing services or post your resumé. It might be your blog, where you write about your topic or about the writing craft. It might be as simple as your LinkedIn profile page or a MediaBistro profile page, where you can post writing samples. Whatever it is, it should be where you can talk more about potential employers’ and clients’ needs and how you can fill those needs. Notice how it’s still about them, not you.

The spokes are all the places where you interact with people: Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. Point people back to your hub when it’s appropriate. Tell them where they can find you, and give them something worth going to the site for. Never give everything away in the spokes. Think of content in your spokes as a movie trailer or a teaser to a story. It gets people interested in what they can find out on your hub.

Most of my spokes point to this blog, where I can better demonstrate my skills and knowledge. From there, I can point people to my site if they need an editor. Occasionally, I will push people from my spokes to my website to remind them of my services.

Online I talk mostly about writing, editing, and language. These are the things I know and love. I will also add some cute-kid comments, comments on the weather, or other light conversation. I follow some really smart people, and I retweet items of value that I think my followers will like.

Building your brand is slow work. It takes times to develop what to say, how to say it, and where to say it. Think about who you are and what you want. Identify places where you can meet people. Consider what you have to offer. Make a plan for building your online brand.

And keep learning about social media. It changes quickly, and to be successful at it you have to change with it. Check out Social Media Breakfast or Social Media Club to learn more or to attend a local meeting focused on using social media. You’ll meet great people, face to face, who want to share what they know.

How do you approach social media as a writer? What else do you want to know? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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