Friday, July 16, 2010

Social Media: What To Do

(Part two in a two part series: What Not To Do was yesterday. Wait, if it only has two parts, can it BE a series? Do I have to figure out a third post for a trilogy? Maybe this should be called, Social Media: The More Positive Sequel.)

Warning: This will be long. Like, LONG.

So yesterday I probably made a lot of people nervous. I went to a writers' gathering yesterday, and even got asked if I thought people were boring. Then I felt really bad and worried if I sounded mean. THEN I got home and Adam Heine was all:
You know what sucks though? It's like that funny contest you had. If you tell me I have to be entertaining and funny, I can't do it.

That's your whole plan, isn't it? To paralyze your readers, leaving you the only funny one left on the internet!
It's like he knows...No! That was not my intention, I swear. I totally understand the pressure that comes with networking, with essentially being on display. Some days I stare at Blogger's little text box thinking, "Holy crap, I have absolutely nothing interesting to say."

So today I'm going to talk about what to do, and I hope it doesn't come off overwhemling or impossible, etc. It's actually really simple. I've talked about networking before (but in more general terms), I think this will kind of expound on that post.

1. Be Yourself
I say this a lot, I know, but it's really that important. I am always flabbergasted when people say I'm funny, because I would give up my favorite pair of nunchaku to be as funny as Kiersten or Steph or Carrie. I feel like the UNfunny one.

But in the end, all I can be is myself. If I tried to force my funny to be Kiersten's funny, it soooo wouldn't work. I know this because I've tried. And then I've deleted those posts. (But seriously! The household memos! Why can't I DO that?)

Okay, so I can hear some of you saying, "How do I be myself?" or "But myself is boring!" Well, it's not, promise. Every person on this planet is interesting—not all the time—but they are. Some tips:

• Find Your Online Voice
The me you see on this blog? Well, it's mostly me. If you've met me in person, you probably realized I wasn't nearly as funny, and I was rather shy and possibly awkward...I'm really bad at small talk. The real me is, sadly, more dull.

Actually, I'm probably more open on my blog than in person. When I started my blog, I decided I wanted to be honest about the writing venture. Not whiny, but honest. I didn't want to leave out the hard parts—I wanted to think about them, laugh about them, face them head on.

So my blog basically is my voice, but tailored to a specific part of it: honest, with a sprinkling of humor and, I hope, a healthy dose of encouragement.

Because really, you do NOT want to see the whiny, desperate part of my voice. Ask Kiersten. It's not pretty.

• Share Your Interests
If you've been here more than a week, you might have noticed I like anime, Code Red, good food, video games, yoga, and drawing. I share this stuff because I love it, but also because I love to connect with others who like what I do. I adore when people give me anime recs or get excited over Final Fantasy like I do.

Yeah, this is mostly a writing blog, but showing a bit of yourself outside the writing gig is good too.

• Don't Care So Much
I know, counter intuitive. Here I am telling you what to do in Social Media, and yet I'm telling you to stop caring. But seriously—chill out. My voice gets so stifled when I start worrying about what other people think of me, if I'm doing a good enough job, if I'm building a big enough "platform," if I'm even important out there at all...

*Deep breath*

Loosen up. Have fun. Be yourself! You know how you can just feel the awkwardness when you meet someone who's trying to act right because they're worried they won't be liked? Yeah, that comes out in type, too.

I've said it before, but it's not about making people like you—it's about finding the people who naturally do.

2. Consider Your Audience First
I think a lot of people worry about being boring. If you are one of those, this is the section for you.

When I first started blogging, I really just blogged for myself. And that was just fine! I don't feel bad about that at all. I, uh, didn't have an audience. But then I started making friends. Things changed. I started writing posts for them, talking about things that interested us, etc.

Then my following kind of exploded (a large part due to my getting an agent), and things changed again. Where I used to know each person who read my blog, I didn't anymore. Where I used to visit all their blogs and comment, I now literally do not have the time to meet all the wonderful people who follow me. I really wish I did—I often feel super guilty that so many people take time out of their day to read my words, and yet I can't return the gesture.

Wow, insert massive-guilty-pit-in-the-stomach here.

But I promise I think about you guys everyday. When I think of what to blog about, the first thing I think of is all of you! My blog isn't about me anymore—it's about you, the readers.

I imagine you as these awesome writers, all at different phases but trucking along just like me. I think about what you guys might want to or need to read, and then I try to write it. Sometimes I probably miss the mark (and of course there's a selfish post here and there), but I hope that sometimes I say just what you need. That's my goal.

So, after that long story, some tips on audience:

• Pick One Audience
Obviously I have chosen writers. I write a blog about writing. While many of you probably find my blog entertaining, someone who has no interest in writing probably couldn't care less about my blog. In turn, I do not follow blogs about the NFL. Shocking, I know.

There are mommy bloggers, quilting bloggers (my mom is has a fabulous quilting blog), cooking bloggers, political bloggers, etc. and so forth.

• Know That Audience Backwards and Forwards
I mean, let's face it, unless you're legitimately famous, no one's coming to your blog for YOU. They are coming for what you have to offer them—most likely entertainment or information. Maybe both. Ideally both.

I'll use my ever-awesome agent, Nathan Bransford, as an example. He has probably one of the most popular writing/publishing-focused blogs out there. Yes, he is an agent, but there are lots of agents with blogs that do not get nearly as much attention.

What's the deal? Basically, Nathan has his audience pegged, and he delivers exactly what they want and more. He is helpful, full of information, and he presents it in an approachable, funny way. He makes publishing look less intimidating. He encourages writers while also giving advice.

Also, the space monkeys.

• Establish Your Audience
Once you've decided what you want to write about and to whom (Cooking blog for newbie cooks! Music blog dedicated to 80s rock! Ninja blog for the serious shinobi!), it's time to build your audience. This takes time and patience. It doesn't happen overnight.

You have to get out there, comment, and be real. You have to hit the mark with your posts, figure out what resonates and what falls flat. In the beginning, I'd write a lot of posts no one seemed to care about. Then I'd hit something that everyone would comment on and think I'd made it. The next day? Nothing.

Sometimes I get on streaks, where it seems like my posts are doing their job and people are talking about them and tweeting them, etc. I try to keep that going, but I'll admit it's hit and miss. I don't have a magic formula, but I do try and I always try to be as responsive as I can to people who comment and tweet and email me.

It's about interaction, communication. The internet is one giant conversation, and people respond when you acknowledge them.

3. Know Your Medium
If you decide to blog, learn the standards for blogging. If you decide you want to take over YouTube with the coolest vlogs since the Vlogbrothers, know what makes a good vlog. Insert Twitter, conferences, livestreaming, podcasts, and whatever else here.

This is why you shouldn't pick up every single social medium out there. You just can't be good at everything, and being so-so at a bunch won't really get you anywhere.

The tips:

• Study The Best In Your Chosen Medium
Figure out what they're doing right. What is it about their videos or post or tweets that have people signing up constantly? It's like reading within your genre—you do it to learn what's already being done and where you could make room for yourself on that shelf.

• Learn Basic Design For You Medium
People are more swayed by appearance than we let on. If your blog looks amateur, people will probably think you are that way too. If your videos have scratchy sound and bounce all over, regular vlog watchers will just turn it off.

Essentially, look professional! Walk the walk, talk the talk, so to speak. It makes a difference.

• Practice Practice Practice
Yeah, you can't get out of it here, either. Everyone starts out green. That's just the way it goes. Don't expect to figure it all out in a week or so. It takes time to find your groove and learn the rules and your style, etc. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.


Okay, I think I've talked at you long enough, haven't I? Wow, epic post. I hope it helps. Just remember: be yourself, know your audience, and know your medium. Simple, right? Kinda?


  1. Very good post. I'll definitely be referring to this in the future. Thanks!

  2. Hey, Natalie! :)

    I was just looking for something awesome and epic to read while taking a (much needed) break from revision.

    This. Was. Perfect!

    Yeah, it was long, but it didn't feel long. Most things that are helpful don't feel long or burdensome, now that I think about it. Just epic, in a good way.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this! Happy Friday!

    :) Kayla

  3. unless you're legitimately famous, no one's coming to your blog for YOU

    I'm not sure about that one. Many of the blogs I visit are people who have become my friends online. I may enjoy their posts but mostly it's the feeling of connecting with them that I like. And people comment on some of my very ordinary posts and it looks to me like it's out of sheer friendship.

    I think your best-ever advice is

    it's not about making people like you—it's about finding the people who naturally do!

  4. Yeah, Fairy, that would be "Phase 2" Notice I talked about how I once blogged for myself, then for my friends, and then had a bit of an audience explosion, where it became more "stranger" than just my close friends.

    I miss that phase often.

    Friends definitely visit their friends' blogs no matter the content. But I was referring more to audience in general—like a mass of strangers with a common interest. If you are looking to expand in that way—you have to think more of their wants than your own.

    If your goal is to build that camaraderie of friends—a very noble goal and one I have myself—then general audience doesn't need to be as much a consideration.

  5. You weren't kidding. That was long:) But some great advice. I think it's most important to be yourself.

  6. Thanks for the tips and advice, Natalie! :)

    I think being true to who you are is the most important part, just above knowing your audience, and I also think it can be the hardest thing to get across.

  7. "In turn, I do not follow blogs about the NFL. Shocking, I know."

    LOL. Great tips, as per usual. I think the hardest one to remember, but the most valuable in my experience, is "Don't care so much." Because there's nothing like a strong dose of fear and stress to paralyze you. >P

  8. The blog about not being too harsh on book reviews yesterday scared me. I took a couple down, though I didn't feel they were unfair, just the truth of what I thought...and I left one really harsh one up because I feel strongly about it. I hope I don't get shunned for it!

  9. Awesome post! This blog is one of the best out there. I'll definitely study this blog to help me improve my blog.

  10. So much awesome. I was paralyzed a bit after the last post (hence my comment), but after a few minutes I was like, "Screw it. I'm just gonna write what I want."

    I don't think that's the best attitude to have ALL the time, but it's certainly good for those paralyzing moments.

    And the ninjas Nick sent helped too. Nothing like mortal peril to break you out of depression!

  11. The idea of being true to who I am scares the stuffing out of me. In my "real" life I'm funny. On my blog, not so much. I would love to just be me on my blog, but my sense of humor, is well,a little off the wall. I'm afraid I'll scare people away:) So my blog post turn out to be, as you said, boring. *sigh* It's hard to find a happy medium when you have a twisted sense of humor and an extreme case of potty mouth lol.

  12. Hey Kimber, off the wall is so fine! Go check out Carrie Harris, The Queen of Weird Funny. Or Stephanie Perkins, Ruler of All Things Quirky. And nobody and make almost dying funny like Kiersten White.

    Let's just say it can be done. Be yourself! Way, way better than being boring.

  13. Soooo coool!
    What kind of pencils do you use? I used my Dad's Grahpic's tab for some of my pics but I am AWFUL at using the cool pen thingy.
    Your posts are so AMAZING!

  14. This post is brilliant!

    While I don't have anywhere near as many followers as you do (732?? When did that happen? I remember 300!) I love my blog, and a few others have told me they love it too.

    It's for writers and about writing, but it also includes other things that interest me, mainly music and my life here in Japan.

    I have a couple suggestions for bloggers, is to keep a blog notebook, and jot down topics or concepts to explore. On a slow day, when you can't think of anythign else, you can use one of these.

    Also, you can theme a few of the days of the week. I have themes for all 5 week days. If you're interested in Japan stuff, Friday's for you. Music, Tuesdays. Writing is on Wednesday, but the rest of the week tends to be writing related anyhow. I also suggest not tying yourself to this too tightly, because when you have something to say that doesn't fit any of your themes, you still need a day to say it!

  15. I joined your blog today because a friend suggested it. This entry was meant for me. Thank you.