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.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."
That's your whole plan, isn't it? To paralyze your readers, leaving you the only funny one left on the internet!
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...
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.
• 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?