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Social Media Can Make You A Better Writer

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Earlier this month I was asked by the good people at Scarritt-Bennett Center to host a conversation on social media for writers during their Room to Write retreat. Having had the privilege of attending one such retreat myself in December, I was honored to accept.
The familiarity with social media ranged from “What’s Twitter?” to network-savvy folks who just haven’t quite figured out how to get all the cogs in the wheel working together.

The biggest questions concerning most of the group were these:
1. “Which social networks do I need and why?” This question consisted of everything from, “Do I really need a Blog” to “Why do I need a Facebook page if I already have a Profile?” and more.

ANSWER: The first step in knowing what social networks you need, is defining your goal or goals. Are you trying to get an agent, editor or publisher? Are you looking for a writing group? Are you looking for tools to help you with your writing? Are you trying to promote your new book? Are you building your brand or author platform, as one of my favorite authorities on the subject, Joanna Penn stresses in her must-read blog The Creative Penn, as well as in her FREE ebook Author 2.0. It’s slightly dated, but choc full of nutty goodness on what you need to know. You must know your goal(s). Write them down. You’re a writer, do it. The goal or goals determines how you maneuver within your social profiles.

2. “Okay, so I know my goal. Now What?” 

ANSWER: This answer in and of itself could be a whole e-book. However, the quick answer is this — I believe that all writers benefit by starting with a blog. You’re in a comfortable zone, writing, and it’s the first logical step for a foray into social media. In addition, blogs these days really can double for mini-websites where you can build your personal brand by designing and packaging it to communicate your personality and goals.

Others feel more comfortable starting on Facebook because they already have a profile there and know the platform, so they start by joining or group or starting a business page as a next step on the social ladder, depending on the goal.  Facebook business pages can do a lot more than groups, but groups are key for feedback, sharing and more, and are a bit easier to wrap your head around if you’re just starting out.

TOOL to help: Check out this post from Social-Media-For-Writers, a handy blog for those who live by the inky sword, called Facebook for Writers.

3. “How will I ever find time to write my book if I’m always having to promote myself on social networks?”

ANSWER: Remember the 3 C’s — Communication, Commitment, Consistency.

  • Communicate by letting your audience, readers or friends know when you’re available. Have an auto-reply in your emails letting people know when you return them. Have the times you participate on Twitter easily readable in  your bio section of Twitter. Make it clear on your blog how often you post…and so on. 
  • Commit by getting down on one knee and saying “I-freaking-do.” Promise yourself and your audience that this is important to you. Show them. 
  • Finally, be consistent by showing up, and becoming part of the process. Flex your social media muscles. They might be all flabby and awkward at first, but in time, they’ll get in shape.

TOOLS to help:

  • Threadsy — email, chat and profile aggregator — Twitter, Facebook, IM and more all in one beautifully easy-to-use location. Downside — no tracking with their URL shortener as of this post.
  • Hootsuite — SM profile aggregator. Also have the ability to manage teams, schedule tweets, track and measure popular tweets and links with their URL shorteners. I’m a BIG fan. Others in this area that I hear good things about are Tweetdeck and Social Oomph.
  • WordPress — Yeah, yeah, I know I’m on Blogger, but not for long. This is THE place to host your blog (or mini web site). It can help you monetize faster and easier (if that’s your goal), it works extremely well with email marketing apps like my fave, Mailchimp, it’s got great design themes, can hold many pages, user-friendly and more.
  • MailChimp — integrates easily with WordPress, Twitter, Salesforce and more; has one-click Google analytics tracking, the templates are VERY easy to use for first-timers, and it is FREE if your mailing list has less than 500 people on it.

4. “Social Media is gonna make me a better writer? Prove it.”


ANSWER: Here is a wee sampling of how social media can up your writing game —

  • RESEARCH on book topic — search.twitter.com, wikis, groups, blogs on topic
  • FELLOWSHIP– you’re not alone…just look at this from Mashable
  • FEEDBACK — join online writing groups
  • MARKET ANALYSIS
  • TALK to PROS on Twitter — #askagent, #litchat
  • you can find your AUDIENCE
  • writing coaches, newsletters and blogs with TIPS ON THE PRACTICE AND APPLICATION OF WRITING, as well as the wacky lifestyle coaching that goes hand-in-hand with that. — #writegoal, #amwriting, @wordstrumpet
  • PROMOTE yourself, your book, your blog, your iPhone app and more. One great example of how video can promote a book.
  • WRITE your book online at places like The Book Patch where you get many of the listed above
  • it can INSPIRE you — check out Inspiring Authors on YouTube or Authors@Google is a great resource here, too.

I have a talking points presentation with a little more information on this topic of social media for writiers, which I’m happy to share with you here, but it is only a place to start. Also, it was written pre-“Like” button on Facebook for Pages, so just as everything else in the fast-paced world of social media, this is an evolving topic.

If I haven’t completely overwhelmed all the writers out there looking to dip their big toes in the social media pool, I hope instead I’ve given you the tools and the tips to rather dive in, and join the party. It’s summer after all.

Okay, so what did I miss??

Posted in authors, blogging, brand, Facebook, goals, marketing, music and social media, Twitter, writing | 1 Comment »

Musicians & Social Media: Who Makes the Grade?

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Taylor Vick and I are at the University of Miami where Taylor, a UM alumnus, moderated and I sat on a panel Saturday at the MEIEA (Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association) Conference. It was a gorgeous sunny 80 degrees, and I wondered (while laying on the lawn outside the Frost School of Music after our panel) how any UM students get any work done. This campus is more like a resort than an institution of higher learning. I grabbed my venti skinny caramel iced latte that I bought at the on-campus Starbucks, and watched students sunbathing while a light mist that blew from the fountain in the center of the lake cooled me. I heard one of the student guides, while he escorted a UM hopeful and her parents around “Yeah, we have every sport you can think of here…even sand volleyball.”

But, I digress, which is easy to do in this weather. Our topic was advanced social media strategies as they pertain to musicians and music businesses, and several interesting points came up during our discussion, which you’ll see in a couple posts from me and TV.

One of the questions asked was which musicians did we think were using social media well. The panel, which included Fran Vincent of Retro Island Productions, Tony Grotticelli of TOGA Entertainment, Katherine Stimson of Suman Entertainment and Bennett Law Office, Taylor and myself, while offering up different examples seemed to agree on a few key criteria —
1. Authenticity
2. Engagement
3. Just Doing It (Aka: Risk & Experimentation)
While we agreed that Lady Gaga owned YouTube (you can’t swing a cat without hitting one of her videos), we also agreed that she wasn’t very engaged with her audience. OK Go! are successful because of their incredibly creative and original viral-on-steroids videos that have led to a big community of fans and followers who are championing the band just waiting to see what they’ll come up with next.

Tony mentioned Run DMC’s Rev Run who has an honest extension of his reality show brand in his @RevRunWisdom Twitter feed. He broadcasts rather than converses, but his use of the platform is original and certainly makes my day a lot.

Disappointments by celebs who were at the forefront of social media, but who have disengaged (Miley Cyrus) or have not used SM to its best potential to help in crisis management (John Mayer) were mentioned, as well. Our hope is that other celebs learn, improve and stay engaged with fans.
Last, but not least, Ben Folds brings home the recent honors of ballsiest user of SM by engaging his live concert fans with the ever-growing in popularity of Chatroulette. His piano improvisations of the people he “nexted” on the site take the trophy for risk vs. risque experiment.
Which musicians, artists, bands, etc. do you think are using social media well? Who is missing the point in your opinion?

Posted in MEIEA, music and social media | No Comments »

Resolutions Aren’t Enough. You Need An Anthem.

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Here we are. 2010. Another decade flew by, and yet we aren’t teleporting anywhere or driving hovercrafts, much to my chagrin. Every year we make resolutions — to quit smoking, to lose weight, to join the gym, to find the “one,” to get that job or start that business that’s going to let us retire early. But before you know it, 10 years are gone. That’s not to say baby steps on the ladder of life haven’t been taken, but, somehow, you thought you’d be farther by now. So what went wrong? You read the books, you tattooed “Carpe Diem” on your arm, you joined the gym. What happened? Why aren’t you lunching with Oprah and Bill Gates yet? Oh, I don’t know the answer. And that isn’t what this post is about. Maybe Tony Robbins has a blog that could help you there.

I didn’t ever really make new year resolutions in the past. I tried. I said all those same things above. I’ve had small successes — I gave up meat for Lent when I was 14-years-old, and 23 years later, I’m still a vegetarian. I figured, if something was worth giving up for 40 days, it was probably worth giving up for good. Mind you, the next year, I gave up Lent for Lent.  One year I gave up fast food for the whole year. That was monumental for a latch-key kid who grew up on TV dinners and McD’s. However, I still grab an Extra Value Meal now and again. So why didn’t that one stick? I blame it on whatever they put in the fries (Note: Don’t read Fast Food Nationif you love McDonald’s fries).

Instead of resolutions, something that I did, and I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, was that whatever the first song I heard was after the new year rang in became my anthem for the year. This one is tricky because DJs love to play New Year’s Day by U2, so I began to set rules after hearing that one every few years. A few of the memorable songs that became soundtracks to my years were “Let Love Rule” by Lenny Kravitz, “Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead, Led Zepplin’s take on “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,”and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” by Judas Priest. I was always a little surprised how these songs would turn up during the year to get me through. They became my mantras, my anthems.

The bottom line to succeeding at New Year’s Resolutions or any goals in life is to write them down, give yourself deadlines, and outline actionable steps to how you will achieve them. I’d like to add, get yourself an anthem. Every soundtrack to life needs one. I’m hoping that when I turn on the radio this year I’ll hear the theme to “Rocky,” because, let’s face it, the song rules. However, it will sure make achieving your goals this year a hell of a lot more fun. Commit. Know the result you want. Do the work. Hear your anthem.

What songs inspire you?

Posted in Advice, blogging, brand, Music, music and social media | 3 Comments »