As writers working on building platforms, how can we broaden our online presence without coming across as self-serving? On the one hand, we need to befriend others if we hope to build an online presence, but on the other, we don’t want them to perceive us “using” them.
Tessa Hall recently asked me this question: “I don't want to seem as if I'm trying to be friendly with everyone only so I can have a rise in followers on my blog. How do you have such a strong online following, but still remain humble through the process?”
I don’t think too many of us would argue that having an online presence is critical in today’s over-saturated book market. It’s definitely helped me in countless ways. In fact, it quite possibly could have helped my book to the CBA Best Seller List. Of course there were many other factors involved in getting onto the List. But certainly having an established online presence gave my debut book a boost.
Yes, as writers we need to be using social media. But how can we go about expanding our online presence without making blogging (or twitter/facebook) into popularity contests?
Focus on learning how to write.
I don’t feel like I can write a post like this without emphasizing the importance of growing as a writer. If we spend more time on social media than on writing, then we need to pull back from blogging, twittering, or whatever, and we need to re-prioritize. Writing should always get the bulk of our best time, and social media should get the leftover. As I’ve said many times, a solid platform won’t do us any good if we don’t have a stellar book to go with it.
Start developing online friendships early.
Although I believe a “young” writer should spend the majority of time on writing, I also think that when a writer starts social media efforts early, they can do so without the pressure to “market” that comes later. The beginning friendships often lay the foundation for later increased efforts.
Reach out the hand of genuine friendliness.
For the most part, I approach online friendships the same way I do real life friends. I have an open heart to building new friendships. My circle is never closed. Yes, I do have some friends I’m naturally closer to than others. And no, I don’t have as much time as I’d ideally like to devote to putting into all of the friendships I’ve made online and real life. But nevertheless, we can socialize in a truly friendly way with whoever comes across our paths.
Work at being a good friend.
Think about all of the things we like in our friends. We like it when friends take an active interest in our lives and listen to us, instead of just talking about themselves. We appreciate when they encourage us and share in both our joys and sorrows. Sometimes we need a helping hand, word of advice, or even a kick in the pants. Whatever qualities we want in our friends—those are the qualities we need to exhibit. In other words, when we work at being a good friend, we’ll make good friends.
Remember it’s about real people and not numbers.
I don’t make big deal about my numbers of followers. Sure, I like to see my following increase. To some degree, increasing numbers help us see that we’re on track with our effectiveness. But I never want to forget that behind each tiny profile picture is a real person, with real feelings and needs. The numbers really won’t mean much if we’re not building relationships.
Extend grace to one another.
As writers, we’re all in this together. We’re all working at developing our platforms. So, I completely understand when other writers follow or “friend” me for the purpose of developing an online presence. It’s the nature of the business. I also understand when others get too busy to stop by. Or have to pull back for a while. It’s happened to me, and I realize there are just times when we can’t keep up with social media. Hopefully, during those times, we can still give each other the benefit of the doubt and know that we’re still friends, even if we can’t visit each other’s blogs as regularly anymore.
~My Summary: Relate with real people in real ways. That’s what social media is all about.
What about you? Have you ever felt like blogging was a popularity contest—the more blogs you visit and follow, the more you’ll get back? What do you do to expand your online presence without making people feel used?
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