In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy discuss strategies for developing an approach to social media that maximises usefulness while minimising the time-drain.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- How to choose social media platforms
- Re-using the same work
- Attitudes and approaches that work for many writers
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Find us on your favourite podcast player and at Gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, Designing a Social Media Strategy. I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my books, blogs and courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I live in south-east Queensland. I’m a former early childhood educator. I have four adult children and I write romance under the pen name Alison Joy. And you can find all my details on my website at alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to inform my teaching and preaching and more recently, my writing and blogging. You can find out all about me at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: Our topic today, it’s the next one in our author platform series, Designing a Social Media Strategy. We’re going to look at how to choose platforms, how to re-use our work to save on some effort, and attitudes and approaches that work for many people.
So, to begin with we’ll look at how to choose some platforms. I’ve been on social media for a decade and I’ve got some quite useful stuff out of it for my career, for my writing, for my editing, for opportunities to have influence in various places. So that’s the background to where all of this is coming from. And if you listened to our last episode, you would have heard us have quite a vigorous and engaging debate about the way that different people use social media and how it feels for different personalities. So, I do recommend that you go back and have a listen to that one as well if you haven’t heard it yet.
In terms of choosing platforms, I recommend that first of all we think about what the purpose is of what it is that we actually want to do on social media, because that will influence which platforms we choose. Do we want to connect with readers? Do we want to connect with other writers? Do we want to create professional opportunities and collaborations? Those are all things that social media can give us and as well, as Gracewriters, there’s that extra one, the opportunity to minister to people.
So, there’s a whole variety of different things that we might give to it – get out of it. I’d suggest that in terms of choosing platforms, we need to go where our purpose is. So, if our purpose is readers, then maybe we’ll spend most of our time on Instagram or Facebook. If it’s to connect with other writers, we might spend most of our time on Twitter because that’s quite a strong meeting place for writers. If we want to expand our professional networks, LinkedIn is a good place for that.
What do you guys think? Which platforms do you think apply best to different purposes?
Alison Joy: I think I agree with you, Belinda, with using Instagram for readers and Twitter for writers. I’m still new at this. I’m still figuring it out although I have found there’s quite a lot of authors around on Instagram as well. I guess, doing the same thing, interacting with other readers so I guess if you’re a writer, you’re a reader as well. So, you’re going to connect and find other readers and other books to read that way.
Belinda Pollard: I think there’s a lot more other authors on Instagram now than there was when I first joined it about five years ago. It was a very, “What the heck is this?” five years ago. And now I often see writers tweeting that they’ve just joined Instagram and go and connect with them over there so we’re ending up with these little cabals of writers all connected with one another on Instagram, as well.
Donita Bundy: Belinda, I can see the wisdom in what you’re saying. Like, target the platform that you want to engage with or get the most out of. However, I would have to say from my perspective, because I don’t enjoy social media as much and find it easy, I went with the one that I knew that I would be able to maintain. So, I went with Instagram because it was something that I knew I could regularly engage with the same as Facebook.
I was always told Facebook is kind of like the new yellow pages or the phone book. It’s important to have a presence there that is regularly updated with new material so if anyone’s interested in finding out about you, they’ll go to Facebook to see who you are and what you’re on about. So that was important.
But for me, it was just picking one that I could bear to engage with and to engage with semi-regularly. I hear what you’re saying but that’s how I chose my platform, it’s the least painful.
Belinda Pollard: Going for the least unbearable social media platform.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: So that could be another goal for everyone, find the least unbearable.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: I agree with you there. And I think there’s a good idea there. There’s a kernel of an idea there too that you’ve raised in terms of it being like the yellow pages or the phone book. Facebook is functioning that way for some people.
I often go looking for someone. When I want to connect with someone, I often go looking for them on social media first because I would rather try and connect with them that way. It sometimes feels a bit easier to connect with them that way personally like a one-on-one connection with them.
I think there’s a lot of value in that and I think there can be a lot of value in just setting up a profile on a social media platform. Just go and grab your name if your name is still available. If you have a more popular sort of name, then it’s going to be harder but you can at least get your little claim staked and then maybe go and visit for a while and have a look at it – lurk, if you like – and get a feeling for what’s happening on that platform.
Because they are very confusing when you first join them, aren’t they?
Donita Bundy: Yes, absolutely.
Alison Joy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: You don’t know what’s happening or how it works or who you’re allowed to talk to and who you shouldn’t. What you should say. When you should say it. Yes.
Donita Bundy: I used to have a great fear of hashtags. What if I attached the wrong hashtag and I ended up in a group and people were saying, “That photo shouldn’t be here. What are you doing? Don’t you know any better?” and it’s like, “No, I don’t know any better!”
Belinda Pollard: I post a lot of photos of clouds and skies and things and I love that. And I accidently chose a hashtag that was for vapers, like, people who smoke e-cigarettes! And I used to think, “Why am I getting so many people sharing stuff with me about their e-cigarettes? I’m confused!” That was on Instagram. So, yes, it can happen. It wasn’t the end of the world, it was just quite funny.
Donita Bundy: Yes. When I first started, it was such a big deal about the hashtags but now it’s like they don’t really care. It was just, “What do you do with all these hashtags!” It was very confusing and I was overwhelmed by lots of things, not just the hashtags, by the way!
Belinda Pollard: I think it’s so important to be prepared to just muddle around at first and not to feel like we have to be all put together the moment that we arrive on a new social media platform. Everybody doesn’t know what they’re doing when they first start and even sometimes for quite a while after it.
If you’re trying out a new social media platform, people, and you’re feeling a bit awkward and all elbows, you are completely normal. There’s nothing wrong with you. Just experiment with it. Test it out. And I would also encourage people to maybe give it a reasonable length of time. Don’t go on three times and say, “Oh, I hate this platform. It’s got nothing to offer me,” and then just leave. It’s a good idea to give it a little bit more of a test than that.
Alison Joy: Yes. I’m finding that I’m doing that with Twitter at the moment. I started with Instagram because I’m comfortable with that and I was already using that for my personal stuff and I like to post photos. So that was relatively painless although I have an aversion to hashtags!
On Twitter it’s just muddling around and trying to keep out of all the trending stuff or the political side of it or the nasty side of it and just keep my head down and go, “Okay, well find some people I can comment on their posts and maybe repost some other stuff” and it’s just finding my way through. And as you said, it’s just muddling around and trying to figure it out and learning as you go.
Belinda Pollard: Also useful to remember with social media is that what you like, by which I mean not like in your head but like on the platform, click the like button etc, and what you interact with is what it will show you more of. Because the social media platforms are set up to sell things. That’s what they’re for. So, they want to target their advertising to you most appropriately and therefore they will help you to build the type of information coming through to you that you actually like.
I’ve noticed it as I’ve started doing more Gracewriters interactions on Twitter. It’s starting to show me more of the Christians that I was already following but that it never showed me before. The algorithm is shifting and tilting and starting to show me different things. So, may I encourage you with that regarding social media. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, have a hunt around until you find things that you do like and then click on them, like them, read the article, retweet something, whatever, and it will start to show you more of what you like.
My second principle that I’ve found very useful on social media is to reuse the same work in various ways. So, at the moment, for example, when I post an image on Instagram, I will usually also share it automatically via Instagram to my Facebook page. I have an author page on Facebook. I actually don’t really use my personal profile on Facebook. It just lies fallow. It is just there as the thing that I needed to have, to have an author page.
And that’s helped lighten my life a bit to stay away from some of those things and just post automatically to my page. But I don’t actually automate sharing that image then to Twitter. What happens is if you use the Instagram share to Twitter, it will just post a link, not an image. Same thing if you post from Facebook to Twitter, it will just post a link. So don’t do that because that’s actually advertising that you are not present on Twitter.
But I have actually started taking some of my images that I post on Instagram, modifying the caption a bit to suit the kind of community that I’m involved in on Twitter and posting it on Twitter and people are liking it. I think people are tired and they quite like a picture of a sunset or my dog doing something silly. It just gives them a little bit of a breathing space. So that’s a way that you can use the same material, the same creative output, if you like, and just repurpose it. Modify it a bit for the different setting.
You could even, potentially, post some of those things to LinkedIn. It’s an interesting idea. I might have a bit of a think about that and whether I might play with that. I’m doing some of that multi-posting.
I also use a plug-in on my website. A plug-in is a little extra piece of software that you install onto your website, which you can do through WordPress if your website is based on WordPress, and then it will automatically repost some of my older blog posts to Twitter for me. So, because Twitter is where I tend to post that type of information, I will set it up to post there. So, there’s different things you can do.
Do you guys repurpose and post stuff to multiple platforms?
Alison Joy: I don’t have a lot to repost in terms of blogs, at the moment, but I do do photos and obviously the Gracewriters podcast links. I do those as well.
I was just wondering though; do you find that you have a totally different audience for every platform or do you find people crossing over on all of them. I was just wondering about people seeing the same thing wherever they were.
Belinda Pollard: I do have people who I’m connected to on multiple platforms and sometimes I’ll notice that they like the same image on all three places that I’ve posted it! And I will do that sometimes too for others. I think that’s particularly when it’s other writers that are posting in multiple places, I will very often like it deliberately on the different platforms because I’m just trying to boost the signal strength a little bit for them. Because the more people that like a thing, the more people the platform will show it to. People who don’t already know or follow that person. They’re more likely to be shown it.
I do that just as a supportive thing. I often only comment in one place when I see a photo come up on multiple different places. I don’t think it’s such a big problem. I don’t know.
What do you think, Donita?
Donita Bundy: I find that people I follow on Facebook, when I sit down for my mandatory time doing social media, I will go through my Instagram and then I’ll flip over to Facebook and I’ll see exactly the same posts by exactly the same people. Same deal. I’ll like it in both places but I’ll comment on one. But I can’t really complain because I do exactly the same thing.
Like you said, Belinda, I post my photographs on Instagram which automatically shares to my Facebook page. I then share that to my profile because I have two completely different audiences for my page and my profile. Yes, it’s very split, those two audiences. I have started experimenting with Belinda’s advice of taking one of my photographs from a morning’s feed that would be a landscape, as in shape rather than …
Alison Joy: Picture content.
Donita Bundy: A picture. Yes. Sorry!
Belinda Pollard: I know what you mean! Yes. Landscape orientation.
Donita Bundy: It’s the way the picture is set, yes, rather than a portrait orientation. I’ll take a landscape picture. Just one. And I’ll post that on Twitter with a little bit of a story. I always post my blog posts. I have something coming out every week. I’m exploring video as well as the podcast as well as blogging. So, every week I have something and that will go on LinkedIn and across. So, I do all my blogs and things on LinkedIn.
I don’t do photographs on LinkedIn. I’ll do one image on Twitter but I will also post my blogs and things on Twitter and I post everything on Instagram and Facebook and share the Facebook to my profile. So, I do what everybody else does and I just get in and like everything that I like and just go around in a circle.
Belinda Pollard: I think if I was going to share an image to LinkedIn, I think it might be for a particular purpose. LinkedIn is kind of social media with a suit and tie. So, I would want to come up with some significance to some sort of business meaning and I probably wouldn’t post everything. I might just occasionally post an image to LinkedIn. Not as many as I post on Instagram, for example.
The third area that I wanted to look at was some of the attitudes and approaches that have tended to work for me on social media. One of them is to use it to lead people back to your website. So, your website is your online real estate that you actually own. Your online hub. Whereas social media comes and goes and can be snatched out from under you any day of the week. So, it’s a good idea to be finding those ways to lead people back. Easier on some platforms than others.
I also have found that being friendly and social rather than sell, sell, sell works a lot better. And one of the keys to that is to answer people. When people comment on my stuff, I reply and I usually try and mirror, a little bit, what they’re doing. So, if they’re just commenting one emoji, then I don’t write an essay in response, I just do a quick emoji response.
If they write me something that’s quite personal and revealing a little bit of themselves, maybe they’ve had a tough week or something’s happened or they’ve lost someone, or whatever, I don’t then just reply, “Thanks!” I try and sort of reciprocate according to the type of conversation that we seem to be having.
I try to be the kind of friend that I’d like to have. If it’s about being social and making friends, I try and be that type of friend I’d like to have, and we’ve just mentioned that. The fact that we comment and we share and we support, they’re some of the things that we do. We’re just trying to build others up. Lift others up. And I see it as an investment in my career as a writer and as an editor. An investment in the potential for having influence in certain ways and also as an investment in the possibility of connecting with other human beings made in the image of God. So, there’s a bunch of different things going on there for me.
As we’ve discussed previously, I’m a raving extrovert and you guys are both introverts. Are those sorts of attitudes feasible, workable for you?
Alison Joy: I think so. It’ll just be on a smaller scale that I feel comfortable with. Yes, I can see all the validity in everything that you’re saying. It’s just trying to find the level that I’m comfortable doing.
Belinda Pollard: I think people often get an unusual idea about what extrovert versus introvert means but I think at its hearts it’s to do with where you get your energy from.
So, an introvert mostly gets energy from being alone or with maybe one or two very close people and an extrovert mostly gets energy from being with people. But we’re all along a continuum. We all get different things from various things.
Donita Bundy: Personally, the way that it seems to work for me, and I’m comfortable with, is all of these things as we’ve said to get people to your website, your home, invite people into your home. And I have found that my email list is where I get personal. I will share once a month and I will share information about what’s going on with me and I invite conversation and some people get back to me in a variety of ways. I’ll get return emails. I get one person who handwrites me a letter in response every time that I do this.
But I’ve found that almost like the social media is like scattering the crumbs which is inviting people to come in to say, “Here I am. This is kind of my voice. This is kind of who I am and what I’m like. Would you like to come over and have a cuppa?” And then they come over and if you like that and you’d like to extend this conversation, here’s my email, join my email list and then every month I will send out a personal update. What’s going on with all the things that I’m involved with and then I just put in a link to, “This is what’s happened this month. This is where the books are up to. This is the blog. This is the podcast. These are the top shots. If you want photographs, if you want to see more, go to the gallery.”
And I think that also reflects my personality in that I’m better at being close with a smaller group of people rather than being open with a larger group of people. So that’s how social media kind of works for me but I definitely agree in the encouragement. It’s not just about me getting my breadcrumbs out, it’s about taking and engaging with other people as they’re sharing their work. I want to encourage them and support them if I can, like it, comment it, share it, retweet it, whatever. Engage with it, go to their blogs, make a response, so I’m fully into that part of what social media is about. Supporting other people, yes. And definitely an investment.
But I think where I’m coming from, my personal engagement comes at that level once people have joined in with the conversation on the website.
Belinda Pollard: I actually really like that. I really like the way that you’re moving people towards the email list because that’s what all the big guru marketers tell us to do anyway. That’s a fantastic way to be thinking about it and moving it and being able to have that one-on-one conversation, essentially. Even though you send it out to a large number of people, you’re able to have that one-on-one feel to the conversation.
Donita Bundy: My email, my monthly newsletter, I try to make it very personal as it is an intimate, “This is me. This has been my month. Far out, looks what’s happened! We’ve been celebrating, whatever, whatever.” I’m not saying it’s a booming success but that is my mindset behind social media and how I use social media.
I think there’s a lot of great stuff we can get out of it. And one of those great things is supporting other people in their journey. You said before in the last session about having that collegiate mindset and I think we can do that regardless of whether we’re introverted, extroverted, whatever. Writing is a solo job and we want to come together.
That’s what Gracewriters is all about: networking, community and connecting with each other. It’s just that some of us find it more necessary to connect more regularly. Others want to connect but probably not as often and as in-depth but that’s how we’re all different and it’s great because we’re all unique but there are other people out there who kind of like us so it’s all good.
Belinda Pollard: Great discussion. Thank you, guys. We’re running out of time. How
about I pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the opportunities, the possibilities and the people. Please guide us, show us how you would like us to be using social media. Who it is that you want us to connect with and help us to keep turning away and turning away from the lies of the world and the pressure, that is false pressure, that is placed upon us. And help us keep turning back to you and to find ways to bring glory to your name through the way that we interact on these platforms. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Donita Bundy and Alison Joy, thank you so much. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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