Monday, December 13, 2010
Online Persona Workshop Week Eleven: Wrapping Up
Phew! You made it! You stuck with this workshop for all eleven sessions! Hurray YOU! (And yes I know, eleven is a strange, untidy number, but that’s how the cookie crumbled.) Hopefully you’ve gained some insights not only into why and how you are online, but also discovered some of the different layers and aspects of your self and how they might interact with your professional online presence. If not, well, you can repeat the course as many times as you’d like and no one will be any the wiser. ☺
Someone had asked a few weeks ago in the comments what sorts of numbers and metrics to shoot for in terms of followers. How many new followers/friends should we aim for each week? Month? Year?
The truth is, while I love measurable metrics as much as the next person, (Hel-lo Amazon Bookscan numbers!) I’m not sure this is the best way to approach your list of followers & friends. The thing we’re after here is building meaningful connections. It is much better to have a small, dedicated, truly interested group of 500 friends & followers than it is to have 1,000 who are all just mutually following each other to inflate their numbers. So . . I’m not going to answer that question. I think a much more effective approach—and saner—is to focus on the quality of the interaction between you and the community you are building.
Having said that, I also know it will not be enough to satisfy the truly metric-centric among you, so I will say that there seems to be a general sense that if you can garner 1,000 dedicated followers, that then you begin to have something. (If you Google 1,000 followers you’ll see lots of talk about it, but basically the concept revolves around a committed, dedicated core of true fans, not mutual number-padders.)
The truth is though, not all of us will find 1,000 followers—at least not for a long time. It takes a lot of work and stick-to-itiveness, very much akin to building a writing career. It will also depend HUGELY on your genre and who your ultimate audience is. Genres that are able to interact directly with their audience online (YA, romance, fantasy) will be able to build a following faster than those who rely on gatekeepers (PB, MG).
The vast majority of us will have friends and followers who find us after they’ve read our books and decide to seek us out online. We want to be sure and have a solid presence ready for them when they do. Another, smaller percentage of us will manage to build a significant online presence that will then lead our friends and followers to our work. You have to decide for your own self and your own path where you will put your energy. Where you WANT to put your energy. For every person who found a book deal through their blog, there are many more who sold the book first and developed on online presence to interact with the readers that book brought looking for them.
Where do you want to spend your emotional and creative resources? This isn’t a trick question and there isn’t one right answer. You have to do a cost/benefit analysis of how maintaining an online presence fits into the current stage of your writing career. If you are getting up at 4:30 every morning to write before work, then falling asleep at night sometimes before your kids do, then time is probably your most precious resource right now and best not to squander it. Better to spend your time learning the craft and pursuing your dream. But if your engine is set to high idle and you’re just raring to go, by all means, dive in and being putting some of that energy to work for you in building a social media presence. You can absolutely have a two-pronged approach to establishing your career!
By the same token, as an introvert, if your day job or family demands simply consume all your social energy, then you have to really think about whether or not you can be effective online if you’re socially drained before you even log on. On the other hand, if you feel isolated and alone and desperate for the company of other writers as you journey on your path, then you probably have a lot to gain.
One other thing that I think is worth mentioning is that there have been a rash of brilliant, honest, and soul-bearing posts lately about the ups and downs of the writing life and its demands. From the soul sucking experience of being out on submission for months and months to the very human feelings of envy and jealousy that nearly every writer experiences, to honest, realistic exposés of what the reality of being published is like when compared to our dreams. Take the time to read these posts and let them be an important counterbalance in your head to the constant inner whispering and urgings to go faster, do more, don’t fall behind, they’re pulling ahead, she has more followers, he has more blog readers. Just. Stop. Don’t only listen to (and try to keep up with!) all the success stories you see on the internet, but use the experiences of those who are willing to be honest as cautionary tales of what to avoid.
Most especially, don’t spend so much time and energy focusing on the cliques you don’t belong to and the friends & followers you don’t have, that you ignore or take for granted the ones that you do.