Monday, November 15, 2010

Online Persona Workshop Week Seven: More On Content

~ One of the biggest questions about blogging is how often does one need to do it to be effective? Daily? Almost daily?
While there are advantages to blogging daily (the more often your content is updated, the higher up on the search engine returns you are placed) in terms of building and connecting with an audience, consistency is probably more important than volume. Blog every Monday or every Tuesday & Thursday, or whatever works for your schedule. But be consistent.

~ Tagging your posts with labels and subject tags is another good way to get them picked up by the search engines and included when relevant text strings are searched for which help drives traffic to your blog. It is also a great way to index your archives for your blog readers—something that is absolutely on my To Do List here at SVP.

~ There are lots of opinions out there on the advantages of having short posts, with the general feeling being short and sweet captures more readers. But personally, I don’t ascribe to that. (Clearly!) ☺ Some of my entries are like magazine articles and others are essays and others still are only a few paragraphs long. I think you should use however many words you need to make your point but also know that sometimes people won’t have the time to read the longer posts. However, if your content is consistently good, they will.

~ Pictures and graphics are a great way to help capture people’s attention, and there are a ton of places on the web where you can access free public domain, or creative commons licensed images. Here are some sources:

Wikipedia commons


Public Domain Pictures

You can also buy credits at a place like iStock Photography or Getty Images.

~ While we’ve spent a ton of time thinking about and identifying core content messages, but it is also okay to change the subject once in a while and announce your book sale or reveal a new cover, or talk about upcoming appearances.

~ A really important part of blogging is interacting with those who stop by and engaging with them in the comment section. That might seem like a no-brainer, but when I first started blogging, I was told by a number of different ‘experts’ that authors shouldn’t respond to comments because there simply wasn’t going to be time to do that. My own feeling is that it depends. Many hugely popular authors don’t even have the comment function turned on. Others ask questions and have ongoing dialogs with their commenters. I think when you’re just starting out, unless you’re swamped with 100s of comments a day, it’s much friendlier to respond to comments and it could very well end up being that connection that brings people back.


The thing to remember is that most social media rules are a lot like writing rules—they don’t have to be religiously followed, you just need to understand what you lose/gain by not following them.

Each of us get to create and define our own social media parameters and boundaries. For every wildly successful blogger who got a book deal and hit the NYT bestseller list because of their huge online platform, there is a matching introverted, hermit of an author who barely has an online presence that has equally impressive sales.

A lot of introverts don’t care for small talk and find surface chit chat tedious at best. (And that’s not to say it’s either of those things in an absolute way, but it is for some). Because we move in an extroverted society, we’ve come to think of our interests as being out of the norm. One of the key things is to give yourself permission to talk about those things that ARE interesting to you and trust that, with a little bit of work and effort, you will be able to connect with similarly inclined souls.

But that’s the amazing, wonderful thing about the internet. We are not limited to our geographical sphere any more.

While I will be talking more about followers and such later, I will say that whenever I think of myself blogging or tweeting to connect with a huge group of people, I freeze. I get stage fright because I am certain that nothing I can say will be interesting to that many people. But when I think about talking to fellow introverts, or sharing a writing epiphany with a handful of other writers, or talking about the puzzling intricacies of human relationships with others who are equally fascinated by those interactions, that barrier disappears. It’s kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert talking about the writing of Eat, Pray, Love and telling the story to ONE person, one of her friends that she thought would get a lot out of it. If you blog and tweet like that, it will come across as authentic and real. Because it will be.

And lastly, I want to direct you to a DYNAMITE post about marketing called SHOULD I TWEET? from Betsy Lerner, former Houghton editor and author of the highly acclaimed, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. It’s a terrific essay about marketing in general that is an absolute must read, but here are my three favorite excerpts:

It’s about finding the nerve your book strikes and going after it.

Maybe the best way to market your book is to send a hand written letter to every pastor in the country, or create a hoax, or stage a spectacle in Herald Square. Or maybe it’s just to write a book that will take everyone’s breath away.

Whether you should tweet is a little beside the point. The task at hand is to decipher what is most powerful in your work and connect it to every person, institution or media outlet who will listen. It’s not the form, it’s the content. What do you have? Why does it matter?

Which brings us to this week’s exercise. Can you name what is most powerful about your book/work and why it matters?

Commenters will be entered in a drawing for a copy of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. (This week’s winner can choose that book as a prize instead of MADE TO STICK if they want.)

And speaking of this week’s winner—Kimberly Lynn! Step right up to the podium and claim your prize. Or, you know, email me. ☺


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robin. I really wanted that book!!!

I'll drop you an email later. I'm off to work on this exercise. Excellent post!

Anne R. Allen said...

"The thing to remember is that most social media rules are a lot like writing rules—they don’t have to be religiously followed, you just need to understand what you lose/gain by not following them." Wise words.

And you're so right about commenting on the comments. I had no idea this was what people did when I started my blog, because I mostly read agent and author blogs where readers were treated more like a TV audience than an interactive part of the blog. Commenting changes everything.

Kenda Turner said...

I've just started following your series--this is terrific info'. Thanks so much :-) said...

"I am also wondering if you will be comfortable publishing under your real name when you are leery of blogging about similar topics under your real name. Maybe the right thing for you is a psuedonym, one used for both blogging and publishing?"
I find it's easier to tell the truth writing fiction than non-fiction. And for that reason, I've thought of making the blog mostly fiction, short-shorts, but am afraid of sapping the imagination energy from writing novels.
Besides, I'm tired of living a split life, want to integrate the parts, want to engage friends in issues that matter to me. I'm tired of being chicken. And that's another reason for eschewing a blog with short story posts--it doesn't lend itself to comments and discussion.
It's from that exchange, like on this blog, that we learn so much more from each other. Thank you for the opportunity.

Laura Ruby said...

Hi Robin:

I just wanted to say thanks for this latest post in the online persona workshop. Last week I plowed through all the previous posts and I found the exercises SO helpful. I've been blogging on and off for years, but never really found my comfort zone. Mostly, I just ranted every once in a while about things that made me angry -- censorship, for example, or the asshat who stole my car and left a 1099 with his NAME in the back seat. But then I'd post the rant and crawl back under the bed. Or watch an episode or ten of Iron Chef. Or something equally as unproductive.

And now there's twitter and Facebook and Formspring and WHAT? — who can keep track of all of it? (um, besides extroverts). I love people, I love classroom visits and conferences, I love working with students and other writers. Once I'm there that is. Still, I'm so introverted I'm inside out and backwards. Sometimes the thought of all this marketing/publicizing/blogging/tweeting/speaking well, freezes me. Sometimes I'm exhausted even before I begin. Like now. : )

Your workshop I think is useful not only to develop an online persona, but a more general professional persona. I have had particular difficulty doing this as I write for adults, teens and kids, and have sometimes felt as if the "Laura Ruby" who is writing for one group isn't the same one who's writing for another. But of course that isn't true. For better or worse, it's all me. I just have to find the point of intersection and work from there. I'm toying with a couple of ways I can retool my blog -- and my professional persona in general -- that came out your exercises.

One thing I'd like to request -- if I'm allowed to make requests! -- is that maybe at some point you can address prioritizing for introverts. Since the business part of being a writer is so daunting, it's hard to figure out what's most important (besides, of course, writing a book). Should I blog? Should I tweet? Should I drum up classroom visits? Should I go to conferences? Should I stand outside my house wearing a sandwich board and waving at traffic? Should I stand IN the traffic?

Anyway, thanks again for the great workshop and for helping us INFPs feel a little less insane.

-- Laura

R.L. LaFevers said...

Yeay, Kimberly! So glad the prize is something you've been wanting all along! I totally planned that. (Not!)

Anne, I think that no-commenting thing is as assumption so many of us make in good faith. I also think though, that the philosophy behind blogging has shifted somewhat in the last few years with more and more realizing that it was the connection that created the ongoing relationship, so commenting back became preferred behavior. (Wow, I sound like a social scientist.)

Kenda, SO glad to hear you are enjoying the series! Thanks for letting me know.

I, too, Skipper, find it easier to tell the truth in fiction. Not sure why that is, but it is probably part of what makes us fiction writers. I also totally hear you on being tired of living a split life. Here's wishing you much courage and success as you begin to do that!

Welcome, Laura! I am thrilled that you found the exercises so helpful, although I am thinking what an intense week of self-exploration! Wow. The full immersion experience. :-)

I think you make a great point about loving some of these activities once we're there, but getting invited also requires a fair amount of extroverted hussling. Bleah.

And PLEASE DO MAKE REQUESTS! All of you! I think prioritizing for introverts is a great topic! I'll put that in the hopper.

Laura Ruby said...

On that bit about getting invited to things requiring a fair amount of extroverted hussling: I was just telling a friend yesterday that I'm sort of like a vampire. You have to ask me in, otherwise, there's little chance it's going to happen. : )

-- Laura

R.L. LaFevers said...

Okay, I LOVE that, Laura! Introverts have to be asked in, just like vampires. Perfect! And so so true!

liz said...

It's refreshing to hear that how you get the word out about your book depends on you and the book, that it doesn't have to be a 'one size fits all' deal.

Anonymous said...

I think of books like Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carol Boston Weatherford as being powerful.

The dialogue of thoughts between Harriet and God is brilliant. I often found myself reflecting on personal experiences and asking lots of questions about life in general. So my definition of the word "powerful" makes it difficult to critique my own writing.

Anonymous said...

Really laughed at Laura's comment about standing in traffic. I saw a guy doing that yesterday. I think he was copying off the firemen who did it last week, except who wouldn't stop for a fireman in his uniform holding a rubber boot out for you to out money in. This guy had reflective wear on but I had no idea what he wanted. I'm surprised he didn't get knocked down.
The story I am working on right now is important to me at least because it encompasses an unusual dilemma that leads to an unusual friendship and a great outdoors adventure. I have an animal protag too, so I am interested to see if that works for MG.

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