I believe in establishing principles for ourselves that inspire action. Out of the principles, we can make good decisions that have positive effects.
As an author I know I need principles for using social media. Otherwise, I know it will pull me away from my work. (Remember Stephen Pressfield’s observation: “The amateur tweets. The pro works.”)
Social media can be addicting. We can either go there for selfish validation of our work, or go to offer our work as a gift to those who need it. We have the opportunity today to enter into a conversation with something to say, something unique and of value, something great.
That’s the real value in social media for authors. That’s the only authentic way I can think of to build a platform. We have something to say, so let’s say it; but let’s not waste anyone’s time.
I have set up these principles to keep myself focused and accountable to living out my mission as an author:
- Write first, share second.
- Share daily.
- Make it useful.
I’ll expand on these principles in just a moment, but first let’ me back up and explain how I decided on these principles.
Creating Principles for Social Media Marketing
How do we come up with principles to guide our social media marketing?
1.) First, make a list of dangers and traps that you know will tempt you.
2) Next, make a list of all the possible principles that would keep you from falling into those traps.
3.) Narrow your list to 2-3 guiding principles.
I came up with this list of social media traps:
- Social media time is time away from real writing (i.e. books, products, presentations, etc.).
- I often think of checking email or social media when I’m getting to a difficult part of a writing project. It’s a temptation that pulls me away from difficult work.
- Sitting down to write is one of the most difficult things to do. “Checking” Facebook and Twitter is one of the easiest.
- After I post, I often get obsessed with the response. I check frequently to see if anyone cared. I never take any real action based on the response. I’m just looking for validation.
- Most of my posts, up to this point, have been reactive. I see something and I post it. I might go days or even weeks with nothing to say. I have something to say, but I’m not taking the time to say it.
- It’s a lot easier to just post a link without saying something. Part of this difficulty comes from the fear of saying something people won’t like. So I say nothing at all and hope the link speaks for itself. It doesn’t.
So, based on all this, I brainstormed a list of foundational principles for using social media as an author to refrain from falling into those traps.
- Write daily
- Write first
- Share what you create
- Show your work (h/t Austin Kleon)
- Share stories
- Share unselfishly
- Share what you are learning
- Ignore the results, share the work anyway
- Would I create or share this even if no one saw it?
- Share YOUR art. Ignore the results.
From there, I started to narrow and combine the list in such a way that I address all the pitfalls and traps to social media. The more I thought about the options, the more I simplified them into just three principles.
My Three Principles for Social Media Marketing
- Write first, share second.
- Share daily.
- Make it useful.
Here is the reasoning behind my principles for social media marketing.
1. Write first, share second.
I found myself tempted to check social media and to consume content before actually creating it. Inspired by Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work, I’m committed to writing first (or creating first–videos, worksheets, templates, research, etc.) so that I have something to say on social media.
Since I started using this approach, I’m seeing incredible results. Not only does it keep me focused on working on long term projects like books and online courses, it gives me something to say on social media that engages my audience.
It’s a really simple process. The act of creation gives me something meaningful to say. The next step is easy. Share it.
Really, this means I might spend 1-2 hours working on long term projects and 5-10 minutes sharing or reflecting on that work via social media. I’ve started using my blog to share manuscript excerpts (though people will never know they are actual excerpts and frankly, the book will change as time goes on anyway).
2. Share daily.
This is new for me, but it keeps me accountable. It helps me remember that my work is about the audience, not me. If it isn’t worth sharing, it isn’t worth creating. It’s a practice that fights off the fear of rejection. It’s a simple defense against Resistance.
Every writer on the planet can spare 5-10 minutes to share something they did today. There just is no excuse not to engage with your fans.
In the fast-paced digital world in which we live, it is so easy to forget about people and ideas we come across on the web. Out of sight is out of mind.
Plus, if you do win over a “true fan” with your writing, then they are going to want to consume as much as possible from you. Reward them with small insights into your mission.
If writing is a daily practice, then sharing should be too.
3. Be useful.
To me, this captures one of the most important principles.
Social media can be a very vain venue. As I’ve already said, it’s tempting to go there to find validation. It is also tempting to use social media to brag or present a false perception of who we areally are.
But there is even a worse temptation than this. The Facebook post prompt encourages it: “What’s on your mind?”
Don’t use social media to just rant and rave about your latest thoughts. Be consistent. Have a set of ideas (principles even) that you write about or believe in and explain how they can be guiding forces in people’s lives.
If you share a link, explain why it is useful and relevant.
If you have a post, don’t let the title speak for itself. Explain how it is useful to your readers.
If you post a quote, share why it inspires you (it might have a similar effect on the people who see it).
From Principles to Posts: What should I share?
Next question: What should I share?
I put together this list of 7 types of posts for authors that I started using a couple of weeks ago. It’s from some preliminary research on other authors who use social media well. Download it and use it yourself.
This cheat sheet works for me because:
- I don’t have to create something separate for social media. It is an extension of the process and principles I have set for myself. (h/t Austin Kleon again)
- It doesn’t take more than 5 extra minutes to do.
- It produces results.
(Note on #3: I realized early on (read this) that metrics and numbers can be deceiving. Focusing on results rather than action and principles leads to the common traps I mentioned above. Even if it didn’t “work” and get more likes, shares, etc., I would do this anyway. It has improved the creative process for me.)
(image credit: alykat)