As you may know, I’ve a novel due in the next couple weeks. By the time you read this I may already be done said novel, but I still want some padding during these days to give it a once over and make sure it’s in tip-top shape before it leaps forthwith into the publisher’s open, loving arms. That means, over the next two weeks, you’re going to see a bunch — nay, a bushel — of guest posts here at Ye Olde Terryblemyndes bloggery hut (“Where the Elite Meet to Secrete the Tweets”). Friday’s flash fiction will remain ongoing, however. Anywho, here then is a guest post from game designer and big brain, the Evil Hat hisownself, Fred Hicks. His website is here. And don’t forget to follow him on the Twitters.
You’re online. You’re plugged in. You’ve already got the notion in your head that you are your brand. Your presence online is important. Building a community of fans is the key to making it all go. You take all of these as the givens of life as a 21st-Century Connected Persona.
And you’re completely at sea when it comes to social media, the dark waters of forums, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Even though you’ve already accepted the principles I mention above, it gets all wibbledy-wobbledy when you sit down to turn those principles into concrete action. It’s a big ocean, and you left your water-wings at home.
Time to become a shark.
Whuh? Huh? You heard me. One of those big fuckers with sharp pointy teeth. Never stops swimming or it dies. Always on the lookout for food. Shark.
That’s how you’ll survive those waters. You get in there, you hunt down what you need, you rip into it when you find it, and then you move on. That’s how you navigate the waters of social media, instead of those waters navigating you.
Here’s how it’s done.
Don’t Stop Swimming
For you, this means you don’t slow down and soak in any one location as you make your rounds. Breeze on through. Social media is chock full of stuff that will hoover onto your face given half a chance. This is essentially crap that will keep you from getting on to the rest of your life.
You know that thing about how there will always be more movies you could see than you ever possibly will in your lifetime? The amount of stuff you could waste your time on in social media is worse. Unless you’re planning on making a job solely out of keeping up with everything that’s floating around in these waters, it’s not worth your time.
This isn’t something you have to be perfect at: every now and then something will grab your attention. It’s fine to read that stuff, interact a little. But always remember: keep on swimming. Stay in motion.
If It Doesn’t Feed You, It’s Not Worth It
You’re a shark. You gotta eat. Look for the chum in the water.
In social media, that bloodylicious chum is in the form of your fans making an effort to contact you. It doesn’t take more than a quick thank-you or a funny one-liner response to make that fan’s day. Nobody’s (reasonably) expecting you to write a thousand-word treatise in response to their inquiry. So do the 100-character reply. Your fan will feel like they made a connection. The emotion that comes with that will strengthen the bond to you, and thus, the fandom. And that fandom’s what feeds you.
But sometimes you’ll need to hunt a little, too. Learn how to do a keyword search on Twitter, and save that search so you can run it regularly. Hook yourself up with Google blog search and give it your name and the names of your works. And whenever one of those pings with something new, that’s your blood in the water: get there, make a connection, and swim on, well-fed.
Let Them See The Fin
You’ve got a leg up on the shark. Your food wants you to eat it. So, if your fans are there to feed you, they need to be able to find you. The trick is in figuring out how to do it in a way that doesn’t slow down your swimming.
Automatic integration is the key, here. Make it possible for your blog to tweet when your post goes up, so those posts don’t happen in silence. Facebook makes it possible to automatically posts your wall messages to Twitter, or vice-versa — make that connection, so you don’t end up cheating one audience out of what the other one gets, and so you don’t have to manually push the same message twice.
Sharks do not care about how the other fish feel about them.
I’ll be the first to admit that this one’s tricky in the translation. Somebody takes a big crap on that story you wrote, it’s hard not to get all aflame about it. But there’s no percentage in letting others feel that heat. It’s a distraction. It doesn’t feed you. You’ll get in a fight, maybe you’ll both bite each other, and importantly you’ll limp away the worse for wear. Best to ignore it and swim along.
Or maybe do one better, and weaken this faux-predator with the gnashing teeth of kindness: thank them for taking the time to look at your stuff. Be polite, friendly, and awesome. They’ll look the ass, and folks who don’t like them will see a potential new connection in you.
Where’s The Blood?
Fellow sharks, sound off. Where are you smelling the blood? How do you stay swift, stay swimming? And where are you getting gummed up with social media? Let’s see if we can’t rip into your troubles and put you back in place as the apex predator of these here waters.