At the age of thirty-three I suddenly feel like an insecure teenager again. Strolling past, I noticed an open invitation social media party going on and actually had the guts to head in by myself, wahey. Look at all these vibrant, interesting people; and these amazing resources. I can’t believe I didn’t come here years ago.
A girl gives me an effervescent hi as I walk in – this is encouraging – but then she turns to rattle off a stream of indiscriminate hellos to each newcomer and I’m left alone again. Fair enough. I smile at people as I politely squeeze my way through to the kitchen and grab a bottle of beer, not only trying to come up with something interesting to say, but somebody to actually say it to. But it isn’t long before I’ve sought sanctuary in that haven for the reclusively-inclined: the bathroom.
So here I am, perched on the cistern lid with my feet resting on the sides of the toilet seat as I wonder; maybe I should just call it a night.
Okay, so I’m being slightly over-dramatic here as I’m by no means socially-awkward, but trying to break into the world of social media as a writer has been daunting. Until last November I was perfectly happy using facebook for friends, LinkedIn for my professional life as a researcher and dismissing twitter or blogging as pointless narcissism. But until recently creative writing was something I did in private. Choosing to go public with my writing has revealed that it was a slight misconception to assume twitter was just about inundating people with the mundane details of your daily activities. So I created myself a website, a blog, a twitter account…a google + account, a Goodreads account and probably a host of other accounts I can’t even remember now!
I’m sure I’m not the only newcomer to look at high traffic well-established blogs, or twitter accounts with a multitude of followers and feel like giving up before I’ve even started. But my attitude’s always been if I can’t change something, then accept it and move on; if, however, I can change something, stop whining and get on with it! So here are the little coping strategies I’ve developed in my first couple of months of trying to develop an online presence as Sally writer. This isn’t a list of rules because one person’s ‘marmite – yum’, is another person’s ‘marmite – eurgh’ … [hmmm, marmite] … but perhaps there are elements here that other newbies can identify with.
The first important thing for me was to accept that this is going to be an evolution and it’s futile to see other blogs/twitter accounts as some kind of end point. For example, comparing my 38 followers to Amanda Hocking’s 10.5k is plain ridiculous! I know a good starting strategy is to visit and comment on as many other blogs as possible and to follow lots of twitter accounts for the reciprocity, but personally I’ve decided to let things happen at their own pace. I don’t follow many people and I’m followed by even fewer, and this really doesn’t bother me.
However, I do always follow links to interesting-looking posts and start to follow interesting new people as I chance upon them. The way I see it is my twitter account is small but perfectly formed and hopefully over time it will grow in a manageable manner.
There’s a wonderful line in Ever After where Rodmilla says, “Jacqueline, dear, do not speak unless you can improve the silence.” I’d have to be mute to keep to that mantra but this leads me to my second point, be honest, be myself, and only say something when I mean it. I’d rather visit fewer blogs and say something meaningful than take a scattergun approach and end up not being genuine. That said I’ll always say something when I have an opinion, trying to be positive, constructive and supportive. And if someone visits my blog and likes it or comments, I always reciprocate – that’s just good manners, even if it proves obvious that they are just traffic-sourcing.
Depending on what you’re looking for different sites are going to suit different people. I particularly like Limebird because of its light-hearted tone and the fact it’s so friendly and welcoming. I can relate to different Limebird writers for different reasons and this diversity paves the way for a range of useful and interesting topics…which leads me to my final point, if you like somewhere, get involved. This is why I joined the gang and can now call myself limebirdsally!
So if you could give a newbie just one piece of advice, what would it be? Have you made any mistakes or done things that now make you cringe? And I’d love to hear from any other newbies about your first thoughts on trying to join the online writing scene – it isn’t just me who has moments of feeling completely dispirited about it all is it???