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Social-Networking Anxiety by Nicki Elson

I despise walking into a crowded room. When I do go to large gatherings, you’ll typically find me camped out in a corner in conversation with one or two people at a time as they come and go from my comfort zone. And public speaking? I’m sure most of us can join together in a universal Ugh. So the prospect of social networking—baring myself to the vast universe of ePeople in the hopes that someone will “Like” what I have to say—used to be downright scary.

Even though we get to hide behind a computer screen, social networking is stress-inducing for those of us who aren’t comfortable in massive groups of people. But if you’re a published author or hope to be one someday, effective social networking is nearly (but not absolutely) a necessity. As a socially-shy author myself, I’ve had to get over the hump of social-networking anxiety, and I’d like to share with you some of the things that have worked for me.

Please note that this isn’t an article about best practices in social networking. You can find plenty of advice on that elsewhere—lots of it will be conflicting and even more of it outdated because the best practices seem to change as quickly as technology itself. The purpose of this article is to get you out there and help you develop a sustainable social networking routine that won’t send you quivering into a dark, internet-free corner.

First, let’s put this in perspective and take some pressure off. Despite what you’ve likely been told by publicists…other authors…anyone with an iPhone…being active on the social networks doesn’t sell books. A successful social media campaign might give you a brief blip in sales, but from there the book will either sell itself or it won’t no matter how many times you Tweet, post, or Thunderclap about it. Word of mouth is still king when it comes to a book’s success.

You want readers talking on the social networks about your book but you can’t force them to; it has to happen naturally. I’ve watched many an author (myself included) knock themselves half dead on social media efforts with little to no effect. I tell you this not to discourage you, but rather to help you relax and not put undue pressure on yourself. You don’t need to craft perfect Tweets or hold the best Facebook parties ever to have a successful book.

So what’s the purpose of social networking as an author? Even though social networking by itself won’t put your book on the bestsellers lists, it’ll make at least a few new readers aware of your book, and some of them will even pick it up. You never know which one will be that person who loves it enough to tell all of their friends about it. When more and more readers discover your book, having a presence in social media will allow them to find you and interact with you (which makes you nervous, I know, but we’ll get to that).

What I’ve found to be the greatest benefit of all is making connections with other authors, readers, and experts in the publishing industry. I’ve learned a ton through eTalking and following links to all sorts of writing and marketing treasures. All this goes toward improving my craft, which in the end is what best sells books. (Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of crap books topping the charts, but I contend that even those authors mastered the art of connecting with readers on some fanatical level, and that is part of craft.)

Can we get to those tips now? Sure, I think we’re ready. These are all the little tricks that helped me to not only get active but stay active on the social networks:

 

1. Pre-schedule posts. I have conflicting fears of both being ignored and being noticed. Being ignored means failure and being noticed means that someone might think I’m an idiot. As irrational as these fears might be, they stopped me from pushing the button on many a Tweet and Facebook post. Once that button is pushed, I’m out there, naked in front of everyone. I found that prescheduling my Tweets and posts helped me to get over this hump. I originally went to Hootsuite (one of many platforms you can use to preschedule posts to social networks. I only use it for Twitter because WordPress, Blogger, and Facebook all have their own pre-scheduling features built-in) as a time management tool, but I find that scheduling something to post in the future is far less intimidating than putting it immediately out there. Maybe it’s because I know I can always un-schedule, so pressing the button to pre-schedule doesn’t come with the same kind of pressure as an insta-post. Also, I don’t feel the anxiety of insta-failure.

At first it seemed to me that pre-scheduling blog posts, Tweets, and Facebook posts would take the social out of the networking because I wouldn’t necessarily be around when the posts went live, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’m almost always plugged in to my e-mail and am notified when somebody comments back, so I’ve been able to respond within a reasonable timeframe. Since pre-scheduling allows me to put more Tweets and posts out there, I’m having more conversations than I would without it.

2. Downsize the group with Groups and Lists. Smaller, more intimate groups with something in common make socializing much more comfortable—and this is doable amid the vast population of the social networks. Google+ is all about smaller groups or Circles and Facebook has a Groups feature. I’m not active on Google+ but I’m in a few groups on Facebook and find them to be fun and easy to interact in. You can either wait to be invited into Groups or search them out by clicking “Groups” in the sidebar of your home page. Once there, you can browse suggested groups, friends’ groups, and local groups.

Another feature that helps make Twitter and Facebook more intimate is Lists. These are subsets of the full list of people you follow. You can customize these Lists to include whomever you like. Create a list of author friends, blog buddies, high school or university alumni, whatever you want. When you click on a list, your feed will only show posts by people on that list, making it easy to zero in on a smaller-sized, more manageable group. To create a List on Facebook, click “Friends” in the sidebar of your home page to get to a page with the “+ Create List” button. To create a List on Twitter, click on the “More” tab at the top of your profile page, and then click “Create new list” in the right sidebar. As you follow new people, you can add them to existing lists.

3. Participate in group events. Hopping onto group events is great for those of us who don’t like to start the conversation. For me, blog hops are far less intimidating and chaotic than Twitter or Facebook parties. In a blog hop, the host provides a general topic that participants give their own take on. When you sign up, a link to your blog goes onto a list, encouraging other hoppers to stop by your place. The list also makes it easy for you to visit them. It’s less awkward to mingle when there’s been an invitation issued, and being on that blog hop list is like an invite. To find blog hops that interest you, check out the lists at the Linky Tools Directory or browse around the blogosphere and you’re bound to come across some. I typically have a list of hops on the sidebar at my blog, Nicki Elson’s Not-so-deep Thoughts. My favorite monthly hop is the Insecure Writers Support Group.

4. Like, Favorite and ReTweet others’ posts. Thank others when they ReTweet & Share Yours. Congratulate them on the accomplishments they post about. These are all easy, quick, and not-scary-at-all ways to interact on the social networks and give people the warm fuzzies at the same time. You can’t go wrong with a simple thank you or congrats, and everyone loves to be ReTweeted, Liked, and Shared.

5. Don’t try to be everywhere. Play around on the different social networks and see which one or two or three feel most comfortable to you. Those networks are where you should focus your efforts. You’ll be more effective where you’re most comfortable. You can certainly maintain a presence on additional social networks, but simply use them for sharing links and content from your chosen primary networks.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. What are your tips for getting past social-networking anxiety?

Nichelson-200x300Writing wasn’t something Nicki Elson set out to do; it just sort of happened when she realized writing reports was by far her favorite part of her investment consulting position. She traded stock allocation and diversification for story arcs and dialogue and now weaves her creative writing time in with the other activities of her busy life with her family in the Chicago suburbs. 

Nicki writes with two goals in mind: #1 to keep the characters realistic, even when their circumstances are anything but, and #2 to make the reader feel. Watch for her new title Vibrizzio, coming in 2015 from Swoon Romance. Her published works include Three Daves, a light-hearted romantic romp through a 1980s college campus, Divine Temptation, a romantic novel of angelic proportions, and Hans & Greta: a Twisted Fairy Tale Novella. Her published short stories include “Sway” (available as a single), “I Don’t Do Valentine’s Day” (part of  A Valentine Anthology), and “Impressionism 101” (included in the debut issue of Insatiable: The Magazine of Paranormal Desire).

For more information visit Nicki’s website, twitter and Facebook.

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