Starting last summer, after I attended a writing conference to get a feel for being a writer these days, I began to “build my platform,” that is, my official social media presence. It seemed like a good idea. Everybody who was anybody was doing it.
I have been online since the early 90s, mind you. I acquired a domain of my own and a website when they first allowed members of the public to buy URLs. I already belonged to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Twitter (and various other things that didn’t keep my interest). But after the conference and after reading a good book on the subject, I joined in a blog hop, I created a Facebook author page, I built up my Twitter following, and I revamped this website.*† ‡ Presto! I had a nice readership, and lots of things to read.
That all sounds good. Very professional, Delia. But the last month or so, I have been working shrinking my platform instead of growing it. I just don’t have time to read all of it. It was taking too much time to deal with it. And most of what I see out there is circular self-marketing without anything important to say. §
If you’re interested in doing the same, here are some tips:
First of all, don’t think you are all that important to the writers you follow. You’re only one of many. If someone asks why you unfollowed them, you can always say, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to” and resubscribe. That only happened once to me. And it wasn’t a writer. It was actually a friend I unfollowed by mistake.
Second, every time you get an email update from a blog you don’t read and don’t want to read, scroll down and unsubscribe. Don’t bother to read it. You don’t owe that thing your eyeball time. Someone else can read it for you. On Facebook, unfriend people. If that makes you uncomfortable, unfollow them. Block a handful. ||
Third, get an app for Twitter that will allow you to get rid of people who don’t post, who post boring stuff, or who send you messages asking you to retweet their tweets. Also, you don’t have to read your Twitter feed, ever. Use lists instead. Curate the people who post content you actually enjoy. ¶
Don’t market. Write.
Don’t write “content.” Create new ideas. #
Stop marketing unless you have a book coming out. Just stop. I believe that advertising should be taxed heavily; one of the problems with it is that it’s almost free to shove ads in front of people’s faces, so everyone does it. That means the world is a morass of marketing, which produces artificial panic about distinguishing yourself from everyone else. I know the publishing scene has changed since I got a couple of books published by accident, but a lot of that change is produced by the equivalent of tulipomania.
Write something you want to write. And read things you like reading. You don’t owe anyone anything other than that.**
*I used to code my website by hand with HTML, and then I used Dreamweaver, but WordPress is incredibly easy to use. Give it a try.
†Raimey Gallant organized the blog hop. It was epic. Read the link.
‡The book is Cat Rambo’s Building an Online Presence. I recommend it. She also teaches writing classes via Google Chat. I have taken one. It was very good. You’re welcome.
§Also (based on the last two minutes of my Twitter firehose feed), announcements of how many YouTube followers they have. Retweets of clickbait. Reviews of other writers’ books when I don’t have time to read anything. Posts that are nothing but hashtags and links accompanying a really ugly book cover. Links to services for writers like proofreading, marketing, and social media promotion. Sappy quotes. Soft porn. Announcements of blog posts (guilty, but I have it set up on WordPress to post on Facebook and Twitter every time I write a new post). Reposts of their most recent publications. 140-character pitches for their books.
|| Seriously. This is a hard lesson to learn for people who grew up reading compulsively, which is most writers, but you don’t have to read everything. It is not all precious jewels. Okay, maybe it is, but how many precious jewels can you wear before you start falling down under the weight and punching holes in the sidewalk with your feet?
¶ My iOs app is called unfollow. It works. I also periodically use a Chrome extension called F___book Post Manager to get rid of past years and months of posts. You don’t owe the world your archives. Nobody is going to build an Official Library of You. I have various Twitter lists, which I curate ruthlessly, and I only read those, not the firehose feed.
#I’m not saying don’t post. I’m the last person who should say that. I am an incredibly fast typist, I am incredibly impulsive (you think you’re impulsive? Silly person.), and I am deeply worried about politics right now, so though I spend relatively little time on social media I produce shipping containers, vats, lakes, of verbiage. But write actual things, not just hashtags and hopeful promotion. Put yourself out there. On Twitter, for instance, I make it a point to create five writing prompts a day. I do it mostly for myself, and sometimes they turn into stories.
**I have a book to revise. That’s the plan, anyway.