Summer is time for adventures. Whether I’m going near or far, I love the creativity, perspective and energy of traveling somewhere new and different. (And who doesn’t love the R&R of removing yourself from the intense day-to-day pace of life at home?)
It occurred to me as I set out on my travels this year that adventures aren’t limited to the physical world. Indeed many of the same skills and mindset of travel can help us to explore new digital environments, too.
Exploring New Social Media Networks
Even though I’m in communications and have done my share of social media management for clients—even though I generally like social media and have done just fine adapting to other new networks in the past—I put off joining TikTok for many many months.
I knew all the stories about the incredible #BookTok community. I knew other authors in my network were enjoying it once they adapted to it. But in these times, learning a new network—a new format no less (video)—just felt like a huge energy drain that I did not need. But. Finally, I did it a few months ago.
And the stories were all right: Jump on in, the water’s fine! And it wasn’t as draining as I thought it would be, either. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it sooner.
Much like travel, exploring a new social network can be very rewarding. But each holds its own social dynamics and expectations and cultural nuance. I approached TikTok very similarly to how I approach traveling to a new city or country, and it made the process both more fun and less strenuous.
3 Steps to Assimilating to a New Social Network
1. Set up and connect
Any time you join a new social network, the first thing you’ll be prompted to do is to create your account. Go ahead and claim your space. Even if you aren’t sure if you’ll stay, it’s smart to claim your author handle on a new network with your author name and/or a handle consistent with your tags on other social media. That way, at minimum, anyone looking for you won’t find some random other person with a similar name.
Once you have your account claimed, take a few minutes to connect to some others on the network—after all, they’ll be what fuels the content of your feed on the network. The easiest place to start is often to find your author, publishing and reader friends, or outlets or others who are successful in your genre or topic area.
There are often handy lists out there for anyone looking to connect to authors in a genre or a reading community, once a community starts to establish itself.
Now that you’ve set up your account, it’s time for you to reap the fruits of your labor. Every network and community has its own social dynamics. So take the time to observe before you start posting. Observe, collect inspiration, and follow more accounts as you come across posts that interest you.
In addition to being the best way to educate yourself, this approach to learning a new social network also takes the pressure off! It’s only social media—there’s no need to be overly serious, grueling or intense about it!
Like writing a book, any platform is a marathon, not a sprint. This is your moment to sit back and find the joy of the community that’s growing on the network.
3. Dip your toes in
While observing and learning is important, at some point there’s no substitute for giving a network the old college try.
When is the right time? Personally, it’s usually when I start having my own ideas for posts. Then it’s time to stop worrying and just give it a shot, reservations or self-conscientiousness be damned.
Don’t fret over being perfect—I promise, it won’t be. But there’s no need for it to be perfect. After all, if you’re just starting, hardly anyone is even watching. Take your opportunity to learn by practicing in public and appreciate the low stakes of being at the beginning of your journey on the network.
With a little practice, you’ll likely soon find everything clicking into place. And if not…that’s okay too. You don’t have to be active everywhere just because others are. But you can’t know until you give it a real try.
At minimum, hold onto your account so no one else can claim your author name and confuse your readers. And who knows, maybe you’ll find you’re ready to try again another time.
Take an Adventure into a New Social Network
Often, it’s hard to know from the outside what the hype is about when a new social network is about. In a world that’s already jaded on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, it can be hard to convince yourself there’s anything left to be discovered—or that something new and “hot” is worth the effort of learning. But each network has something different to offer, and you really can’t know until you try.
By approaching each as an adventure and an opportunity for discovery, you have much to gain and little to lose! Happy exploring!
Tell us in the comments: What social media platform are you going to try for the first time?
By day, E. J. Wenstrom is a digital strategy pro with over 10 years at communications firms. By early-early morning, she’s an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War novels, starting with Mud. She believes in complicated characters, terrifying monsters, and purple hair dye.