You’ve been social networking on Facebook and LinkedIn for years, and you can hunt down lost high school friends with the best of them.
So when it comes time to build a professional network for your writing career, it’s understandable if you’re not clear on the difference. What’s wrong with what you’re already doing?
The lines between personal and professional social media can get blurry when you’re a one-writer show. But there are some important distinguishing factors that can help you get the most from your professional social media and keep your personal life, well, personal.
Let’s explore the key components.
Brand and Voice
When you’re building a professional network (meaning, with the goal of selling and spreading awareness of your writing), you’re not just yourself anymore—you’re a brand.
For a professional brand, you should maintain a consistent look and feel across your website and social network profiles. It also means maintaining a consistent voice. Similar to creative writing, finding your social media voice comes with time and practice. Your voice should channel your best, most clever self, and it should be relatable for your target audience.
But voice also refers to your professionalism. As a general rule of thumb, avoid swearing, and definitely avoid name-calling, trolling, attacking, and other negative, malicious statements.
Of course, just to complicate things, there’s exceptions to this. But whenever you find yourself about to post a swear or negative statement, check yourself: Is this necessary? Why? How will your target audience feel about it? Your publisher? Relevant media? As artists we like to advocate for our right to personal expression over all else, but as professionals, these considerations matter.
Social media posts are not like sales calls—try not to think in terms of dollars or page hits. Think in terms of relationships.
Keep posts that beg readers to “buy my book!” to a minimum, and focus instead on meaningful engagement. This means sharing content that you find relevant and valuable, posting to others with direct comments, and responding when someone directs a post to you.
You’ll have an easier time doing this if you check your accounts regularly, follow accounts that offer quality content you are interested in, join groups, and use the other various tools your social media channels offer.
A pro needs to post consistently and frequently to maintain visibility. When you’re posting for yourself, visibility doesn’t matter—after all, your friends and family already know you.
But when you’re growing a professional platform, that consistency will be key to building those reader relationships and keeping you top-of-mind—and that’s what sells books and expands your network’s reach.
But consistency doesn’t only refer to how often you post—it’s also about the content of your posts. Focusing your posts’ content on a few relevant topics will help you grow your platform by engaging your target audience.
What’s the “right” topic for a post? If it’s related to your books, if you’re passionate about it, and/or if your target audience is passionate about it, it’s the right topic.
This aspect of professional posting is largely up to personal preference and what makes sense for your voice and comfort level. You can share just a little, or you can share frequently.
Some degree of personal sharing can make a huge difference in your ability to connect with followers and build relationships. But there is also definitely such a thing as oversharing—don’t broadcast the latest family drama or make your professional platform all about you.
There’s also a practical security aspect to professional platforming. Avoid sharing anything you wouldn’t want to tell a stranger—when you’re going to be out of town, your child’s name, or other things that could jeopardize your safety.
While the basic actions of posting for a professional platform and for your personal life are pretty similar, always remember these basic principles to keep your professional accounts in tip-top shape. With a few simple guidelines to keep your platform consistent and focused, you’ll be posting like a pro in no time.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.