I think it’s fair to say that most of us are not looking to add more social media activity to our lives. In fact, we prefer to trim online activity or drop entire networks if possible.
So the advice I’m about to offer may feel objectionable and time-wasting at first, but if you stay with me until the end, you may find wisdom in what I’m advocating.
I recommend that as soon as you find out about a new social media service, join it.
It’s not necessary to conduct much research on the service or even learn how to use it—not at first. (And let’s assume you’ve heard about the social network from a reputable source or someone you trust.)
Here’s what you should do; it’s about a 10- or 15-minute commitment.
- Create a username, account name, or profile URL using the name you publish under—or intend to publish under. Hopefully you’ve been consistent about what usernames you have on social media. For instance, no matter where you find me online, my handle is always the same, “janefriedman” or a display name of “Jane Friedman.”
- Add a link to your website in your profile. (Almost every social network allows you to add a link to your website, so do it.)
- Complete the profile information to whatever level you feel comfortable. You can copy and paste in your standard bio from another social media site if appropriate.
- Quickly see if there’s anyone else you know using the platform; consider following/friending.
- Add a brief post of some kind; experiment for roughly 5 minutes with using the network.
Then you’re done. You never have to go back, until you feel curious or motivated to do so.
Here are the benefits to completing this process:
- You’re laying claim to the best (or a better) username or handle for yourself.
- By being an early adopter, you gain the benefit of being “found” by the hundreds or thousands who join the network after you, looking for people they already know on the network. (See #4 above.) On some networks, new users may automatically friend/follow people they’re friends with elsewhere. That means if/when you return to the network at a future date, you have a built-in following you didn’t have to work for.
- You’re linking to your website and creating a profile that may surface when people search for your name. If the social network becomes big and important, or influential in terms of SEO (search engine optimization), you’ve just created a useful social signal that helps search engines (and others) better identify who you are and understand what work you produce.
- You don’t have to be active on the social network in order to reap the above benefits.
What are the drawbacks to this process? You’ve got an account out there that may be largely inactive. Some people advocate against this for security reasons, but based on my experience, there’s little to no repercussion. Use a strong and unique password, sign up for weekly email alerts to inform you of any account activity, and generally you’ll be fine.
When I signed up for Facebook (in 2006) and Twitter (in 2008), I didn’t find much to do (or much activity overall). Not enough people were there, neither were yet seen as professional marketing channels, and you couldn’t even advertise. But I still signed up, created a page, and every once in a while returned. Eventually, I started using both networks when they became interesting to me, and my friends and colleagues were there.
Right now, I have accounts at many social media networks, including Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, Peach, and the List App. But I’m not very active on any of them. Maybe one day I will be, and if so, my account is ready and waiting, with a baseline of followers and friends I can build from.
Related: SEO and Fiction Writers—check out some excellent advice from marketer Pete McCarthy.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.