I am troubled. I am an aspiring writer who feels overwhelmed by the amount of information online on how to become successful at this craft. I have been trying to promote my work via Facebook and Twitter, but every time I do so, I feel as if I were trying to sell a kidney to get some attention. What did you do when you were starting? Do you have any advice for people who, like me, really really want to get some exposure without feeling guilty about it?
Do you want to know the secret to successfully promoting yourself on social media? C'mere then. I'll tell you. It's far simpler than the social media "gurus" would have you believe. In order to be successful in social media, you have to care about helping other people. You have to give as much as get. That's it. And I know the Internet is mostly made of cats and repurposed memes from the '80s, but what makes things like Twitter and Facebook meaningful are those glimpses of community, when you can reach out on behalf of someone else and say, this moved me, or made me laugh or think, or ever so briefly feel connected to a greater good.
Social media at its heart is community, a weird, little incestuous community of people you probably haven't met but might meet someday. What makes it feel less alienating is when you treat it as such, rather than like some awkward third-party platform with a megaphone and a sales pitch. It matters that you comment on people's blogs. That you tweet people back. That you notice and congratulate people who publish a great article or complete a marathon. Does this take a little extra time? Yeah. But not a lot. Certainly it takes far less time than I spent on this Halloween or Brooklyn hipster Tumblr today.
This might seem a tad Kumbaya patchouli potluck at first, but I assure you, sooner or later you'll reap far greater rewards. Telling the world how great you are repeatedly is simply not an effective way to gain followers or promote your work. Imagine if someone approached you on the street and did that. You'd punch them in the face, right? Social media is similar. You can't take the human element away, or it won't work. For more on how to not be "that guy" (applies to girls too), read this great post by Chris Brogan.We creative types often think, "Well, I've made this great thing. Fantastic. My work is done now." But it's not done. The finished product, song, painting, novel is just the beginning. Ignore any blogs or dead baseball players that tell you simply, "If you build it, they will come." Oh no. You have to keep building it. And sometimes you have to raise the dead yourself. (This metaphor has really gotten away from me.) Long story short, if you don't have a community, seek one out. Find people who care about what you care about. And not just those who have "writer" in their Twitter bio.