Many thanks to Bang2writer Karen who asked for my thoughts on building a platform/following online. If you’re thinking of launching yourself into the virtual world as a writer, here’s some tips to think on based on my own experiences.
Building your own online platform is not difficult in terms of set up, but it is difficult to a) know where to start and b) maintain.
In terms of b), maintaining it will depend on many things, not least your own remit and what you want to achieve with it … Most of all however, it will be about TIME. Most people give up. So don’t give up! That’s really all there is to it.
So, when it comes to a), these are the NON-NEGOTIABLES as a writer you need to make a ‘splash’ in the virtual world:
1) Your own website
If you want potential audiences to find you, you MUST have your own website in order to showcase your produced and published content. How you do this is up to you, but here are some top tips from me having been a blogger for over a decade now:
i) Buy your own URL – NEVER have a ridiculously long free website name; make sure you buy your own and make it as no-frills as possible! If it’s for you as an individual, have your OWN NAME in it, maybe what you’re showcasing as well. Here’s mine >> http://www.lucyvhayauthor.com. If it’s something you’re BRANDING, such as a business, then have that name instead, such as the URL here >> http://www.bang2write.com. Boom. It really is as simple as that!
ii) Use WordPress – I have tried just about every blog platform there is. Trust me when I say WordPress is the least hassle, with the most plug ins (i.e. useful stuff) in it. It’s also relatively easy for techno-hopers like moi, plus if you have any problems you can call in the cavalry to fix it easily. ALL tech types know WordPress and can sort any problems for you ASAP.
iii) Use a NO-FRILLS Theme (and keep it that way) – Blogs have design templates called themes that you can download and tweak to your own specifications. Pick the least fancy, most MINIMAL one. Pick a colour scheme for stuff like links, but make sure the background is white (never, ever, EVER pick black background with white type). And go easy on the additional stuff in your sidebars. DO NOT MAKE IT LOOK TOO BUSY.
iv) Get decent hosting that will show up on the important search engines like Google. I don’t know much about this ‘cos I don’t care. So I get someone else to sort out it for me. If you’re daunted or would rather pluck your own eyes out than deal with tech stuff, you can do the same. However, if you Google this shit, there’s a lot of info out there. It’s what the internet was invented for after all!!
Those are the blogging basics … Here’s 10 Reasons Your Blog Sucks when it comes to content and getting the word out about it. Be afraid, be very afraid!!!
For even MORE information on all things website-related, check out First Site Guide. It contains detailed reviews of the most popular blogging platforms, web builders, web hosting companies, domain registrars, CDN and email services to help all web newbies who are interested in building an online platform.
2) Sort Your Social Media
Now, this advice will depend according to your niche — if you’re into alligator wrestling or extreme ironing, you may find this differs wildly. However, if you’re a writer like me, here is what I’ve discovered:
Use FACEBOOK predominantly, with a chunk of Twitter and a pinch of Instagram!
I’ve consistently found those interested in writing, authors, books, movies, celebrities, reviews, publishing, adaptation and other writing-related news such as representation will come from these four sites:
- FACEBOOK – USES: GENERAL DISCUSSION (especially questions). I think users like Facebook for these topics because it’s the one social media platform that allows users to indulge in epic-long threads about subjects they feel passionate about, with them able to find the threads with ease and follow them for days at a time without losing them. It’s also a good mix of written and visual, something that has to appeal to writers, especially screenwriters. I get a LOT of clickthru from Facebook to my sites and profiles.
- TWITTER – USES: DISCUSSION (especially opinions). I think users like Twitter for keeping up with writing NEWS – it feels fresh, with posts daily on favourite books and movies, not to mention the inevitable OUTRAGE surrounding various industry-related topics. What’s more, with the new tagging functions, hashtags and photos no longer taking up any of the 140 characters, there’s more ‘room’ to explore than Facebook – literally. This means Twitter is a great platform for discovering new and challenging opinions, or finding someone with a different worldview to your own. I get decent clickthru from Twitter, but it’s about a third of what I get from Facebook. Check me out as both @Bang2write and @LucyVHayAuthor. Notice the difference between the two!
- INSTAGRAM – USES: VISUAL BRANDING. Instagram is a predominantly visual platform, so I find chat is at a minimum on my stream, despite the fact my followers are highly engaged, ‘liking’ my posts regularly and within momnents of me posting. Instagram has no real ‘clickthru’ facility, but I do get messages all the time from people who tell me they ‘saw me’ – or rather, my websites – on Instagram. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, here are I am: @LucyVHayAuthor.
i) Want to appeal to your fellow writers? You need to be on FACEBOOK and you need to have a GROUP and create a community there. I did this with and create a community there. I did this with the ‘Bang2writers’ FB group, that is nearly 2K strong & very lively indeed, with lots of writing chat going on daily, whether I am personally present or not. This is the dream when it comes to groups. Most groups are much smaller, usually between 150-500 members, though there are lots of ways admins can aid participation in their groups, which is the key element.
ii) Want people to know about your work? You need a PAGE and to cross post its content to Facebook groups. I did this first via my Bang2write FB page, but now do it also with LucyVHayAuthor page and also my Crime, Ink page.
Of course, you CAN be on other social media sites … And certainly, if being on more than one does your head in, then it’s better to stick to ONE and do it well, than do half a dozen, half-assed! MORE: 4 Indispensable Social Media Platforms For Writers
A note on Linkedin
I don’t get much ‘click thru’ from my Linkedin profile, BUT it still delivers for me in terms of paying work and contact-building via its CV/Resumé function. Writers are typically very ‘down’ on Linkedin, saying they don’t really know what it’s for or why anyone bothers with it. In contrast, I’ve found Linkedin an absolute godsend. As a writer, it’s helped me literally earn money, plus I’ve been able to contact countless industry pros I would have had trouble tracking down otherwise. What’s not to like! That said, STAY AWAY from Linkedin writing groups – I’m sure there are some good ones, but many are full of actual full-on trolls!!! MORE: How To Put Together A Writer’s CV/Resumé
Once you’ve got all this
You need to decide what the following you want to build is FOR. Sounds easy enough, but is actually harder than it sounds.
Simply writing about ‘anything’ online as the mood takes you is fine, but if you want to create a brand or get known QUICKLY, it’s a good idea to decide on a remit … aka unique selling point … aka that je ne se quois that marks you out in the sea of other writers!
For example, does this (below) remind you of anyone???
That’s right … it sounds just like B2W!!! This tagcloud was created from the most often used words on the site. BECAUSE THIS IS B2W’S REMIT.
What’s more, don’t forget people follow B2W not because I am personally so interesting and awesome (though I am), but because I can GIVE THEM SOMETHING too (ie. writing help).
In the same way, people are interested in me as Lucy V Hay Author because they’re interested in reading and potentially enjoying my work. So I give them insights into creating that work, plus I will offer giveaways, competitions and so on.
When it comes to building platforms, it’s always a two way street!!
Get the tools to shine, focus on what you’re doing (and why), plus offer them something, then people WILL follow you … but don’t forget that remit! Oh, and be awesome. Easy, huh?? Good luck!!