Recently I traveled to Indiana to teach blogging to the IRWA. OMG I love speaking to RWA groups! Romance writers are my absolute favorite people and it’s always such a joy to teach for them. The downside always is I have to go home and apparently “keeping” the attendees is called “kidnapping” and is a “federal offense.”
The FBI are such party poopers *rolls eyes*
Anyway, one challenge I face whenever I teach social media and branding and blogging is I have to undo a lot of really bad and frankly WRONG teaching. This presents some challenges for me in that often, many writers attend my lectures out of obligation. They are there because they are biting a bullet.
*writer slogs in with a half-written suicide note*
And frankly, the way a lot of folks teach social media? I’d want to toss myself off something high as well.
What I want to do today is to help you discern a real expert you should listen to (because there are plenty other than me) versus someone to either avoid like the plague or to at least use some more discernment before taking what the “expert” says as gospel. Often when we go to conferences and listen to lectures, we are trusting the expert blindly but these days we need to be educated consumers. If we aren’t? I can cost us BIG.
So my goal is to help you guys go into the conference season and onto the interwebs better informed.
Without further ado, beware of…
Some “experts” frankly, are not. I hate saying this, but it is the truth.The digital age of publishing reminds me of the Gold Rush of the 1800s. There were plenty of folks who popped up on the scene to take advantage of an immigrant with a dream. They sold plots of land they knew had no gold. They sold maps and tools, and services knowing all along that the “miner” had about as much chance of hitting gold as flying to the moon.
We need to be vigilant in this new age because these people do exist, though these folks tend to pop up on-line (not at a conference). They are happy to sell some new fad or gimmick or plan and in truth? It’s snake oil. Thus if you see a shortcut that seems too good to be true? Likely is.
Feel free to run it by me if you are unsure, but I have been doing this social media thing since MySpace was big and I’ve never seen a gimmick that lasted long. Often there will be some trick, a few writers make a LOT of money, the “expert” then picks up this trick and sells it and the fact he/she can cite real success stories adds validity to what is being sold.
But here’s the deal. If this “trick” is being packaged? Odds are it is obsolete already. Someone is trying to make a buck off a ship that already sailed.
And don’t get me wrong, gimmicks do work. They just don’t work long term. If there is some magic way of doing algorithms so we sell a gazillion books on-line? By the time we buy the step-by-step plan then apply it? Amazon, Facebook, or Google’s IT people likely have already corrected the glitch that gave the mass advantage.
The big guys don’t like loopholes or shortcuts they aren’t charging us for.
Remember that 😉 .
If there is some special time of day to tweet while rubbing yourself in glitter and that sold a million books? Twitter has adjusted to be glitter-proof by the time we employ it.
*looks for receipt to return glitter*
Beware of Greeks Bearing Convenience
There are also some who teach social media simply to be able to sell services, and when I say “services” I mean you guys paying someone to do what you can easily do yourself (and I do see a these folks at conferences). Thing is, though, these folks will make it seem that it isn’t easy at all. In fact, it might even seem downright impossible. Their job is to overwhelm the audience because that is what sells services and writers make easy marks because many of us are intimidated by social media.
Most of these services are not only completely unnecessary, they can actually damage a brand…which means we are paying to damage our own brand.
We live in an age of authenticity and if Stephen King, Reese Witherspoon, and Samuel L. Jackson can write their own tweets? We can too. 140 characters should not be that big of a deal for a writer.
If Anne Rice can find the time to post and talk to fans on Facebook? We can too.
We don’t need to be everywhere and we certainly don’t need to pay anyone to post for us. The trick is meaningful activity which is something I have addressed in other posts, and that is something easily done in 15 minutes a day.
People would rather hear from US, not someone posing as us (even if that “someone” is a robot). *stabs automation in the face*
Any level of automation that requires outsourcing? That’s too much automation. Just saying.
Not All Experts Know What They Are Talking About
The bad thing is that often the expert is unaware of his/her own ignorance. They mean well, but they’re woefully misinformed. Years ago when I first started out, I fell prey to a lot of this well-meaning (yet completely inaccurate) instruction and it can create a huge mess.
It is also why I became a social media expert/watchdog for writers.
Do I think these folks are infiltrating conferences for the sole purpose of distributing misinformation? Lol, of course not.
Often they really believe they know what they’re doing, but they’re either new (thus to sound more authoritative than they really are, they pass on marketing information that sounds cool, but actually hasn’t been relevant since 2005) or they simply are not schooled in the unique needs of the author platform.
When in doubt? Google the expert and see for yourself. Is their FB page nothing but a string of adds? Is Twitter a non-stop self-promotional infomercial?
If this person is teaching you how to blog, what does his or her blog look like? Do they have a good amount of subscribers? A robust comments section? Lots of shares? If this expert doesn’t blog, no problem. Do they have writers they’ve taught who have solid blogs?
If they do blog, do they even have a blog that is relevant to an author? Not everything cross-applies. One vet may be fantastic at tending a cat, but not have near the knowledge base to tend a champion racehorse. Doesn’t make him a bad veterinarian, just not his specialty.
Same in blogging and social media.
If I am a business expert and my blog is all on financial advice and I sell books on how to get out of debt, what makes my blog successful might be great for the non-fiction author but a complete disaster for the high-fantasy author.
The problem is a lot of folks believe what works for one will work for all. They give a class with lots of advice about being on LinkedIn and doing interviews and “becoming an expert” and signing up for HARO *rolls eyes*, but if you look at their client list? LOTS of non-fiction authors and experts. All that advice, while great for the doctor who wants to write a diet book, is a good way to turn creative people into cutters.
In the end, a lot of this boils down to getting educated and that takes away the fear factor. It is harder to take advantage of us if we are calm and informed. I recommend (duh, obviously) my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World or take a class (Lisa has a Facebook class coming up). But, though I am a huge fan of money, my first priority is to help you guys.
I work very hard to make sure y’all are prepared and armed against those who might take unfair advantage. So feel free to peruse my archives for all the social media information you require to be savvy and make good decisions.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any pressing questions?
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