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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: politics

 

On Wednesday, we talked about the evolution of the writer. As the paradigm is shifting, writers must evolve or they simply will not survive. Those who want to moan and wish for the gone-by age will be replaced by writers who are hungrier and better trained and who are willing to outwork the competition.

Evolution of the Brand

One of the reasons writers have so much more power these days is that the definition of an author brand has changed radically. Until a couple years ago, an author brand could ONLY be created by books. Readers’ only interaction with an author was through her works of fiction.

These days, the Modern Author is much more dynamic. She can write in different genres and experiment with different types of writing. There are more and more Hybrid Authors emerging in the new paradigm–writers who have NF, short fiction, different genres for sale some traditionally published and some indie or self-published. Writers have a LOT more flexibility. How did we gain this flexibility?

Social media.

Writers with a social media platform have a far more dynamic platform than the writer that is relying solely on books to construct the brand. This is because readers (followers) interact with the author daily and real-time, so the brand becomes the person–the author. Thus every tweet, every status update, every picture, every comment, every blog post and finally every book are all part of our brand. Think of it like adding bricks of all different sizes to construct a massive wall–the brand. Yes, the books will likely be larger bricks, but this doesn’t mean the other stuff doesn’t add up.

It All Counts

This brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sacrifice. The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. Social media is a loaded gun that can be used to feed our family or to shoot ourselves in the foot.

When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?

All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on our fellow writers to help us, to share and RT and they are less likely to lend support if we spend half our time calling them names.

I had one writer I finally unfriended this morning on FB. He was a sci-fi writer who COULD NOT stop with the political ranting. Every post was about how X party (my political affiliation, btw) were all morons and thieves and creeps and how people of X faith (my faith) were radical haters and bigots and dogs.

In fact, I will just be honest. I am getting to where I don’t even want to look in my FB home stream. SO many writers are ranting on and on about politics, and it all just gives me indigestion. I don’t “friend” a fantasy author so I can listen to a non-stop political rant. If I wanted that, I would friend Ann Coulter or Jesse Jackson and at least I would know what I was in for.

If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.

What Brand are We After Anyway?

We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.

So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.

Yes, I Know It is Hard

We are in an election year, and I know it is hard to not be opinionated. I totally feel your pain. I have a degree in Political Science! I really do understand, but my advice as a social media expert is that we be very selective about what we put on-line. Every post is part of our brand, and, if we do too much ranting about social injustice, we are creating a political activism brand not a fiction author brand…and we can be alienating a lot of people as well.

Are We Running for Office or Wanting to Sell Books?

I support plenty of writers who don’t share my political and religious viewpoints. That is easier for me to do if I am not being called names on a daily basis. There is a reason that politics and religion can be dangerous topics. I know that I am even taking a HUGE risk writing THIS blog. I know that the trackbacks and arguments will surface, but I am willing to risk it so you guys are properly prepared.

Beware of the Frankenstein Monster

One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line is once it is out there…we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?

What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.

Controversy Never Dies

I posted a blog about What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? and SEVEN months later I still get mini-debates and have had over 200 comments….over a fictional universe. In this case the controversy is fun…but when it comes to politics and religion???

Prepare to deal with trolls…forever.

Brace for the Backlash

In fact, if we do blog about politics or religion, we should just prepare for at least a half a dozen blogs to spring up with the mission of calling us a moron, and their trackbacks will always keep a fresh supply of trolls coming to that one political blog FOREVER. Not saying it will happen, just that it is pretty likely.

Community Includes “Unity”

Also, we need to remember that our platform is comprised of people who are different than we are. Many of you follow this blog because you expect me to write funny blogs about craft, social media and life. But what if you showed up Monday for my essay about abortion or euthanasia or legalizing marijuana because I needed to get something off my chest?

Many of you would likely never come back, but many would feel compelled to comment–either to tell me I was brilliant or to tell me I’d lost my mind–and this is where we start to see the massive fracture, the fighting in the comments because everyone feels passion and everyone feels differently.

So, now not only have I confused my brand…but now a group that all once had fun and friended one another and enjoyed getting together in my comments section have been divided FOREVER. What was fun and a high point is now spoiled, awkward and downright weird. Not only that, but now I will likely have to step in and referee people who once got along, but who now only see red because I felt the need to take a left-turn with my blog content.

Personally, I care about all of you whether we share political and religious affiliation or not. To me, no venting is worth alienating any of you. That’s just me.

Social Media Requires Respect and Care

I am all for freedom of speech, and feel free to write about or tweet about anything you want. I won’t stop you. The only purpose of this post is to educate writers about the unintended affect being overly political could have. I’m not saying we can’t post a link here and there or a faith quote or an evolution blog. We just need to really be aware of those around us and be prepared to take the consequences, even the unintended ones.

We Are Not Alone…No Really

Think of it this way. Out at our ranch we all carry guns. There are packs of feral pigs that roam our land, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and all kinds of critters that can kill or maim. Having a sidearm just goes with having a place in the wild country of Texas. But that same gun that took out a six foot rattlesnake near the front stoop is the same gun that could accidentally kill someone.

We can shoot watermelons and beer cans for fun, but it is wise to check that there isn’t a house or a weekend camper on the adjacent land behind the tree line where we are shooting. We have to be aware that we don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions have consequences.

Protect the Brand

Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?

Yet, if we are kind, respectful, fun, engaging AND we write great books, that is wonderful and can be the formula for a long successful career. No one needs to give up who they are or what they believe, it just doesn’t necessarily all belong on-line. We can feel free to rub ourselves with lime Jell-O and run around in our underwear, but it doesn’t mean it needs a picture on Facebook ;).

So…*braces* what are your thoughts? Am I out of line and the poster child for censorship? Or do you run into the same problem? Are there people you want to support but they won’t stop ranting? How does that make you feel? By the way, I have no problem if any of you wish to disagree with me as long as you do it respectfully. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.

I really, really do LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you make the most out of your social media experience. I teach, specifically, social media for writers. Writers are unique. Our social media presence is different than a business or even a casual user. We straddle both worlds, and often we feel as if we are in social limbo. We have to make sure to be friendly and personable and interact, but we also must remember that we are a business and have an image to build and a reputation to protect.

In my book We Are Not Alone, content is my primary focus. For me, walking a reader through signing up for a Twitter profile isn’t nearly as important as coaching that individual on what to do once she begins to “tweet.” What should she say? Last week I wrote a guest post for Genreality and I introduced the concept of T.H.I.N.K.ing before we post anything. Before our hot little fingers can dash across the keyboard, we need to engage our brain and T.H.I.N.K.

Ask:

Is it TRUE?

Is it HELPFUL?

Is it INFORMATIVE?

Is it NECESSARY?

Is it KIND?

Social media is, above all else, social. Yet, it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when we are sitting in the privacy of our homes. Our main goal as writers is to use social media in order to build a platform of individuals who know us, like us and support us. To do this, we must be personable, kind and genuinely interested in others. We must also be cognizant that everything we do is a calculated business decision. We are free to do anything we want on social media. We can gripe about other authors, agents, and publishing houses. We can grouse and get into Twitter fights. We can tweet dirty jokes and rant about the economy, the war, the state of public education. We are free to do all of these things. No Writer Police will show at our door and haul us away. But, even though we are free to do all these things, we must ask ourselves if it is wise from a business perspective.

In my book and in last week’s Genreality blog, The Power of Positive Tweeting, I recommended that writers stay away from subjects that are polarizing. Sex, politics and religion are topics guaranteed to quickly divide people and create ill will. So, unless these subjects are part of our platform, it is just a good idea to steer clear.

Gasp. Why, Kristen, we have beliefs and a faith and a viewpoint!

Okay, fair enough. So do I. But I imagine most of you are a lot like me. I like being friends with all kinds of people, not just those folk who believe the same as I do. I want all kinds of people in my corner, buying my books and wishing for my success, not just those people who believe the same things I do. As writers trying to build a platform, we are wise to think of social media like one giant social gathering, and that means we need to be great hosts. Others are a guest on our blog or in our space, so we should show them kindness by making them as comfortable as possible.

Few people are logical. We operate on emotions. Recently I had a writer ask me to evaluate his blog. It was a 1200 word ranting about a politically volatile topic. I felt sick to my stomach by the third sentence and I literally felt bludgeoned by the third paragraph. Do I believe the writer intended that response? Of course not. He was being bold and passionate and blogging about something he believed fiercely was right. But I would wager that, for at least 50% of his audience, reading that blog would likely rank up with dental surgery as in not an experience we care to repeat.

If he is a fiction author, then what did that blog just do to his platform? It split it clean down the middle by alienating half of his following. Any comments on the blog would also be split. One side would think he was a grand ideologue, and the other half would want his head…and would likely tell everyone they knew to steer clear of him and anything he wrote.

Remember our little acronym, T.H.I.N.K.? Was it true? For him, yes. Was it helpful? He certainly thought so. Was it informative? Oh, indeed! Ah, but was it necessary? For a fiction author, probably not. Thus, this author could fracture his following needlessly by blogging on a divisive subject that did nothing to support his fiction platform. For a political writer, this is great blogging. For a novelist, this is a needless travesty.

Emerson once said that good manners are made up of petty sacrifices. Am I asking writers to give up who they are and what they believe in? Not at all. But I do firmly believe in your talent as writers. Surely those of you gifted enough to create entirely new worlds are talented enough to be yourself in a way that always makes others feel welcome and included.  Yes, it takes more work and takes self-discipline. And, yes, sometimes it will be maddening to not bait to some other party’s on-line rant. But think of the goodwill we will be spreading to others! Our tweets and blogs and status updates will be a welcome refuge, a safe-haven from a world blighted with pessimism.

Humans crave positive feelings. We can’t get enough of them. Blogs that educate, encourage and inspire? Those are the blogs that gain our subscriptions our loyalty and our referrals. I recommend Tawna Fenske & Jody Hedlund every chance I get. Why? Because I KNOW their blogs are guaranteed to make me laugh, to make me think and best of all….to make me a better person.

Ben Franklin once said, “If you argue and rankle and contradict you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you never get your opponent’s good will.”

When it comes to how we will use social media, we all must make one key decision. Would we like to have an academic victory or a follower’s good will? I would endorse good will any day of the week.

So here is to making the world a brighter place one post, one blog and one tweet at a time, :D.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

The Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s In It for the Long Haul for those who want a CAREER as a writer.

Need some inspiration? What do the most highly paid authors have in common? brought to us by The Creative Penn

Mary Carroll Moore has a fantastic blog about Creating a Page-Turner

Editor of Writer’s Digest Jane Friedman, as always, has an wonderful blog, “The Future of Publishing: You Get to Decide” about all the different avenues of publication.

10 Simple ways to Become a Powerhouse Blogger, brought to us by the fountain of excellence @4KidLit on Twitter.

Want to know more about how to win friends and influence people on social media? I recommend a tried and true classic. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People should be a staple in every writer’s library.