It seems to be settled wisdom that blogging a couple of times each week is the bare minimum if you want to make a name for yourself on social media. This seems to be especially true if you are a writer: Kristen Lamb calls it the “digital core of your author brand” in her wonderful book RISE OF THE MACHINES: HUMAN AUTHORS IN A DIGITAL WORLD. I recommend it as a guide to all those social media beginners, like myself, who want to make the best use of all there is, but most of the time don’t know where to start or are conflicted about how to proceed. But one of the big questions is: what am I going to say?
You need to understand who you’re talking to
Of course there is so much to learn, but for me, one of the most important lessons that I took from Kristen is that while it is great to have the supportive and positive company of other writers, they are not really the people that an author wants to connect with. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy and appreciate interacting with others who are going through the same highs and lows, trials and torments as I am. But it’s ordinary people who are our potential readers and of course we want to reach as many of them as possible. How do we do that? …… Well we blog and tweet what resonates with ordinary people – just like we should be doing on Facebook. And to take it a step further, I try to do what I seem to remember another social media inspiration, Rachel Thompson suggests you do on Twitter:- each day try to follow fifty (though I settle for just a few) new people (and not other writers or publishers or agents ). ….. If you choose people you like the look of, then it’s likely they’ll like the look of you and follow you back. You can always unfollow those who turn out to be not what you’d hoped.
Me and my “brand”
Now this is all very well for writers wanting to develop their “brand”. But you are your “brand” and one of the areas where I start to nuance all the good advice that the best people give is when it comes to things I care about …. and after all, we are human beings (hopefully intelligent) and we care about other things than writing and selling books or whatever. And it seems to me that the things we care about should be the things we blog about.
Often it’s said “don’t blog about politics or religion – you don’t want to alienate or offend anyone” but these things are more than central to each of us a human being. Of course, I’m not talking about “ranting”. That’s crazy as no-one wants to listen to a “rant”, even if you agree with their basic values. But I’ve been struggling with a tendency to send out occasional “social conscience” posts – pretty much what my personal FB page had been full of … until recently.
Of course, there are “ways of doing things”.
Now Kristen Lamb’s recent blog: WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL? BEWARE OF END-OF-THE-RAINBOW THINKING is a pretty good – perhaps a great – compromise. It’s full of useful advice as usual, especially for writers – because that’s what she does – but it raises social issues as well; although discreetly. Perhaps much more discreetly than I would. But hey! its her blog and she has ten times more followers that I’ve had hot breakfasts despite my advancing age.
What I hear Kristen talking about in this blog is how so many people have crazy expectations, thinking that they should walk straight into top-paying jobs (or best-seller status) without putting in the hard graft. Kristen also raises the point that something has happened in today’s society where we’ve forgotten what everyone knew in the past: before you exercise a trade you do an apprenticeship and it can take many more years to become a master craftsman. I’ve often heard it said that it takes “10,000 hours” of hard work for anyone to become competent at what they are doing. That’s 5 years working forty hour a week, 50 weeks a year. After that, you can start to get better.
I just wanted to take these points a little further.
I wanted to ask the question: why? Why do so many people, especially younger people think that we can “have it all” straight off the bat? And what can we do to counter this fantasy about how life works. Kristen makes the point that media glorification of inane celebrity culture has something to do with it. Of course the media who pursue these stories of super rich celebrities, actors, sportsmen and callous corporate raiders will just say that they are giving the people what they want. Don’t you believe it. It’s like filling supermarket shelves with crisps and chocolate bars because people supposedly like to eat them. Maybe occasionally we do, but they can’t be our regular diet. Try it and see.
So who takes responsibility for a better moral compass?
Now, we’re not going to stop the media and the PR and food supply industries and others from selling us the cheapest stuff that makes the most profit for them – while usually doing us no good at all. And governments don’t seem to want to take any responsibility in these areas. So that leaves the family. ….. As mums and dads, grandpas and grandmas, it is our responsibility to help this generation of kids and the next understand that we get nowhere without hard work and that the good things in life aren’t necessarily what the media, the marketers, the conscienceless corporations want to make us think they are.
So what does that mean for my blog?
To me, a blog must reflect the writer’s own personality and character. We’re real people not shallow marketing models. We’re not here to be politicians trying to please everyone. We never will. So we should be ourselves.
But it doesn’t mean we should feel free to trample over other people’s personal beliefs and values just because they’re different from our own. It’s just common sense. If you want someone to listen to you, it seems to me that there are a few basic rules … and I hope that I can follow them:
- be true to who you are as a person; but
- speak your readers’ language – in other words, talk to them in terms they are likely to understand and identify with; and
- show the same respect for other peoples’ values and beliefs that you would hope they’d show you.