Get More From a Writing Conference By Using Social Media

Many writers have the mistaken idea that social networking is only beneficial for connecting online. Or that it only helps when you can’t be at a conference. But it’s important to plug in through social networking BEFORE the conference starts!

Connecting early can greatly increase what you get out of the event. And that is so true for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference coming up later this month. Conferences are expensive and you’ll get so much more for your money if you plug in early.

Here are some things you can do in advance of the conference:

  • Begin to follow the conference hashtag. For the American Christian Writer’s Conference, it’s #ACFW. The cool thing now is that you can follow hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. By following the conversation you’ll be able to see who else is going, find up-to-the-minute information, and see the answers to questions other people ask.
  • Follow the conference social media accounts. For ACFW, that’s Twitterand Facebook.
  • Visit the conference website and plug in with the faculty and staff. This is a biggie, especially when you’re networking and/or pitching a project. Take a look at the faculty who are scheduled to be present and plug into their social networking connections. If they have a Facebook page, like it or friend them. If they have a Twitter account be sure to follow them. Take advantage of this advance information by getting to know what they’re looking for before you arrive at the conference.
  • Visit the conference website and check for special eloops or online groups. These can help you connect with others who are attending. ACFW has a first-timers loop that was especially valuable for me before I attended the first time.
  • Finally, put a call out on your social networking accounts. Ask if anyone is planning to attend the conference. It’s always more fun when you can share the experience with a friend.

Now it’s your turn to share. How do you use social media to prepare for an upcoming event? Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

Why I Decided to Quit Social Media & You Should Too!

Yep you read that right.

The Queen of social media is telling you she’s QUITTING social media.

NOT permanently (thought you were going to get out of it, didn’t you!), but I’m suggesting you take a break periodically, and re-examine your plan.

I used to keep up with social every single day, whether I was home or traveling. But I’ve learned that I can’t sustain a reasonable social media schedule seven days a week, indefinitely. So I’ve given myself permission to have weekends off and to relax when I’m traveling.

I know it sounds scary, but the truth is—it hasn’t hurt my platform at all—as a matter of fact it has helped it. Here’s two reasons why:

  • My updates are fresher.
  • I have time to expose myself to new blogs and new people.

So how do you know if it’s time to back off on social media?

  • You’re spending more than thirty minutes a day on social media updates.
  • You find yourself investing more energy in your blog than in your writing.
  • You’re updating about the same five or six sites four to five times a week.
  • You cringe when you hear the words social media.
  • You don’t have time to discover new blogs/followers/friends.

Here’s what to do.

  1. STOP. Give yourself permission to quit social media completely for forty-eight hours. Don’t announce it on Facebook, Twitter or even your blog. Just STOP.
  1. Rediscover what you enjoy about social media. AFTER the forty-eight hours of rest, spend a day or two just browsing. Take time to really read a couple of blog posts, visit with friends on Facebook, or hang out on Twitter.
  1. Determine what you need to accomplish with social media. Then make a plan so you can accomplish it in no more than thirty minutes a day, no more than five days a week.
  1. Restart your social media. Do it by sharing what you’ve learned. You can update about quitting social media, new blogs you’ve discovered, even new connections you’ve made.

I recommend a minimum of four Facebook posts per working day and four Twitter updates. This is something anyone can accomplish during a quick thirty minute window.

Quick Tip: If you schedule your social media for the day in the morning, get a jump on the next morning by scheduling some of the next day’s updates in the late afternoon. A lot of blogs go live in the afternoon, so you’ll have a chance to queue up some fresh material before you stop work for the day

Now it’s your turn, what do you do when social media overwhelms you?

Reduce Blogging Stress with These 12 Tips

Blogging is a valuable tool for writers wanting to grow and connect with an audience. It provides us with the opportunity to go deeper than a quick social media post. It also gives our readers a place to hangout with us in cyber-space.

But anyone who has done much blogging knows that it can also be stressful. These are my tips for reducing that stress.

12 Tips to Reduce Blogging Stress

  1. Find a place to keep all your blog post ideas. I’ve discovered that ideas appear at the oddest times. I’ve also found that if I want to keep them, I have to catch them and put them away the moment they occur to me.
  1. Work ahead. I try to schedule my posts as far out as possible. For me, that’s a week or two in advance. I also have a file of posts to use in case I need them.
  1. Utilize the practice of cluster blogging. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. In a nutshell, it’s writing multiple posts on similar topics.
  1. Find some blogging buddies. I have an agreement with several bloggers  who have the same focus as me. We agree that if we’re in a spot and need a last-minute post, we can take one from each other’s sites and give credit.
  1. Keep a file of images. I keep all my previous blog images—and images I take specifically for my blog—in a file. That way if I need something quick, I don’t have to find something new.
  1. Set goals 24 to 48 hours in advance of the real deadlines. The posts on my site go live at 4:00 am every morning. In addition, certain days have specific topics. Today is Social Media Monday. When I set my goal for when to write today’s post, it’s by 10pm Saturday evening. That way, if life happens, I still have time to readjust and not disappoint my readers.
  1. Keep a checklist. I have a checklist of things to look at before I hit publish. I know the things that I need to double-check, like formatting, captioning images, etc. By keeping a list, I’m able to be more consistent with the quality of my posts.
  1. Break up long posts into two parts. When I see a post is running long, I look for ways to break it into two or more posts. That keeps my audience reading because the post length isn’t too long, and it keeps them coming back to read part two.
  1. Pay attention to the comments. The comments section of your blog is a gold mine. Pay attention to questions and what’s said to find topics for future posts.
  1. Redo and reuse. I hate to think that all the previous posts I’ve written are only read once. I also don’t want to repost the same thing (because of SEO algorithms that penalize this practice). The way to overcome this is to rework your post and then reuse it.
  1. Don’t over stress. Life happens, sometimes you have to skimp on certain things. Or you might miss a post altogether. Be consistent while you can and don’t sweat the mistakes.
  1. Give yourself some grace. It’s impossible to put up perfect posts. All of us find stupid typos and formatting gaffs. Don’t assume mistakes are unforgivable.

These are the things that have helped me reduce my blogging stress. What would you add to the list? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I always learn so much from you all!

What is a platform and How do I build one?

These are good questions, but difficult ones to answer in a single blogpost. As a matter of fact, these question are the source of entire books. There truly is no easy answer.

That said, let me lay out some of the basics.

To build a firm, healthy online presence, an author needs 3 things:

  • A presence on Facebook.
  • A presence on Twitter.
  • A blog—this can be a solo blog, where you post once a week or a group blog, where you post twice or more a month.

Where Should I Blog?

I recommend beginning bloggers start out on Blogger. It’s owned by Google—which has excellent personalization options that the free version of WordPress doesn’t offer. But the importance of where you blog is secondary to the content and consistency of your blog.

A paid site is also an option, but it’s important to look at your budget and spend your money wisely. Foe example, spending a lot of money having a site built isn’t as important as learning how to write by buying books, attending classes and conferences, and joining professional organization. And you don’t have to have a paid site to be considered a top-tier blogger. My professional site is currently built on the Blogger platform, and I haven’t paid a dime for it.

What Do I Blog About?

As far as what to blog about, that takes more thought. Are you planning to write fiction, non-fiction or a combination? A strong non-fiction writer can make the topic of the blog the same as the books. But that’s not a requirement.

People will not follow us initially because we’re writers. They’ll follow us because we’re interesting.

I know successful author bloggers who have sites focused on everything from knitting to quotes to travel. Blogging takes work, so it’s important to pick a topic that won’t become boring.

My site is a site for writers and those interested in social media.

My other blog—on the site—is for military families and the communities that serve them.

Neither one of them is a platform from which to sell my books.

Social media and blogging are ways to grow relationships, not a major avenue of advertising and mass marketing.

Now Why Am I building a Platform?

I’m a member of a large church in upstate SC. We have several thousand members. There is no military base nearby, and I write books for military families.

However, I am a part of this church community. I’ve added value to the community and made friends. Some are close friends, so I only know by name or sight. BUT, because I’m part of this community, when I have a book release they support me.

Again, no more than a handful of families actually have family members currently serving in the military. But they’re excited for me and they help spread the word to those the book would help.

It’s that type of community that we’re looking to build online. Part of it comes from your blog, part from social media. The purpose is to be a valuable part of the community and help them, noting when we need them, they’ll help us.

Now What is a Platform?

Essentially that’s what a platform is, the number of people we can share information—like a book launching—with.

My platform is considerable (and it should be because I’ve been growing it for a while). I get between 30,000 and 50,000 unique hits per month on my blog. I have had, over the lifetime of the site, 1.8 million hits. I have 18,000 Twitter followers, thousands of FB friends and followers, as well as connections on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

BUT I grew this platform one relationship at a time—with small consistent steps. And I began growing it long before I had a book contract or even an agent. If we wait until then, it’s very hard to catch up because we’re way behind. A platform is what helps sell us to publishers and agents.

It’s a doable thing, but it takes a deliberate decision to do so. What do you consider some of the things a writer needs to know/do to begin building a platform? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.