How to Use Social Networking to Promote Yourself

by Melinda Hutchings

 

Online social networking can seem daunting as well as time consuming, if you don't know much about it. Between websites, Facebook, blogging and Twitter, it seems there is a never ending flow of opportunities that you need to attempt to harness and steer in the right direction.

But the good news is it's not as complicated to navigate as you may think, and there are ways and means of protecting your privacy. And if you are a published author, about to be published or simply wishing to establish a presence to build your profile, utilising these online resources can work to your advantage.

The trick is to:

  1. Promote yourself without coming across as a shameless self promoter (which can be a fine line)
  2. Reveal only what you wish to be public knowledge
  3. Link your online resources

The best place to start is your website. If you don't yet have one, get one as soon as possible. Establishing an online presence in today's world is important because it's the first place people will go to find out information about who you are, what you do and what others think of you. Your website provides the best opportunity to present yourself in the light that you wish to be seen and create a positive perception.

My Websites

I currently have two websites. Because my books and the work I do is about helping people with eating disorders, I launched  www.bodycage.com which is solely dedicated to providing information about eating disorders for those seeking help and support. My other website www.melindahutchings.com is my professional author website which promotes my books, writing accomplishments, public speaking and media work.

Melinda Hutchings websites

A third website about issues affecting teens is in development for when my fourth book is published next year. Each website is vastly different in terms of content, style and presentation, because they have different objectives. However, they are linked for the purpose of cross promotion.

My Blog

Similarly, when I started www.melindahutchings.blogspot.com so I could blog about breaking news related to eating disorders and body image, I also linked this page back to both websites.

Melinda Hutchings web site

Setting up a blog is easy, and it's free. All you need to do is go to https://www.blogger.com/start and follow the prompts to create a profile, and then start writing. The trick with a blog is to set up Google alerts specific to your area. For example, I have several Google alerts set up which track keywords anorexia, bulimia, eating disorder, amongst others.

Melinda Htuchings Starting a Blog

When there is a post on the web that contains these keywords, Google immediately sends me an email with the weblink. This provides a constant source of material to blog about. It's easy to set up a Google alert. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts

A blog will help position you as an 'expert' in your field. Be sure to update your blog at least once a week to keep it current and functional.

Facebook is about connecting with friends and acquaintances (business and personal) and is another way to promote yourself and your work. There are different degrees of privacy that allow you to nominate who can view your profile. Status updates can be a beneficial way of announcing important developments in your work, such as a book contract, publication of an article or when you've updated your blog. You can also post links to your blog and your website. A Facebook presence can be a valuable tool for cross promotion as it provides another area of exposure.

So, I had two websites, a Facebook profile and a blog, and thought I had it nailed. Then I discovered Twitter.

Twitter

This online resource blows the whole 'six degrees of separation' thing out of the water because even A-list celebrities are accessible through the click of a button. A surreal world, but one I felt eager to explore.

The objective of Twitter is to follow people who are in a similar field, or people who are interesting, while at the same time, gaining a loyal following. There are several tactics to consider employing to help build your profile. While it is tempting to start following as many people as you can find, in the hope that they will follow you back, if you aim to generate a loyal fan base, a more strategic approach is required.

First of all there is a 160 character limit on what you can say about yourself, so you need to create a smart, sassy bio that is true to you and your work, but also provides an element of intrigue.

A great example is Kate Kendall:

"Online editor of Marketingmag.com.au | writer | journalist | strategist | marketer. Digital, social media and tech lover. #socialmelb organiser."

The #hashtag represents a Twitter search tool. 

And Darren Willinger from Chicago:

Success driven ex-DELL sales maker. Career seeking by day and meditating, guitar playing, wine making, crime fighting superhero at night.

Although he has nothing to do with writing, I love his bio and find his posts entertaining, therefore I enjoy following him.

My bio reads:

Media commentator, author, public speaker on the topic of body image and teen issues. My passion is to help and inspire others. In love with life!

Melinda Hutchings Twitter

As you can see, three very different bios, but each one is true to the individual. Similarly, your posts, or 'tweets', carry a limit of 140 characters, and need to be true to your personality and what you represent. People will get a sense of who you are through what you tweet. Take care not to try too hard to be funny or witty, and refrain from the temptation of making every second tweet about yourself. Twitterers can be fickle. One whiff of self promotion and you'll find the number of followers will drop, sometimes significantly.

When you do post a comment that is directed back to your blog or website, there is a way to do this without looking like you are self promoting. Go to www.tiny.cc where you can enter your website or blog url and turn it into a shorter url. This helps with the character limit, as well as disguising your url. You will also need to word your post in such a way that it encourages people to visit the link, but keep it brief. For example, I recently blogged about the controversy surrounding the skinny contestant in the Australian Miss Universe pageant and posted:

The skinny on Miss Universe: http://tiny.cc/uWgJC

The url is the link to my blog - although you'd never know it was my blog thanks to tiny.cc

To find relevant people to follow, look up the profiles of people in a similar field to yourself, as well as high profile writers such as Mia Freedman and Tara Moss, and look at who they are following. When you start following people, most will follow you back, but it depends on how you describe yourself in your bio, and your following to follower ratio. If you are following 1,000 people and only have 74 followers, it will be obvious that you are attempting to build a following as quickly as possible and this is a potential turn off. Based on the profiles I have viewed, it would appear the ratio for those successfully building a presence is around 60 / 40 in terms of people you are following / followers.

The first time people 'unfollow' you is a shock. But don't take it personally. I always tell myself if someone unfollows me, then they don't get who I am and what I'm about, and it's not about me, it's about them. I also get many messages from followers who love my tweets and this is very rewarding.

Twitterers often 'retweet' a post they find of interest. Retweeted posts are prefaced with RT @profileID followed by the text. Retweeting shows others that you are supportive and it can also generate more followers.

Remember that Twitter is about connecting with people, so make your tweets frequent and adopt an attitude of helping others through sharing information, retweeting comments/links of interest, commenting on what others post, helping promote others for example by commenting on a book you've read and providing a link to that author's website. Do this as well as tweeting about your work and linking to your own sites and you will create a good balance of information.

Cross-Promote

It is advantageous to streamline your online presence and link from website to blog to Facebook to Twitter, in order to cross promote what you do. Both my websites provide links to my blog and my Twitter profile. And if you wish to link your Facebook and Twitter profiles to synchronise updates, all you need to do is add the Twitter Facebook application to your Facebook profile.
 
The question you need to ask yourself is: what is your objective? Is it to increase your profile? Be viewed as an expert in your field? Increase sales of your books? Establish a presence in preparation for publication?

Your answer to this question will help decipher how best to utilise these online resources to ensure they complement one another so you gain maximum exposure.


Melinda Hutchings is a media commentator, author and public speaker on the topic of body image, eating disorders and teen issues. Her third book Why Can't I Look the Way I Want will be published by Allen & Unwin in June, followed by Why Won't Anyone Listen in 2010. Her website www.bodycage.com has had over 500,000 hits. 

 

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