Tag Archives: content

Social Media Lessons from SXSW 2012

11 Jul

Calvin Reid makes insightful remarks about the role e-technology and social media are playing in publishing in “SXSW 2012: New Publishing Models and the Rise of the Referral Economy.”  If you’re new to publishing and looking to make your mark on the industry and find readers, I’d highly encourage you to read the entire article.  To his point on “curating,” here’s some remarks of his that you might find especially helpful:

  • “Altounian said he’s targeting a demographic under the age of 40 that wants to read on an array of devices anytime they want and they don’t want to pay much, if anything, for the content they read on them. … Altounian was making the point that, at least for emerging artists, getting their content in front of readers through traditional publishers is an uphill battle that doesn’t work for everyone; that his goal is to build a list of self-branded artists (using social media tools) and by offering some free content now, and some for-pay content later when the freebie-oriented audiences for these artists reaches critical mass and wants more of their stuff.”
  • “Certainly one of the most intellectually vivid panels was Curators or the Curated, a panel examining the phenomenon of content sharing—essentially the practice of any and everyone linking to content and sending it out to followers and friends around the web—and what that means to publishers, creators and the curators themselves. … In theory curators bring attention to content and drive traffic to the original site; in practice some curators are having more impact than the publications they curate from. And its generated a debate about the practice and what it means—and of course how to monetize it.”
  • “He also rejected some of the anti-advertising curatorial comments, noting that business platforms were important and that he had worked for a Minn.-based newspaper that did away with escort ads and the loss of revenue killed the newspaper.”

What I take away from this is the following:

Writers need to start building a platform NOW—as in, even before we’ve written our book, we need to start curating content on our subject matter.  This means tweeting, forwarding, and “liking,” other writers’ posts related to our subject and also blogging, tweeting, and writing our own status updates on our subject.

Generate content and don’t be afraid to give it away for free.  It’s better to give our writing away for free in the beginning so that we can establish ourselves as authorities on that topic and/or as interesting storytellers.  Eventually, people will love you and want to buy your writing—but it might take a lot of giving your work away for free first.  Michael Hyatt is a big proponent of giving away free content.  Not only does he give away valuable information on his blog, but he also created an ebook that he gives to anyone who subscribes to his blog.  Both the blog subscription and the ebook are free.

Don’t be all holier than thou about advertising.  Solicit advertising for your blog.  I personally would suggest keeping your advertising in line with your brand—and your brand should probably be consistent with how you’d want to be thought of by your friends and parents as well.  What I mean is, I personally would rather go hungry than earn money from escort ads.  The best ads are going to be ones that relate to your subject matter.  So if I’m writing about Greek identity, ads about learning how to play the harmonica aren’t going to be controversial but they won’t be as relevant as ads about learning how to speak Greek.

Humbly consider the rights to your content.  Bloggers may quote rather heavily from anything you post—and by heavily, I mean they might use your work entirely and just give you credit via a link.  This might be a breach of your copyright, but before you get your knickers in a bunch consider if their promotion of your work might be helping you out with some free advertising.  Maybe it’s bringing new readers to your work.  …But then again, maybe it’s not.  Therefore, always be careful with what sort of content you put on your blog.  Sure, someone could pirate your whole book, but it’s more likely someone will repost a blog entry than your entire book.  With that in mind, be prepared that what you publish on your blog might end up elsewhere.

Pay attention to your e-rights.  Landing a book contract is about more than just the print rights these days.  Make sure your contract expressly states an agreement about electronic and print-on-demand editions.

It feels like writers—and artists of any sort—get a raw deal.  We have to give a lot of free content away.  Professionals in other industries don’t seem to have to do this to the same extent.  Lawyers may work an occasional pro bono case, but they’re not expected to work for free before making it big.  Doctors may do Doctors Without Borders to give back and help people, but this is a personal choice they make.  I suppose in some ways artists giving away their work—and having it stolen from them in the case of extreme curating—is an internship of sorts, but the difference is that artists are expected to intern their entire lives or at least until they hit it big.

Therefore, I’d encourage all artists to be savvy.

Yes, you might feel pressured to build your platform and give away content for free, but make sure you’re getting something in return for your investment.

Don’t let your platform overtake your writing.  Your platform is a means to an end—your book project.

Use the system.  There’s nothing wrong with giving away content for free.  There’s nothing wrong with soliciting ads.  There’s nothing wrong with social media.  Don’t let anyone or any platform rule over you.  Keep your goals in perspective and use the system to your advantage.  Find your target audience, make connections, earn money, promote your projects.

You can find me not only here on this blog, but also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Writing Wednesday: You Are King

30 May

 

I have a lot of friends who work in book production.  When the publishing industry began to change and ebooks grew in popularity, putting some people out of jobs, they looked at me, the editor, and said, you’re safe.  You’re on the content side.  Publishers will always need editors, writers, and people working with content.

As I simultaneously entered the blogosphere, I became more disenchanted.  Most blogs weren’t writer-centric.  They weren’t generating new content, they were rehashing—“aggregating”—content.  Any new content provided was mostly in the form of criticism.  Obviously that’s not all blogs, as today there are many blogs that feature fascinating stories that cater to niche readers, but if you follow the rabbit hole long enough you tend to see the same material linked over and over again.

In “Content Is No Longer King,” Ben Elowitz makes a very interesting and valuable point: “Content isn’t the goal.  Audience is.”  He explains that distribution needs more focus today.  Packaging and delivery are just as important as what you have to say.  In the end, advertisers—the people who pay your bills—care about how many readers you have, not what it is you’re actually saying.

Okay, that’s true, but it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario.  Which comes first, the audience or the content?  You need to have content to draw an audience, right?  Well, yes and no.  Here are two different stories:

A while back, a bunch of my favorite blogs mentioned a new food blog.  Because of their lovely posts, I trusted their opinion on this new blog and clicked to check it out.  It was indeed an adorable blog with pictures that made my mouth water.  Unfortunately, there were only two or three posts.  I went back a while later and there was maybe another post or two, but nothing too substantial.  Now I no longer remember the name of the blog.  My point is, they had beautiful packaging and a built in audience, thanks to all the hype, but without significant content they failed to keep me as a reader.

On the flip side, I’ve read many blogs that have great content, content that has informed and inspired me.  However, these same blogs appear to have no following.  Perhaps they get many hits, but no one leaves witty remarks in the comments section.  So great content obviously isn’t enough.  These bloggers are failing to reach an audience, perhaps because of their distribution or lack-thereof.

Elowitz gives a few tips on distribution.  He says:

Put someone in charge of audience development

Adopt an audience development strategy

Systemize it

Under each of these headers he explains the tips.  They’re valuable tips, but they’re also vague.  What are some audience development strategies?  Elowitz says “know your audience segments, and what each one will like.”  I’d like to expand on that a little because it’s an important point.  Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • What can you do to make your blog stand out from other blogs on that subject?
  • Is your content too broad?
  • Who is your dream reader?
  • Would you read your blog?
  • What ideas can you “steal” from other blogs?  Don’t literally copy and paste content or do the exact same thing as another blog, but think about what your favorite blogs are doing right and use it as inspiration.
  • Is your voice consistent?
  • Are you blogging often enough?

Now as far as getting your content out there, Elowitz mentions disseminating content through social media.  I’ve definitely found Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to be useful means toward promoting and distributing work.  However, you have to an audience on these social media platforms for it to work.  So, again, it all comes back to finding and developing that audience.  How do you reach an audience on social media?  Here are some questions to think about:

  • Do you sound like an advertiser?  Buy this! Read this! Click here!
  • Do you sound needy?  Like me!  Follow me!  Share this!  Subscribe!
  • Are you only disseminating your work or are you promoting other bloggers’ work too?
  • Are you only posting or are you interacting with your any followers?
  • What time of day are you posting?
  • Can any of your older posts be redistributed?
  • Are you following people who have the same interests as what you blog about?
  • Are you leaving comments on other people’s works?
  • Is your social media voice consistent with your blogging voice?

It’s important to be patient and consistent.  As in the example above, it’s not always a good thing to have an immediate following.  You want to grow with your audience.

Think of it this way:  Content and audience aren’t king.  You are king.  You rule your corner of the blogosphere, making important decisions about content.  The diplomatic aspect of being ruler is developing relationships with your subjects (your audience) and other rulers of the blogosphere.  If you’re a benevolent king, spreading good will (content) and cheer (promoting and encouraging other bloggers), more people will want to visit your kingdom.