Thursday, March 23, 2017

Social Media Basics for Writers, Part V—How to Use Hashtags in Social Media

By Edie Melson

Today I want to jump into one of the most important tool in your social media arsenal, hashtags. But first, in case you've missed the previous posts, here are a list of them, with links.
Hashtags—especially for Twitter—can be incredibly valuable in helping us increase out audience. But only if we learn to use them correctly. 
They’re not that hard, but there are some rules you need to follow so you’re not wasting valuable real estate in your tweets.

Hashtag Refresher
First, lets back up and evaluate the reason we’re all working at building an online presence. We are looking to deepen existing relationships and build new ones. But building new ones can be difficult if the only people we interact with are those we already know, either online or in person.
We can get a little bit of exposure to new folks by our existing connections introducing us, but that’s a time consuming way to go about it.
What if there was a way for someone to search a given social media network by topic and find new, interesting people to interact with? That would be a great way to grow our connections.
Hashtags make your life easier.
THAT, in the simplest of terms, is the purpose of using hashtags.
When you compose a social media update that includes one or two hashtags that summarize the topic—you are giving folks who wouldn’t otherwise have a connection with you—a way to find you.
Here’s an example of the correct way to do this. At the end of this post you’ll find a tweet I composed about today’s post:

Grow your #Writing platform by using hashtags correctly - via #SocialMedia expert @EdieMelson
5 Tips for Using Hashtags Correctly
1. Don’t overload your social media updates with hashtags. The optimum number of hashtags depends on the social media network you’re on. 
  • Twitter: two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work.
  • Facebook: no more than one hashtag per update, otherwise you may be unintentionally spamming your followers
  • Instagram: two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work here as well.

Take time to research the best hashtag.
2. Take time to research the best hashtags. Some hashtags are better than others. You won’t know which ones are most current unless you take time research them. The best way to do your research? Do a search on the social media network where you want to use the hashtag. You can also research a hashtag by typing it into the Google search engine and seeing what updates come up.
3. Making up a new hashtag is fine—but ONLY if you pair it with a popular hashtag. If I wanted to try to make #TheWriteConversation into a writing hashtag, it wouldn’t do me any good unless I paired it with another popular #writing hashtag. No one is going to know to search for #TheWriteConversation unless I educate them. If I just use #TheWriteConversation, it’s no more than wasted space in my social media update.
4. Remember a space ends the hashtag. So often I see people forget and add a space in between two words in a hashtag. Once you hit the space bar, the hashtag ends. So #Social Media is really only the hashtag #Social, instead of #SocialMedia. NOTE: this is also true of the @ sign. If I type @Edie Melson, it’s just like I’m typing @Edie, and that person is NOT me.
5. Leave some room at the end of your tweets so your hashtags aren’t cut off if it’s retweeted. Tweets are only 140 characters long. If I use all 140 characters, then if anyone retweets it, the end will be cut off because there’s no room for the retweeters information that goes at the beginning of the tweet. I try to leave 15 – 20 blank characters, but my absolute minimum is 10. This insures at least one unchanged retweet.
Hashtag Etiquette
Try to never use more than three hashtags in any one tweet. If you can make it two that’s even better. Otherwise you end up looking like a used car sales man. If you’re trying to reach more groups, schedule multiple tweets, at different times, about the same subject and target your groups two at a time.
Always research your hashtag before you use it. Never assume it’s the correct one. For example, I was targeting military families with tweets about my devotional for military families and I thought #military would be the logical hashtag. No, turns out that hashtag is frequently used by those trying to date someone in the military. Not really the demographic I was trying to reach. The hashtag I wanted was #militaryfamily and #deployment. The best place to research hashtags is also the easiest, just type it into Google or the search engine of your choice.
I know this is a lot to digest all at once, so I’m happy to answer questions. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Social Media Basics for Writers, Part IV—Dealing with Facebook Spam

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson


This past week the unthinkable happened. I was tagged in a horribly, sexually explicit Facebook post. I wasn’t the one who discovered the post, either. It was my good friend, Angie Arndt. She saw the post, with my name attached, and was a good enough friend to contact me and let me know.
Let me say right now, bringing a post like that to someone’s attention is difficulty and the most loving thing you can do. Please do not ever hesitate to let someone know if they’ve been tagged in an inappropriate post.  After Angie contacted me, even as social media savvy as I am, I did the same thing most of you would have done, I panicked.
I immediately did the wrong things, in the wrong order, and then spent the next hour undoing them, and doing the right things.

Before I help you react better than me, I want to share the links from previous weeks posts in this series, Social Media Basics for Writers.


When we’re active on social media, we’re occasionally going to get caught up in spam. There are things we can do to minimize that (and I’m going to share those today). But it probably is going to happen. But there are two things to remember.
  1. People who know you and have followed you will see it for what it is—a lie.
  2. Don’t panic because the order in which you do things does make a difference.
First Things First
To get to your settings on Facebook, click on the small arrow you’ll find in the upper right of the blue menu bar at the top of your screen. This will bring up a drop-down menu where you’ll find SETTINGS. You can see what I'm referring to in screen shot #1 below.

Screen shot #1.

Click on Settings and then click on Timeline and Tagging. The two things you want to make sure are in place are that only your friends can post on your profile. NOTE: if you have your profile set up for public, you still only want friends to initiate a post on your timeline. Those who follow you (the public part of your FB community) can comment on a post already up there, but they can’t post something new on your profile. This is a safeguard that FB has in place and can’t be changed.
Review posts, the other thing you want in place is that you review posts where you are tagged before they appear on your timeline. So that setting needs to read, ON.
NOTE: reviewing tagging only means you’re notified before it shows up on your timeline. You can still be tagged in posts and that post, with our name on it, show up other places. That same nasty post I was tagged in cause about 45 other Christian publishing professionals.
Review Tags added to your own posts also need to be set to ON. All of these settings are shown in screen shot #2 below.

Screen shot #2 
What To Do When Spam Happens
Don’t Panic. As I said before, do as I say, not as I did. When I saw that awful post, the only thing I could think was to block it from my timeline. So that was the first thing I did. Unfortunately, all that did was hide it from me. Everyone else could still see it and still see that it had my name associated with it. Here’s what you need to do and the order in which you need to do it.
First, click on the small arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the post. This brings up a drop-down menu with several options. Begin by clicking remove tag. This takes your name off the post. See what I'm referring to in screen shot #3 below.

Screen shot #3


Now another menu will appear and Facebook will take you through a series of questions about why you removed your tag. Answer the questions as honestly as possible. If it’s an offensive post, be sure to ask that FB remove it.
Unfriend or Block? For me, the post that went up was bad enough for me to unfriend that account and block them. For a less extreme instance, I might just unfriend them. I use blocking carefully because FB takes that as a serious offense by the account that’s been blocked. There are times when it’s justified, but don’t utilize it in anger.
What's Next?
After I got my name disassociated with the post, I realized that mine had not been the only name I recognized. At that point, Angie and I made a list of those caught in the spam and contacted them through FB messaging. It was embarrassing to bring a post like that to someone else’s attention, but it was the right thing to do.
Now that I’ve had a few days to recover, I’m able to look at what happened with a more objective eye. I can see that this type of thing doesn’t reflect on me personally, but is a situation born out of the time in which we live. And as I said at the beginning of the post, my reputation has stood me in good stead. Those who know me and are familiar with the things I stand for, know that I would never knowingly be involved with anything even remotely related to that post.
I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever been caught up in a spam post?  What questions do you have about security settings for FB? Be sure to leave your comments below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Social Media Basics for Writers, Part II—When Should a Writer Start Building a Social Media Network?

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Over and over, I’ve been asked when a writer should get active on social media. And the answer surprises many. 

The truth is, you need to have a solid social media platform BEFORE you ever get published. 

If you wait until you get a contract, you're already way behind. 

But what's involved in building a social media network? Today I'll lay it all out and give you the basics.


Platform Building Basics
To have a strong online platform, we have to first have a solid foundation. I teach (and used this to grow my own platform) that to have an effective social media presence on the Internet you need to do three things: Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging. The reason you must use Facebook and Twitter is because, no matter what or who you’re promoting, you’ll find almost 100% of your audience on these two networks. There may come a time, especially with Pinterest and Google+, that this changes. But it hasn’t happened yet.
You also need to be blogging someplace regularly. Notice I did NOT say you have to have a blog. I said you have to blogging somewhere, regularly. It could be a group blog or professional blog where you have a regular column. The idea is to have somewhere to send your audience so they can interact with you on a deeper level than social media. Think of it as a place to sit down and have coffee, to get to know each other better.
Another thing that I see again and again is that writers don’t know how to make their separate social media networks work together. Today I’m going to give you some tips for that.
Keep Your Social Media Identity Consistent
As writers in today’s digital world, we all know the importance of having an online presence. The savvy writer works hard to leverage social media to do everything from building a platform to interacting with readers.
Even armed with the knowledge of how important engaging online is, many authors have missed one vital component. 
Consistency. 
So today I’m sharing 5 simple things you can to do keep your social media identity consistent.
Does it really matter that I seem like one person on Facebook and another on Twitter? To a certain degree, it definitely does. While interaction styles do vary from network to network, our audience will still expect us to be recognizable. Think about it from this perspective. Do you really trust someone who is drastically different from situation to situation? I don’t. The same thing holds true with your social media personality. It needs to ring true, no matter where you audience finds you.
So now we know that we need to have a certain level of consistency, what exactly does that entail. Here’s my list of 5 things that will help you build the trust of your audience, while still interacting normally on a given network.
1. Keep your profile photo consistent (and a picture of you – NOTHING else). I’m always amazed at writers who want to build an online presence, but don’t have a picture of themselves on their social media sites. People don’t engage with cartoons and other pictures. They are looking for someone to trust. And even though I love kids, it’s you I’m interested in, not your kids or your grandkids.

As far as the picture you use of yourself on social media, it doesn’t have to be the exact same picture, but it better be pretty close. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to find someone on Twitter by looking at their Facebook photo as a reference and missing them entirely. I have several different photos I use for profile pictures. They were all taken around the same time and are a large enough shot of my face, that people can tell who I am.
2. Write your updates like you talk. If you’re trying to be something you’re not, or present yourself in a way that’s not natural, it will show.
3. Be consistent with how often you post updates. Today’s audience has a short attention span and even shorter memory. To build a consistent picture of yourself online, you have to be online often enough for people to remember you. What does consistent look like? It varies from person to person, but I would say, at least a couple of updates a day, per network, four or five times a week. This is different from growing your platform, this is just to remain in the short term memory of your audience.
4. Don’t change the basis of your message from network to network. For example, if your online identity is built on being a YA author on Twitter, don’t make narrative nonfiction the basis of your posts on Facebook. Let the independent networks work together to paint a more complete picture of who you are. Don’t be an alligator on one and a fuzzy bunny on another.
5. Keep your online information current. If you update your Facebook bio because you’ve signed a new contract, don’t neglect your Twitter or LinkedIn bio. And don’t neglect the bio section of any social media network. This is valuable real estate and should not be wasted.

Now it's time for me to stop talking and begin answering your questions. What have you found is working for you and what are the areas where you struggle? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Social Media Basics for Writers—Part One, Know Where You Are & Where You’re Headed!

By Edie Melson @EdieMelson
Today I’m starting a new series, Social Media Basics for Writers. I’m going to lay out the steps to build your online presence into a solid platform that enhances you as an author. 

Be sure to ask questions as we go along, because I’ll partially base my content on the feedback I get from you.
When I teach social networking, I encourage people to relax and not take on too much at once.
I want to begin by talking about the most common mistake I see in social networking: the approach. Because social media can reach millions, it’s way
too easy to think of it as mass marketing. In reality it’s about one-on-one relationships.

That is the beauty and the dichotomy of the medium. It can be overwhelming—this building relationships with millions—especially when our goal is writing, not advertising. Now the good news: Social networking is not as
difficult as it seems.
Social Media is a return to small town thinking.
In many ways, it’s a return to small town thinking. In times past, people
patronized merchants because the proprietors were their neighbors or friends. In this day and time, we also find neighbors and friends on Facebook, Twitter and in blogging communities. And those communities are where we need to concentrate our efforts.
It's vitally important to realize that, despite the bad rap it's gotten, social networking and writers are a natural match. Social networking is all about connecting with people through our words—not walking into a room full of strangers, standing on a platform and speaking. We can sit at our desks, write and reach the entire world.
That said, it IS all about connecting with others. If you're NOT willing to be found by others, then the writing industry as it stands today is gonna be tough for you.
So how do you go about plotting your social media course? 
There are two things you need: 
  • You’ve got to know where you are.
  • You’ve got to know where you’re going.
You are here.
You are Here
To evaluate where you are, you need to know your numbers.
  • How many friends/followers do you have on Facebook?
  • How many followers do you have on Twitter?
  • What other social media networks are you a part of? Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Add those numbers here.
You also need to know where you rank in search engines.
  • Plug your name into Google and see where you are. Do you show up on the first page of a Google search?
  • Plug your name into other search engines (bing.com, ask.com, etc) and see where you show up there, too.
  • Now search your blog name, if it’s different from your name, and see where you show up.
  • Finally, search some of your blog topics. Don’t just search your blog post titles, but the actual topics. For instance, I wrote a post titled, Social Media Monday—How Facebook Changes for 2015 CouldAffect Authors. When plug that title into the search engine, it comes up number one in the search. But when I search Facebook Changes Affect Authors, I still come up number two.
That’s ultimately what we’re shooting for, to be found by topic, not just by someone already knowing our name.
First, we shoot for getting our names high in the search engine rankings. Then when we’re on the Internet map, we increase our visibility by getting known topically.
Plot your course.
Plot Your Course
It’s hard to get somewhere unless we know where we’re going. One of the easiest ways to get somewhere is to follow someone. So for this part, you need to think about two or three people who are where you want to be in the social media universe. Don’t just choose random, well-known people. Put some thought in this and look at people who write things similar to you. You’re going to use their path to success to guide you, so choose well.
Check their Social Media Numbers
  • Do the same things with their names, as you did with yours.
  • Look at their Facebook friends/followers.
  • Check how many followers they have on Twitter.
  • Look at the other social media networks they’re a part of. To do this, visit their websites to see what networks they find important.
Check their Search Engine Ranking
  • Plug their names into Google and look at what you find.
  • Now do the same thing with other search engines and make note of where they rank.
In the weeks to come, we’ll incorporate this information into plotting your course so don’t skimp on the time it takes to do this research. I’d love to hear what you found when you followed the suggestions above. I’d also love for you to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.