First, you have to know I’m not a self-proclaimed social networking guru, genius, or miracle maker. I’m a writer, and social networking is largely about writing well. Whether you are a beginner or have been on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Tumblr, Flickr and Pinterest as soon as they launched, these quick tips will make you better at it. Some of the tips may be completely opposite to what you’ve heard. Writers learn differently from other people.
1. Social Networking is about content. Cheap, starchy filler may attract followers, but it won’t keep them. Choose something you know about and care about and stick to writing about that. At a book signing, I heard Martha Beck say, “Information is not power anymore. Attention span is power.” Content commands attention. Comment communicates.
2. Be curious about the world. No one loves a know-it-all. Even if you are an expert, there is plenty left to learn. Keep reading, keep researching, keep being curious. Learn from your readers and your audience. It’s contagious and your readers will love it.
3. Deliver what you promise. If you write a how-to article, make sure you show your readers how to do it. Too many articles that promise “how” simply tell you “what.” Be specific. Include steps. Imagine your how-to article being used to train your dog. If the dog is off chasing a squirrel at the end of the article, you either have a lab or your article needs re-writing.
4. Don’t be a tease. Tweets or Facebook posts that start, “Check this out. . .” or “Here’s what I think. . .” and then a link is not nearly as fascinating as you hoped. Give people a reason to click, a juicy temptation to leave the page they are on. And reward their decision with a great photo or article.
5. Don’t link all your accounts. Twitter is a different medium than Tumblr or Pinterest. If your audience overlaps, they really don’t need to see the same thing twice. Or six times. Automatically re-posting your Tweets on Facebook insults your friends and confuses your audience. If you are too lazy to re-write for a different audience and a different objective, do not expect your audience to find you fascinating.
A bonus tip: Size isn’t everything, particularly in audience numbers. Having a huge number of followers and thinking they care about you is the same as standing on top of the Chase building in Phoenix and thinking you are influencing the Valley just because you can see from Goodyear to Gilbert.
Social networking is about influence, and that’s not necessarily about numbers, it’s about what those numbers do, think or say.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who finds social media fascinating, weird, unpredictable and wonderful, frequently simultaneously.