Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Branding Checklist, Part 1

Simple ways to create a memorable persona both on and off line

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The Branding Checklist, Part 1

The Long Haul is a monthly column by Lucy Leiderman, the author of the forthcoming book A Past Life, the first book in a young adult trilogy published by Dundurn Press.


Part 1: Social Media

Maybe you want to be writer. Or maybe your dream is to land a job as a literary agent or editor. Whatever your aspirations, chances are that your success hinges on someone somewhere noticing your many letters/emails and deciding to take a chance on you. The arts have always been a competitive business, but getting a foot through the door is probably tougher now than ever before. Luckily, handy things exist that can help you create a brand out of yourself to get yourself noticed and look professional.

This introduction to branding via social media can turn into a novel, so I’ll stick to making “to do” and “not to do” recommendations for the most popular forms of social media. Stay tuned for Part 2: Web presence and Part 3: Print and offline branding.

Twitter

To do:

  • Write a short, concise and gripping profile that will tell others why they should follow you. Remember that the words you use in your profile will determine who finds you.
  • Put up a professional picture of yourself. Just yourself. Maybe a furry friend as well, but no kids or spouses. Remember, you’re selling your work.
  • Look into efficiency tools that will help you keep track of your followers and accounts (if you have more than one). These can also help you schedule tweets and keep tweeting 24 hours a day!
  • Use the “who to follow” tool to follow people similar to your interests. I find it helpful to make myself a keyword search list as well. For example, I search for “Kindle Author” and Twitter lists everyone who fits that profile. The same applies to “Literary Agent” and “Publisher.” This helps me tailor my followers.
  • Create an auto-reply message so that when someone follows you, you have an opportunity to say thanks and pass on links to your work.
  • Fill out your profile as much as you can. No need to include your address or telephone number, but telling people which country you’re in and listing your website helps drive traffic to you.
  • Communicate with your followers. Comment on what they’re saying or ask insightful questions to start a conversation.

Not to do:

  • Put up private pictures of your family or anything else that you don’t want the world to see.
  • Tweet about your race, religion or other personal details. As well, don’t tweet anything that could be construed as hateful. Let’s play to the highest common denominator: if you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss, don’t say it.
  • Tweet links with no commentary. If you do this, you may be labelled spam.
  • Add a ton of people and then delete everyone that doesn’t follow you. Then repeat. This will get your account suspended. If you try to get followers this way, you need to spread out the Twitter “purging.”

Facebook

To do:

  • Create a separate page for you as a professional to distinguish it from you as a person.
  • Like the pages of potential audiences or colleagues. Liking the pages of publishers who won’t like you back is probably not worth it.
  • Make sure your company page is as full as possible. Add professional pictures or maybe details of your work. If you’re an author, maps, sketches or other visuals are always interesting.
  • Invite your friends to your page and thank the ones that join.

Not to do:

  • Spam your friends. Be conscious of how many updates you’re posting on Facebook as most people find this more intrusive than Twitter. If you’re using something like Hootsuite to schedule your social media, be aware that 1/3 of that content should make it onto your Facebook. If you tweet 12 times a day, 4 well-detailed and interesting Facebook posts would be the maximum I would recommend.
  • Confuse your professional page with your personal page. If you have international colleagues or friends from chat rooms, do you really want to be showing pictures of your vacation or commenting on local events?

LinkedIn

To do:

  • I can’t understate how important a professional profile is here. Your picture and ‘title’, the words that appear under your name, are vital to getting anyone to notice you.
  • Fill up that skills section! You’ll appear in more searches and may even get recommendations from your contacts.
  • Be as detailed as possible about your achievements and use LinkedIn prompts to fill your profile out as much as you can.
  • Communicate with your contacts and others by posting interesting news, articles and thoughts to your profile. Make sure they’re relevant to how you want to be perceived. Again, always remember this is a professional network.
  • Join as many groups as are relevant. LinkedIn is all about being linked through different networks. If you share a group in common with someone, you may view more information about them.
  • Always ask for connections with a personalized letter rather than what LinkedIn provides.
  • There’s no shame in being a student or a stay-at-home mom. If you are, feel free to list it as what you’re currently doing and spice it up with a touch of humour. For example, “I’m a bona fide baby wrangler with three years of experience, including intimate knowledge of temper tantrums and certified in teething crisis management. Have triumphed when confronted with potty training.”

Not to do:

  • Sound desperate in your headline. Think about it: Would you go into business with someone who sounds desperate? Similarly, publishers and agents are less likely to be interested in someone who writes, “John Smith — PLEASE SOMEONE PUBLISH ME”, “Jane Doe — Looking for a publisher”, or “Mary Sue — Hey agents! Contact me here: www.marysue.com”. It’s etiquette. And common sense.
  • Try to connect with everyone you think is beneficial to you. LinkedIn is not Twitter. People vouch for each other by being connections so just trying to connect to everyone you can, or every agent you’ve ever emailed, will not get a lot of results.
  • Lie. Everyone may exaggerate a little on his or her resumes, but LinkedIn is an online profile. It’s very easy to get caught in a lie, so just don’t do it. Don’t lie about your experience, and don’t lie about your publishing history. There’s no shame in being self-published.

There are countless other social networks where you can promote yourself and your work if you want to brand yourself and join the publishing industry. Authors can post book trailers on YouTube, designers can post their work on Flickr, and Tumblr’s great for multi-format posts like .gifs, images, videos and blogs.

The most important thing to remember about social media (that many people forget) is that it is meant to be social. It’s easy to use any network to your own gains by not following the people who don’t follow you, not liking or commenting on pages by authors who write books similar to yours, or hoarding audiences but never interacting with them. The truth is that branding in social media is difficult. Imagine millions of people crammed into one room, and most of them are trying to shout very loudly. However, if done with care and class, your social profiles are great tools to impress your selected audience.


Lucy Leiderman is a person interested in far too many things. She writes about getting inspired, writing and trying to get published. She likes to compare the whole murky process to the swamp planet of Dagobah. She also likes to make pop culture references. Lucy is the author of the upcoming book A Past Life (Dundurn Press). Follow her on Twitter via @lucyleid.

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