If you write, or need to promote your work in any way, are you on Facebook? Do you have a Twitter profile?
If the answers to these questions are "yes," that's just the beginning, according to Don Lafferty, a Pennsylvania-based marketing and public relations consultant who came to Barnegat Wednesday night to conduct a free workshop for writers and other business types on navigating the ever-changing landscape of social media, which Lafferty called "a whole ecosystem of activity."
Sixty people from all over Ocean County — and some from beyond — crammed into the small meeting room in the back of the library, where Lafferty shared his tips on how to make the world aware of your — or your product's — existence.
"If you don't present a compelling case in nine seconds for the people to stick around your site, they're clicking away, they are somewhere else, they're gone," Lafferty said.
While the talk was mostly geared toward writers, published and unpublished, agented or not, Lafferty said his tips could be of help to any other business person, from a real estate broker to a small business owner to a salesman trying to spread the word about heating oil.
In order to promote yourself effectively as a writer, you must get comfortable with the following engines of social media, Lafferty said:
- Wordpress or Blogger, where a writer can post regularly on a blog and/or an author's website.
- A Facebook page, and if you are published, a separate "author" page for people to "like." Facebook is the second biggest way to communicate online, after email, Lafferty said.
- A twitter account, with the use of "Hootsuite" or "TweetDeck" to streamline and organize your content and to shorten your links, which is important for allowing people to re-tweet you. According to Lafferty, "there are 250 million souls" on twitter, and they want to hear your messsage if it is right for them.
- Goodreads and LibraryThing, which Lafferty called "bookshelf communities."
Before proceeding with your social media offensive, Lafferty recommended you consider what goals you want to achieve, who you target when posting your content (potential readers, colleagues and the media) and what you have to offer that will make someone take notice of you.
Lafferty also recommended people leave comments on the blogs of other like-minded individuals, or those whose attention they hope to attract.
"[In your comments] you can agree, disagree, tell him he's crazy, whatever," Lafferty said. "That person's going to get an email saying that you left a comment on his blog and he's going to think, 'Who is she, and I wonder why she cares?' "
This is a powerful way to start and grow connections, Lafferty said.
Lafferty acknowledged that keeping up with the ever changing "ecosystem" of tweets, comments and shares can eat up your entire writing or working day if you let it.
"A lot of people complain about the time suck," Lafferty said. "But remember, you can control it."
Lafferty recommended creating a daily "time budget" to deal with social media.
"If you've only got 20 minutes for marketing, then when the time's up, when that timer's ringing, walk away," Lafferty said. "It's all gonna be there tomorrow — more is gonna be there tomorrow."
With the landscape he was trying to cover for his audiences so varied and constantly changing, Lafferty filled his two-hour talk with many more tips and explanations. It seemed as though he would have kept right on going, if the library didn't close at 9 p.m. that night.
"I learned a lot of things that I didn't know," said Sherri Brown, 46, of Lacey Township, who is a nonfiction writer. "And this is just the beginning, I know."
"But that's why we came here," added her husband, Richard Brown, 49, who writes nonfiction, as well. "We need to start somewhere."