(Disclaimer: This article is written in the hope that no reader will take it personally.)
Are you friend with someone who just announced he or she was starting a blog or any other kind of writing activity? One that involves mainly words and no images, no painting, no drawing, no visual art that would have mechanically made his or her work more visible (literally) on social media? Then these guidelines are for you, as being your friend’s initial audience can be a tough job.
Do not Like: Share.
If you do not blog, write, paint or sell anything, chances are that you have a Facebook profile, not a Facebook Page. Now I am not very much into the technical details of social media, but Facebook Pages are a whole universe. They are free, practical, well-referenced and much-visited web addresses. They are prominent tools in the promotion of freelance writers making their debuts. My guess is that Facebook Pages also abide by one motto:
Just like meager meals build a thin waist, bad stats build character.
Dear Reader, Facebook will just count your clicking acts. All the rest (visiting, browsing, favoriting, declaring out loud that this is the best piece of writing you ever read) will be ignored or drowned in a mass of insignificant numbers that won’t tell anything to the writer about what you thought of what you read, nor if you actually read it.
When it comes to posts on a Facebook Page, Likes are the electronic equivalent of a hearty pat on your friend’s back. It is nice. Really. Thank you.
Unfortunately, Likes on Facebook posts are ephemeral: they will pop into your contacts’ ticker, maybe sometimes in your contacts’ actual feed, but they will disappear as rapidly as they appeared. In fact, the more your contacts are themselves well-provided in terms of contacts, the more rapidly your Like will be drowned in the relentless flow that is their ticker.
Most importantly, your Like won’t appear on your own profile. Thus, it can’t be retrieved. It can’t really be commented upon except in the very first hours or even minutes after you granted it. Chances are, in fact, that no one will notice it — except your friend whose back you heartily patted (again, thank you).
Just like a pat on the back, a Like on a post will not introduce your writing friend to other people. So if you loved what your friend has written, Like their post and Share it. A Share is the electronic equivalent of pushing your friend toward other people and help him or her socialize. Shares have a higher chance of popping on your contacts’ actual feed, because somehow they are “heavier” events. They can be commented upon, retrieved, liked and shared hours, days, weeks after they occurred, which potentially makes them part of a never-ending cycle of promotion for your writing friend.
Make your share personal
If you Share your friend’s post, make it personal. Show that you do not just indulge him or her with a Share; show that you have read the content and have personal reasons for loving it, that it somehow resonated with you and that you think it will resonate with other people. A Share with just your name and the shared post won’t attract attention. It will be yet another event on other people’s feeds, along with newspapers cuts and lolcats.
(Did you glimpse that viral .gif of a flying squirrel on some dude’s hand, trying to fly in the wind made by a fan? Well, that lovely viral .gif popped in my feed right after my shiny new blog post, which one of my friends had Liked a few minutes before. Now I hope that squirrel eventually hit the fan.)
Don’t make us beg: Like our Page!
At the very beginning, my Like count on my Facebook Page got stuck at 28. Facebook would allow me to access my Page’s Insights (the aforementioned bad stats that build character) only at a count of 30 Page Likes. Suffice to say that at that point the temptation to pester my friends and friends of friends with requests to “Like my Page” was great.
Many people have subscribed to my Newsletter, liked and even shared some of my posts, but somehow a significant proportion of them has overlooked the Liking of my Page.
Liking a Page is not in itself a major way to promote your friend’s writing (sharing posts, i.e. actual content, works much better), but it will unlock for your friend some of the Page’s SEO-ish properties.
And also it will make his or her Page look less pathetic. People give more importance than you may think to the number of Likes a Page exhibits. It is a form of prestige. Consequently, people will be more likely to overlook a poorly-liked Page. They’ll think it builds character.
Got Twitter? S(t)weet!
At the very beginning of my writing activity, I could tell the difference between those of my posts that were just Liked on Facebook (mostly by my wife) and those that were (re)Tweeted.
If Facebook were that powerful Queen of Social Media (why should a human Facebook be a “he”?), then Twitter would be Robin Hood. A tweet is not much. Easy, fast (some would say cheap, casual, uncaring). But tweeting is like pushing a domino. Some theory I forgot about states that it can change the world. And sometimes, it does.
Life’s hectic. Sometimes, when buying toilet paper and a couple of leeks in your local supermarket after work, a fleeting thought at the back of your mind tells you that you forgot about your friend’s writing for a whole week (leeks made you think of your friend’s veganism, and here popped that thought). However, the thought that you have not subscribed to his or her Newsletter might not strike your mind, neither then nor later.
Yet, Newsletters are great (honestly: they are). They will condense your friend’s writing for you and make it all available in a few clicks, from your mailbox, any time you want. And they can be forwarded: they make excellent incentives for all your other friends to have a look at your friend’s writing.
Which leads us to another point: Liking, Sharing, Commenting once is nice, but it does not durably help your writing friend. Conversely, regularity will increase the likelihood of your clicking acts to be noticed by your contacts on their feed, and it will increase the chances of your friend’s posts to be liked and shared further down your network and your network’s network.
(Don’t overdo it though: Liking everything a few seconds after it’s posted doesn’t just look fake, it’s also creepy — therefore and before you ask, it won’t increase your chances to date your writing friend.)
If you think something, say it.
Comment, Respond, Message. Heck, E-mail, if it comes to it!
When I first started blogging, a fellow blogger told me
“Comments take longer. You’ll see.”
And that seems to be true. For some reason, even though readers may like and even share content, they may shy away from the “Comment” button at first. Again, they are more likely to not comment if no one has commented in the first place.
Yesterday, I received a private message via my Facebook page, from a long-time-no-see friend who discovered my blog and expressed her satisfaction by commenting on its content, Liking my Page (good girl!) and wishing me good luck. That kind of message, email, or comment not only feels nice, it objectivizes the writer’s work — which is for many of us freelance writers the point of writing: taking things out of ourselves and giving them a chance to be objects of thoughts, not just subjects of our thoughts.
Admittedly, you’d have to genuinely like your friend’s work to write that kind of personal message. But if that’s how you feel, do it.
And if you are in fact not a friend, but a perfect stranger to that freelance writer…
…then each of these clicking acts above will count double. If you Like a post, the freelance writer won’t just smile; he or she might actually whoot. If you Share or Comment, he or she might take a break from the next article and do the Chair Dance, like so:
These were just some of the thoughts that some of us freelance writers might have had. If you are friend with a freelance writer and you’re willing to help, try and make each and every one of your clicks say “Let’s” rather than “You should”.
Freelance writers do not exactly become famous, and readers do not exactly make freelance writers famous either. What makes freelance writers famous is audience, and audience is a ratio between the intrinsic fame of the writer’s words and the number of readers that get to discover those words. Simply put, freelance writers write famous words, that get discovered or do not get discovered by readers.
Thank you for reading. And in any case, don’t forget that I love you.
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