[MAKING THE LEAP] Make Peace With The Platform

As writers, we are all encouraged to develop a platform—an online presence to help us market our work. But there can be a dark side to platform building that the experts rarely address.

Yesterday, I saw two Facebook status updates from writer friends lamenting the state of their followers. For one, it was people who no longer followed her and, for the other, people who ignored her and no longer commented. In the case of the first writer, her feelings were genuinely hurt. For the second, it made her angry and, she was determined to go through her list and cut out the offenders.

While the publishing gurus are urging you to develop more, bigger, better platforms, they may not be preparing you for the emotional fallout that can come with that kind of investment of your time and ego. Since taking my writing leap several years ago, I’ve worked hard to develop some kind of online presence, and yes, been a victim to both the hurt feelings of rejection and the fist-pumping euphoria of increased numbers. While I’m definitely still small potatoes in this world, I have learned a few lessons along the way:

Remove your ego. This is key. It’s a tricky balance: you want to be authentic, genuine, and transparent online, but doing so creates personal vulnerability. Remember, your online world is not you. This is a place to promote your work, not seek validation for your self. Be aware of when your feelings are hurt or you get caught up in a debate or become angry. Are you getting too invested? If so, take a breath and step back for a bit.

Numbers are just numbers. It’s easy to seek validation of who we are by the number of followers we gain and get into a comparison mode with other writers. Remember, the idea is to promote your writing and that takes time, especially if you’re still unpublished. For now, don’t get too concerned with numbers. My advice? Ignore them. Work on the quality of your posts, showcasing your passions, and building relationships.

Balance the time. When I worked my job at the college, I had my hands in many pots. While students were my main focus, I still managed personnel, a budget, and attended pesky meetings. It was part of my job. By the same token, attending to a platform may not be a favorite aspect to your writing life, but it's part of your job as a writer. Fortunately, it can take as little as a half hour a day—a Facebook status update and a few comments here and there, a blog post and reading and commenting on a few other blogs, a Twitter update and a couple retweets. An added benefit: limiting your online time also ensures the platform world doesn’t become an extension of your “real” world.

Reciprocate. Which leads well into my fourth point: the online world is, like it or not, about reciprocation. I talked with a writer the other day who told me she didn't like the follow-me-and-I'll-follow-you mentality of Twitter. I understand that, but if you want people to comment and follow you, it’s good etiquette to comment and follow others. As writers, we help each other out this way. It’s also how we build relationships with people. As with your writing, there must be a take-away for people. What are you offering to others?

Keep it separate. Develop an online author presence that is separate from your personal presence. I write under the name Julie Luek because my real last name is a tongue-twister. But I maintain personal accounts with family photos and bragging (because my kids are wonderful) on my personal page. I have a Pinterest account under my Julie Luek name too and pin fun visuals and inspiration pertaining to my writing interests. Keeping your platform presence separate from your personal presence also helps you keep a little distance between what you do and who you are. 

So get out there. Do as the experts suggest and build a platform. But take care to guard your heart and self-esteem a bit in the process. Put in place a few precautions and get ready to interact with people and have fun!

Do you build a platform? Have you ever felt the sting of rejection online? Do you watch numbers too much? What suggestions can you make about how to keep it all productive, and fun, while protecting yourself a bit?

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Tags: media, platform, social, writers

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Comment by Jenny on May 27, 2014 at 8:53am

Yep, same here, Julie.  Diane, I keep my author life and personal life separate like Julie too - but only because it's my personal preference.  I guess you can use (in the nicest possible way) your friends to help build your profile if you merge the two but it's not something I've considered. 

Comment by Julie Luek on May 25, 2014 at 3:44pm

Diane, I use a writer name (my real last name is long and difficult to pronounce) for Facebook and just set it up like a normal page-- keeps my personal and professional separate. Most people I know develop a separate writer page using Author, Julie Luek (for example) as their name. But very few I know set up author pages for the very reasons you mentioned. A few I know combine their personal/writer pages, but  didn't want to do that. I like keeping my personal separate. I still have a follow button on my writer page. 

Comment by Diane Wheaton on May 25, 2014 at 3:41pm

Thanks Julie for a good, informative and encouraging post on social media.  It's a tough world out there.  I've been really trying to build my social media platform the past six months since putting my website up.  I seem to have the best luck with Twitter.  Lately, I've been researching and reading about Facebook and the "author page" - finding out that only a small percentage of your "fans" ever get to see your posts unless you pay for it.  I've read that it might be a good idea to use your profile page, monitoring public and private posts (each time), thereby keeping a balance in your private life.  Supposedly, you can build a following easier by adding friends and having the "follow" button on your profile page.  Any thoughts??  

Comment by Julie Luek on May 25, 2014 at 2:13pm

Jenny, I have favorites with social media. I can blow a lot of time on Pinterest in the name of "platform building". I love to cull the ideas. I also like Facebook, because I connect with friends like you. Twitter and blogging are probably my thorns, for some reason. 

Comment by Jenny on May 25, 2014 at 1:47pm

It's a funny situation we find ourselves in - we're pioneers in many ways.  Half my 'real life' friends don't even know what a blog is or how to 'find' one and would never dream of 'sharing' anything online!  Their eyes glaze when I describe Pinterest or Instagram even..  But I enjoy my 'online' life; I know I could be more focused and professional about it in terms of promoting my writing and 'building a platform' but what I enjoy is 'meeting' people, sharing ideas, images, and yes, sharing a few personal 'real life' events when it's just been good to reach out to people. Writing is a solitary profession, made a lot less solitary by the internet!  

Comment by Julie Luek on March 29, 2014 at 3:17pm

Karen, wow, that sounds like a lot of pressure. I'm glad you finally got to the place where you don't take it personally. What a relief that must be. 

Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on March 29, 2014 at 3:14pm

The only place that I have to monitor myself for deflation is on HubPages. I have an account and I have written 114 hubs in the past 4 1/2 years, but when my score goes down due to whatever algorithm the administrators use to determine one's overall "hub score," I feel a little cheated. But I've let go a bit. I know that I have to take time off from writing online content to work for the income that pays the bills (which involves reading some juicy material), and that will lower my score because that score is based on the work ethic that I "publish, publish, publish" 8 well-researched and dazzlingly-presented pages containing at least 1150 words of content about hot topics a week. I know that I reached the top score for a whole day a couple of years ago during one of their contests....but I no longer take the fall in score personally.

Comment by Becky Povich on March 26, 2014 at 10:06am

I love making people laugh! One of my secret desires is to be a Stand Up Comic! And as far as a membership of only TWO.... ya gotta start somewhere!

Okay....bye bye. I won't comment anymore right now, otherwise this could get really out of hand!

Comment by Julie Luek on March 26, 2014 at 10:04am

Becky, you make me laugh. I now have a MAS of two (you and me). 

Comment by Becky Povich on March 26, 2014 at 10:02am

Hey Julie, I like that! I certainly don't feel luke warm about your writing! :)

And I'm happy you like my blog, too. We are a Mutual Admiration Society!  

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