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[MAKING THE LEAP] Make Peace With The Platform
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
March 2014
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
March 2014

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 Remember, the idea is to promote your writing and that takes time, especially if you’re still unpublished.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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Comments
  • Julie Luek

    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. 

  • Diane Wheaton

    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??  

  • Julie Luek

    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. 

  • Julie Luek

    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. 

  • 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.

  • Becky Povich

    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!

  • Julie Luek

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

  • Becky Povich

    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!  

  • Julie Luek

    Becky, that's a good idea. My name is Julie Luek, but hoping you won't feel just "luke" warm about my writing. ;)  I'm glad you're blogging-- I like visiting there. 

  • Becky Povich

    Great article, Julie, as always. Fortunately, a writer/friend I "met" online a few years ago, urged me to begin blogging when she learned I was writing my memoir. I knew NOTHING about MANY things, and blogging was one of them. It's still my favorite social media. Reading about your writing name and real name made me think of something I heard last night at a networking meeting. We were working on writing/saying our "30 Second Commercial" about ourselves. They said that when saying our name, we should add something that would make people remember us. One woman's last name was Bell and she worked in a statement like... Bells will ring when you work with me....or something like that. So, when it was my turn (first time I'd been there), I said "My name is Becky Povich....not related to Maury Povich...etc. AND that made them all take notice and hopefully will remember me!

  • Julie Luek

    Laura, I hear you. I stumbled on this name more out of a necessity to shorten my last name to something people could actually pronounce and remember- otherwise, not sure I would have done it either. But, even if I hadn't altered my name, I would have set up an author Facebook page at least and kept that separate from my personal Facebook postings. 

  • Great tips, Julie. Now I only need a new name to keep my personal and public lives separate...what do you think about the name "Gloria Steinem" -- never mind, I Googled it. It's taken.

    Have a great day.

  • Julie Luek

    Clene, I tend to learn as I go. Do it. Build your platform. That's part of our "job". Have fun with it. I've made some great connections and love watching my friendships grow.  And be emotionally savvy. Keep the boundaries healthy. That's my take on it all, anyway. :)

  • Julie Luek

    Clene, just curious, did he address how to do that and keep in mind healthy boundaries? To me, this is consistently a missing piece.

    Toi, you're so right, the focus should remain on the writing without neglecting the platform. Well said.

  • Toi Thomas

    Julie Luek thanks for that. I was worried I came across too harsh. I do work on being optimistic and believing things will turn out for the best, but I value my sense of realism and my thick skin. I enjoy social media for what it is and try to focus on my writing.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Toi, I like your attitude and think a healthy dose of optimism along with a thick skin is mandatory! :)

  • Julie Luek

    Cardyn, I'm going to highlight two things you said, because I couldn't say it any better: Treating it like a part-time job and scheduling time each day (Sundays off) to create/post content that matters to me has worked for me because it satisfies different facets of my real-life self without feeling fake or too revealing or detrimental to the integrity of my private life.  AND: My intention is to enjoy the social media engagement in the moment, while also building an online persona that supports and reinforces my writing. (I think this would make a pretty good mission statement.) Thank you. 

  • Toi Thomas

    Great post. This isn't an area of the “how to manage social media” issue that people usually talk about. I admit that being an optimist is something I someday strive for, but in the meantime, my pessimism has saved me some heartache. The problem is that I didn’t realize that most people don’t think the way I do.

    When I started out and my numbers were low (not that they are soaring now J) it didn’t really bother me. I figured people would eventually find me and relate to what I was writing. When my numbers started to pick up, I noticed a constant rising and falling in them that has since leveled out. At the time, I was more confused than hurt. I didn’t know why some people would follow or like me just to unfollow or unlike me later.

    When I first heard about bloggers being saddened by drops in their comments or other interactions, I couldn’t relate. I hadn’t had any interaction at the time. Later when I started to build up interaction with my audience, rises and lulls didn’t’ bother me. As a fan of blog reading, I sometimes get too busy to comment on every blog I read so I don’t always expect others to have the time either.

    As time goes by and my writing and blogging becomes more and more the focus of my life, outside of family, I understand these concerns. The feeling of being rejected by: losing followers, not receiving interaction, or by not being recognized are tough to overcome, but they don’t have to be.

    I like the advice you give and don’t think I would change a thing.

  • Thanks, Julie. You give some of the most practical advice about developing a personal philosophy behind creating an authentic social media brand. Treating it like a part-time job and scheduling time each day (Sundays off) to create/post content that matters to me has worked for me because it satisfies different facets of my real-life self without feeling fake or too revealing or detrimental to the integrity of my private life. Chocomots are my lighthearted blog bites. BlerdyBingeReader is more substantial. FB and @love4thickhair are grab bags.

     

    My intention is to enjoy the social media engagement in the moment, while also building an online persona that supports and reinforces my writing. When I create the opportunity that overlaps with my finished manuscript and my preparations, defining my public persona won't be an issue.

    Thanks again, Julie, and best wishes to all.

  • Julie Luek

    Margo, I think you make a great point. (Pens out, everyone. We're adding to the list.) Step into another's shoes. When it feels personal, look at it from the outside, in. Just doing that can help you remember other perspectives, feelings, and situations exist for other people. Thank you for this reminder.

    Good to know about Twitter too, thanks.

  • Margo L. Dill

    Julie and Alexandra: I think Twitter had to start doing that to squash those companies that were trying to "sell" followers to other people and of course, spammers. Social media is always trying to stay one step ahead of both groups of people.

    Julie: This is an excellent post! As a writer, you have to have a thick skin and realize that people WANT to support you in most cases, but people have lives too. I think we forget that there have been times in our lives when we wanted to go to every blog and every event and buy every book, but we haven't been able to. That's just what I remember. Very rarely do I think that people mean to hurt someone's feelings. And as you know, you never know what's going on in someone's life that is taking up his/her time until she/he feels the need to make it public. But I think that if one or two individual people who were big supporters all of a sudden or not, it's up to the author to notice and then send a note and just say: I noticed you've been quiet lately. I'm just checking on you to make sure you are okay!

    And finally (wow! I have a lot to say on this subject)--many people who are not writers will read blog posts and articles and buy books on Amazon, but they don't leave comments and/or reviews. When my first book came out, I had several people tell me they didn't know how to leave a blog comment and wanted help on how to leave a review. It seems easy to us because we are doing it EVERY DAY for our career. Okay, I'll stop. :)

  • Julie Luek

    I had no idea!

  • Alexandra Caselle

    Thanks, Julie. No, it is not the settings.  It is some ratio of how many followers you have to have to the number of people you follow.  So if I get more followers, I can follow more people.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Alexandra, I think you're doing fine getting a start (and I like your blog!). Actually, taking it in small steps seems smart. I wonder why Twitter is doing that? Have you checked your settings? 

  • Alexandra Caselle

    You give great tips as always, Julie.  I do not know if I have built a platform or not yet.  I only post what is authentic to me and I like talking to different people.  I try to follow everyone back on Twitter, but it seems to have a limit on the numbers of people you can follow so I have noticed that some people who follow me recently may drop me if I do not follow them back.  I do not follow them back because Twitter has blocked me from following people.

    I'm still learning this social media thing. :)