What Is Social Media and Why Does It Matter for My Business?
Here’s how to know where to put your energy as a writer or small business owner.
I’m a GenXer. Among my generation, I’d say I was somewhat of an early adopter when it came to computers and the Internet. My first memories of using a computer are at my aunt’s house, I was about ten I think.
I can remember being in her basement on a big bulky Apple computer with a greenish tinted screen.
But I didn’t have a computer at home until I was in high school.
So when I was young, I only got to use one whenever I visited my aunt’s house to play with my cousins. And my biggest obsession was trying to enter a recipe just right so the computer would make chicken soup.
To win, you had to type in the chicken soup recipe, one line after another and it had to be just right, or you wouldn’t get the bowl of soup at the end.
I know now it was computer programming. Back then, I was playing a game. And because I learned to use computers early on, I know more about how they work behind the scenes, before everything became so automated.
Not everyone in the GenX generation had that early experience with computers. And very few of the Baby Boomers did.
And learning new things gets harder as the years pass for various reasons.
One aspect of computers and the Internet is using social media. But with all its benefits, it can be confusing, especially for anyone who didn’t grow up using the Internet and computers like I did.
There are a lot of social media platforms out there and each of them work a little bit differently. Because part of my business now is teaching computer and startup business skills to GenXers and Baby Boomers I know it can be difficult to understand what social media is and why it’s important. Especially for those who didn’t grow up with that early access to computers like I did.
I also know first-hand that there are a ton of very creative, talented GenXers and Boomers out there who need to get their business out into the world.
The world needs to see what you have to offer.
What is social media and do I really have to use it?
This is one of the most common questions I hear from my technology students and my writing coaching clients.
What is social media?
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are used to form connections with other people and to promote your blog or website to others.
As a business owner or working writer, using social media effectively helps you build awareness and get your business seen.
Trust me, the world needs to see what you have to offer as a writer or creative business owner. It’s your duty to figure out how to get it out there to them!
But social media can be challenging, especially if you struggle with technology already.
Social media platforms are a lot like those cliques that used to form in high school. The athletes hung out at the football field, the bookworms were always at the library, the geeks were either in the chess or gaming club, etc.
In high school, if you wanted to get the word out about a spelling bee, you’d put up flyers and posters in the library, right?
That’s how social media works best too.
Rachel Wayne has a great post about how to create a design portfolio online that includes a run down of which social media platforms are popular for different creatives.
- Twitter is great for writers, including film and script writers. You’ll find publishers and literary agents are pretty active on Twitter too.
- Pinterest is the place to promote if you are trying to reach out to crafters and artisans, fashionistas and DIY-ers. It’s a very visual platform and people can save your pins/posts to their board which then gets shared with others.
- Instagram is the hang out place for a lot of visual artists and dancers.
- Fine artists tend to congregate on Ello.
- YouTube works wonderful if you are documenting a journey or sharing content that lends itself to multiple videos over time.
People buy from those they know, like, and trust. As a writer and small business owner, the first thing you must do is build awareness.
Potential customers can’t know, like, or trust you if they can’t find you. Social media helps people find your business.
When used effectively, it can help the right people find your business, the ones who are going to love what you have to offer and line up to participate and purchase from you.
Do I have to use them all?
If the list of social media platforms is daunting, the good news is, as a writer or other creative, you don’t have to be on all the social media platforms. You can start with the one you’re more familiar with, such as Facebook or Twitter.
But to be really effective at growing your business, you also want to focus on the platforms where your audience, people who like or would buy your art, spend most of their time.
If you’re primarily serving baby boomer women, you’ll want to do some marketing on Facebook for sure. If you’re targeting millennial-aged writers, you’ll want to focus on Instagram and Twitter. Snapchat is popular with Gen Z and you’ll find lots of Millennial and GenXers on Pinterest.
There will be exceptions to the rule of course, as there always is, but those are general demographics.
Once you know where the people most interested in your type of art hang out, you can promote your blog or website primarily on those social media platforms.
Consider age, income, and social demographics as well as the other interests of your audience.
To find this out, you’ll have to know your audience.
How do I get to know my audience?
If you’ve been writing on this platform already and you have enough views, over 900 I think, your stats page will tell you what topics your readers are interested in. A look at your most popular blog post titles will also indicate something about your audience. That’s helpful.
But you can also scroll through your followers list too and look at what people have written in their bio.
What careers do they have? How old are they or do they appear to be? Do you have more male readers than women? Maybe you have more marathon runners than knitters. Or more teachers than scientists?
Just look for the patterns among your followers.
When it comes to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest, most will have an analytics section which can clue you in to the demographics of your followers or readers. Check those out for the platforms you are using so you can know more about your readers.
Why does social media even matter?
Maybe you’re wondering if you even have to use social media, especially if you’re working on your first memoir or novel and aren’t even ready to sell it just yet.
Social media matters for just about every writer or business creative who wants to be read or seen, whether or not you want to earn money.
Social media is a way of amplifying your reach. It gets your writing, product, or business out to the masses. You can reach more people than you can reach by just passing out flyers, hanging up posters, advertising in the newspaper, or spreading the news by word of mouth.
The other reason social media matters is that it’s a great way to attract readers to you are really interested in the topic you’re writing about or the service you’re providing.
This means, when you use social media effectively, it helps draw potential customers to you.
For those of us writers who don’t like marketing and being salesy, social media helps attract people to us who are interested in what we’re doing. This means even less of a need for us to put on our sales hat.
If you’re like me, you love the idea of not having to be a pushy salesperson, am I right?
The first step is to know your audience. Then find out where they hang out the most often. Focus on that social media platform first.
Once you’ve mastered that one, pick another one you think will have your people. If you run into problems, get on YouTube and type into the search box what you’re trying to learn. For example, “the basics of Twitter” or “how to use Pinterest”. You’ll most likely get a list of videos you can watch that will explain and give you some insight.
Unless you’re Ellen DeGeneres, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to break Twitter or any other social media platform.
Go ahead and try it out.
For more tips on social media and other technology topics, follow Freelance Filter or find me on Twitter @writewizard. I’m also part of the Ninja Writers community with Shaunta Grimes.
I teach a freelance writing focused blogging workshop for Ninja Academy members. If you’re part of the Ninja Writers Club, you can find me in those calls several nights a week, including my Tuesday night live tech help call, open to all NW club members.
CEO | Writer | Business & Tech Coach
Meg Stewart is a freelance writer, coach, and Founder of Freelance Ladder, which helps writers and other business creatives learn the technology they need to do business online. Her sweet spot is where coaching, technology, and writing intersect. She is also the Manager of Member Services and a writing instructor for Ninja Writers, LLC .