9 ways writers can thrive on social media when everyone is pivoting to video and flexing on the gram
No matter how sharp you are with the pen, it’s difficult to attract and maintain an audience as a writer in 2018. We’ve all seen the “pivot to video” headlines. We’ve all watched platforms that prioritize clicks over quality writing rise in popularity and impact.
I get it.
I feel you.
I’ve been writing for almost as long as I’ve been alive. When my parents had a dial-up wifi connection and Windows 95 on their desktop computer, I would write random thoughts in documents and tell people that I had written a book. That was about two decades ago.
I’m still writing random thoughts in documents, and I’m actually on the verge of publishing an *actual* book today. The path to finding success as a writer has been much more complex than young Michell could have ever anticipated. Very few people get paid to be writers. A lot of people get paid because of how they utilize their ability to write.
Adaptability is key. If you find yourself struggling to capitalize on your ability as a writer, this article is for you.
"Very few people get paid to be writers. A lot of people get paid because of how they utilize their ability to write."
1. Be concise. Use short, powerful excerpts from longer pieces to pique interest.
It’s fine to write longer articles, but make sure you’re still communicating efficiently. Communicate efficiently, no matter the length of your piece. Every word should serve a purpose. Every sentence should be valuable. Every paragraph should shape the narrative. Choosing words carefully positions you to capture attention.
Use the most powerful, impactful sentences that you’ve written to drive traffic to your work and amplify your message. Make sure you give your audience a convenient way to share those same powerful sentences. I’m a huge fan of clicktotweet.com, because it allows me to give readers an easy way to share specific pull quotes from my articles on their Twitter accounts. Click the link above this paragraph to see what I’m talking about.
2. Team up with a designer and incorporate your words into apparel or merchandise initiatives.
How does your writing help other people? If you find yourself penning popular catchphrases, clever wordplay or powerful mantras that resonate with other people, it may be time to consider finding a way to monetize your thoughts. Observe the way that your audience reacts to what you create. If particular phrases or sayings that you’ve written generate a lot of engagement, think about how you can turn those into products.
Reaching out to designers or illustrators can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to pay up front. If you can’t afford their rates, the last thing you want to do is lowball another creative who has bills to pay. That being said, creative bartering is a thing. Creative collaborations can move units. Profit splits can be game changers. Establish genuine relationships with people whose skillsets complement your own, and find ways to form sustainable partnerships.
3. Turn your words into visual assets.
Remember that powerful sentence that you used as a lead-in for your latest article? Have you thought about turning it into a graphic that you can use on Instagram? I’m not asking you to be a designer if that’s not part of your wheelhouse. I know that I won’t be making anyone’s mixtape covers any time soon. I told myself that I’d learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere this year. I still might. I probably won’t. I have Adobe Suite products on my MacBook, but the learning curve is STEEP. A few months ago, I realized that I was using my inability to use Adobe products as a convenient excuse for not making my own visual assets.
Eventually, I got over myself and started to do my own research. There are actually a lot of apps that let graphically challenged people such as myself create clean, simple graphics that I can throw on the ‘gram. I encourage you to start searching the app store for solutions to the specific roadblocks that are stopping you from making your own visuals for social. Take the initiative and develop your own systems. You’ll probably surprise yourself.
"Every word should serve a purpose. Every sentence should be valuable. Every paragraph should shape the narrative. Choosing words carefully positions you to capture attention."
4. Develop public speaking and on-camera oratory skills to supplement your ability as a writer.
A great speaker isn’t automatically going to be a great writer, but with practice you can master both mediums of communication. If you write, you can speak. Getting more comfortable with expressing your thoughts and opinions on camera and in public will allow you to connect with people who don’t do a lot of reading. It takes time to achieve the level of comfort that you need to be an attention-grabbing speaker, but it’s worth it.
Start by talking about whatever is on your mind every day on your phone. Give yourself a low pressure environment to get comfortable expressing yourself verbally. Consider making video content for Instagram or YouTube. If you have a smartphone and an environment with good natural light, you can make quality video content. Once you get comfortable on camera, start to seek out opportunities to continue sharpening your skill as an orator in environments that you can’t control. Seek out podcast interviews and public speaking gigs. Continue to grow as both a writer and a speaker, and your opportunities will multiply.
5. Consider platforms that that offer significant real estate to written word - such as Twitter, Medium, and LinkedIn.
Instagram and Facebook are the biggest social media platforms in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones that matter. Using the platforms that are best suited for your skillset, network, and target audience is a major key. There are still tons of other platforms with millions and millions of users.
If your first talent is a writer, I encourage you to consider using Twitter, Medium, and LinkedIn. Twitter is driven by brevity, wittiness, and conversation. Medium is driven by unique perspectives in the form of articles. LinkedIn is driven by commerce and process-focused prose. All three platforms are full of opportunity for writers.
6. Find your niche as a creative caption writer.
Finding a way to create, capture, or curate powerful images is an essential part of an effective social media strategy in 2018, but that doesn’t negate the value of your words. Let’s look at Instagram as an example. In recent years, a lot of people have expressed dissatisfaction with IG’s departure from their chronological feed.
I understand discomfort with changes, but I think that IG made the right move. Like any social platform, their goal is to incentivize people to engage and spend as much time on the platform as possible. They’re a visually focused platform, but a caption that sparks discussion or causes a strong reaction will give your post more impressions. Your writing can be a distinguishing factor. Your writing can supplement your visual content.
7. Write those books you’ve always wanted to write.
If you self-identify as a writer, you've most likely thought about writing a book. It's scary, though. If you're used to writing shorter bodies of work, writing a book feels like uncharted territory. Will you find a publisher or go the independent route? How will you get an editor? Do you have the discipline to see the process through? What if you write thousands upon thousands of words, and nobody cares? What if you write half of a book and lose the willpower to see it through? Questions on questions on questions. The thing is: you owe it to yourself to find out for yourself.
The game isn't fair, but it's predictable. Writing a book allows you to create evergreen content. It allows for more depth and longevity than an article or essay. There's no time stamp right above your name to make readers feel like your words lose value after the first week. When you write a book, people expect it to come with a price tag. You're not just a writer anymore - you're an author. If you've been waiting for a sign that it's the right time to write your first book, consider this your sign.
8. Craft powerful headlines and titles.
You spent hours writing a powerful, heartfelt, brilliant new piece. The process was exhausting, but you’re proud of what you created. Now, it’s time to publish. You decide to quickly think up a title and share it on all of your social media networks. The problem is, you got about three and a half clicks on your article after working on it for three and a half days. Your writing deserves five out of five flame emojis, but you couldn’t make enough people click the link for it to matter.
Sound familiar? If so, it might be time to reconsider your headline creation and publishing processes. I know how it feels to develop emotional attachment to something that you’ve spent days, weeks, or months writing. I know how it feels to be overcome with excitement when it’s time to actually hit “publish.” Social media is over-saturated with people who want you to click their links. To consistently attract your ideal audience, you have to consistently pique their attention with attention-grabbing, unique headlines. Don’t do yourself the disservice of diminishing the perceived value of your work with a subpar first impression. Pay attention to headlines.
"Don’t do yourself the disservice of diminishing the perceived value of your work with a subpar first impression. Pay attention to headlines."
9. Consider using gifs to contextualize your writing.
I love gifs. Before I started using GIPHY’s search feature and Twitter/Instagram’s gif integration features, I had hundreds of gifs saved on my phone. Up until this year, I only used them for comedic purposes in text threads and on social media.
Current personal favorites include:
Gifs are great ways to add more context to your writing. Using a gif from a popular television show, music video, or easily recognizable cultural moment is an efficient way to provide viewers with more context than words can provide on their own. Gifs add character, personality, and imagery to writing. Use them wisely.
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