What is Your Brand? Part 2 Website and Social Media
Last blog, we discussed unique selling position (UPS) and looked at some examples. Now, we're going to use what we've learned to expand into website creation and social media.
Designing a Website:
As someone who has run several small businesses and switched writing genres, designing a website that reflects your UPS can be overwhelming. Let's break it down:
Refer back to your USP. What are your three words or short phrases? Take some time to think about what colors each word associates with. For example, if your word is “sassy”, maybe you think of something bright and fun. Red, a bright shade of pink. Maybe teal or magenta. If your word is “mysterious”, you might want to consider dark colors, blues or purples. Maybe a background of black with some pops of maroon. Whatever you decide, make those your core colors, the ones you use the most. When people hear your name, they need to see your colors. Take a look throughout my website, my twitter, even my Instagram. Hopefully, you can get an idea about me and my writing by the colors I've selected.
Your fonts should be as consistent as possible, including any flyers, brochures, business cards, and merchandise. No need to over think this. Scroll through the microsoft word fonts and select a few that work best for your USP. For example, if you are a romance writer, you may want all your headings to be in cursive. If you're going for a friendly down home vibe, maybe you want to stick with the classic Times Roman since it's standard and straight forward. Whatever you pick, make sure your readers can actually read it. I once picked a font I absolutely loved, but when I used it on the blog, the letters were too close together and people had trouble reading it. Whoops!
Refer back to your three words (are you sensing a theme yet?) and think about how you can reflect those with the images you use. If your word is “peaceful”, you don’t want to be frowning into the camera. Maybe you're outside with your shoes off, sitting in the grass with your back resting against a building. Or maybe you're laying in the grass, hair tossed around you with a bright smile. Would something like that work for "friendly", "welcoming", "down-home"? Absolutely. Would it work for "disturbing"? No, probably not, which is probably why you don't see a lot of horror writers laying in the grass staring up at the clouds. One of the best author pics I saw was a mystery writer. He was leaning against an alley wall, at night, and the alley was pitch black. Boom. USP nailed in a single image.
Above all, have fun with this. As a writer, you create characters and bring them to life. This is no different. You're taking a part of yourself, developing it in a fun and creative way, and then bringing it to life. Your brand is you.
I get a lot of questions about social media. I already wrote a blog post about websites. Yes, writers need them. But do they need twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Snap Chat?
Yes and no.
Look, a lot of us writers write because we love it, we can't not write. Yeah, that's a double negative and it's intention, because that's what writers feel. It's a part of us, for better or worse. So even if we never sell a book, even if no one on the planet ever reads a single word we write, we will continue to scribble out stories on paper. It's who we are.
With that said, would it be nice to have people read our work? Sure. And how can we do that if no one knows we exist?
I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about social media, especially in our current society where a single tweet can end seriously divert a career. But, in my opinion, you still need to be a part of social media. But it doesn't have to be scary. I have two words of wisdom and they're basically the same thing:
As a writer, the USP is all about You. Expanding the parts of You that connect with your writer and ultimately to your readers. So make sure you don't lose yourself in the process of creating a brand. Be authentic on you website, in front of an audience at a book signing, and on social media. Don't try to shock followers with provocative tweets unless you're a provocative individual. Don't curse, unless you curse in your everyday life. Don't jump on a thread and support someone or an idea if you don't passionately agree.
Don't be a Jerkface
Scenario One: Dr. Picklepants posts a new medical theory on her Twitter feed. Buddy responds with a provocative, yet respectful comment. Snippy responds to Buddy with all intense, rude comment. Now Buddy feels attacked, and responds with his own rude comment. Three tweets later, Buddy and Snippy are in an intense word battle, complete with name calling and cursing. All of this happening on Dr. Picklepant's thread. Moral of the story: Don't be Snippy. Snippy = Jerkface. Don't start arguments on someone else thread, especially someone in your writer's community. And if you're Dr. Picklepants, feel free to block them. Don't feel like blocking people is somehow going to blacklist you. If people are being cruel or disrespectful or creepy, block them.
Scenario Two: Rudey McRudeFace notices that people are more likely to follow her if she follows back. So she goes on a following rambage, clicking that little "follow" button until her fingers blister. And guess what? It worked. She went from 489 followers to 701 in just two weeks! So now, her Twitter account reads: Rudey McRudeFace Tweets: 3,298 Following: 1,298 Followers: 701. Uh oh. Rudey is starting to have second thoughts. Should she be following a New Zealand potato farmer when she's a young adult author? The farmer can't really do much for her brand. She doubts he'll interact much with her feed and what will people think if they search her "following" category and come up with someone so random and not associate with her carefully crafted writing bubble? Better unfriend him. Uh oh. Rudey realized, in all her excitement to gain followers, she has followed twelve circus clowns, a glass blower, three tree doctors and a gynecologist. Hmm. Those aren't really people she figures would like any of her posts. And, well, she got what she wanted from them - a follow. And she doesn't want people thinking she loves clowns, glass, trees or her vagina, so she unfollows them. Soon, she's unfollowed all the people she feels won't help advance her career, but feeling pretty happy that they're still following her. Now, her account reads: Rudey McRudeFace Tweets: 3,298 Following: 489 Followers: 701. Ah, so much better.
Can anyone in the class tell me why Rudey McRudeFace is a Jerkface? You guess it! Following people to boost your numbers only to immediately unfollow them, for any reason, is flat out rude. And guess what? No one is fooled. In fact, if you're looking to get on people's poop list, this is one of the easiest things to do.
But let's address Rudey's concerns about why she unfollowed. Is it okay to follow everyone who follows you even though they aren't in your target demographic? Will it look bad on you if an editor or agent sees you're following 85,039 people? Wouldn't it be better to appear selective? Okay, I'm going to answer from my own personal experience based on how I run my feeds and what I've seen from other Twitter accounts, and what I've been told by social media gurus:
Unless an account is aggressive, offensive, creepy, or makes you uncomfortable in any way (in which case, you should block them), it's okay to follow back. It's okay to have your "following" and "followers" numbers to be the same. Or to be following more than those who are following you. In my personal experience, it's never been a problem.
But really, if you're focused solely on numbers, then you're missing out on the amazing aspects of social media. The writing community on Twitter is amazing. You'll make friends, acquaintances, business partners, and you'll learn about incredible opportunities. If you're only on social media to get numbers (followers), it'll eventually come through in your posts (or lack of posts). Tweeting in the beginning to gain followers, and then only tweeting when you have a book to sell...well, people notice. I'm always frustrated by folks like this. Sure, they have every right to use Twitter in that fashion, but for me and for those I've met, Twitter is more than, "Hey, I've published a book now it's time for you to pay attention to me again" vessel. It's a community. It's support. It's a little mini online family.
Ultimately, how you run your social media is your decision. I'm sure for every example I gave of Jerkface, you can come up with someone doing the exact same thing but with a million followers. I think focusing on the numbers is a wasted opportunity to connect with extraordinary people all over the world (So many of the people I've met on Twitter are from the UK and I love gaining their perceptive on films and literature.) Just remember to be yourself. Have fun. Now go out there and get tweeting!