Today I feel like a Holstein heifer. Why? Because this week I’m investigating the concept of branding. Social media branding, that is.
What do you mean by branding?
An excellent question, Lily (my inner 14-year-old is always on top of things), and one I’ve been asking myself. Branding, of myself as an author, has crossed my radar several times and I have assiduously avoided it. Until now. The catalyst? The seminar Social Media 101, led by bestselling author Elizabeth Boyle https://www.elizabethboyle.com/ at the 2021 Women Writing the West virtual conference.
Elizabeth effectively presented the ways that social media help interested readers find books they will enjoy. The first step is to determine where you, as a writer, fit in the social media galaxy.
This is a process that invites you to examine:
Goals: Do you want to increase blog traffic? Meet influencers and other professionals/? Host events? Learn more about craft?
Audience: Both “B2C” (Business to Consumer, aka Readers) and “B2B” (Business to Business, such as Agents, Editors, Publishers, Other Authors, Librarians, Booksellers, etc.)
Engagement: What social media tools and frequencies of posting are you comfortable with? What content do you enjoy creating? How do you like to interact? And how is all of this relevant to your audience?
Once you understand where you fit as a social media practitioner, the next step is understanding where your readers are. Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Somewhere else?
[So hey, Readers (yes, that’s YOU!), where do you go in social media?]
And so on. This all looked like checklist stuff to me, appealing to my accountant alter ego. But here and there the “B” word kept sneaking in. I have an intuitive dislike for the concept of branding. It strikes me as an example of turning a person into a commodity. I experienced plenty of this performing in the Nevada Slim & Cimarron Sue duo and never overcame an involuntary inner grimace reflex when people treated me like a performing object instead of a person.
Like a jack-in-the-box or something?
Some days were very much like that, 9, as you surmise from your post of mid-century inner 9-year-old.
In short, the notion of branding myself as an author, of deliberately presenting myself as someone unique (yet reliable and consistent) for the purpose of gaining reader interest and trust, turns my stomach.
Realistically speaking, this should be no different than maintaining a pleasant, professional attitude when working in any public arena. Because that’s what social media is, if your purpose is engaging a reading audience. If I want to use these tools effectively I have to use them like a responsible adult.
It dawned on me that all of the things Elizabeth talked about- -Goals, Audience, Engagement- -were intricately linked with brand. So, off to the branding pen I went. This required some online research. Did I really understand what branding meant in this context?
After a bit of searching I found this nifty post:
In short, your brand is a promise to your readers. It helps you stand out in a crowd and get the exposure you crave. There are seven steps to defining your brand, which is dauntingly pointed out as being everything about you that appears on social media, down to the colors and fonts used in your posts. Key to the concept: branding is about you, not your writing.
Naturally I spun out to the question Who the heck am I? In terms of the social media thing, I mean?
For one thing, you are at least three people on the inside.
True, Lily, though I’m not sure this will inspire reader confidence. But maybe I could describe myself, as I hope to appear in the social media world, as someone with:
The playful irreverence of Bugs Bunny;
The analytical abilities of Mr. Spock;
The grace and compassion of Audrey Hepburn.
Branding through absconding with the personalities of others. That’s the spirit!
Clearly you control the Bugs Bunny wheel of the runaway tricycle, Lily. Readers (aha! I see you out there!), what do you think? Feel free to add your comments to this post. I’m serious!!
Another aspect of branding is determining your USP (Unique Selling Point): what makes you stand out from others in your genre? What are your strengths?
So far you’re getting more questions than answers.
I know, 9, and it’s getting me down. For one thing, though my published books are contemporary fantasy/mythology for adults, I’ve written plenty of other things in other genres. So let’s pause on genre for now. What my books are about, regardless of setting or plot or subplots, is human relationships. This is what fascinates me! Also, I write like an actor, which means it’s critical to me to understand the internal life and history of any of my characters in order to write them in the first place, something that might be described as literary empathy.
So, how am I doing with the branding thing? Will being a mash-up of Bugs, Spock and Audrey, who writes with the sensibilities of an actor and strives for literary empathy help me stand out in a crowd and get the exposure I crave?
Well. . .
Uhm. . .
Yeah, I’m skeptical, too. But I’m going to give it a try. Developing and implementing a social media plan is the next step. Like any story I’ve ever written, the plan can be improved through revision, but I have to get it down on paper, first. As someone incredibly wise once said, you can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank page.
Do we have to keep our mouths shut while you’re online doing your Bugs/Spock/Audrey thing?
Not necessarily. The two of you might be able to tell better than I can if my plan is working. I’ll set the goals and you keep me accountable. Deal?
Thanks, you two. Fingers crossed that social media branding won’t hurt as much as searing a symbol into my flesh with a white-hot iron.
Though at the moment the simplicity of that scenario sounds appealing.
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