Ep 153: In a World of Author Branding, Find a Place to Play
If you scroll through my Instagram feed, it won’t take long before you’ll see quotes on pictures, quotes with colored backgrounds, sourced images and my own snapshots all jumbled together. It’s not pretty.
You’ll see travel pictures and book after book lying on a marble table, which is one of two or three decent backdrops in my home.
The captions vary. Some are long, some are short. Sometimes I write stories to go with the image; other times, I simply add a little quote or brief explanation.
Then there are the Stories. My Instagram Stories aren’t overly planned out and I don’t add a lot of embellishment. I just talk for 15 seconds and then send it off.
There’s no rhyme or reason to any of my Instagram content. There’s no grand plan.
It’s an experiment.
It’s a playground.
On Twitter, I have a more thoughtful approach. I have a philosophy of sorts going over there…a purposeful flow of content I’m tweeting out. Same with Facebook—it’s fairly easy to figure out what I’m doing there. And I follow a straightforward schedule with predictable content on my website and podcast.
But Instagram is where I mess around and try things out.
One day I may commit to a smarter approach that matches my overall brand, but I think it’s important while building an author platform to reserve a place to play.
While Building a Platform, We Need a Place to Play
In an era when writers must take personal branding and platform-building seriously to be considered by traditional publishers, we must be smart about establishing our online presence.
We set up our digital home base—our website. Then we secure “satellite offices,” if you will, on social media platforms. We show up as the author of a guest post on someone’s website or find ourselves interviewed on a podcast. We stay on topic. We strengthen our brand. We build an audience that appreciates our message and our voice.
In the midst of those efforts, I like to set aside one space where I can be more natural, casual, and real—where I can test story ideas and experiment with my voice a bit.
If your brand exudes a natural, casual, real vibe everywhere, cool! You live with more freedom than some writers, you lucky duck. Some writers, given their topic, convey a more put-together feel on social media and write in a professional tone as part of their brand in order to reach their primary audience.
They need a place to let their hair down, and the good news is that these days, readers enjoy seeing even put-together professionals in their natural environment.
Writers—They’re Just Like Us!
Have you seen the “Stars—They’re Just Like Us” section of US Weekly magazine? “There’s Kerry Washington buying lettuce at Whole Foods! She’s just like us.” “How fun to see Zac Efron walking his dog! He’s just like us.” “Wow, Cindy Crawford pumps her own gas—she’s just like us.” “How about that—Ann Kroeker reads entertainment magazines! She’s just like us!”
Uh, a quick disclaimer: My mom gave me a gift subscription to US Weekly and Taste of Home back in 2012, so for the record, I didn’t seek it out myself and the subscription ran out several years ago. And I don’t flip through it at the grocery store checkout stand. (Well, at least not that often.)
But if I did, that would be one of the features I’d flip to. Because I think it’s fun to see the movie or music stars I usually see dressed up and walking the red carpet spotted in normal places in ordinary clothing, shuffling around in flip flops slurping an Orange Julius, just like us.
You’re Someone’s Star
Maybe we writers working on building our platforms aren’t big stars—at least, not yet.
But someone is already looking up to you.
Some reader has arrived at an article you wrote for an online magazine or for your own website and thought, “Wow, I never thought about it that way before.” Or, “I could never write like her. She’s amazing.”
Even if your style isn’t dressy or formal,