While at MWW, I attended a networking lunch with Jane Friedman, who spoke on developing an audience as a writer. As a former publisher with Writers Digest with a Twitter following of 181,000, Ms. Friedman knows what she’s talking about. I especially appreciated that her advice was simple, common sense, and almost entirely cost-free. So, since I love to pass on such things, here are Ms. Friedman’s recommendations for developing an online audience, with my own commentary:
1- Figure out your “kernel”– your specific area of expertise. I love it when this is also something useful for others and something you’re passionate about.
2- Establish a website that’s truly yours. Not your boss’s/organization’s site, not a group project (unless you specifically want to build a platform as part of a group.) This website should not be “under construction”, and it should have a place readers can read about you as well as see your content.
3- Start an e-mail newsletter and collect sign-ups on your website– or have a blog where readers subscribe to your posts. This can function as well as a newsletter, since whatever content you would send out in a newsletter can just be posted to the blog for readers.
4- Choose a social network to focus on- and enjoy interacting! Don’t spread yourself thin by working on every one of the top ten sites. Specialize, post useful & interesting content, and use it often– be consistent.
5- Pay attention to how your readers engage. Where does your traffic come from? What days and times? Adjust your promotions and activity according to how your readers access and connect. Being consistent is important to measuring all this.
6- Measure, adjust, and experiment. What topics do best? What unique thing can you launch? What service can you provide? Basically, pay attention to what works, and have fun with it.
Here are a few things Ms. Friedman very nicely but very firmly told us to NOT do:
1- Never email someone about your content/service/product who has not explicitly given you permission to do so.
2- Don’t be impatient with gaining followers and readers. It takes time.
3- Be polite. Don’t throw yourself at people and don’t pressure them. This will harm your platform.
4- Don’t expect growth to be instantaneous. It takes time. Just generate quality content that you love, and be patient.
I love advice like this, because it boils a whole system of ethics concerning online interaction into a few simple concepts I can remember and follow. What do you think? Have you been practicing any of these consistently? Are they working for you?