The web and digitisation have made possible the rapid publication of anything by anyone with access to the Internet. As a side effect this has also created a vast swathe of content that creates much more noise than signal.
Any creative that attempts to engage an audience online is doing so amid a multitude of voices offering similar content, all hoping to engage with an audience too. Without a plan an online effort could easily flounder.
So what can an author or an artist do?
The best recommendation is to adopt a strategy based on three questions:
1. Who do you want to connect with?
Who are your audience? Are they young people or older people or children? Does it comprise military history buffs, those into modern design or perhaps women's literature readers? Are they readers or fans of illustration and art? Are they your peers in the community of artists or writers?
2. Why do you want to connect with them?
Are you looking to connect with peers to discuss writing or art, with prospective editors and publishers or gallery directors to convince them that you have a product worth publishing or exhibiting? If you know whom you want to connect with and can then establish why you want their attention, you'll be in a good place to answer the third critical question.
3. Where is the best place to connect with them?
Simply trying to reach a group of people by using every single social media platform is a useless enterprise and will only result in you spreading yourself too thin and wasting a precious commodity: time.
Before you commit any time to a social network in an effort to connect with an audience, first make sure the people you want to reach are there, then that the purpose for reaching out is possible on that network. For instance if you want to share lengthy text with an older group of people, Twitter may not be well suited - it's skewed younger and the format allows for only short messages.If however your desire is to share links to a web-hosted portfolio of images, then maybe Twitter is the right place for you.
If you can answer the questions above and then set about finding the right mix of social media that works for your strategy, then even if the competition is fierce, you are already taking a step ahead and your chances of success are greater.
Eoin Purcell has worked as a commissioning editor for Mercier Press and Nonsuch Ireland. He contributes columns to The Bookseller magazine and writes a blog at www.eoinpurcellsblog.com.
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