I am a card-carrying introvert. Always have been. Until recently, this hasn’t been a problem. I’ve surrounded myself with a small group of friends, avoided parties, and managed to get to the point where I can work from home as a freelance writer, thus avoiding the extroverts around the corporate water cooler. In other words, I’ve crafted the perfect life for an introvert.
But now I have a book deal, and with that comes a whole heap of marketing. And that means getting out and meeting people and learning to promote my work on social media. I can handle the getting out and meeting people. After all, it’s not like I’ll be doing something every day, or every hour of the day. There will be plenty of time to “recover” between podcasts and signings. But social media is different. It’s there all the time, in my face, telling me that I should be shilling my work. I already resent it and I’ve hardly begun.
Perhaps you can relate to this. Social media can be scary and uncomfortable for introverts. Everyone on it seems to be trying to scream louder than everyone else. (And why not? We live in a world where the loudest voice wins, not necessarily the voice with the most interesting things to say.) That sort of loud, congested, “always on” environment repels many introverts.
Worse, for most introverts, the idea of bragging about our work and accomplishments is, if not outright abhorrent, at least totally bizarre. It seems too much like being a carnival barker. “Hey, you! Look over here! Look at this! No, not over there, over here! My exhibit is so much cooler than that one over there! Wanna win a stuffed dog? You gotta play to win!” And on and on. No substance, just a constant stream of inanity begging people to look at how great you are. For introverts, that’s about as horrifying as it gets.
Plus, we’re not comfortable sharing the details of our lives and even if we can overcome that, it’s hard to get past the question of, “Who cares?” Who cares what I ate for breakfast? Who cares that I have a cute dog? I understand that as a writer I’m supposed to post details of my writing process or updates on my books but as a reader, I can’t say that I’ve ever even looked at another author’s social media profile, either before or after reading their book. So why would anyone want to read mine? This constant posting of updates about our mundane lives makes no sense to introverts.
But, I’ve admitted defeat. In a world where the loudest voice wins, I’ve got to establish a presence on all the major platforms, as do most writers. But how? How does an introvert go about that herculean task? I’ll admit I’m not there yet, but here are some things I’m doing to make the process a bit more comfortable, less threatening, and less overwhelming.
- Be yourself. I think this is the single most important thing an introvert can do to be successful on social media. We’re never going to be the loudest voice in the room, so we have to ask ourselves what else we can bring to the table. Post in your own voice; don’t try to to speak marketing-ese if you’re not comfortable with it and don’t try to sound like a pep squad leader if that’s not you. Don’t constantly shill your work if that makes you unhappy. Post about things that genuinely interest you, not things that are “trending” or that you’re just reposting to fill up space. Think about what you’d talk about if you could discuss anything and post that. Even if it seems obscure, someone out there shares that interest and you’ll gradually build a following. Step in to help if you see a question you can answer or a resource you can provide.
- Don’t keep score. One of the things that’s unnerving about social media to introverts is that the “score” is always in your face. You can see instantly if people like what you post and if they’re following or unfollowing you. It’s easy to compare yourself to others (and you’ll often find yourself lacking). “Geez, that guy has 10,000 Twitter followers and I only have fifty. I’ll never measure up.” Don’t worry about the numbers. Watching them every day is the path to madness. Just focus on posting quality stuff, connecting with people who do things that interest you, and being helpful. The numbers will eventually turn in your favor.
- Quality over quantity. Don’t post just to post. Engage when you have something to say and don’t worry about the rest of the time. If someone posts something that you genuinely like, make a comment, but don’t respond to things just to respond. Comments like, “LOL,” or “Love this,” don’t contribute anything to the conversation and don’t bring awareness to you or your brand. Post things that are helpful or informative and not things that just take up space. You’ll never be able to compete with the extroverts on quantity, so don’t even try. Just stick to quality posts and comments. Most people would rather read that than constant inane updates, anyway.
- Find your niche. Sure, writing is probably your main niche, so you’ll probably connect with other writers, publishers, agents, etc. But you probably have something else that really interests you, or which relates to your work. Find that and contribute to those discussions. Maybe you wrote a cookbook, so you can connect with chefs or caterers. Maybe you wrote a book about dogs, so you can connect with trainers or rescuers. Most books, even fiction, have something beyond writing that you can leverage into social media posts. If not, your other interests can be valid ways to build a following, as well. Not everything has to be about your book or work. Find hobby groups that interest you and post there.
- Remember that people can’t see you. Unlike faltering in a face to face conversation or hiding in a corner at a party, no one can see you turn red or cry when your awkward social media use results in embarrassment. And it will be awkward in the beginning. You will post stuff you wish you hadn’t, people will take your posts the wrong way or not understand what you’re trying to say, and there will be dead silence in response to many of your posts. Just remember that no one can see your reactions!
- Fake it till you make it. This doesn’t mean that you become like the loudest, most obnoxious of the self-promoters out there. Heaven forbid. No, this faking it till you make it means trying just a bit harder to overcome your natural tendency to avoid social media. Take the risk of posting more often or posting new things. Reply to people who respond to your posts, even if your natural inclination is to remain silent. Comment/like/share on posts you like instead of just reading them and moving on. Push yourself a little out of your comfort zone. When you feel uncomfortable, stop. You don’t want to go so far that you freak out and never return.
- Use your thoughtfulness to your advantage. While the extroverts are posting anything and everything in an effort to simply be the loudest, introverts are better equipped to be the best. Use your selectivity to curate a strong brand that directly relates to the type of writing you do. Carefully select what you post and ensure that it carries your message, or associates you with the type of people you want to work with. The fact that you’re inclined to post only when it means something to you is a point in your favor. Use it. People will come to know that when you do post something, it’s worth paying attention to.
- Start small. Don’t jump on all the platforms at once. You’ll only become overwhelmed and your posting will just be a scattershot approach that doesn’t accomplish anything. Pick the one or two platforms that you think will be a good fit for your work and just work on those for a while. Then, as you master those and get more comfortable, try adding another platform. The major platforms will be waiting for you when you’re ready, so there’s no need to get on everything at once.
- Be choosy. When you’re choosing which platforms to become active on, remember that you don’t have to be on all the platforms. Try a few and pick the ones that best convey your message, are the most comfortable for you to use, that you enjoy the most, and/or are where your audience is. Dump the rest. Even J.K. Rowling only maintains accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
- Schedule the time. Set a time twice a day to check your accounts, post something, and interact with your followers. Turn off all automatic notifications, helper apps, HootSuite, TweetDeck, etc., as well. I find that treating social media like an appointment or meeting takes some of the pressure off. It’s part of my day, but it’s not something that chases me around all day. Being constantly “on” is exhausting to introverts, so checking social media all day is quickly going to wear us out and make us hate it even more. When you shut it down except for your scheduled times, you remove that exhausting feeling. As you go through your day, you might want to make a note if you find something interesting to post, but post it later during your scheduled time.
- Don’t feel guilty. If you go a day or two without interacting on social media, the world will not come to an end. Repeat: The world will not end, clients will not flee, book buyers will not forsake you. Everyone has lives away from the computer and most people understand that. You may go on vacation, be working hard on a deadline, or just not have anything to share. That’s okay. Don’t feel bad about not posting. You’ll get to it when you get to it and your posts will be better for the break.
- Embrace being in charge. Unlike it much of real life, on social media you are in charge of what you do and when you do it. You can schedule times that suit your energy levels, post only when you have something to say, and turn it all off when you need a break. You can unfollow people you don’t like and block the jerks. Social media gives you control that you don’t get in real life. That’s a positive worth remembering.
- Be personal, but not overly so. Post personal things only so far as you feel comfortable and as they will advance your brand. You don’t have to post pictures of your dog, kids, house, breakfast, etc., but you can let people know a bit about who you are and what you like. Post about books you’re reading, movies you love, a picture, quote, or scenery that inspires you, dreams that gave you ideas for stories, etc. These things give readers an idea of who you are which is important in getting them to care about you and your work, but you’re not giving them everything about yourself or revealing private information.
- Keep the shilling to a minimum. Introverts recoil at the notion of touting their own accomplishments. We look at those Twitter feeds or Facebook pages that do nothing but promote the authors’ work over and over again, five times an hour, and think, “No way in heck.” Not only is it uncomfortable for us, it just seems ridiculous because we don’t want to be bombarded like that and the notion of subjecting others to it is nauseating. Post about your own work, but only when you have something worthwhile to post beyond, “I have a book out!” Cover reveals, signing announcements and other appearances, new releases, significant reviews, new editions, etc. are the types of things that should get posts. Let your profile and background photo do most of the talking about your work. Those can show that you have a book or books to promote in a static, quiet way, while you focus on posting other quality content.
- Remember that it’s the writing that matters. All the Tweets, likes, shares, follows, and friends mean nothing if you don’t have work to promote. When in doubt, devote your time to writing that next book, blog post, or article. Providing more quality content is the best marketing you can do. Everything else is just extra. Your job is to write and while promotion is part of that, it can’t be everything, or even the majority. Don’t let social media consume your time to the point that you neglect your writing. Write first, promote when you have time.
It’s going to be a while before I’m comfortable on social media. It just goes against my nature to promote and grandstand. And even once I’m “comfortable,” I’ll never be as involved in it as some extroverts I know. However, I am beginning to see that some of my strengths as an introvert – my thoughtfulness, creativity, desire to find a “tribe” and just be myself – can work in my favor on social media. Introverts can succeed on social media but it has to be on our terms, not just by trying to imitate the extroverts.