JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Social Media. We love it. We hate it. We dash from Twitter to Facebook to Tumblr to Pinterest, trying to fit in a little paid writing along the way and not ignore our family members too much. Sound unmanageable? Then you need to meet Elizabeth S. Craig. Elizabeth writes three - count 'em, three - series: the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley as Riley Adams, the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. Her blog, Mystery Writing is Murder, has been named one of the 101 Best Blogs for Writers for three years running by Writers Digest. She helps run the Writer's Knowledge Base, a search engine dedicated to writers' resources. Her writing-related Tweets are must-reads for every author, published or un-, and, oh, yes, she still finds time to volunteer at her children's school.
Good grief. I feel tired just typing all that. Contrary to what you might think, Elizabeth says she doesn't accomplish all this by cloning herself. Instead, she uses time management. And she's here today to share some practical advice on how to control your social media...before it starts controlling you.
The Reds had a great roundup on social media recently—and it really got me thinking about the love/hate relationship we writers have with being online. It’s a fantastic way to connect with readers and other writers…and subtly promote our books, which was the reason we got on social media to begin with. But how do we keep from spending all day online? How can we have an online presence and still protect our writing time?
I’ll admit it’s tough for me—I love my online time. Here are seven ways I’ve found to work around my social media fixation...and still find time to write my books:
Write first. It’s great knowing that I’ve got my writing goal knocked out first thing. This means I get up before five a.m. to do it, but I get that smug feeling the rest of the day, knowing I’ve written. The writing I do later in the day is just icing on the cake.
Use a timer. I’ve gotten so I live by my timer—it’s easy for time to fly by when I’m online. Usually I use a free online timer to help me track my time.
Automation. Automation gets a bad rap, but it’s incredibly helpful if it’s not misused. You can use a program like Timely or check out this Kissmetrics infographic to figure out prime time for your followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Use an editorial calendar for planning your blog posts. Schedule blog posts in advance. Blogging is an important part of an online presence and many writers use a blog as a home base online. But you can burn up a lot of time trying to decide on topics to post on. I use my Google calendar as an informal editorial calendar. When I brainstorm an idea for a post, I go ahead and put it on the calendar (it’s easy to drag and drop, too, if you want to rearrange the order of the posts. It’s also helpful if you write a couple or more posts at one time—once you’ve written one post, go ahead and start the next while you’re in post mode. Then you can schedule posts in advance and not be in a panic when it’s your day to post and you’ve got nothing to say.
Dedicate specific times to check email and social media messages. And then try not to check messages in-between.
Make old material work for you. If you have old blog posts in your archive, you can bring new readers to your blog by pinning top posts on Pinterest (careful here…bring out that timer. Pinterest is especially addictive.) New visitors to blogs appreciate seeing a list of the most popular posts in a sidebar (it can quickly help them brand you and your blog.) You can even update some of your more popular older posts and repost them. What are your most popular posts? Use the free Google Analytics program to learn your top content and what’s resonated most with readers.
Limit the number of social media applications that you use. We don’t have to have profiles on every app. If we stick with the ones we like best, it’s easy to keep them updated and we won’t spread ourselves thin over multiple platforms during our allotted social media time. Some applications (like Goodreads and LinkedIn) really only require updating whenever we’ve got a change (a new release, a new website, etc.)
If all else fails—taking a look at the calendar and an upcoming deadline works wonders, too!
How do you keep your social media time in check? And, thanks for hosting me today, Reds!
Elizabeth’s next book, Quilt or Innocence, releases June 5th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series as Riley Adams, and the Southern Quilting mysteries and the Myrtle Clover mysteries under her own name. She blogs at Mystery Writing is Murder. You can also follow her on Twitter as @elizabethscraig and friend her on Facebook.