The next few Fridays will feature guest posts on the There Are No Rules blog. If you’d like to join the party, pitch a guest blog post idea to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Guest Post Idea for No Rules. Simple as that, and we’ll get working on it together. Today’s guest post comes from Robert Pipkin, who outlines how the 2015 October Platform Challenge changed things.
This past October, I took part in the Writers Digest October 2015 Platform Challenge. Led by Robert Lee Brewer, the challenge focused on giving writers knowledge and experience with social media. Participants would then use that new knowledge and equipment to build a greater following for their writing. In this post, I’ll share a little about where I was before the challenge and where I am now, almost three months after its end.
Where I Was
Before the challenge, I did have some experience with social media, mostly through my day job—and yes, I’m one of those writers with a non-writerly day job. For the most part, I hated social media in my personal life.
On Twitter, I had a few dozen followers but loathed the idea of coding my way through conversations. On Facebook, I was fine with having only personal friends following me. I had a handful of people in my circles on Google+, which seemed like a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter but with a few extra unfathomable features.
I’d started poking around on a few other channels but wasn’t getting anywhere. I didn’t have time for blogging. I’d put together a self-published short story collection on Amazon, but I really didn’t have any specific way to promote it beyond telling friends.
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The first part of the challenge centered around building a foundation. We put together a list of writing goals and defined ourselves as writers. Claiming a domain and starting a writing blog were also part of the foundational activities.
After that, we started touching on the social media channels by joining and participating on Twitter and Facebook. From there, we were challenged to create an editorial calendar and calls to action; activities designed to promote focus and purpose in our platforms.
Several other activities followed, meant to enhance our understanding of what the platform could be used for, teaching us how to think outside the box and be creative with social media.
My Current Platform
I now have a writing blog with my own custom domain at www.robertpipkin.info. I’ve only got a couple of posts there, but I’m enjoying it.
My Twitter followers have increased from around 50 to just over 830, and I have a plan in place to keep that number growing at a steady pace.
On Facebook, I now have an author page, and although it has only a handful of followers right now, a number of participants from the October challenge have formed a Facebook group where we share successes, discuss writing hurdles, and cheer each other on. It’s been a long time since I’ve had writerly folk to speak the craft with and having that support might be the most useful thing the platform challenge did for me.
On Google+, I now have 167 followers, but I’m also a member in a number of communities for both readers and writers. This has been a good source of material worth sharing, and I can now see the potential for reaching a greater reader base in this specific channel.
A big part of social media and platforms is sharing. The challenge encouraged us to share things of interest to us and to our followers. This became overwhelming as I discovered many resources for writing and for genre-centric material. I searched for a better way to manage these resources and found Feedly. Feedly allows me to capture the RSS feed of any blog and store it so that I see whenever it gets updated. This way, I visit Feedly on a daily basis without worrying about individually visiting all of the several dozen blogs I follow. It also includes sharing tools to feed my various platform channels.
The Biggest Surprise
The biggest surprise from the challenge was Goodreads. The one thing we writers need in order to be successful is readers, and Goodreads is the social media network designed for readers. For this reason, it’s great for writers. Amazon owns Goodreads, and since I have a book on Amazon, I was able to set up a Goodreads author page, complete with its own blog! I currently have 360 friends on this channel and, as with Google+, I have a plan for increasing that number and the number of followers for my author page (hint: Goodreads place very nicely with Twitter).
These results are modest, but for me the change is significant, especially considering that I have a plan for increasing followers on most of my channels. Those plans didn’t exist before.
Lastly, the challenge encouraged us to consider pitching ideas for guest blog posts. That’s why you’re reading this post. I’m now a writer published on the Writers Digest website, thanks to the October 2015 Platform Challenge.
Robert Pipkin is a nerd with an incessant sense of humor. He is a dedicated family man and heart attack survivor. Superheroes and Star Wars are like crack for him. He writes short stories, usually about superheroes or jackalopes.
Find him at www.robertpipkin.info.