So now you’ve created a profile, you will want to get down to the serious business. Inevitably, questions will be formulating in your mind on what kind of content you want to provide, how to present your written work online, how to address your certain audience, how to conform to social media etiquettes, and how to make your writing style accessible to your intended audience. Yes, there does appear to be a lot you need to consider, and hopefully this post will function as a helpful reminder of the things to keep in mind.
What Kind of Content
The rule goes that the majority of social media users are not creators of original content: they retweet, the may make short comments on the material they share, but they do not contribute original, substantial content to the virtual world. Perhaps the easiest way to start creating original content is by revisiting some of your university essays and rewriting them into accessible blog posts that may be of interest to others, be it on a book or film you’ve studied for your course, or an analysis of a current political situation. Perhaps you want to make public your opinion on a recent news item to get you started with your online writing, or you want to review a film you’ve seen, a TV series you’re currently watching, or a book you’ve just finished. Perhaps you want to show off your photography or art work.
There are endless types of content you can create, but the main question you should always ask yourself no matter what social media platforms you use is: what do I want to get out of this? If you’re hoping to showcase your writing because you’d like to become a professional author or a journalist, then simply posting pictures on Instagram probably won’t help you very much, no matter how stunning those shots of your holiday destinations may be. If you want to become a professional photographer, however, that might be just the thing you want to showcase. So, think about which of your skills you want to showcase and to whom. If you’re hoping to boost your employability and profile, then ask yourself what that employer will be looking for. If you apply for internships as a writer, your prospective boss will most likely ask where they can find examples of your writing, and it’ll look highly suspect if you haven’t made the effort yet to put your work out there. So think about for whom (apart from yourself) you’re blogging or tweeting, and think about what kind of content will be of interest to your target readership and what kind of content will best represent your interests, skills, and experience.
Presenting Written Work Online
Although there are no hard and fast rules for presenting written work online, it is always a good idea to make sure that you develop an accessible and professional style (I am afraid the word ‘professional’ will be reverberating throughout this post!). As you will be writing a blog, you want to aim to have quick, accessible and aesthetically pleasing material for your readers. It is best, therefore, to have smaller paragraphs, more images and a clear layout. Readers tend to lose focus if all they see is a large chunk of text on their screen, so smaller paragraphs make reading more manageable. Pictures can make your post look more aesthetically pleasing and interesting, and on Twitter and other social networking sites links with pictures have proven to be more popular (make sure you read our advice on copyright and creative commons licences, though, before you search Google for those images). Also remember that there is a lot more room for creativity and the visual in a blog post: you can embed a clip of the news item or music video you’re discussing, link to an author’s website, and so on. Multimedia content and external links can help engage your reader, so don’t underestimate its importance.
No matter if you consider writing a hobby, therapy, or a chore, your work is ultimately being made available to a global audience, so remember your readership. For example, the Writing Lives project at LJMU was aimed at a range of different audiences, including historians, the general public, and my tutor. It was hard to create a balance between addressing an academic and non-academic readership. Although I needed to engage with scholarly material for this project, I adopted a more informal style to cater for the needs of a more general audience. You can take a look at my posts here. If you are hoping to continue on to postgraduate study, you may want to showcase your academic abilities (critical thinking, analytical and conceptual skills, etc.), but perhaps you also want to ensure that not just a handful of lecturers find your blog worth reading. In the end, think about who you want to read your blog and who is likely to read your blog: what knowledge do they have? Had you better drop some of the jargon that might not be accessible to certain audiences you want to attract?
Remember, you are not writing an essay for your tutor; you are writing a blog. This means that you have much more room to be more experimental and creative with your writing as well as your presentation, and you can give a very individual voice to your work. One useful tip is to write in shorter sentences. You do not want to distract your reader with essay-like sentences. Also, try to eradicate all those meaningless fillers such as ‘indeed’ and ‘furthermore’ as they add nothing to the meaning of your text.
Promoting Your Posts
Once you’ve created a post, the next step will be to publicize you’re work via social media. And why not? You need to showcase your skills and work to give you a much wider readership, and if you’re blogging to raise your professional profile, then there would be little point in leaving your posts to die a slow and lonely death in the virtual world. To get rid of the mandatory bits first, don’t forget to begin with a capital letter and always use the hashtag at the end of your tweet. And remember: you are making your hard work available to a wide audience, so be careful what you are tweeting as you want to maintain a professional relationship with your readers! Think about whether the title of your post is perhaps too sensational, or indeed too bland. Does it arouse curiosity in your reader? Does it promise something you’re not delivering in your post? Is it descriptive enough to let your reader know what they’ll get once they’ve clicked on the link? Remember to use relevant hashtags to reach a wider audience beyond your immediate followers, and you’ll notice that sites like LinkedIn and Facebook also let you tag and use keywords for your posts.
Of course, you should make occasional and regular tweets to keep your profile active. By attaching a link in a tweet, people can gain instant access to your posts, and through retweeting, your work’s reach can be extended further. It is also a good idea to support through social media any work others are doing, as this will create a disseminating community, and if you retweet someone’s content, they might just be more inclined to promote yours. However, retweeting all day does not make for a good or original profile; people will become tired of your constant tweets and will ultimately begin to ignore and loose interest in your projects. So strike a balance, and make sure you have something to say for yourself if you want to build up a readership and followers.
Relax and embrace your social media skills!
Yes, it may seem daunting reading ‘how to’ posts; obvious statements are made and you feel as though you are still at primary school. But often the obvious is ignored. Just remember that you want to be professional (here it is again!) as you want your hard work to be read. Hopefully, you will now consider the etiquettes of writing and sharing your work publicly, but these skills will soon become second nature.
If you need some inspiration to get you started and give you ideas, or simply want to see what others do with their blogs, check out some of the following history and literature-themed blogs, and watch out for a forthcoming “Inspire & Connect” section: