Last Wednesday I came home from work and found something unexpected: the number of people I was following on Twitter read as 185. What makes this number noteworthy is that a few hours before, when I was on a break at work, I was following 2,700 people on Twitter.
I did panic a little, admittedly. I had been working for almost a year now to build this network of indie authors, publishers, digital marketers, and some others. And now 93% of them were gone.
It didn’t take long for the issue to be fixed and I was soon back to following all you lovely people (if I don’t follow you, connect with me!). But during that dilemma, 36 people unfollowed me, a record number. Heck, I would unfollow someone if it looked like they built up a network and then ditched all but one in twenty of them.
So something happened to this network I’ve been building that was completely out of my control, and I came out worse for it. What is the lesson here?
Control. As an indie author, a creator, a freelancer, or any sort of entrepreneur, control is something you should have plenty of. You should be in control of your work. Otherwise we would all be spending our time plugging away at normal jobs too, right?
I’ve said this before in passing, but it needs to be said again: you cannot just rely on social media to build your following.
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool. Without it, creators like us probably wouldn’t have a chance at making any sort of career independently. It allows us to connect, network, attract fans, and interact with people all around the world. But it isn’t ours.
It may be your name and picture on that profile, but every Twitter account belongs to Twitter. Every Facebook page and profile belongs to Facebook. Every photo on Instagram is subject to what Instagram wants.
All social media is subject to the terms and conditions, the policies and regulations, and the whims of the companies that own them. We have seen on countless occasions how entire ecosystems can be ruined by changes to social media. YouTubers still have their ad revenue cut in half, and companies that are familiar with Facebook advertising have felt this sting more than once as algorithms and policies are amended.
You have to be able to use social media not just to network or connect with people, but to drive them to your own property, something that you control.
Your website and your content are the best examples of this. By driving regular traffic to your property you establish your brand and control it. Your content will only be subject to your own changes (and perhaps legal ones, but that is outside of this discussion), not ones implemented by social media.
What is the best way to gain and keep control of your own brand?
The popular opinion is mailing lists. Have visitors give you their email so you have a direct line to them, a way to contact them outside of social media. Don’t expect it for free - I wouldn’t give you my email without expecting to get something out of it. Newsletters, contests, exclusive content, even special updates are all things that can warrant collecting emails.
There are other ways you can build a base. Writing content like blogs and short stories is one of them. It will bring traffic to your site, but one thing I’ve been missing out on is connecting with people while they are here.
So, starting this weekend, expect to see the option to sign up for my email mailing list. What’s in it for you? Well, we can stay connected regardless of what the social media gods throw our way. But come back on Saturday to see exactly what we have in store for my author mailing list!
Drop a comment below to let me know of a time when something happened that was out of your control, and how you got that control back. Bonus points if it has to do with your passion or social media. Bonus (bonus) points if you give us advice on how we can get more control over our passions.