5 Ways Writers Can Break Out of the Tired Old Social Media Box

image of social networking logos

It’s time to teach that old dog some new tricks.

That old dog I’m referring to is social media.

Sure, you’re already blogging, and on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and more. Great.

But I’m telling you — there’s more to social media than meets the eye. The final chapter on social media hasn’t been written.

When I kicked off my writing business in April, I decided to use social media my way.

I approached these overused networks as if I’d never heard of them. I made my own rules. I set different expectations. You could say I wrote my own chapter on social media marketing.

It made my website — and my business — better.

Here’s what I came up with, and how you can incorporate these features into your own marketing plan.

1. YouTube: For a bit of drama

YouTube’s not just for viral cat videos and covers of Justin Bieber songs.

I uploaded images of my best-looking writing clips, then stitched together a video portfolio on iMovie. (Take screen shots or scan documents if you don’t have original files.)

I like to think of it as my “me trailer” complete with sound effects, music, and dramatic editing.

Once I posted it to YouTube, I embedded it on my website and added a burst that says, “Click Here to See My Trailer!”

It’s super nerdy. It’s unconventional. It’s me.

Most importantly, it advertises my services in a fresh way and shows all of my specialties in less than three minutes. It’s not about getting the most YouTube views, it’s about getting business.

And it has Star Wars references. (Not required for success.)

Takeaway: Videos make your site more interesting and show your personality. A welcome video can introduce clients to your site. A video biography can turn you from a static picture into a new friend. Most computers, cameras, or phones provide all of the movie-making software you need.

2. Foursquare: For showing off

The location-based site and mobile app lets users “check-in” to venues like restaurants, famous landmarks, and their own homes in pursuit of badges and points.

Foursquare users can friend others and also follow their favorite brands’ pages. Upon unsuspectingly checking in to one of the brand’s favorite venues, a tip will pop up from said brand.

I took advantage of this feature and created my own brand page on Foursquare. But what kind of tips would I share with my followers? The best places to find free wi-fi around the world. Who doesn’t enjoy a free connection, plentiful plugs, and good coffee?

Now when people follow my page and check in to a location near one of my top wi-fi spots, a little pop-up box on their Foursquare app will remind them of my business and how helpful I am.

I even created a Foursquare venue for my writing business. So other nearby businesses — the original The Onion headquarters is steps away — know that I’m here. And I’m ready to rock.

Takeaway: Maybe you’re a movie critic who knows the best theaters around the country. Or a fashion blogger who knows all the top boutiques in New York City. Or a roaming travel writer who knows the best cheap eats from coast to coast. Share’em on your favorite social review site.

3. Pinterest: For going viral

Are you obsessed with Pinterest yet? Pin + interest = Pinterest. It’s a digital pin board site where users “pin” their favorite images to themed boards. You can follow other users’ boards and “re-pin” their content.

I run a little travel blog on the side because I’m working on breaking into travel writing. Pinterest and its cult following seemed like the perfect place to showcase my own travel photography in hopes of a little viral action.

So I created a Pinterest account for my travel blog and I pinned my images to boards like “Pretty Travel Pics” and “Must-Do Travel Experiences.”

I pinned other people’s images, too. This isn’t all about me — you gotta show some love to get some love.

My personal photography has been re-pinned oodles of times and every pic links back to my travel blog. Instant traffic.

If I’m lucky, my pins will appear on the Pinterest home page. Just another unusual way to get my name out there.

Takeaway: Image-based sites like Pinterest, Flickr, and Instagram aren’t just for photographers. If you’re a food blogger, showcase pics of your best recipes. If you’re a tech reporter, gather images of your favorite gadgets.

4. Facebook: For looking important

Every business has a Facebook page, but why did my business need one?

I decided to designate my official Facebook page as a newsfeed of all the things I’ve written.

It’s a vertical version of my portfolio and another way potential clients can see what I’ve been working on — especially what I’ve been working on this week.

Sure, the page won’t get a whole lot of ‘likes’ and my mom is the only person who ‘likes’ my posts regularly (thanks, Mom!), but that’s not the goal of my Facebook page.

It’s there to display my latest clients and clips. And to show that I know how to build Facebook pages – I’m a social media consultant after all.

Takeaway: There’s a cookie cutter social media plan that’s been set in front of us all. But if it doesn’t make sense for your business, don’t follow it.

5. Amazon Associates: for bragging

Amazon Associates is an affiliate program for Amazon.com products. Create an online store (complete with your own URL), fill it with hand-picked items, and you’ll get money for each completed purchase.

I decided to create my own “aStore” as they’re called, not to make money but to show off my latest books and the publications I’m featured in.

I’m simply taking advantage of Amazon’s free social shopping features for my own benefit. I don’t want the money.

I uploaded a branded header image similar to the image on my Foursquare page, Facebook page, and website.

I created a page called “Aubre Andrus Books” and included text explaining that I have five books coming out over the next two years.

I’m able to brag without looking like I’m bragging. And when my books come out, I’ll have a stocked store. Impressive, right?

Takeaway: There are a lot of free widgets and plug-ins out there that can make your business better. Don’t let a little html or an affiliate contract scare you.

Now, it’s your turn …

Choose the social networks that excite you, then throw the rules to the wayside.

This is all about doing it your way.

How do you use social media differently?

Do you use Google+ or Twitter in a way that make you stand out from the competition? Share your strategies in the comments below!

About the Author: Aubre Andrus writes for her favorite brands and publications as an author, creative copywriter, professional blogger, social media consultant, and roaming reporter. You can follow her on Twitter @aubreandrus or visit her website and portfolio.

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Reader Comments (48)

  1. says

    YouTube is the platform to be on in 2012.

    Recently, a lot of my favorite marketers have been “re-discovering” how much exposure podcasting & iTunes can bring when you leverage your email list to get ranked highly on iTunes charts.

    Pinterest is one that interests me (rhyme not intended :)) because I just don’t get how you can build a following there, isn’t it just random pinnings of even more random images?

    • says

      Pinterest is dominating right now for anyone that can put their business/brand into a visual representation. This is why travel sites, clothing stores, DIY blogs, and wedding anything are seeing record traffic from Pinterest. Users spend tons of time on the platform and if they really love a picture, want to see the source and they’ll follow you or your boards to see more.

      But, if you don’t sell/write anything that can be represented by pictures, it doesn’t seem like the network is worth your time.

      • says

        I think anyone can sign up for an Amazon affiliate account and promote stuff that can be represented by images. I really do think that when it comes to Pinterest (and other social media) the trick is to think outside the box like Aubre rightly said. There are ways you can leverage the incredible traffic and opportunities presented by this site.

        • says

          I agree, Sharon! There’s a visual angle to everything. No matter what the topic, you could gather your favorite products, books, or movies about that topic and put them on Pinterest or in an Amazon store.

  2. says

    Great list! I really agree with what you wrote about Pinterest. I have used it to create a big increase in traffic as well. Had not thought about the Amazon suggestion but that is a great idea. Thanks for sharing these!

  3. says

    I just checked your website and am totally blown away. Liked the video a lot, haven’t yet read the other tips you gave in the guest post. But this reply can’t wait. Great job.

  4. says

    You’ve outlined the major benefits of each. It would be good to have some of those foci placed appropriately so that we can maximize each “type” of social media that seems to begging for our attention. Thanks for outlining everything accordingly.

  5. Michael Johnson says

    I too enjoyed your post. Great examples on how to use these very powerful internet tools, that are all free. The most impressive example was foursquare, I learned something new this morning, thanks for that! A bless your moms heart for her support on Facebook, its a family of social networks these days. Great post!

  6. says

    Pinterest is definitely gaining ground in the world of social media. As a business, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the website and build up your presence. It’s still a largely untapped area with lots of opportunity.

  7. says

    Hi Aubre,

    I like your off the beaten path strategies here. Wise words from someone who walks to the beat of their own drum, and is prospering in the process.

    I moved away from the numbers game on both Facebook and Twitter. I am automating a bit more – gotta have a life as I travel, ya know – but still personalize my interactions. More than anything, I simply am deleting folks I am not friends with, or unfollowing folks who do not bring value to the table.

    This helps me streamline my social media campaign. Targeted marketing. As in connecting with people who interest me, most of which are interesting in what I have to offer. Rather than trying to gobble up as many folks as possible I continue to release, let go and grow. I am less concerned with numbers and more concerned with people, and the quality of the offerings I post on FB and twitter.

    It is not a numbers game, social media. It is an energy game. Focus on the energy behind each act, forget all the Likes and follows, and neat things happen for your social campaign. Namely, you begin to do more business with less effort, and you wonder why you didn’t step away from the crowd of sheeple in the first place.

    I really dig your Youtube idea. Great food for thought.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Aubre.


    • says

      These are great points, Ryan. I agree that quality connections and targeted marketing campaigns are more important than big numbers! Thanks for reading.

  8. says

    Aubre, you’ve done a wonderful job crafting a how-to guide for those willing to venture into newer social media territories. Thank you for bringing such creativity and verve to Copyblogger! I can’t wait to check out your page, since I can imagine that YouTube video idea along the lines that you mentioned, would solve my home page problem…twinning the right price (zero) with the real dynamism!

    I will also answer your question re how I’m using social media differently. I decided early on to explore Google+ because it augments SERP results and over time, I am certain that businesses will be shaking hands there. I have launched a Google+ hangout for job-seekers and professionals in mid-career transition, and based upon the buzz generated from the Press Release and word-of-mouth, I am looking forward to the first Office Hours hangout next week.

    I know that I can learn from others. So as prep, I have been connecting with other small businesses, and I have found that quite a few–from tutoring service providers to photographers and SEO geeks–are also exploring Google+.

    To your your continued success!

    • says

      Hi, Diane. You’re smart for getting in on Google+ as early as possible. I’m still dabbling in it and trying to figure out what to do differently with it. Good luck to you on your Office Hours hangout. Sounds like fun!

  9. says

    Thank you for sharing. This makes me look at things in a whole different light. Perfect and refreshing – just what some of us need to fall in love with social media all over again.

  10. says

    Oh, fantastic! I love how you’ve thrown out all the rules and advice of social media gurus and done your own thing! So liberating. And creative! And I’d never heard of Pinterest before (shame on me!). Gotta check it out. Thank you for breaking the rules!

  11. says

    I neglected Twitter for the longest time. I thought it was ugly and unwieldy and a terrible tool for people who are visually oriented. I also was turned off by the advice on how to “succeed” at Twitter: x posts per day, spread out, being sure to hit the high traffic times and account for different parts of the globe and apportioning them topically — xx% retweets, xx% original content, xx% promotional and one or two “personal” tweets thrown in to show your human side. As a result, what you see on Twitter is some great content, but it’s drowning amidst tens of thousands of retweets of the same article that everybody read (or claims to have read) on Fast Company or Wired. Or the same quote from Albert Einstein retweeted ad nauseum.

    So I just decided to tweet what I felt like saying when I felt like saying it. Much of it is relevant to my core business and message but some of it is not. The one test I have for whether to tweet is, “Does this interest me?” We’ll see if it interests anyone else, and if it doesn’t that’s fine, too. It’s better than adhering to a formula that, to me at least, feels like drudgery.

    • says

      Hey Rob,
      I feel the same way about Twitter. I know the theory of it 100% and I adhere to the ‘rules’ when I feel like being good – but honestly, some days I just tweet what I think is actually interesting without thinking about “keywords” and “SEO” etc etc. I think sometimes social media can get really over analysed and I really loved Aubre’s post – be useful, different and interesting.

      And really, everyone loves a funny “I just fell over in public and showed my knickers” tweet don’t they…?

  12. says

    I started a blog for the same reason you started a Facebook page. I wanted a space that I had some control over and on which I could showcase my writing and blogging talents for future clients. Great post!

  13. says

    Thanks so much Andre – found your article really inspirational! I’ve really been dragging my feet when it comes to things like my FB page, but after seeing the creative things you’ve done I realize what I’ve been doing wrong was trying to figure out how to do my version of what everyone else was doing – now my mind’s buzzing with ideas to do something uniquely mine. And, I love your video idea and definitely plan to do something similar – I’ve bookmarked your site and will give you full credit on my blog when I do. Thanks for starting my day off right!

  14. says

    I have to agree with Rob up there. I’ve had my Twitter account for years and it’s only been the last couple of years I truly saw how great it really was. Along came Google+ and while I had no idea if it was going to be a time cruncher, I joined thinking back to my days when I thought Twitter wasn’t worth the effort. Now I’m enjoying Google+ tremendously. Still not as much as I love Twitter, but still, I’m there. Facebook – I go back and forth with it. As time is so precious, I try to post on all three every single day but Facebook is usually the one that’s last (used to be first so I’m going back and forth on which one I love the best). Pinterest. One of my friends suggested it and I’m there but still not seeing what it can do for me yet. And I love your doing it your way approach!

  15. says

    My favourite social media platform is still Facebook especially when it comes to helping out small businesses who still badly underestimate its power to build leads, make sales and market to a raving fanbase for free!

  16. says

    Hey Aubrey,
    So great to see you on Copyblogger! I loved this post — you’re so amazingly creative. I love to see people putting their own spin on things. Would love to meet for coffee next time you’re in Chicago.

  17. says

    Amazon Associates is a great tip I hadn’t even thought about! Thanks for the tip Aubre. I think creating a portfolio video is a great idea, and I should finish mine (back burner for weeks).

  18. says

    I’ve been using Amazon affiliate on my blog since last year. And it used to generate my some commission there when i’ve had around 300 visits per day.

    But ever since Google released its Panda and Penguin and other updates, my site traffic went down significantly (thanks Google, by the way) and there is no more commission from Amazon until now. But one of the best tips for Amazon Affiliate is to write the most popular list article, such as: the most popular books, most popular tablets, etc. It really works. I’ve got this tip from Problogger blog.

    I also use Facebook to promote my site, but only as a newsfeed tool for the new contents on my blog, not more than that.

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