Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Finding my Voice on Social Media

By: Natalia Brothers 

Nearly three decades have passed, but I remember that week as if it happened yesterday…

I’m talking about crystallography.

Crystallography was the hardest discipline I had ever had to study in college. Physics, math, chemistry-oriented German—no problem, but complicated three-dimensional crystal-structure models were absurdly difficult to recreate on paper as two-dimensional sketches (the purpose of that exercise still eludes me). Unfortunately, those sketches were the condition for being allowed to take the final test and finish the course. Have you ever faced a situation when no matter how hard you study/exercise/try, there’s no guarantee you will accomplish the task?

My past year went like that. I signed a publishing contract, and jumping into the world of social media became an unavoidable necessity. The avalanche of things I had to learn hit me with crushing force. It was crystallography all over again. I had no idea how I was going to figure it all out.

First, the technical aspect of any social media platform. Whether I was creating a blog, Facebook Author’s Page, or a website, it started with a big “Okay, how do I do this?” Learning how to set up an account, upload photos, add links didn’t require extensive technical knowledge but took time. Lots of it, because the amount of information was staggering. For example, have you ever participated in a Virtual Book Party? I was asked to enter such an event before I knew how things worked on Facebook, so I joined a “party” in progress to see what was involved. It lasts for hours. If someone comments on a post from two hours ago, that post jumps on top of the feed. You need to refresh the page to see new posts. Complicated? No. Takes time to understand what’s going on? You bet.

Design. I never know what works best until I try it. One of many things that makes me comfortable as a Twitter user is that I can change my banner/cover photo all day long and it doesn’t inform my followers every time I do so. A header that took me hours to create looked beautiful—a wall of framed landscapes—but the number of my new followers dropped while I kept it posted. The header that works? The one with the title of my unpublished novel and the tagline.

Content. A year ago, attending Pikes Peak Writers Night, I announced that I tripled my Twitter followers that afternoon: from a single follower my numbers jumped up to three. During the meeting, someone gave me a few tips on how that platform worked. I’ve been tweeting away ever since. I just celebrated my first anniversary with over 2,000 followers. Of course it took time to learn, but I discovered several hashtags that allow me to connect with other writers on a weekly basis and showcase my writing style. I participate in #2bittues on Tuesdays and #1linewed on Wednesdays. The host announces the week’s theme, and authors post lines from their WIPs. A new hashtag was recently created for Thursdays, a similar idea but tailored for published works. Have you tried #Thurds?

I recently realized that while on Facebook my friends saw plenty of my posts, on Twitter my hobbies—orchids, photography—were disconnected from writing. I wanted to find a theme that would show who I was with a “click of a button,” something that would link my dark fantasy genre with my other interests. Just like with crystallography years ago, when I persevered and passed the course, my year-long social media quest led me to an answer. I chose a theme that always fascinated me as a storyteller and photographer: Atmospheric Settings. I created a new hashtag and use it daily to post pictures of places that inspire my writing.




It has been an eventful year. I parted ways with the publisher; by the time this article is posted, I will either sign a new contract—or make a daring decision to go Indie. I’ve learned so much in the past twelve months. I have a lot more to learn. Would you say that social media is your second nature? Or is it more like what crystallography was for me? I doubt it will ever become my addiction, but I admit that I’m having fun. I hope to see you on Twitter.

About the Writer: Born in Moscow, Natalia grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Natalia realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Natalia is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.