Saturday, 12 November 2016
Social media is excellent for business. And for burgeoning authors too. I remember a time when I swore I would rather chew my leg than be seen on Facebook and Twitter. Today, here I am blogging, tweeting and Facebooking my heart out. It is because I have realised that the world has changed, and it will continue to do so. Technology is here to stay, and the sooner I embrace it, the better for my writing career.
Not every writer is into tweeting and Facebooking. However, one cannot ignore the fact that social media now plays a significant role in the world of writing. For some writers, it means the difference between failing and succeeding. Most reading materials are now readily accessible online. It is easy for one to reach many readers in an instant and all it takes is just a click of the button. To turn a blind eye to this truth is utter naivety. And, it is for these reasons that I reckon it does not hurt to be flexible in our approach.
Social media has its downfall. We are a gregarious society and with that comes the desire to be loved. To be embraced and accepted by our audience. There are those who will profess not care in the slightest. I am sorry, but one must be made of stone not to give a damn. The truth of the matter is, everybody cares how others perceive us. It’s human nature. We are bound to feel a sting in the chest if someone or a group of people whose opinion matter to us do not acknowledge our existence. A family member, a friend, a church member, a colleague, a customer or indeed fans. We care.
Also in the world of social media, it is not enough to just toss your product into the world and hope people buy it. You cannot just run a business campaign and think that is enough. One must go a step further to succeed. Everyone is talking about brands nowadays. The brand equals who you are and what you represent. The world wants to know that. Build a reputation, cultivate trust and form relationships with potential customers. Customers will need to decide if your brand is something they wish to align themselves with. Once they know and decide, results start to show.
If you’re an author, this means having to show what you write about. Demonstrating what readers can expect when they buy your books. Can a writer not explore various forms of writing? Experiment? Can’t they just go where inspiration takes them? Why the need to brand? Align oneself with a concept?
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are always branding ourselves anyway. Every individual is inclined to certain things. Subscribes to a specific school of thought. Believes in different things from the next person. Prefers to post certain things on social media and not others. Choice of words, inclinations towards certain genres, our passion. If that’s not branding, I don’t know what is.
As a writer, I hone my craft daily. I continue to explore and grow in different ways. I am still digging deep and discovering who I am as an individual. I am also considering how I want the world to perceive me as a writer. What I represent. What I am about as an author.
I know the kind of message I want to send out into the world. I want to spread love and light being part of it. But, this process is not without some disastrous consequences. I have noticed that there is a real danger to lose ourselves in the process as we often get caught up in the idea of selling and end up selling our souls to the Devil. We gloss ourselves up as we pander to the society’s expectations. We throw away our values, compromise specific standards and sacrifice our dignity to please the customer. Nothing at all wrong with wanting to satisfy that all-important customer. After all, that is why we do what we do, right? But at what cost?
Social media, as I have discovered, can be the making of us, but it can also destroy us and change us in so many ways. When we sell a product or indeed a piece of writing, it is not at all uncommon to give into the temptation of wanting to hide our true feelings and values. We may even change our words and rein in on our imagination and creativity for fear of being judged and rejected. When this happens, we present a fake persona, a packaged image which we feel will appeal to our potential customers and those watching.
I recently joined Instagram where every photograph is the picture of perfection. Facebook and Twitter too. We often select the best image of ourselves and indeed enhance it, with the help of apps, to present the best possible image to the world. Our lives, as far as social media is concerned, are always perfect. We are forever smiling, checking into fabulous places, jetting around the world and everything is splendid. Very few will dare reveal the not so appealing part of their lives, and I can appreciate why. Studies have demonstrated how social media has and is playing a role in mental health problems such as depression, stress and anxiety. People are made to feel inadequate by comparing their lives to the illusions that they see on social media, and I think this is tragic.
Back to authoring, I am reminded of a time when a friend suggested that I was better off using a different name to sell more books. A name which was more comfortable to pronounce, perhaps which appealed to a kind of reader. Well, excuse me! I like my name just the way it is, thanks. If a reader chooses not to pick my book because of the name on the cover, then it is their loss. I genuinely believe that if it is my destiny to succeed as a writer, then I will realise my goals despite what my name looks or sounds like period. Changing my name or persona to pander to a specific group of people is not going to make me a better writer by any means. It is only going to suffocate me and thwart my real potential as a writer, for no one looks like me, writes like me, thinks like me and is me. I am my own person, and the world will just have to deal with that!
There are those who will tell you not to show the world what you believe. Your faith, spirituality, because not everybody goes to church or believes in what you believe. They will advise you always to be ‘politically correct’ as not all your customers or readers will believe in what you believe. But, isn’t that defeating the whole purpose of branding? Can we ever appeal to everyone? I think not.
I understand it is just business. I get it. Image and likeability are everything, but wouldn’t you rather be liked for being your true self, and acquire genuine followers than disappoint them when the real you surface? Isn’t it better and more satisfying to be admired for who you really are than spend a lifetime pretending to be something you are not? Because you cannot keep the charade forever and forever is too long a time to be suffocated.
How many people have been disappointed after meeting their crush for the first time and discovering that they look different from how they appeared on social media? How many fans have had their hearts broken when they found that their icon was leading a double life? How many celebrities that we loved and admired have committed suicide because they were tired of pretending to the world that they had everything under control? Their bodies got tired of eating relying on drugs just to please you the customer. They got tired of binge eating and then sticking their fingers down their throats to maintain a certain figure to please you, the customer. They got tired of bleaching their skin to appeal to your ideal. They got tired of spending money they did not have. They just got tired.
The society forgets that those who serve them are human beings too. They want to mould these people into something they are not. I am not naive so as not to understand that when you put yourself out there, you subject yourself to all kinds of scrutiny. That is OK. But no one is perfect in this world. And when I say be your real self, I am not at all suggesting that you should air your dirty laundry in public. My message is, be who you are, sell what you need to sell, build your brand without fear of being rejected. The people who matter will appreciate what you are offering regardless of your weight, the colour of your skin or how weird your name sounds.
The consequences of allowing ourselves to be driven by insignificant things are not worth the sacrifice in our lives. Our human dignity. Our peace and happiness. When our bodies and souls finally give up on us, the people we aim to please may mourn us for a while. But, soon, someone else will come along and steal their hearts, and you will quickly be forgotten. Therefore, my message is simple. Stop pretending and just be. There are people out there who will appreciate what you are offering anyway and decide to join you in your walk. When it is all said and done, wouldn’t it be a comforting thought to know that the legacy you leave behind is something borne of your genuine self? That which is purely you. UNIQUE!