I am a huge, huge fan of Instagram.
This is a fairly recent development, as everyone who knows me, knows how much I love to kick the breeze on Facebook. But, over the last few months, Instagram has become my numero uno platform of outreach for a few reasons.
Pictures. Oh, the world of pictures is so-so wonderful. Pictures of tasty-looking food, of sexy, designer shoes, sexier men (and women) and so on.
The absence of crazy negativity due to a picture-first platform. Unlike Facebook where posts (especially mine) can turn into long-ass rants with no end and with very little point or purpose, Instagram limits the amount of characters and makes pictures mandatory. This means, supporting a cause – personal, political, magical – requires a picture on the user’s part followed by the caption.
And the best part? You don’t necessarily have to read the long-ass caption in order to heart the image and move on. It’s engagement at its lowest common denominator which, as I’ll explain to you, is not necessarily a terrible thing.
Social Media Is Intensely Personal
Unlike its predecessor, websites and blogging sites, social media, by definition is a very personal space to inhabit. It is ME, as Aarti V Raman, Writer Gal, talking to whoever will talk back to me in the community we have all formed.
The people who talk to me (God willing there are a few) include such vast and varied buckets of people as ex-bosses, current and old friends, school mates who I haven’t spoken to since graduation and devoted author and reader friends. This is just a small sample size of the people who inhabit my social media sphere.
Each of these people have known me or know me in real life and know a fair bit about who I am as a person (as much as anyone can know anyone else). They are aware, to a certain extent, of my beliefs and value system.
Add in the fact that I am also a writer, a romance writer, and it’s a super fine line to tread where being authentic is a necessity coupled with the need to not spam my social media community with incessant BUY MY BOOK posts! This is nothing compared to the weeding out of unsavory idiots who send me incessant fraandship DMs in the hopes of finding true love.
The trouble is: I can’t be a recluse no matter how much I’d love to hide in my writing cave and never surface because unless I establish a personal connect with the lovely, wonderful, amazing, incredibly generous people I call readers. And social media, despite its many drawbacks, has been the greatest and best equalizer on that front.
Being Personal: is Too Much Too Much?
For those who can read between the lines, will now begin to find a connect between my first statement – I love Instagram – and the point of this post.
In our great quest for becoming popular and connecting with each other and creating a tentacular community that keeps spreading far and wide, based on how much the algorithm gods favor us, social media has become the number one tool in a brand’s marketing arsenal.
And, make no mistake, Writer Gal aka Aarti V Raman, has to be a brand as much as I would wish her to just be the friendly writer whose books are read by millions just because.
So, if being on social media means being authentic, and being authentic means being ME, all the time, every time, every day, what does it actually mean?
Does it mean I share my poo times with my friend list? Or my Outfit of The Day #ootd, or what I had for lunch? Does it mean I post heartbreaking confessions about the people who broke my heart and left me crumbled? Does it mean sharing in – image form – every single minute of every day, right from when I wake up in the morning and take a tasteful perfectly lit selfie (complete with appropriate props), to when I go for an editor meeting and we do tasteful foodstagram pix of what we ate while we discussed books, to how fiercely I opine for the #meetoo campaign or whatever cause is dear to my heart?
Or pictures of all the dear people in my family when we all hang out to watch the latest India versus Pakistan match?
Dear readers, please DO not get me wrong. Any and all of this is perfectly normal stuff to put up on your feed. Heck, we can all do whatever we want because the Internet is the greatest equalizer created by man.
And, for so many many brands, being this level of open and personal has not just worked wonders but opened the door to the kind of opportunity they might otherwise not have had. The immensely talented Rupi Kaur’s first Instagram post showing her period blood went viral, even before she had self-published milk and honey. Just today, Ms. Kaur celebrated one year of her follow-up book the sun and her flowers sitting pretty on the bestseller list.
I follow a number of celebrities and almost all of them post intimate snippets of their work and personal routines, allowing shameless fans like me a window into their lives that I would have only been able to have if I had routinely stalked them.
As for us authors, it’s again a fine balance of going on too much about craft versus sharing endless OOTDs.
My Own Rules for Marketing Digitally: Professionally Yours
Over the course of five long years, Jesus, that’s a half a decade, of being Writer Gal in the Digital Age I have evolved from a reclusive private chatterbox who had no social media accounts to a woman who is juggling to make sure her voice has the right kind of impact on whatever platform I inhabit at the moment.
It’s also imperative to understand that digital marketing means less Buy My Produc posts and more creating a Buy My Product mentality in the audience by being the Brand and Human they’d love to spend their hard-earned moolah on.
So, I have a few (ever-evolving) rules that I use to engage with and grow the Writer Gal brand.
1. Stand by what I write – Be it a political post, calling someone out or endorsing a book or movie I love, it’s important to stand by what I write. This does not mean being foolishly stubborn and defending opinions that need revising but generally having an opinion and sticking to it, regardless of what the next influencer has to say.
2. Be unapologetically me – Writer Gal is feminist. She is a left liberal. She has had Me Too moments. She is incredibly lazy and a motivated writer on the best days. She is a fairly decent cook and loves taking naps. While it is imperative to not always stand on the SJW soap box and spout gyaan, it is equally important to absolutely, unabashedly be me, and take all the accolades and brickbats that come with doing that.
For instance, if you follow me on Instagram and check out my Stories, you’d find A Daily Shoe Appreciation Story and a meme about women’s reproductive systems belong to themselves. Now, all of this is not everyone’s cup of tea and I know writers are not supposed to have opinions on world events but we live in the real world and stuff affects us, whether we want it to or not. It is not necessary to stand on the soap box and go on about every single cause but turning away from it is a big no-no, for me.
3. Research before posting – If I am going to be sharing a sensitive, hot button post, it’s important for me to have all my facts. And likewise, before commenting on someone else’s hot button post, it’s important to be sure of my facts.
4. Reshare, Regran, Repost – Everyone. Everything. I am not defined by just being Writer Gal and Writer Gal does not always just write or read or edit or nap (although it’s my dearest wish that I could ONLY ever nap). But resharing and regranning and reposting is an empathetic and tacit way of increasing the community that we are trying to build. And, you never know, the kinds of connection you end up making could turn into the friendship of a lifetime.
5. BE KIND. ALWAYS. ALWAYS – I cannot emphasize this enough. Don’t be rude. Don’t be belligerent. Do NOT, for the love of heaven, attack someone else whose beliefs do not coincide with yours. Or belittle them. Or send them nasty threats. The world is a fucked up enough place IRL and to make someone else’s social media into your own ranting ground is right up there with mooning someone in public. Let’s just not.
So, there you go reader peeps. You have been given a little glimpse into my personal and professional life. Now, can I pretty please ask for a share and a comment, because…rules number five and six?
Till next time.
Writer Gal aka Aarti V Raman.