This article is written as the first in the series about employability entitled “Worth Your Money”. Subscribe for daily articles about my fight to remain relevant and worthy of employment.
I never thought that my career as a writer would require me to have friends.
All the accounts I have heard about reclusive writers, Virginia Woolf in a room of her own, Philip Roth in the American pastoral, Hemingway and Mailer and Sheila Heti and Alice Munroe, collective solitary and, as rumour has it, not very popular.
I am faced with the task of writing for commercial gain.
Content writing, copy writing, ad writing, all of it falls to the wasteland of Social Media Management or, in other words, making friends.
My dream is over.
The work I have done to achieve Writer is useless.
My job application details my capabilities as a writer for digital media but it cannot cover up the fact that I do not have an impressive amount of followers on social media.
The listing reads:
“10,000 social media followers (or more) is considered an asset.”
I submit my application anyway.
Employer, if you are reading this: I hope you have forgotten how to count.
My current following says nothing about my skillset. I used to be very successful on social media.
People used to like me.
This article will give you insight into how to earn followers on social media.
I used to thrive on digital platforms.
For a long time, digital people loved me.
Accumulating a following takes a real understanding of how people are using the applications.
The whole world of text-based digital media is a frightful jungle.
Everyone wants to be liked.
Moralists are favoured.
And then come the fashion beauties.
People want to get online and associate themselves with vulnerable beauty.
When they can’t find the vulnerable type, they’ll take classic Hollywood.
Either way, find your beauty, brand it and people will like you.
That’s the easy part.
Second, clarify your brand for the public.
Don’t be wishy washy. Communicate a consistent version of yourself.
Third, and most difficult: Populate your following. Find your fans. How do you do that?
The popular articles will tell you to:
- Be active in your community (like, comment, share)
- Use a mix of popular and less popular hashtags
- Friend and follow people
- Create content constantly (“Content is King”)
Each platform is different so you’ll have to get into the rhythm of whatever party you’ve chose to attend but, basically, the ONLY trick is to be Present.
The challenge is: Time.
I used to be famous and then I ran out of time.
I have been waiting my whole life for social media.
From ages 0-30 if you asked me to list my fears in order it would have looked something like this: Parties, parties, parties, clubs, group outings to new places, giant insects, helpless interactions with dying old people and parties.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by connectivity but being in a physical space while people try to get to know each other over a couple of beers and some sloppy exchanges of Who Knows This Topic Better, makes me want to run…far.
Social media was the first party I ever enjoyed.
(REAL LIFE PARTY HACK: At age 31 I have invented a new party tactic. If I am stuck and I need to speak to someone know I say, “tell me something personal about yourself.” It has never failed. TRY IT. Great for networking and just having generally awesome conversations.)
Let’s rewind to my pre-social media days: not popular, not even dreaming of ever being popular, just a young writer with a lot of secrets and inside jokes with herself.
Finding friends online was revelatory: Oh, wow, you mean I can just write likeable things and have people admire my person? Just for my written accomplishments? And I can write anything? SIGN ME UP.
By 2014/2015, I felt like I was boldly on my path to being the entertainer I have always wanted to be.
I established an online presence founded on a Lucille Ball hilarity mixed with an Elizabeth Taylor F*ck You.
I was discovering a flavourful joy in collecting admiration from strangers and it wasn’t because I was thin, pretty or clued into social etiquette.
It was because I am a good writer.
Perhaps one of the saddest accomplishments of my personal growth is that I never felt pride until I succeeded at forming my social media voice but it that fact is true and its kind of beautiful: I made friends. It was easy.
I do not have the same following now but it isn’t because I have forgotten how social media works.
I am less popular now because I am starting from near scratch.
In 2016 I left it all behind
Caught off guard by issues with my mental health, I was forced to quiet my brain by removing social media from my life.
Most artists I know take time away from social media. We need our alone time, a little cool down, a GO AWAY I AM WRITING time out but we also have to balance our artistic practice with self-promotion which is a hard thing to do without wading in the ego-distorting rivers of Facebook and Instagram.
Social media interferes with creative solitude.
If you plan on writing for social media, you will have no alone time.
The entire trick to apt digital socializing is: You have to put in all of your time.
Remember that each app is a global party. It never ever stops. You can’t leave the party for hours at a time. Who does that? That is terrible party etiquette! You have to stay and be amazing. All. The. Time.
Scary and ridiculous? Yes. But I need a job and employers want me to be very popular. So here I am. Back at my computer. Gripping my phone. Mapping out my brand.
I have a basically new Facebook account. My blog, instagram and twitter needs definite community identifiers. What do people need? How can I be the woman they need?
Well, I love dogs and books. I care that women feel a broad sense of inclusivity and self-respect. I would like to save the world from sexual assault and deforestation.
Ok, good start but remember that social media is about investing in the other people’s psychologies. What do other people need and what can I give them?
I used to be funny and edgy but it doesn’t fit anymore. I need to find out who I am and I need to do it immediately so that I can collect 10,000 followers in time to get a job. There must be 10,000 people in the world who need a woman like me right now, but how can I gain anyone’s trust?
It feels like my first day of a new high school in eleventh grade.
Some guy named Eric calls me “No Tooth Girl” because I am in fact missing my front tooth and the drama teacher asks me “Where did you come from?” which I’m sure was meant to be inclusive but truly just made me feel alien.
Who do I tell people I am? It has to be something I am willing to retain for a long time because no one in the world appreciates when a stranger they admire changes.
You are allowed to lie but you are not allowed to change.
“Are you obsessed with social media trends and do you thrive when you are exploiting them?”
I stare at these questions and I hate myself for letting go of my old following.
I curse my bi polar brain for challenging me every time I succeed even just a little bit.
If it wasn’t for my health, I would be a popular girl.
Momentum is everything. The facts of who you are don’t matter here.
This is employment and you must be successful or else you are irrelevent.
But, if you are an employer and you are reading this, please consider the tribe of us who are very good at working for other people.
We can make you popular.
You are not the one we are looking to sabotage.
Don’t categorize the less popular individuals for trying to protect their health from the time-tortured world of digital socializing.
Yes, employer, YES! Yes. I am a quick storyteller. I am not afraid to be vulnerable when I write publicly. I am passionate about creating an online relationship with a broad audience.
I am no longer popular but I am working on it.
I submit two job applications a day and I spend the rest of my time vying for popularity, hunched over my phone, liking and commenting on strangers’ posts, wondering why they have achieved their own popularity but it isn’t happening fast enough.
I hardly slept last night, got out of bed at three AM and have been online for most of the day, asking people about their dogs, congratulating writers for finishing their drafts. I have gained three followers.
My entire back aches, I am dehydrated and ten minutes ago I threw a bunch of coats across the room, terrifying my dog whose love I had to win back by filling a bowl with chicken that was meant for my dinner.
Employer, I know you’re worried about my ability to work under pressure but, I promise you, this is how writers make friends under pressure.
If you want followers, likes, comments: Say goodbye to the real world.
How to gain social media followers.
And now some clear tips that have helped me in the past which I post here both for my benefit and for yours.
- Love what you are writing and be relentless: In the past, my most successful social media feat was a live play I wrote on Facebook, gaining well over 1,000 followers in less than three days. The trick is to write what you love and make sure you create enough content for people to find.
- Engage genuinely: Relax. There are plenty of interesting people online. Find them and eventually the rest of the community will be looking for you. Much like at a party, the most attractive people in the room are either super chill or super loud. Relax into your extreme and start writing to people who interest you.
- Be playful: Creative content that amuses you will amuse everyone.
- Be Everywhere: Know everything, read everything, show up.
You definitely know more than one other person who would love to be a more likeable presence online or maybe someone who is desperate for a writing contract. Send them this link or share it broadly! Or maybe just spread this article around for the sake of helping me find a job 🙂
Come back tomorrow for a new article!