Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 3, 2014

Social Media: Make the Most of Your Six Seconds

Photo credit: Cellar Door Films (WANA Commons)

Photo credit: Cellar Door Films (WANA Commons)


Today I'm shaking my Cowbell about social media, with an emphasis on your profiles. Those header graphics and text are one of the biggest tools in your arsenal to catch people's eyes.

[I just heard some of you writers groan: More social media?! Didn't Fae give us permission yesterday to just write?]

I know, I know. I’ve got writing pals who are worried their heads might explode. I’m already on Facebook, they whine. I just want to stay home and write in my pajamas. Why do I have to talk to people?

Because you do.

We all need to build a writing team to survive in this crazy business. The process of getting a book published requires a massive amount of teamwork.

The easiest place to find those team members is online. Programs like LinkedIn can be a big part of your team-building success once you understand how it works and how to navigate it like a rockstar.

The most important thing to remember?

You get two inches, or six seconds, to make your first impression.

(Get your mind out of the gutter! You’ve gotta hang out at More Cowbell for thoughts like that.)

Seriously, it’s a common saying in the business world. Get your most important point into the subject line and the first paragraph of an email because that’s all most people will read. Even as an author, we’re aware that we have anywhere from two paragraphs to two pages to engage an editor, agent or reader.

Hook people quick, or they’re moving on.

The average resume or LinkedIn profile gets no more than 6 seconds to engage someone. The same goes for a tweet or a Facebook author page header. To be fair, the average person is looking for different things than the recruiters I mention in the link above, but 6 seconds is still the average browse time.

What makes people scroll past your "top two inches?"

1. Your pictures and graphics.

Whether it's a profile, a blog header, or a newsletter, the very top needs to capture the essence of your brand.

  • On Facebook, this might include a photo of you and your book cover.
  • Any photos should be a clear, close, front-facing shot.
  • If you're included, it's best for you to look friendly and attentive.
  • Unless you work with kids or animals, there shouldn't be anyone else in the picture with you. No spouses, no kids, and on LinkedIn no hats and sunglasses in that profile picture.

Note: If you've ever wondered what the dimensions are for all the different platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc), The Complete Social Media Cover Photo Guide.

Here is an example of a great header graphic. Below is the blog header for August McLaughlin's blog. She is a thriller writer, a health writer and is building an amazing platform on sexuality called GirlBoner. August has been doing some really smart branding.

August McLaughlin Blog Header

Before you read a single word, you can see what August looks like, that she's written a book, and that you can find her online using the #GirlBoner hashtag. You can also see from that flirty heart on the left that she equates GirlBoner with love and sexuality.

2. Professional Summary

What are you doing now? What have you done in the past? Many authors build a profile in a program like LinkedIn and then let it moulder. They don't update it as their career develops, even though these updates are usually quick. By adding current and past positions to your profiles, space allowing, you get a quick summary of this in your top profile block on LinkedIn (I'll show this below) or at least a more updated profile in a program like Twitter.

For example, my pal, Marcy Kennedy, is a Twitter expert, but she is also an amazing freelance editor. By adding those two little words to her Twitter profile, she gives a much more comprehensive 140 character portrait.

MarcyKennedy 2

Thriller writer and pet expert, Amy Shojai, joined LinkedIn about a year ago and she has been rocking the platform. Below you can see how important it is that she keeps up her work experience. It's a mini-resume in a two-inch space.

Amy - LinkedIn Header

3. An easy-to-remember address

Not enough people remember to customize their addresses on social media. Kristen Lamb, author and social media jedi knows that http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristenlamb will be easier to remember than http://www.linkedin.com/pub/writername/11/442/b42/.

One I can type from memory and share easily. And the other...I can't, and won't.

When we started the Writers In The Storm Facebook page, one of the first things we did was customize our URL. It started as some ridiculous sequence of numbers that no one was going to remember. The same thing was true for my Jenny Hansen personal profile. All you have to do is go to your Settings and edit your "username" under General Account Settings.

4. Multiple points of contact

If you don't want to be called, you don't need to put out your phone number. But you should have an email, blog, website or a social media account like Twitter listed in your About page on your website/blog or in your contact info on LinkedIn.

An added bonus: Changing your profile picture on Facebook or updating your contact settings sends out an update, which puts you at the top of your connections' feeds. That is always a win.

Here's Amy Shojai's contact page on LinkedIn, a platform where you can have LOTS of data showing:

Amy - LinkedIn Contact

What about a program like Twitter where you don't get a lot of space? 


Note how Marcy's in-page Twitter profile to the right shows only her website. You only get room to list a single site on Twitter, unless you want to take space from your 140 characters.

This is why it's so important to have an updated website, or if you live at your blog, to have an updated About page that allows people to find you.

Facebook expert, Lisa Hall-Wilson, recommends that your header graphic include your website for this exact reason. You don't want to make people scroll down for your information, because they won't.

We have become a skimming society of quick readers, a point that is well illustrated by our own Sharla Rae in a recent post about the benefits of slow reading.

I chose the graphics above as great examples because:

  • They give a complete impression of the person, including picture, blog, and other social media info.
  • They clearly list what that person is up to.
  • They’re friendly and engaging, yet professional.
  • Where possible, they include contact information.
  • Most give a very clear sense of the person's brand.

Remember, if you don't put "the good stuff" at the beginning, there is a fine chance people will miss it.


Do you think of these issues when setting up your social media? Do you have any how-to questions? What elements do you think are missing from your own profiles? Feel free to list your social media links in the comments so we can all follow you!

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news articles, humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

31 comments on “Social Media: Make the Most of Your Six Seconds”

  1. I read this, all smug - I keep up to date on my bios. But just to be double-sure, I went out an checked them, including my bio here on WITS. Boy am I red-faced! Yikes.

    Thanks for the prod, Jenny!

    1. Laura, we ALL get out of date. I set an alarm to check everything twice a year, whether I need it or not. I should do it monthly, or at least quarterly, but I don't always remember.

      I pointed Amy out because she's so good at making time to go update, the moment there is something new on her resume.

  2. Darn it. I just changed my Twitter pic to a robot. My scowl wasn't working for me (Sorry, that's what my face does in its resting state).

    Looking mean is great for not being handed fliers in the mall, but not so great for getting people to like you on social media. I promise, I don't bite (that often).

    1. Nooooo...not the robot, Eric! Was it at least a cool robot? I always think your pic looks mysterious, not mean. And I always look at people's tweets before I follow - if their tweets rock, I forgive them for a boring or eclectic picture.

      1. Only the best robot ever!

        Seriously, though, one of my personal causes is racial equality, but a lot of times people on twitter and other social media aren't sure if my comments are genuine because, apparently, I don't "look like" an advocate for racial (and gender) equality. So a robot with no ethnicity or gender (and who is the best robot ever) will have to be my stand in. When I actually have a product to promote, perhaps I will change it up.

        Aside from all that, I credit you for an informative post. Writers are bombarded with admonition about building a social media presense, but we are seldom given specific advice.

        1. I didn't get back to comment on this, but I think it is phenomenal that you have a firm stand on an issue and use your platform to address it. (Plus, I'm an advocate of that particular issue.) Bravo, friend. BRAVO!

    1. You are most welcome, Amy! And congrats on updating your Twitter. It's hard for everyone to get around to all those profiles. Hats off to you for keeping at it. I adore your LinkedIn profile particularly.

    1. There's never enough time to get to it all, is there? We just have to keep chomping away at those goals. One bio today, and another one tomorrow. And then another...

  3. Thank you Jenny for such valuable info. I am new to all the social media sites and now I have a much clearer picture of what I need to do to get seen.

    1. You're welcome, Tamara! Always keep in mind that EVERYONE flails for a little while on social media, on their blog, on their website. It's normal and if you keep at it, it all will start to feel natural after a while. 🙂

    1. I was so happy to include you in this, August! You've just skyrocketed in the last year and I am so proud of you, and so happy to introduce more people to your message. Your graphics and branding are stellar.

  4. Jenny ... As I begin to let go of my last resistance to engaging daily in social media, I find your posts the most helpful of everything else I read. I have this Virgo/Libra conflict going on and decided to let my Virgo reorganize how I network in the writing community and with my on-line shops at Etsy. That is my major goal for October. Let's see how well I learn what you are teaching 🙂

  5. Thanks for the photo guide! And August McLaughlin sounds fascinating. Yep - her header worked and I'm checking it out. You always inform and entertain Jenny!

  6. Great information, Jenny! And I didn't give everyone permission to just write--not even myself, though I'd love to do just that. Three-to-one ratio on writing-to-social media. And with all of these tips, Ill probably have to go even for a bit to catch up. Kicking and screaming into the IM age...

  7. Thanks for the post! I know that marketing doesn't come nearly as easily as writing, and it really helps to have everything laid out so succinctly like this, with examples to boot.

  8. All great advice Jenny and especially when everyone skims & is competing for attention. Oh dear I do have a hat in my photo but then I almost always wear one too. Maybe I need to rethink the photo. Thanks for such detailed examples. V. helpful.:-)

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