I’m told fairly frequently that the Inner Circle Writers’ Group on Facebook is one of the best writers’ groups around, and the testimony from members reported by ProWriting Aid which appears in the group description seems to back that up. But I don’t think I’ve ever outlined exactly why I think that is.
It doesn’t boil down to personal charm, though I might wish it did: there are in fact a number of strict principles which led over time to the group becoming well known as a healthy and vibrant community for writers all over the world, and why genuine friendships have grown from its ranks. I’ll outline them here as a guide for anyone who wishes to establish a successful group, as an extension of what I have talked about earlier about social media groups as part of an author platform.
1. Stay In Control - For A Good Reason
Earlier, we’ve discussed the whole purpose and point of having a social media group of your own. This can be summarised as ‘gathering a group of relatively like-minded people together in order to differentiate them from the “faceless masses” of the population at large’. This collection of identities, by being separated out from the anonymous marketplace, grow into recognisable, living people with whom you, the administrator of the group, regularly interact and come to know as individuals. This is a worthwhile exercise in itself, but it also helps enormously when it comes to garnering support for you and your work - and it boosts sales.
When I recommend staying in control, I mean not relinquishing the power to determine who joins the group and what is posted in it. If you do so, the boundaries of the group tend to fade and the whole thing begins to lose its identity and melt back into the miasma of the general marketplace. If anyone can join, anyone generally does; and the value of the group as a gathering of like-minded individuals is lost over time. Similarly, if you permit anyone to post anything without any kind of selection protocol, the topics upon which the group was founded tend to dissipate, and conversations and discussions degenerate into off-topic inanities and arguments.
Keeping a grip on the group can consume a little bit of time each day, but means that the whole enterprise remains worthwhile.
2. Keep Things Pumped.
The ICWG has a wide remit: basically, anything to do with writing can feature in it. That means books of any sort, movies and scripts, theatre, the history of literature, great authors, new authors, ideas, characters, marketing, illustration and art, the business side of being a writer and much more. It’s not at all difficult to find things to post about. And to keep the group alive and on people’s newsfeeds, posts should be made frequently.
When I first started the group in Facebook, I was a little worried that members were getting too much of a flow of items from it. A couple of people remarked that they ‘couldn’t keep up’. But only one person actually wrote and asked for her name to be removed (perhaps not realising that anyone can choose to leave at any time, without asking me). Since those days, almost two years ago, no one else has complained. People know that they can adjust their own preferences and see as much as they want to see, and things have settled down.
The point of creating a high level of content of various kinds is, like the first point about staying in control, to do with keeping the group alive and on-topic. A steady flow of interesting, amusing and enlightening posts gradually interweaves itself into people’s lives until it would be remarked upon if for some reason it lessened or stopped.
3. Be There and Engage.
This might seem like a chore when looked at in raw terms, but the best way to treat your group is to engage with it. And, once you do, you realise that it’s not a chore at all.
If, like me, you have spent an inordinate amount of time in earlier years spamming the internet hoping to contact customers only to come away empty-handed and frustrated, then you will come to see that engaging with a social media group on a daily basis is both refreshing and much more fruitful.
Furthermore, it’s better for group members to see that they have not joined something run by an algorithm, or an entity which was set up cynically to gather names and then abandoned by its creators (except when they need to sell something). People tend to join social media groups because they want live communication about their favourite topics, so spend the time and give it to them. It will have a ripple effect: conversations will spring up spontaneously, even when you are not present, and the group will come to life.
4. Encourage Participation.
You need to have various ways in which people can participate in what’s going on. Give them channels for expressing their own views and even selling stuff. If you don’t provide distinct venues for these things, people will try and do them anyway and you’ll get frustrations and arguments developing, as well as annoying, illicit attempts to sell to others.
In almost two years of having the group in Facebook, I have only had to step in to resolve or calm some kind of upset about three times, and in all cases the upset evaporated within moments. So don’t conclude for a moment that if you invite people to communicate then all hell will break loose - it just doesn’t. People are generally more civil than some aspects of our modern culture might lead others to believe.
5. Treat Others As You Would Want To Be Treated.
This is the most important principle of all. It’s also the simplest.
In any circumstances, in all conditions, it’s possible to look at the situation and ask ‘What would I prefer to occur here if this were me?’ In dealings with others, conversations, discussion of any kind, it is always possible to ask that.
If you treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, something remarkable and usually instantaneous occurs: they respect and admire you for it. They also feel more inclined to treat you well. Though that’s a supremely valuable outcome and reason for doing it, it’s not actually the fundamental purpose of treating others this way. The basic reason why people should be regarded in this way is that they are intrinsically worthy of it.
While our subjective experiences in life might suggest that we are the centre of our universes, the world opens up its mysteries when we switch that around and treat others as though they are.
Respect, honour, dignity are not so much owed to others as they are a natural extension of the truth about them.
Most of the problems that people have with other people stem from a failure to apply this principle.
Treat the members of your social media gathering with the respect, honour and dignity that you would prefer to be treated with yourself and it will grow in strength and stability in direct proportion.
So if you want to set up a successful social media group, you could do worse than follow the above five principles. Apart from an increase in sales, you’ll also receive a boost to your self-esteem, and, perhaps more importantly, open your eyes a little more to the wonder that is ‘other people’.