Q & A with Cindy Jones: Using social media to create your story and build your brand

30 Apr

Cindy Jones will be presenting workshops at this year’s Southern Christian Writers Conference on “Building Your Writing Brand through Social Media.” She is a writer who has published in such magazines as Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family Magazine and Lifeway’s Journey Devotional for Women. She provides content, manages social media, and does digital marketing and helps small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop unique personal branding.

“Stories are important to me and helping others discover theirs is what I love to do,” she says.

Her insight into using today’s technology to help writers is truly fascinating, and I sat down with her to learn even more about her favorite tips and techniques.

Question: What does “brand” mean in relation to writers marketing their work?

Answer: Branding is all around us. McDonald’s, Target, or M&Ms. It’s all those jingles or repetitive phrases that stick in our memory, as well as color schemes and logos.

We unconsciously assign values to products or services by the way they make us feel, which could be good or BAD.

One of the best definitions of branding that I’ve come across is by author Kristen Lamb. She says that, “Branding is simply an extension of story.”

For some writers, marketing themselves seems awkward. But in reality, if you are a writer wanting to sell a product or service, you are a business. Businesses that want to be successful market themselves and do this with specific target branding.

Which brings us back to the definition of branding. Branding is all about your story and how you use your story to make people feel.

Everyone, in some way, is creating a story. How you share that particular story is marketing. Branding for writers is essential because they are in need of readers. Readers are looking for something they find familiar and they know they already like. Including your audience in your story is part of branding and marketing. Your job is to create an atmosphere of trust, open communications and value to your readers. Readers are more likely to stand behind someone that created a memory with them than someone constantly filling up the Facebook feed with ads.

Q: Why is social media important for writers?

A: At no point in history has there ever been a time when you can get personal with people of influence. Just by clicking a like on Facebook or heart on Instagram, you feel instantly connected. If that person takes the time to acknowledge you, it’s time to celebrate. You’ve just been included in what used to be an exclusive club.

Writers may not understand that they too have influence. Many of us made it to where we are by the investment of others who we looked up to. Social media has made it much easier.

We can use social media to immediately reach out to others with encouragement, inspiration, or to teach, enlighten or entertain. When you use social media as a means to be a blessing to as many people as possible, it becomes a tool not a vice.

 

Q: Give me an example of branding you’ve done for a company or a writer, or even yourself.

A: During the last three years, I’ve worked with over a hundred real estate agents and entrepreneurs in industries such as clothing, photography, music, and art. After interviewing each, I developed short and long bios, tag lines, slogans and hashtags which are used with all their social media channels, websites, newsletters, and email signatures. I’ve also set up Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts using specific graphics unique to each.

After working with them to identify their personal goals and marketing plan, we get to the fun part of developing visuals for their blogs, newsletters, websites, social media covers, pins and business cards.

My favorite creatives to work with, by far, are fiction and nonfiction writers. Writers can often feel frustrated when it comes to writing their own bios. I think it’s an issue for most of us because it can feel like we are bragging on ourselves instead of writing a business description.

Usually it takes a small amount of time after talking with them to discover their dreams and goals. I enjoy helping them to verbalize what it is they want to accomplish. Once that’s in place, we work together to a build a solid brand that best suits their personality and agenda.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your own personal branding.

A: With my own branding, it’s been a journey. I believe that developing a brand can either sprout very quickly or grow very slowly. One isn’t better than the other, you have to be open to what is working and be flexible to change if it’s not.

Though my branding has changed over the course of my writing career, the underlying theme has never veered very far from my initial goal of helping others create a story worth living.

You’ll always find some type of owl nestled in my logos or some narrative which is been pretty consistent through time. Owls are a symbol to me of God’s never ending supply and constant steadfastness. There’s a long, personal story behind that..

Q:  How do you help to hope attendees at the SCWC?

A: When I attended my first writing conference over a decade ago, I was told I needed to build a platform to be taken seriously by any publisher. So, I got busy. In fact, I was so busy building my platform that years passed by and I hadn’t written a thing that was published. Big mistake.

I want to help other writers not make that mistake. I want to give them some tools and information about branding and marketing that doesn’t steal from their writing time. I also want to make it less frightening and intimidating. Marketing can be a lot of fun. You can make new friends, from all over the world, and that’s what marketing should be. Creating a brand and developing relationships that are valuable go hand in hand. Without readers, writers are basically keeping a personal journal. So, we have to get out of our comfort zones and be personable and friendly and not over-the-top pushy or only about peddling our merchandise.

We need to include others in our story. Writers should create with the mindset that they are in this thing together with their readers and not alone.

If we enjoy what we do, we are successful. If others enjoy what we do, we are blessed.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your own writing.

A: I knew the first time I read Little Women that I wanted to be a writer. That was at age ten. During my freshman year of high school, my English teacher pointed out to the whole class that I had written a story with the assigned vocabulary words and she was very impressed. While it embarrassed me, it was the first time anyone encouraged me to become a writer. However, during my freshman year of college, my English teacher failed me and told me I should keep my day job of flipping burgers. I decided I didn’t have what it took to become a writer and tried to ignore the longing in my heart but I couldn’t.

As a young mom in my early twenties, I started writing stories for my children and submitted a couple of magazine articles, all of which were declined.  It wasn’t until my mid thirties that things started happening for me. After receiving a bill for the local newspaper that we weren’t getting, I drove to the main office to complain. Once the bill was addressed, I brazenly asked if they were in need of writers. To my amazement, I was hired on the spot and ended up with a weekly column in the Sunday paper. At that point, I knew God was working behind the scenes.

For many years I doubted my ability and gift, making excuses such as, “I don’t have a college degree,” when all I needed was the courage to step out. Following the newspaper gig, I attended Beth Moore’s retapping of Breaking Free in New Orleans where I met her and shared my story of childhood abuse. A year later, my story was published in Lifeway’s Journal for Women. After that, opportunities poured in and I began to write for multiple magazines, corporate websites, travel websites, and list continues to grow.

I’ve not written that novel yet but I’ve had a couple of short stories published and hope to continue to pursue that dream. My social media management and marketing consulting business grew out of a need to help a friend. Using all of my skills I learned with building my own platform, I have many clients that I managed all their social media accounts, I write sales copies, blog posts, create newsletter templates and recently began building custom websites. This year I celebrated my fiftieth birthday and feel like I’m just getting started!

(Meet Cindy at the SCWC in Tuscaloosa on June 8-9. In addition to presenting workshops, she’ll also be doing private consulting sessions with a limited number of attendees. Learn more about the conference at the SCWC website and on its Facebook page. Get to know more about Cindy by visiting her website.)

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One Response to “Q & A with Cindy Jones: Using social media to create your story and build your brand”

  1. Cindy M Jones April 30, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

    Thank you for having me, Cheryl!

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