Making Self-Promo Work on the #Fediverse

While the worst of the Twitter influx has died down, Fedi is still seeing a huge number of new members. And a lot of y’all new folks are creatives or self-employed or otherwise rely on social media for keeping the bills paid. While a lot of ‘how to promote yourself’ stuff is fairly universal, some things vary from platform to platform.

To help creative folks new to fedi, I put some info on self-promoting on the Fediverse.

Why I know what I’m talking about

I made a purposeful choice not to actively market myself during my first four years on Fedi. In fact, I made some choices (like turning on follow requests and posting everything unlisted) that actively work against self-promo. But I spent nearly 10 years teaching myself marketing strategies and 5 years watching folks who are better at it than I build followings on Fedi.

So I know a lot about how shit works on here, and what doesn’t work.

Pick Your Instance

If you’ve been around for a bit, you’ve probably noticed that different instances have different rules, different ways of moderation, etc. This is important for self-promo bc some instances don’t allow ANY self-promotional posts, at all, whatsoever.

So it’s important to pick an instance that does.

It’s also important to pick a not-small instance that is widely connected to the Fediverse. The more people on your instance, the more instances yours connects with, the further your posts will reach.

That doesn’t mean you should pick a giant instance — those have their own issues, which usually include poor moderation. Personally, I think 5,000–10,000 is the sweet spot for creatives, but YMMV.

Finally, if possible pick an instance that relates to your art in some way. It can be an art or writing-focused instance, or a more topic-related thing… for example if you write queer romance, queer.party might be a good home for you. And if you make historical crafts, a history-focused instance might be a good home.

Be a Person First

The main reason so many instances have ‘don’t advertise’ rules (which often DON’T include self-promo, so ask the admin) is that so many of us are tired of being the product. So corporate advertising accounts are discouraged or actively banned.

That makes it very important to lead with you, so folks don’t ‘read’ you as another marketing account. You want to be a person, an individual/team of individuals that people can connect with.

That doesn’t mean never talk about your art. It does mean have conversations. I see folks following hundreds of people with only 3 posts and I think, “Okay, so they aren’t interested in connecting. I won’t follow back/allow their follow.” Or I see folks with twenty posts that are all ‘buy my thing’ and think… basically the same.

These folks aren’t being people first.

But I see a creative with fifty posts about “this is the new technique for wood carving I’m trying out,” or “I’m researching clothing styles of Fleming in the middle ages for XYZ art project”

Or posting pictures of their dog in between “Ugh! Writing is hard!” takes

Or posting callouts about racism or ‘hot takes’ about politics

Or reaching out to other folks and having conversations.

This is being a person first.

Talk About Your Thing

You might have noticed that over half the examples above are about creatives talking about their creation.

Because it’s good! Talking about your craft (even better if your make visual art/stuff that can be photographed — sharing pictures of your art) is one of the best ways to reach people.

It will get people interested, get boosts, and get followers as people want to see more.

Look For Your Special 1,000

There’s a saying that I think came out of garage bands, but don’t hold me to that –

All you need is 1,000 fans who buy everything you put out, and you’ll be fine.

That saying is a good focus for approaching marketing on Fedi. Build strong connections with a smaller number of folks. There are several reasons for this, but here’s a big one…

It’s not how many people follow you, it’s who follows you

I have over 1,000 followers, which is a decent number for Fedi.

I have about a dozen people I can rely on to boost anything they see that links to my writing. I don’t know how many followers they have between them, but it’s a LOT. Way more than I have.

In terms of promoting myself, those dozen people are easily equal to any 100 of my other followers.

Boosts

Boosts are hard to understand when you are new to Fedi. They are NOT retweets. They are like retweets+. Sort of.

So, if someone you follow boosts your post, it gets shared with their followers. That’s the part that makes everyone equate boosts with retweets. But, it does more than that.

If your toot is public it ALSO puts the toot in the federated timelines of instances you never heard of — and who never heard of you.

There’s a long complicated explanation of federation, but hears the short version: when you post on public, it shows up in the federated timeline of every instance yours is connected with.

When someone boosts your post it ‘escapes containment’ and reaches instances outside of your network.

Seek the boost. Love the boost. Respect the boost.

And never forget that it is not only okay to ask for boosts. Many instances have an actual “Boost please” icon.

This is a special magic that should not be overused, but if you are running a special sale, have a new release, etc., you can increase your reach 10 times if you ask for boosts.

Just make sure you DON’T use marketing talk in the post. Remember — Be a Person First.

Use Hashtags

On Twitter, there was apparently a thing where you got penalized for using more than 3 or 4 hashtags?

Nothing like that here. More than 5 or 6 hashtags might stand out but are still okay once in a while.

Don’t forget that hashtag search only finds PUBLIC posts, not unlisted or follower-only posts.

Where to Put Links

IN YOUR PROFILE

Please, please, please put your links in your profile. Buy links, ko-fi links, shop links, website links.

ALL THE LINKS!!!!!!!

Most instances have that four+ line ‘meta’ section in the profile. This is a great place for links. Or your bio.

Also, your top pinned post. Links absolutely go there. 500+ characters of links, top of your profile every day, all the links, every link, make up a new link.

The point is, have fun with your links and put them front and center — they deserve it!

That said, links in posts (other than pinned posts) are best used sparingly.

Fedi version of sparingly, which is something like: up to 4 or 5 links in one post is okay, but only once in a while. Like ‘pls boost’ this one should be a rare post. A single link post or a ‘check profile for links’ post can go up several times a day if you are active enough.

My rule of thumb would be once a day or once every ten posts, whichever comes first (as long as that isn’t your ONLY post of the day.)

Oh – and boost your links. You are a lot more likely to find yourself with international followers here than on Twitter. Why? I don’t know. It just seems to happen that way.

But this leads to time zone weirdness. So boosting your linked posts helps folks in other time zones see it. Do that.

Work Your Post Privacy

You know how we’re always told to build private fan spaces and such?

Yeah, Fedi comes with that pre-built.

You have public posts for your ‘everyone should see this!’

Unlisted posts for your ‘I’m sharing this with my friends and fans, but you can make it share it with other folks if you want.’

And Followers Only posts for ‘this is my special just-for-fans post with the secret link to where you can buy my thing earlier.’ Or other secret fan-group-only stuff.

To be honest, I think this is part of how I’ve been able to build a larger following list than many other creative folks, in spite of not really trying to. Because I have everything set to unlisted by default, folks know they will miss stuff if they don’t follow. And having follow requests turned on makes it a bit more special. My public posts are pretty much ONLY self-promo, with rare stuff like the first posts of threads I think will have wide interest. (Like the one this essay started as.)

Of course, I’m also very active on fedi, responding to and interacting with other folks, and having fun. But that’s stuff you should be doing on any social media account you want to use for self-promo, IMO.

Mutual Aid

Mutual aid requests — i.e. posting for help with expenses — are very common on Fedi.

IT IS ABSOLUTELY OKAY to put your sale links w/ mutual aid requests.

“Hey, I need help making rent, here’s my PayPal if you can, or if you want I have art commissions open” and similar stuff are okay and encouraged.

Conclusion

That’s all I’ve got for now, but feel free to tag me with questions or share your own experience.

I’m a writer of queer SFF fiction, mostly love stories, found family, and other relationship stuff. Links in the profile.

(I originally wrote this as a thread on Fedi. A helpful person (whose name I embarrassingly didn’t note down) suggested making it an essay and copy/pasted all the posts into a single doc. Thank you, helpful person!)

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