UK Blog Awards 2015 – submission from Dane Cobain, SocialBookshelves.com (nominated for Best Individual Arts and Culture Blog www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/socialbookshelves-com-2/ and Young Persons Recognition Blog Award: www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/socialbookshelves-com/).
My name’s Dane, and I’m a book-a-holic. There, I said it. I read for 2-3 hours every day on the way to work and in the evenings, and I’m in the process of reviewing every book that I’ve ever read, with over 1,000 books to sort through. I’m just that sort of person.
And as well as being a reader, I’m a writer – I studied creative writing at university and have been writing stories, poetry, music and more since I was fourteen. I got in to social media because I was using it to promote my writing, and I started blogging because that seemed like the natural thing to do.
I’m also lucky enough to do what I do full-time, to earn a living working as a social media specialist at a creative agency called fst, where I work with big-name brands to launch and maintain a blogging and social media strategy.
I launched my book blog, SocialBookshelves.com, in the spring of 2013, after I’d already been working in the industry for two years. In my line of work, it’s worth keeping a blog if you can find the time because you can test approaches that you might be able to use for clients, further down the line. There’s also no chain of approval, which means that if I want to go and do something, I can just do it.
There’s also the fact that, as a writer, my blog enables me to reach places and to connect with people that I otherwise might never meet. I get to meet and interview publishers, authors, distributors, retailers and all manner of interesting, bookish people, and I know most of my contacts well enough to call in a favour if needed. That means if I have a manuscript that I’m looking to publish, I can offer first refusal to my contacts and only resort to sending it out at random if I’m unable to solicit any interest.
Of course, blogging doesn’t come without its downsides – I spend so much time on SocialBookshelves.com that sometimes I don’t have time to work on my other projects, and it can be expensive, too. I have to shell out on transport and drinks for the book launches and awards shows that I occasionally get to go to, as well as providing competition prizes out of my own pocket and paying for hosting, a domain name and whatever else I end up needing to do.
But it has its perks, too – in fact, I get sent more free books to review than most people could read, but because I read so much I only spend about a quarter of my overall reading time reading them. And sometimes they’re pretty good – my PR contacts have got to know me, and so I only really get offered stuff if they know that I’m going to like it.
My career lets me combine my twin loves of writing and the internet, and while I don’t just sit around on Facebook all day as most of my friends seem to think, I do get to spend my time doing pretty much whatever I want to do. It just so happens that my goals are aligned with the goals of the clients – it’s my reputation at stake when I’m working on a campaign, and so I want it to work just as much as they do.
Social media marketing isn’t such a difficult career to get in to, especially if you’re a blogger – in fact, the first thing that we look for in job applicants is how good they are at writing, from formal documents to light-hearted blog posts and status updates. We have a social media style guide that we all adhere to, so that our updates are always consistent no matter who writes them, but apart from that, the sky is pretty much the limit.
Of course, it’s also important for you to know a lot about current technologies, and this is where bloggers come in to their own – video bloggers, in particular, are few and far between, and a useful resource to have. Besides, bloggers practice marketing every day, when they promote their work and communicate with their readers.
So if you’re hoping to earn a living from blogging, don’t despair – keep your eyes peeled for social media marketing experience, and you could do what I do. And you’ll get to sit around on Facebook all day.
Dane Cobain is a social media marketer at fst the Group by day, and a book blogger at SocialBookshelves.com by night. You can vote for him in the UK Blog Awards in the Young Person Recognition and Arts and Culture categories by following the links, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.