winchester writers festival

Image result for winchester writers festivalLast week I got to spend the whole day amongst my fellow creative types at Winchester’s 38th Writers’ Festival.

It would have been great to spend the whole weekend there, taking full advantage, but I just had neither the bandwidth nor the finances to make that happen. Maybe next year!

What’s it all about?

Writing! Publishing! Editing! Marketing!

The festival programme was packed with informative sessions led by proven, knowledgeable speakers. Three days of workshops, panels, discussions, readings, and networking.

While I had to step out of two of the talks I attended for 1-2-1 appointments, I thoroughly enjoyed attending Jacquelina Saphra‘s interactive talk on poetry, hearing Hanna Jameson talk about writing tips, as well as learning about commercial women’s fiction from Sareeta Domingo and short story structure from Susmita Bhattacharya. They were all really interesting sessions, and I also got to meet other writers and make some friends.

Fun features:

The open mic night was a wonderfully intimate place to read pieces, and people from all walks of life read novel excerpts, flash fiction, poetry, and even script snippets (scrippets?). I read a few of my more politically motivated poems to enthusiastic applause. The added benefit of it being entirely for and by writers was that you also got more helpful feedback after reading.

Winchester Writers’ Festival also offered 1-2-1 sessions with industry professionals. Some of these were purely to workshop a piece submitted in advance, but there were also a lot of literary agents handing out offers. I pitched one of my works, and received some really great feedback that will help me improve future drafts.

The flipside:

THE PRICE. HOLY CATS THE PRICE.

And this is frankly endemic in writing festivals/conferences/conventions.

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As someone who has done events management and budgeting, I feel like the steep prices could be undercut, and still have a good event. But I also get the feeling that the fact that there is no other event like the Winchester Writers’ Festival anywhere near Hampshire does allow them to hold their delegates hostage.

While they do have about ten scholarship slots that receive free cost of attendance plus accommodation, and a small bursary fund (I qualified for one of those bursaries), it still leaves a lot of people with a searing hole in their wallets.

We need events like these that are affordable because otherwise the writing and publishing world turns into this classist community where your own bank account is gatekeeping you out of it.

That’s why today I’m at the much more reasonably priced TLC Writers’ Day at the Free Word Centre in London. I’ll be writing about this event for my next blog post!

social media scheduling tweetdeck

In this third instalment of my social media scheduling series, we’ve got another well-known contender. We’ve covered SocialPilot and Social Booster. Next up is TweetDeck. This review is being done with authors in mind.

Overview:

Focused purely on Twitter, this site allows you to schedule, monitor, and analyse your social media presence. It offers a clean, easy to navigate UI and just enough features to be useful without a lot of clutter you don’t need.

What fired me up:

I love the UI, and the ability to search hashtags and set up columns to monitor them. It’s not quite as organised or broad in scope as Hootsuite (for example, you can’t have different tabs to organise your streams) but it provides more oversight than either SocialPilot or Social Booster. It was also quite easy to schedule several

What fizzled:

The obvious initial hurdle is that it’s only for Twitter. If you wanted something to juggle multiple platforms, this isn’t the site for you. Additionally, with their hashtag monitoring, the stream updates in real time, which means you can be reading content and it’ll suddenly jump down the feed, buried by an avalanche of new tweets. A minor annoyance, but if you already have any sort of difficulty scrolling content, this isn’t going to win you over.

I also wish it was a bit tidier and organisable. But that’s probably more down to personal preference than anything else.

Verdict:

If you only use Twitter, this is a great way to corral everything you need. Excellent for someone that’s just beginning to dive into the world of social media marketing, and needs a little help staying on top of things. However I feel it would be easy to outgrow TweetDeck and need something meatier.

social booster social media scheduling

This is the second instalment of my series about social media scheduling. My first candidate was SocialPilot. And now we’re moving on to Social Booster. I’ll be exploring the free options, as well as trialling their entry-level paid account. This review is being done with authors in mind.

Overview

Although to a lesser extent than SocialPilot, Social Booster is still set up for someone working in an agency managing social media for clients. You get this feel from the emphasis on teams and analytics, as well as the less than robust free version. The design is minimalist and uninspired and not terribly intuitive.

The lowest level paid version is very affordable at $86 a year billed annually, slightly more if you’re month to month.

What fired me up

SocialBooster has a greater ability to let you monitor your feeds for content and responses. It’s not as comprehensive as Hootsuite’s, but it’s significantly better than SocialPilot in this regard. You have an inbox of Twitter mentions, posts, and replies. This makes it easy to see at a glance what you need to respond to. However, it still doesn’t seem to have Hootsuite’s hashtag monitoring features. Their paid versions do offer keyword tracking.

You can also set up a schedule that automatically slots posts into the next available time slot. this makes it faster to do a daily post, for instance.

I also liked that it would occasionally email me with new responses to my posts.

What fizzled

The free version only allows ten (!) scheduled posts. This limitation is exactly what I was looking to avoid in shopping around, so it’s a huge black mark against an otherwise decent piece of competition. The lower ranks of the paid versions only allow 50 scheduled posts, which still feels limited for a paid service.

The UI can also feel a bit labyrinthine to navigate, and it isn’t always obvious how to access various bits, especially if you’re just starting out with it. It isn’t as clean as SocialPilot, but it also has more to show. And it doesn’t give you the unnecessary or hide what you’re working on based on your mouse location, like Hootsuite.

There is one thing I found aggravating about the auto schedule feature. If you delete an autoscheduled post, it will bump them all up. This resulted in several posts going out a day too early.

Verdict

It’s pulling ahead of SocialPilot quite easily, at least in terms of a personal account. The same features that give it an edge in this realm probably also make more sense in a professional environment. However it still falls short of replacing Hootsuite.

socialpilot social media scheduling

Social media scheduling is a life saver. HootSuite drastically limited the amount of scheduled posts a free account can have at any given time. I’ve previously talked about how HootSuite was my personal saviour, but unfortunately their pricing levels are a bit steep for me to pay to continue using it as I’d previously been for free.

Now, this isn’t to say that I’m not happy to pay to play. But when the free option gives you three social profiles and 30 scheduled posts across all three profiles, and the next level up is ten profiles for $20USD per month, along with plenty of other features which I feel to be unnecessary for where I am personally, it does sting a bit. I could happily stay with HootSuite if they introduced a cheaper, more entry-level option. But they haven’t, so I’m shopping around, to the benefit of my poor, poor readers.

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My first candidate is SocialPilot. I’ll be exploring the free options, as well as trialling their entry-level paid account.

Overview:

First and foremost, SocialPilot is for B2B social media scheduling. Most of its features, while seemingly robust and well-implemented, will be fairly useless for an individual trying to build an author platform. It has helpful tools like account grouping and team/client support, bulk scheduling, and at the higher end, some analytical tools.

What fired me up:

Not a lot, if I’m honest.

The user interface for creating posts is far superior to Hootsuite’s:

post ui

It’s clean, intuitive, and doesn’t vanish if you dare to hover your mouse elsewhere on the screen. That last part in particular really irritates me about Hootsuite.

You also have the ability to browse curated content, and select from popular articles on certain topics. This is similar to Crowdfire’s suggested posts, except you have a little more to choose from. Hootsuite, as far as I can tell, does not have this feature.

RSS feeds are another option, but admittedly one I never really got into and thus don’t know much about and don’t use. If you have any suggestions on using RSS feeds, feel free to pop them in the comments below.

What fizzled:

I did notice a tendency for SocialPilot to delay posts by up to fifteen minutes. For many people, this may not matter, but I’m of the opinion that if I wanted it to go out fifteen minutes later that’s when I would have scheduled it.

Additionally, even when trialling the entry-level paid version I didn’t get access to analytics. And it lacks the one thing I like about Hootsuite the most: the monitoring feature. I couldn’t see any way to replicate the hashtag monitoring feature I use to keep abreast of the frankly exhausting number of writing related Twitter tags, as well as a few Instagram ones I like to watch.

Verdict:

SocialPilot is a very easy to use social media scheduling tool. It has a pleasantly straight-forward UI and has been very well developed. However, for my personal use, I find it works better as a supplement to a free Hootsuite account rather than a replacement.

Keep an eye on this site, as this will be the first in a series of posts examining the pros and cons of more of Hootsuite’s competition.

Being everywhere on social media is a tall order!

I’m tired. Frequently, mentally, insurmountably…tired. My theme song is that burlesque number from Blazing Saddles.

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Okay, maybe not that kind of tired.

And that’s why I’m here to talk about post scheduling. There’s a deluge of articles about author platform and marketing. There’s also a glut of articles and guides on social media. And the message is consistent: engage, engage, engage.

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So what about people working jobs where they can’t manage their social media on the fly? Where a visible mobile device is a write up? What about people with mental illness, or other chronic conditions that throttle their emotional, mental, or physical bandwidth? That’s where post scheduling is a godsend. It lets you remain on people’s radars, continue to share your passions with the world, and if life rears its uglier head once in awhile, you don’t need to worry about losing traction with your fan base. It also means you can spread your content out evenly instead of busting out 5-10 tweets, posts, or blogs in the hour after you get home from work. This is important for hitting multiple time zones (Hello, GMT!) and not flooding followers’ feeds.

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There does seem to be some push back about post scheduling, mainly citing lack of authenticity behind scheduled content. That’s great, I’m really happy for them that they’re able to organically maintain a highly active social media presence. I, for one, am not currently there. I still have days where I don’t even make the bed (and I’m usually pretty good about this–I have the habit trackers to prove it!), or come home, land on the couch, and barely budge from it until it’s bed time, or later. I’m working on letting these transgressions slide (albeit while trying to prevent them in the future), and that’s easier knowing that at least my Twitter and Instagram are still ticking over from that high energy day a few weeks ago where I busted out a month’s worth of scheduled content.

So what does that look like for me? It looks like a very busy Hootsuite dashboard:

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The first three tabs are my own content: my content streams; my scheduled content; and any messages, mentions, etc. The next three tabs are all about that essential engagement. They’re Instagram, Twitter photography and travel, and Twitter writing tags I want to monitor, curated into an easy to browse interface. It’s easy for me to take a few moments on my phone to scroll through these streams, commenting and liking posts that catch my attention rather than trying to always keep an eye on my feeds.

The rest are the tags I schedule for. A tab for every day’s regular writing tags, plus the recurring Twitter contests, and each tab contains all the relevant hashtags I’m aware of for that category. In the morning, I use the day’s tags as a checklist, making sure I’m participating in all the ones that make sense for me. At my leisure, it becomes a browsable curator, much like my more general monitoring tabs.

It’s not a perfect system, and my engagement isn’t perfect. I still have lulls and missed opportunities. But progress is progress and it’s better than the radio silence of the latter half of last year and first part of this year. It helps me overcome some of my personal stumbling blocks and that makes it A+ in my book.


I’m building a personal reference sheet of Twitter tags related to writing and editing, which you can find here. Is your favourite tag missing? Let me know! I’d also love to hear how you work around life and mood swings to maintain a constant presence online. Do you schedule, or use a different set of tools?