Once, on a press trip with other travel writers in Washington State, I asked a twenty-something woman whether she thought social media could bring me more assignments from magazine editors. Being responsible for social media for her region’s tourist department, her reply was: “Sure. Everyone uses it, you should too”.
However, when pressed for proof that social media would bring me more work, she didn’t have anything to offer.
Since I’m always looking for new and innovative ways to peddle my stories, I decided to pursue this further and find out if social media could help travel writers get published.
I already had a LinkedIn and a Facebook account, so these are the ones I pursued first. I started posting regularly on Facebook, and beefed up my LinkedIn account with details about my writing career.
And, I sat back and waited for the assignments to roll in like a tsunami. Instead, the results were more like a ripple in a tiny pond.
I thought maybe I did it all wrong, so I decided to take it a step further and do a little research.
I asked several magazine and online e-zine editors if they have ever tracked down freelancers through social media to give them assignments.
The results were a mixed bag.
Five editors answered with a resounding “No”. They’ve never used social media to find writers.
Flint Whitlock, editor of World War II Quarterly magazine said he “never uses social media at all”, and Carla Banning, editor of Lost Treasure magazine “doesn’t think it’s an effective way to locate writers”.
Likewise, Tom Hauck, editor of Renaissance magazine, Rich Benyo, editor of Marathon & Beyond, and Bobbie Hasselbring, editor of Harbors magazine have never used social media to locate a writer, and do not intend to start using it.
Another two editors have tried finding writers through social media, but on a one-time only basis.
Allen Cox, editor of Northwest Travel magazine says, “I have only found it necessary one time due to the very specialized nature of the topic. In general, good writers come to me without social media coming into play”.
Terri Fogarty, editor of EuropeUpClose.com used it once, and “We got lots of inquiries. But many people were just starting out their freelance career, or hobby”. Since she didn’t find the level of experience she was looking for, she says it’s unlikely she’ll use social media again for this purpose.
On the more positive side, Rob Hay, editor of Australian publication Triathlon & Multisport, posted for a photographer on a Facebook site and ended up hiring one.
“I understand there are plenty of young and capable writers out there looking for a chance to get published, so social media is a good way to contact these people”, he says. “Before commissioning an article I’d need to see examples of their work, however, so if someone has a blog they can direct me to, that’s great”.
He adds, “Social media is good as often you can get an idea of someone’s ability and personality through their online presence…which may save you having to tell the writer they’re not up to standard”.
Anissa Olsson Jones, editor of Gorge Guide magazine, regularly uses social media to locate writers for her annual guidebook. “Social media”, she says, “as a means of locating writers is like a covert referral system.
She warns, “However, it’s a happenstance approach to finding the right writer for a story—especially if you are on a deadline”.
She points out that there are pitfalls. “You have to be careful about actively searching out writers on social media. If you make a public request for a writer, you might have to filter through a tremendous amount of junk responses.”
Using social media to track down writers may well depend on the comfort level of the few editors who use it. If they are familiar with social media they are obviously more likely to use it to locate potential writers.
Currently, most editors seem to prefer to receive story ideas through good old-fashioned query letters. Maybe this will change as people become more conversant with social media platforms. But, we’re not there yet.
And it makes sense. The query letter appears in their inbox and they have an opportunity to assess the story idea and the skills of the freelance travel writer.
Carla Banning from Lost Treasure magazine says, “Email me with a pitch and include a writing sample or a link to your blog or other published work.”
Rich Benyo says he finds writers “the way they’ve been found for decades. They see the magazine, want to contribute, and send (email) a proposal and some samples of their work”.
A well-crafted query letter shows that the writer writes well, is organized, and is eager and motivated to write the story. Query letters don’t have to be intimidating - I’ve written a book with twenty sample query letters to help you.
Approaching a potential writer via social media may have disappointing results, as it is the editor who is initiating the contact. The writer may not have the skills or motivation to write the piece.
A social media platform—although nice to have—is not essential for freelance travel writers to land magazine and newspaper assignments. You’re better off dreaming up solid story ideas, creating a good query letter and approaching magazine editors via email.
Your time is also better spent updating and expanding your professional writer’s website. This gives you an online portfolio for editors to peruse.
When we think of social media, the most common ones like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter come to mind.
But social media, at the heart of it, is simply a place where you can get information, and where you can interact with other people and make connections.
There are travel writer-centric websites that fit this social definition: information, interaction and connection. These sites link you up with tourism agencies, editors and sometimes assignments, which is a lot more specific and helpful than the more popular, general, social media sites for the masses.
For example, TravMedia.com is a professional site created to link up tourism PR’s, editors, and travel writers. And it works! I’ve applied for three of their assignments that were sent out via email and landed two of them, both lucrative.
Other sites such as MediaKitty.com link up travel writers with editors and PR media reps. MediaKitty.com even contains a section where writers can announce their upcoming travel plans for editors to match up with their editorial calendar.
There are other websites that list jobs for freelancers. Freelanced.com (“the freelance social network”), JournalismJobs.com, FreelanceWriting.com, Online-writing-jobs.com are a few of them. And there are many others.
Bear in mind that most of the jobs advertised on these more general sites are for copywriting, blogging and a variety of other freelance vocations. So, check out each site and decide which ones work for the niche or genres where you write.
General social media won't get travel writers more assignments beyond an occasional or sporadic article. Not enough to be of consequence.
But, it’s still a good idea to use LinkedIn for your professional profile. And Facebook works great for your friends and family. It also works for telling the world where you are when you're out and about on a press trip. Here are some Facebook tips for travel writers.
But travel writers will get better connections and information from narrower, focused sites like TravMedia.com and MediaKitty.com.
And, with focused social sites you’ll get better travel writing connections. These connections are more likely to help you link up with editors and get assignments. And, they’re more likely to help you link up with tourist agencies for press trips.
Beyond social media, you might get more benefits by joining a travel writers association. The article at this link tells you the most reputable organizations to consider joining.
Related articles that will interest you:
Getting Published: The Many Ways to Sell Your Articles
Writing a Query Letter to Sell Your Articles
Why Freelance Writers Need a Professional Website
How to Land Press Trips and Fam Tours
I've written a guide about how to land press trips and fam tours. It will tell you everything you want to know about how to get into the inner circle and get invited on regional, national and international press trips.
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