I had an idea for a character. A character without a story. Being a fan of Twitter, I thought it might be interesting to set up an account in his name and use it as a testing ground for material to see if anything like a plot would emerge.

Two years later, it had over 25,000 Twitter followers; appeared briefly in GQ magazine and Time, we made a short film (How To Be Dead); I quoted Yoda on stage to a large audience and had a whole lot of fun. I am now writing The Death Guide To Life as a serialised story online and a novel.

Here’s what I learned from my mistakes.

1. You’re Telling a Coherent Story

When I originally set up the @Its_Death Twitter account, I only knew the character. I didn’t have a plot. I didn’t even know what medium I wanted to tell the story in. But that’s the awesomeness of digital media and how this project stumbled its way forward. Would one part of the story work better visually? Shoot it. Think another one would work better if we had the character’s inner monologue? Write it. Get out of your comfort zone. But when you develop your universe’s rules, stick to them. People remember when you contradict yourself in the same way they’ll spot a plot hole in a movie. I speak from bitter experience.

2. Different Platforms

Offer something different on each platform you decide to use. This is something I’ve recently realised and I’m still working on. Compared to Twitter and the websites, the project Facebook page lags behind. I just used this to post tweets I liked or links to blog posts. There’s nothing new and fresh there so why should people visit or share it?

3. Be a Lover. Not a Fighter.

This is an interactive art. If you achieve even the slightest amount of popularity on the interwebz, people will enjoy the ease with which they can inform you that you suck. Do not feed the trolls. Simply remind yourself that you are putting something new and creative out into the world. You have added to the sum of human experience, no matter how slightly. A manchild who thinks that anonymously calling you a wanker makes him the new Oscar Wilde has not. Nobody comes out of an online fight looking good.

Unless you’ve thought of a *really* brilliant comeback.

4. It’s All About the Zeitgeist, Baby

Comedy is king on the internet. Before Twitter, the first thing you’d ask yourself if you thought of a topical joke would be “Too soon?”. Now it’s “Too late?”. Keep an eye on the news and trending topics. Your character’s pithy world views about breaking news can be all around the world in minutes.

5. Be a Stat Junkie

***Warning – this section contains buzzwords***

Its not just about numbers. Efficiency is the key. You don’t want to be writing stuff people aren’t looking for, or posting it when they aren’t even looking. There’s plenty of analytics software out there. You need to find out when and how people are making their way to you. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a utility called SocialBro, which has a 15 day trial period. I used it to find ‘influencers’ that followed me that I wasn’t following, break down the best times to publish and copy lots of data to spreadsheets so I could drill down at my own convenience.

***buzzwords end***

6. You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get

‘If you build it, they will come’ only applies to supernatural baseball pitches. Nobody is going to spread the word about your project unless you get the ball rolling. And then keep it rolling. Use StumbleUpon and Reddit. Email everyone you have ever met. I know it’s hard to approach people, but people are generally nice. Take the time to make any requests individually. Always be polite. There’s nothing worse than seeing mass requests begging for retweets or shares.

Take things offline. My friend Lara and I ran into each other at the London Screenwriters’ Festival and decided to make ‘How To Be Dead’ together. We then asked if we could come and talk to a audience about it at the next year’s festival. The organisers said yes.

Or you could ask the very nice owner of a very popular writing website if you could write a guest post where you suggest several ways to build your online audience.
Dave Turner is an award winning writer and producer. He is currently working on The Death Guide To Life project, but spends too much time on Twitter @mrdaveturner and failing to update his website.

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