Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sarah Seltzer,...Sounds Like a Typical Freelance Writer

There's a scene in the 1979 comedy classic, The Jerk, where a gun-toting lunatic decides he wants to find his next victim. M. Emmet Walsh's character, who is identified as “Madman” on, rifles through a phone book before stopping randomly on the name Navin R. Johnson. This just happens to be the name of Steve Martin's masterfully played comedic dope.

Navin R. Johnson was hardly one in a million – there's only a fraction of that amount of names in a typical phone book.

Sarah M. Seltzer, however, is more than one in a million. She's approximately one in 1,140,000 (according to Google). And for the record, those are pretty long odds.

You see, when tasked with analyzing a entity's social media presence and strategy, it would have been easy to go after the low-hanging fruit – multi-million dollar corporations with unlimited advertising budgets, who rack up Twitter and Facebook profiles for every little niche product within their company. For goodness sakes, a search of McDonald's on Facebook returns over 600 pages and nearly 9,000 groups.

The less answered question, in my opinion, is where does the everyday, average person – say a freelance writer like myself – fit into this giant social network?

To answer this, I went to Google and typed “freelance writer twitter” into the search form field.

My thinking was “Freelance writer” would return a bunch of big company results; the addition of “Twitter” would assure me that I would get a user profile.

The first result was a link to an article about the ways Twitter helps freelance writers.

The second return was for Sarah M. Seltzer – also known as SarahSeltzer on Twitter. Jackpot.

How is it that Sarah, a Harvard alum who was trained as a freelance journalist, who is currently working on a novel tentatively named “French Lessons,” and who enjoys skiing in Vermont end up as the top human result on the World's Most Powerful Search Tool?

Perhaps it was the work she has done as a three-year writer for Bitch Magazine?

Probably not.

While luck has surely played a part in her choice Google ranking (no one will ever figure out Google's search algorithm), I would contend that Sarah's dogged determination in social media tools and applications has certainly helped.

Sarah on Twitter
Sarah has been using Twitter for a little over a year; according to her feed she didn't want to start until she got a decent phone. Sarah uses Twitter most often to link directly to her pieces written for RH Reality Check, a Web site dedicated to issues in reproductive health. She rarely uses hash tags or tweets directly to other users. She uses this platform purely to push out info regarding her work.

Sarah's Web Site
There was a link from Sarah's Twitter account to her Web site. This barebones site includes information about her, clips of her work, contact info, news, as well as two incredibly important links to her two blogs: The Egalitarian Bookworm and her blog at RH Reality Check (

Sarah's Personal Blog
A case could easily be made that Sarah's blog acts as a better vehicle for selling her writing than her primary Web site. The design is improved, the writing is sharper, there is better integration of dynamic content; this is really her home page for Sarah the freelance writer. From this page there are also links to Sarah's profiles on several other social media sites:

  • Facebook (requires friend acceptance)
  • LinkedIn
  • Friendfeed
  • Feedburner E-mail

In fact, as if that wasn't enough, she just entered the vlog space, using YouTube to post her video log where she talks about beta readers, copy edits and adverbs.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Sarah puts in a lot of hard work into her online presence. For any individual, or business – regardless of size – an effective social media strategy requires effort, using multiple sites in concert with one another, and a ton of time and patience. It also helps to have a little bit of luck.

1 comment:

  1. You're right Chris. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon or even a brain scientist to see that the more one engages in social media activities, the more likely they are to be seen and heard. But I'd still like to know how her name came out on top. Sometimes it does just boil down to blind luck.