It’s impossible to get away from social media these days. Facebook, twitter, the old spice guy (yum!)? Social media is where the majority of online folk spend their time…and that means that as an author with a business to promote, you need to as well. *Pause, wait for groaning to stop.*
I know for a lot of you, the idea is daunting. You have writing to do. (And likely other jobs, a family who would like to see you once in a while, and sleep would be nice, as well.) When are you supposed to tweet? Or Facebook? Or make a video with sock puppets?
It all starts with a plan.
The way we communicate with people is changing. The world of PR and marketing is beginning to embrace this – the Old Spice Guy’s twitter/Youtube phenomenon is truly one of the most inspired uses of modern day marketing I think I’ve ever seen. But a campaign of that scale required massive planning ahead. The Old Spice marketing folks didn’t just hop on Twitter one day and say, “Hm, this could be fun.” They made a focused plan of action, with measured results to justify it.
The goal: To use social media to interact with a younger, newer audience and breathe new life into Old Spice. Venues included their twitter account and YouTube, plus gathering responses from a number of other social media connections. (And even if you don’t give a whit about Old Spice, check out the YouTube channel. See image to right for a good reason.)
The plan of action: Get people on many forms of social media to shout out to oldspice and ask questions. These questions were then responded to on the Old Spice YouTube channel with targeted, brand-focused short videos.
The response: Huge. You couldn’t log onto a social network, much less twitter, without seeing @oldspice somewhere. It was an unparalleled success. The commercial was also nominated for an Emmy.
What does this have to do with you? A plan of attack for social media doesn’t have to involve large sums of money, video responses and more. But you do have to walk into the social media circle prepared, understanding what you’re in for and what you want to achieve from it. So today, we’re going to start with Twitter. It doesn’t matter whether you are published or not, there are ways to use twitter to your advantage at every stage of your career.
First, you need to decide what you want to gain from it. Be realistic and consider where you are in your career and what your needs are and how twitter can help you meet them. Do you want to learn more about the industry? About specific agents or editors? Network more with other authors and writers? Do you want to build an audience for your books? Decide what you’d like to achieve and then build around that.
And just like you would with any business plan, there needs to be a basis of measurement in place. The above are generic goals. Learning more about agents/editors is a great goal. But what does it mean? Drill down to specific goals. Figure out why you want/need to meet that goal. Let’s say learning more about agents is one of your goals. Why? Are you looking to query soon? Getting info on who would be right to represent you? That’s a terrific goal and for those agents on twitter, you can definitely meet it
So your plan of attack needs to get specific. Choose 5 agents on twitter that you want to know more about. Perhaps that you’d even like to get to know a little, and have them see your name as well. Follow the steps below to meet your goal of getting to know these 5 agents.
Let’s say you have a new book coming out and your goal is to start building an audience. Perfect. Now who does that audience look like? Decide on a specific goal. Let’s say you write murder mysteries set in a bakery. Someone who might appreciate your books would be those who love to bake. Turn that into a goal: Connecting with twitterers who talk about baking.
The more specific you can make your goals, the more sense the Steps into Using Twitter will make sense.
Let’s say your goal is to build a network, get involved and become a more relevant player in the industry. The first step to using twitter to further this goal is to start by focusing on those in the literary world. Find literary agents, publishers, authors and other writers to “follow” (which means you’re signing up to see their tweets). Following is easy and it takes very little time. And if you’re not sure where to start, here’s a place:
Go to my twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/jeannieruesch and click on who I follow. You’ll see a variety of agents, publishers, editors, some authors and friends among the mix. Click the option to follow any who interest you. The best way to find people to follow is to see who others are following.
I also have a list I update on a regular basis of agents and editors on twitter. You can find that here: http://jeannieruesch.com/wordpress/?p=1307 .
The wonderful world of twitter has a plethora of chats on a regular basis – many of them literary based. People join a chat by including a hashtag. For example, #romuniv would be a hashtag for Romance University. Anyone could participate in a conversation about this. It’s a wonderful way to engage with new people, who you aren’t following or who aren’t following you. The chats brings like-minded people together.
Some literary focused hashtags include:
How do you find them? A quick way is to go to http://twitter.com/ and search for the tag above. So type in #litchat and anyone who has used this hashtag will show in the results. One of my favorites is #writegoal. It’s a terrific way to connect with others writers doing just what you’re doing.
Let’s look at building an audience for your books. If you’re writing fiction, your audience isn’t going to be those talking about writing. You’ll need to branch out into finding followers and discussions that you can engage in. Deirdre advises: “For writers of fiction, you’re doing searches on subject matters and really getting into the consumer realm. If you think your books are being read by stay at home moms, maybe you’re focusing on mom bloggers who might even be talking about the books. You’d be listening for something completely different. Focus on keywords; really observe how these folks are communicating.
Look for conversations about authors in your genre. If your genre is romantic suspense, see which competitors’ books are being talked about, where they are being talked about, and who is chatting about them. Those are topics communities are built around.”
Two aspects here: The first one is finding subject matter niches. Let’s look at the mystery books in a bakery audience. We imagine people who love to bake might like your book. So go to http://www.twitter.com/ and search on “baking cupcakes.” Is this something you know about? Is there a discussion you could participate in?
This is also a terrific way to learn about who is reading your genre. I write regency-set historical romance. One of the best-known authors in this genre is Julia Quinn. I can search for Julia Quinn on twitter to see who’s talking about her books. There, I see people discussing historical romance – that’s my audience. I can follow those people and begin to listen to discussions on books and discover how I can participate. I’m sure there are some of you saying, “This feels a little like cyber stalking.” J Most users of twitters love followers. If they don’t want them, they’ll protect their twitter account.
Social media is about connection. And what’s better than connecting with someone who loves what you do? Or reads what you read? Connecting, following, joining in discussions is part of the community. Your responsibility is to respect it. Remember that Twitter is not about selling. It’s about sharing.
If we look back at the Old Spice guy, not ONCE did they sell their product. In fact, they turned their concept into being about the community. The community asked the questions, the responses were made to them. It wasn’t about the Old Spice products. It was about the people. That makes all the difference. It’s why it worked.
Read and observe for a while and keep your fingertips at rest. Don’t engage, don’t respond, don’t jump in. Take the time to listen. A few months ago, I had the honor to interview social media/PR guru and author Deirdre Breakenridge (@deirdrebreakenridge) on this topic. She reminds us, “These are communities with a culture. You really need to observe people and their behaviors and the sociology of the group, how they interact, the information they are sharing and what makes them excited. As you watch and observe, discover where you fit in into their community and what you can contribute that would be relevant. As an author, I did a lot of listening and observing in different communities.”
Consider it sort of like moving to an entirely new country. (In some ways it is.) You wouldn’t just get in your car and drive around (possibly on the wrong side of the road), chatting everyone up without having some sort of sense of the culture, the expectations, or what you could say that might thoroughly offend someone. (If you would, well… there’s no helping you then. )
With Twitter, it’s easy to tune someone out. It’s even easier to unfollow them. So some of the biggest mistakes people make on twitter includes jumping in and immediately pursuing their own agenda, marketing themselves. No one cares. Not yet, because you haven’t given them a reason to weigh your tweets as anything other than self-interested.
Imagine being in a room with twenty people. Would you walk in and immediately start selling yourself or your books? No, because they’d quickly tune you out. Twitter is no different. Settle in, get to know the people and then you’re ready to join in.
And actually, you’ll find that doing so helps make this not so overwhelming. It can be daunting to figure out what to tweet about, and if you’re like me, half of what you think of writing seems stupid. Listening and watching how others interact within the community is a great way to learn what you want to achieve with Twitter.
Now, it’s time to engage with others. So let’s get back to the game plan. If your purpose is to network and becoming a bigger part of the writing world, you’ll need to engage in the conversations on writing.
Start with one chat group. Perhaps the #writegoal one, to connect with other writers. Share your experiences; respond to those who write theirs. Offer encouragement. Or if you’re going more toward industry professionals, look to #litchat. Read the discussions previously held, and begin to form questions, comments. That’s your opportunity to engage with others, to join the community.
You also need to set your expectations for how you want to use twitter versus what others are using it for. Quoting Literary Agent Janet Reid from her blog: “One of the great ways to make twitter a total waste of time is to follow someone who isn’t using twitter for what YOU are using it for.”
Not everyone responds to replies. Not everyone does searches by hashtags. Some people use it as an extended version of IM to chat with friends, coworkers and others and pay no attention to anything else. Others use it extensively to converse on topics, offer advice, and such. Check out their pages, see what they tweet about most and adjust your expectations from this accordingly. Remember the golden rule of tweeting: Observe. Listen. Then engage.
If we take the mystery-book-in-a-bakery author looking to build an audience, the one thing you do not want to do is find that audience of bakers and immediately start talking about your book. The idea is to listen to their discussions about their specific niche: baking. I did a search on twitter on “baking cupcakes.” There are a ton of comments about it. See what’s being said. Discover what you can add to that discussion, how you can support someone with a common interest.
This is the one area I think people misinterpret using social media. If you join a conversation with a “let me tell you all about me” mentality, you’ll be ignored before you write your next tweet. But if you join in and share good info that people can use on that topic, they will see you as a resource. They might eventually follow your twitter account. There, they will begin to learn more about you, then about your book and you’ve expanded your audience a little bit at a time. Not based on the book, not based on being an author, but based on you. The person.
Twitter can be a great tool– as long as you use it in a way that makes sense for you. And as long as you realize that it takes time to build results in a community like this. Unless you have a huge marketing team and dollars behind you to build a plan like the Old Spice folks did, you’ll need to be patient. Build your audience the same way you make friendships: one person at a time.
And that often means finding time where there is none. It can also be a tremendous time suck if you let it.
It’s important to focus on your plan of attack, your goals. Consider your time spent on social media as another part of your business plan. And just like you would with any other aspect of a job, set a time frame around it, a measure of success. Can you devote to 15 minutes a day spent on twitter? Responding, reading, searching out new discussions? 5 minutes? Or maybe every other day. Whatever makes sense to your schedule, add the time into your daily routine.
At reasonable intervals, you need to go back to your plan of attack and remind yourself of the goals. Did you want to gain information? Network more? Make inroads with an audience niche? Gain more followers?
Keep track of your gains. If you want to gain more followers, note the number you started with. Then six months later, see if you’ve gotten closer to your goal. If your goal was to learn more about agents, look at the list you made of agents to know more about. How have you done? If you wanted to network more with people in the writing industry, again, look at the number of followers you started with. After six months, has it grown? Have you participated in conversations?
Part of a marketing plan is the measure of success. For the amount of time you spend on twitter (or any marketing focus), you need to know it’s worth it. You also need to give it time to work. If after six months, you aren’t seeing the gains you hope for, then you need to evaluate your plan of attack. Maybe change things a bit. But measure your results, from beginning to end.
If we look at the OldSpice guy, the twitter account has over 100,000 followers. I don’t know what they started with, but I imagine that’s one measure of success. Another measure of success is the views of the short videos in their YouTube channel. Some are over 3 million. That’s a definite measure of success.
And for all the tricks and tools and lists to follow on Twitter, check out my other post: Twitter For Writers
Did you know that including an author photo on your website and promotion materials makes the visitor connect on a more personal level? It’s a long time trick of marketing design to include a smiling, friendly face in the advertising.
HINT: Include your author photo, even if you don’t like it. People like to see a smiling face.
If you’ve ever tried to find an easy solution to bring your own fonts into your WordPress blog, you know it hasn’t existed… until now. Recently, I found a premium plugin called Font Uploader, available through the Code Canyon website. This plugin has already proven leaps and bounds easier than any others I’ve tried. Rather than edit your php files, this allows you to set your fonts based on basic WordPress elements, such as Headers, Lists, Main Body. But it goes beyond that — you have the ability to set your own fonts for specific CSS styles.
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I’m thrilled to announce that client, critique partner and friend Maggie Van Well has sold her first book to The Wild Rose Press. More details soon! Congrats, Maggie!
To add a Facebook badge to your WordPress-powered site, you’ll need to make a badge on Facebook itself.
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