Social media is huge. No denying it. In fact, all of you reading this blog are participating in the new paradigm of human interaction and communication. Welcome to the future!
As publishing changes, writers too are being forced to evolve or go extinct. It’s nothing personal. Just reality. Arguing with it is about as pointless as arguing with a Category 5 hurricane that is about to make landfall. Writers are deluged with two words, platform and brand until they just plain want to bang their heads against the wall.
What? No, no, no, no, Kristen. You mean we have to market!??? We became writers so someone else would do this crap…..ugh.
I feel ya. Remember, I am a writer first. But hopefully I will give you ways to make building your platform a fun and enriching experience. Remember, attitude counts for a lot.
Social media is one of the best ways an author, even the not-yet-published can build a platform and become a brand. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of instruction how to do it. Thus, most of us bungle on to FaceBook or MySpace and stumble along and rely on dumb luck to do it correctly. Currently, I am in the process of finishing up a book on social media for writers. Why? Because there is a lot of misinformation out there that I believe can 1) frustrate a writer 2) yield little quantifiable results (in the end the small term for that is “book sales”) 3) can do more to harm a writer’s image than good.
How does that happen? Well, sometimes it is that writers gut through social media and rely on a lot of hit and miss. They join the sites their friends or their kids are on. Probably not the most efficient approach. Also, the most popular books teaching social media are teaching tools and techniques that work well in Corporate America, but have questionable value to an author. To make things worse, my experience has taught me that some approaches and applications that work well in traditional business, actually are ineffective and harmful when used in the world of writing/publishing.
I have been teaching social media for almost three years and have been blessed to work with hundreds of people in many different fields. Social media can be overwhelming and the tools and platforms change faster than most of us can keep up. Yet, by applying some fundamental techniques, my resume is filled with many successes. Thus, I hope to pass some of these techniques to you.
Last week on the Warrior Writer blog, we discussed social media and how authors, particularly fiction authors, would be wise to begin thinking of their content as a product. That, I feel will be a HUGE step to authors beginning to connect to readers (which is code for customer :D). Blogging about writing and networking with writers has it’s place, but it is not how an author builds a platform and creates a brand…unless one is writing about writing and for writers.
Today we will discuss some of the best ways a writer can build a platform.
Understand that your SMI (Social Media Influence) Campaign is About the Customer (Reader)
1) Content for the Customer—This is of course a reiteration of last week’s blog. I often hear “Well, so long as you are having fun and it is a platform that you enjoy.” Um…a friendly reminder. This isn’t about you. Remember, we as writers must serve the reader. If we don’t, readers will gravitate to authors who do. This is true in fiction just as much as non-fiction.
Fiction authors provide entertainment and escape. Readers like you for your content, and that isn’t just a finished book (although ultimately it hopefully will be). If you write mysteries set in the 1800s and you blog regularly about that time period and mystery-information-factoids or whatever regularly, you will be in a great position to already possess a following of mystery fans who respect your authority and talent to write on this subject. You will move from an unknown quantity to a known quantity much quicker than if you blog about writing or don’t blog at all.
2) Location, Location, Location—Yes, it is important for you to enjoy the social media platform you choose, but a wise author sets his preferences aside and goes where the readership is most likely to congregate. You may looooove Twitter, but if you write Young Adult, it is simply the wrong platform to spend a lot of time with expectations of finding readers. Is it a great place to network with professionals in the publishing industry? YES! But doing your homework and finding where your demographic (readership) is likely to spend a lot of time, will save you a lot of frustration.
One of the things I have learned over the years is that it is often our own ignorance that makes us dislike a certain platform. If you have a hard time on MySpace or FaceBook, go get a Dummies Guide or ask a friend in the know. Sometimes we just avoid what we don’t understand. That aversion can cost us countless Man-hours building a platform on the wrong site. And if we are building in the wrong place, we are less likely to succeed and more likely to get frustrated and give up.
Think ice cream stand in Alaska, hot coffee in Tuscon, mountain bikes in Wichita, KS. A tough sell and a very limited customer base. Just because everyone is saying FaceBook is hot and MySpace is passé in no way means you should listen to them. If you have to choose between going with your friends and going with your fans, I advise that you choose the fans if you desire to build a platform.
3) Quality Beats Quantity Even When It Comes to Friends—Now, if you are on Twitter, I highly recommend you follow anyone who follows you (unless they look like some kind of SPAM bot or porn bot). There is a great site called Twitter Karma, and it can help you make sure you are following whoever has been kind enough to follow you. You also have the ability to unfollow people with little or no activity, but I highly discourage this for reasons I am not going to discuss here. http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/
The number of friends one has, whether MySpace, FaceBook or Twitter is really irrelevant when it comes to the world of social media. In social media you aren’t just trying to influence an individual, your goal is to influence that reader’s community as well. Your goal is to identify and then connect with the expert influencers.
Think of high school. There was always that group of girls and guys who seemed to control the opinions of the entire school. Most often they were the cheerleaders and jocks. If you became friends with one of them, then popularity naturally followed suit.
Social media is the same way. You can spend your time one of two ways. Follow so many people that you eventually have influence. Or you identify those in your social network whose opinions hold the greatest sway. A person with 3,000 regular followers cannot accomplish what one person with a handful of expert influencers can.
I recommend www.technorati.com for locating expert influencers in your area of expertise. Technorati keeps track of the most influential bloggers by authority ranking at any given moment. I advise you search in your “subject area.” If you are writing about diets, search for those bloggers influencing that area. If you are writing about space aliens, find the most popular bloggers. Learn from them. Link them in your own blogs about space aliens. Do all you can to integrate these individuals into your network. It will enrich you and serve to help your image as an authority in your area.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association is also another invaluable resource for anyone trying to create a brand and generate buzz. http://womma.org/main/
In the end, remember:
1) Give the Customer (Reader) the Content She Will Most Enjoy
2) Go Where the Customers Are—Ski shops do far better business in Colorado than they do in Galveston, TX.
3) Surround yourself with Experts in Your Field—That is just good advice no matter who you are.
And at the end of the day, social media aside… write a darn great book.
Happy writing! Until next time…
By the way! If you loved this blog and just want MORE? My book, “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. Buy one today and take charge of your writing career! My book is designed specifically for writers. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creative energy used for writing and use it to build your platform.