Some of my clients are novelists; most are political candidates—and all have stories to tell, stories that need audiences. These days, writers augment their audience-finding process with social media. (At least, all the cool kids do.) But for the most part my clients would rather not be spending time on social sites at all, much less navigating the intricacies of facebook’s latest timeline modifications. So I help them be as efficient as possible. What you get below is the rough-and-tumble outcome of that.
You might hear that you should find your personal comfort level, that you should do what’s right for you. According to prevalent chatter, each person has a unique social formula for success, and it’s your job to find your own.
You don’t have time to discover your own special sauce. You really don’t: you need to be writing. So here’s the social media prescription for writers in its briefest, starkest form:
· Write good books, and lots of them. Nothing else matters if you skip this and focus on social media (or any other kind of) promotion.
· Be on facebook because you have to, with a fan page in addition to your personal page. Otherwise, your limit of 5000 “personal” friends will eventually make you sad. Nobody likes sad. Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla of social media, and a must-have. Here’s your recipe: Drop in at least 5 times per week. Act naturally. Have fun. Be yourself. Promote occasionally. Post cat pictures.
· Be on pinterest because you want to. It's quick and fun. Also, your target is here. Drop in at least 2 times per week, but not for more than 20 minutes. Post delightful images related to your genre or specific books. And cat pictures.
· Skip twitter unless you want the flurry. It has some value as a traffic generator and connection engine (reporters are here; so is your agent), but also the highest learning curve and time commitment. And the drawback: harder to post cat pictures.
· Build your own mailing list, for your newsletter, which you must have. No, really. (Not kidding.) ((If you thought I was kidding when I said, “Not kidding,” I wasn’t.))
· Skip LinkedIn. Add Goodreads only if you want another (although useful) time sink. Pass on google+ for now. Post your pictures to facebook instead of Instagram. Make your website attractive to search engines.
· Write more good books. And go take some more cat pictures.
We all just want to be liked.
It’s always been true; facebook just formalized the process. Your job is to capitalize on it, which means having a fan page, which you must do ahead of all other social media efforts. If instead you try to over-leverage your personal page you’ll find that your conversations are stilted, since your audience is a strange mix of faraway cousins, rabid readers, leftover high-school crushes, and motley hangers-on. Very motley. Plus, there’s that 5000-fan limit. Just make a fan page. And when you do, invite people from your personal page to Like it. That’s not desperate or pathetic behavior in the insular world that is facebook. It’s expected.
Recognize that your friend page (that’s you personally) and your fan page (that’s you professionally) are independent; unless a friend is also a fan, that friend does not see any fan page posts. That is, a friend of yours must first Like your fan page to get your witty and erudite writerly updates.
And yes, this means that if you have a topic appropriate for both audiences, you need to double post it.
You’ll have different content and different conversations depending on who you are on facebook. That is, depending on whether you are logged in as your personal page or your fan page. So you always need to know which of the two you are at the moment.
When you log in to facebook, it's as yourself. You verify this by noting the profile thumbnail picture on the top right of the menu bar. You can then choose to adopt the identity of your fan page by clicking the drop-down box adjacent to your name. Thus, the importance of having different profile pics for your personal page and your fan page: they let you know who you “are” at the moment.
Once you click your fan page, you become that—but since your personal page and your fan page are probably named the same, using the picture is the easiest way to differentiate at a glance.
Unlike in high school, on facebook you want people to talk about you, and lately facebook makes this even more visible with its “Talking About” metric, right there, next to your number of “Total Likes.” Taunting you. Telling you, when it’s low, that you just aren’t popular this week. Making you reach for your teddy bear and a tall Scotch. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
So do something about it. Rouse the rabble. Kick up some dust. Try these, recognizing that it's all voodoo anyway:
· Ask for likes and shares. No, really. Just ask. Need a little love from time to time? Just ask for it.
· Cats. (Also babies or dogs, in a pinch.)
· Ask questions, occasionally using facebook's poll feature. Your fans want to be heard, but they are mostly too timid to pipe up. A poll gets past that.
· Include a picture in almost every post. I know that words are your tools, but we humans are visual creatures. Don’t fight against this.
· Spread the love. Occasionally share other posts from your newsfeed.
I know you just really want to sell books. And all this social media rigmarole is swell and all, but how does it translate to sales?
Over the long haul it does. Each venue has a purpose: to drive traffic or create a conversion.
· Facebook is where your readers are, especially your existing readers. Its job is to get readers to like you. So they will buy your books.
· Pinterest is to get readers to your website.
· Twitter’s value: making industry connections and driving site traffic.
· Google+ is where good ideas go to die.
· LinkedIn is where you give up writing and go find a soul-killing corporate gig.
· Goodreads is to sell books. But street corners might be easier.
· Your website is to sell books. And get names on your newsletter list. And pull in search traffic. And establish your brand. And give credibility.
All of this in sum creates a significant value: agents and publishers will adore you for having a pre-built fan base. This can be especially crucial if you are querying.
But even more practical is to get those names on your email list. You want results? Get them from your own old-school email list, which you should treasure as much as Scrooge McDuck does his pool of money. Get your visitors to sign up, and then send them content that reveals to them how smart they were for choosing to do so. Make them feel special, intimate, part of a secret club. And make the invitation prominent and easy.
And then go write more books.
JAN: Glenn will be stopping by to answer your social media questions, so TAKE ADVANTAGE of his good nature while you can. You can also follow him on twitter @glennjmiller
And come back tomorrow, when I interview documentary film-maker Heidi Sullivan on the art of telling true stories on film.