Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Four Steps to Social Media Emancipation

LUCY BURDETTE: Do you get the shakes if you think about going too long without checking Facebook or your Twitter feed? Are you terrified about missing out on the newest iteration of social media? Help is here! Our guest today, Chris Syme of CKSyme Media Group has some great suggestions for accomplishing more while doing less! Welcome Chris...

CHRIS SYME: We have lots of names for it: FOMO (fear of missing out), peer pressure, Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS), and more seriously, Internet Addiction Disorder. However we frame it, it can be debilitating for writers.

The amount of time people spend in front of screens is staggering: anywhere from 28 to 44 hours per week depending on the age group. If you write on a computer, your average number of hours per week is probably higher than that. According to Pew Internet, one-fifth of Americans report going online “almost constantly.” Social media use accounts for 28 percent of our online time, according to Social Times. And of that 28 percent, 22 percent is spent on Facebook and the other six percent is spread out over the various other channels.

We are distracted…and stressed.

Social media exacerbates the problem. The noise factor on social media is overwhelming. It’s almost impossible to be seen anymore online unless you already have a huge following or enjoy celebrity status. Too much information passes by too quickly. Eight years ago people were liking every Facebook page they could because it was the shiny new toy. In 2009, Facebook users liked an average of 4.5 pages. By 2013 it was up to 70 (Social Bakers). Add to that the average user has 338 friends. No wonder Facebook now has an algorithm.

So how does an author find success promoting and engaging on social media without spending all day trying? Contrary to everything you may have heard, my advice to authors is to pull back and quit trying to conquer every social media channel out there. The days of amassing followers and being everywhere are over. That is strategy from five years ago. Today, the trend in marketing is moving towards targeting more invested audiences. Less is more. You don’t have to be on every social media channel, just the right ones.

There are four steps to mastering this process of less is more:
1.     Finding your target audience with simple research. There are several ways you can do free audience research to define your target:
o   Use your Facebook Insights and check that data against other social media channel data you have
o   Use the Pew Internet Research 2016 social media update to look at the global data on social media use. Best resource, hands down.
o   Do a survey of your readers with a Google Form or free Survey Monkey survey to find out where your readers are. Send out links to your survey in email and in social media. You may want to offer an incentive such as a couple prizes to random responders.
2.     Designating your primary channel for engaging and selling. A primary channel is the one place where you engage personally with your readers AND earn the right to sell your books. For most authors that is a Facebook Author page.  There are five measures to use to find your best primary channel.
o   Find the best fit for your reader/audience demographics.
o   Look for the channel with the best overall global numbers. Consult Pew’s data for this. The answer is Facebook
o   Look for the channel with the best commerce tools or opportunities to buy a product without having to leave the platform.  Again, Facebook.
o   Look for the channel that is a good match for your genre. The difference between this measure and number one is that every channel that matches your demographic might not be a good match for your genre. For instance, if you’re a fiction writer LinkedIn may fit your reader demographic by age and gender, but in reality it’s a worthless channel for fiction writers.
o   Look for the channel with the best ability to help new readers find you and then convert them to a sale.

3.     Setting up outposts on other major social media channels that fit your audience where you only maintain a presence and redirect readers to your main channel. An outpost channel is a social media channel that doesn’t deliver the optimized opportunities of your primary channel but you still want to maintain a presence there. If you are already trying to engage on channels other than your primary channel, you’ll want to consider turning the rest into outposts. Have a presence but don’t engage.
4.     Learning how to craft more engaging content where you give more than you ask for and earn the right to sell. One of the chief pieces of learning to use less social media is to revamp your content strategy so that it offers value to your followers and earns you the right to sell without feeling sleazy.

You may need a paradigm shift. There are still be a lot of people out there who will tell you that you need to be everywhere, try everything. My objective is to teach authors how to spend less time marketing and more time writing. You don’t have to be on every social media channel, just the right ones.

You can dig deeper into this system in my new book, Sell More Books With Less Social Media. The book is accompanied by a free online course to help you learn how to implement the system. If you want to spend less time marketing and more time writing, this may be your path to freedom.

Chris Syme has logged over 20 years in the communications industry and is the principal of the award-winning agency, CKSyme Media Group. She is the author of four books on social media, including her newest Sell More Books With Less Social Media which also includes a free online class.  She is on Twitter as @cksyme, blogs at cksyme.com/blog and co-hosts a weekly podcast for authors with her USA Today bestselling daughter.

questions? comments? Chris will be stopping in over the day to answer them as she can...


  1. What great information, thank you!
    Social media often feels like a minefield . . . I’m not good at the whole social media thing because I hardly ever remember to sign on.
    It’s good to know there are ways for writers to maximize the use of social media without spending hours checking out every site.

  2. Thanks for the info, Chris! I read in an Author's Guild survey that in 2015 writers spent 59% more time marketing and communicating with readers than they reported in 2009. It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you're never doing enough as an author when it comes to social media, but you have to try and fight it. You could spend all day online without righting a sentence of your novel. I find it's an ongoing balance. Have others found strategies that work in addition to those suggested by Chris?

  3. As a reviewer and blogger, I feel a certain pressure to keep up online, too, and I spend a lot of time connecting with authors and other readers. It's all exciting and interesting, and I love my book world friends. The downside is that I'm reading less. I keep thinking that if I set aside only x amount of time a day for being online that I will be able to manage better, but I haven't been able to do that yet. I think authors must juggle so much, with doing social media and maintaining their writing schedules, too. Chris, you and your book could be the answer to many an author's prayer.

  4. Great information, Chris!

    I only joined Facebook in 2015 (don't laugh everyone at my lateness) so that I could connect more with the authors and readers in the mystery fiction community. And I found that social media can be a black hole that sucks you in for hours! Like Kathy mentioned above, I found I was spending less time reading which totally sucked. Now I am learning how to limit my on-line time to early mornings, including several key blogs such as JRW!

    Authors: I don't know how you juggle/find that balance between keeping in touch, marketing their books, and finding time to write your next book(s)!

  5. We don't know how we juggle it either Grace LOL. And don't worry about being late to the party--my brother-in-law only signed up for FB two days ago.

    It's so easy to spend lots of time online, justifying it as work that must be done. Somehow the writing has to come first...

  6. I don't know about anyone else, but I found this post to be a huge relief. One of the joys of being a writer for me was that I didn't feel as stretched and going in too many directions like I do when practicing law. But that was before social media came to be regarded as not just part of the game, but the game. How many writers have publishers at least as interested in what they are doing on social media as in their writing? Containing the social media beast sounds terrific. Looking forward to reading the book, Chris.

  7. Sorry I am a little late to the party here so let me catch up here. Joan--I am hearing more and more authors say they are so glad to know they don't have to be anywhere. Even if you're now there are still strong voices out there telling us we have to be all things to all people. Good luck. Ingrid--it is an ongoing balance...always. Kathy- I hope this does help you get a release from that pressure. You simple don't have to be everywhere to reach your own audience.

    Grace- One thing I coach authors to do is to remember that there are two kinds of social media: the kind for you personally and the kind for marketing. Don't mix the two up--that's when it becomes a hug black hole. Be stingy with your time--skim and don't read everything. When you're looking at your notifications on Facebook, for instance, skim them all. If you see "like" just keep going, if you see "commented" stop and look. I know that seems impersonal but that is what it's all about. Also, don't get hung up on looking through every post, etc. Manage your connecting from your notifications--that's the easiest way to do it if you're pressed for time. Just a tip. Most importantly, separate your personal from business when you're on social media.

    Michele-Providing relief is the point of all this and that is why I wrote the book. I really feel it's time for someone with marketing experience (like myself) to step up and start saying that all this talk about being everywhere is unfruitful. Find your best channel and work it. Thanks for the encouragement. It is my hope that authors learn how to be savvy with their marketing time--learn to do only what is best and leave the rest. Good luck.

  8. Joan -- that should be everywhere, not anywhere. Got in a hurry there and edit button. And the second sentence should read, "Even if you're not". Sheesh. Need more coffee. Sorry all for the other typos here. It's early in the west.:)

  9. Chris: Great additional advice!

    As I mentioned, I am pretty new to FB, so I don't have 1000s of friends. Probably have @50 friends now...all connected to the mystery fiction community except for 2. So this is why I was fascinated to see how some authors respond to every "like" and reply to every post!

    I retired from work this year...so instead of spending most of my typical 40 hour work-week in front of a computer, I did ramp up my social media presence on FB and blogs like JRW. But that's it for me. Won't touch Twitter or Instagram or the new ones around.

  10. Chris, great tips.
    one of my terrors about author publicity is how I can tell when I'm doing too much. I think it's like writing, you can tell when someone ELSE'S writing is off, but be blind to it yourself. Any tips of recognizing when you're going overboard, and not in a good way, with self promotion and risking turning people off?

  11. What drives me crazy, among other things :-) is how I can get drawn into Facebook, just reading people's posts, and after say 10 minutes, I realized oh my goodness, I just learned nothing! And got nothing from this! But it is completely fascinating.
    I do enjoy posting on Facebook, and feel like I kind of get it. But I wonder, every single day, whether it matters. Maybe it depends where each of us is in our careers?
    Chris, thank you so much! Talk a little bit about "not engaging, Can you?"That seems counterintuitive… But I see what you mean.
    And what do we really know about the value of Twitter?

  12. I"m on Facebook (both a personal page and an author page) and Twitter. I kind of ditched everything else because it felt like work, not fun. I find a lot of publishing industry news and links to stories/blogs on Twitter. I can share snippets. But in-depth stuff? That's Facebook. So I guess Facebook is my main place and Twitter is my outpost.

    Hank, I got in the habit of what Chris describes a while ago because I had a bazillion notifications and I couldn't get through them all in a timely fashion. If I post something and when I check the notification it just says "so-and-so liked/reacted to your post..." I skip it. I don't go back to the post because the person didn't say anything so there's nothing to engage with or respond to. If it's a photo or link, I might check what it was so I know what people are reacting to. But if the notification says "so-and-so commented on..." I click the notification because there is probably something to respond to (engage with). It just too so much freaking time and I wasn't getting any value from it (except ego-stroking - someone's paying attention to me!).

    At least I think this is what Chris means. If it isn't, Chris, please slap me and set me straight.

    I spend a TON of time on Facebook during the day job - because the work is so streaky. Sometimes I'm really busy and sometimes I'm...not. Facebook fills the void because I can't open my personal computer and start writing. I don't check it during my writing hour, though. And if I get the idea for a scene or short story, I'll start writing in Word and email it to Sugarsync account for later (I do the majority of my writing in Scrivener).

    I check Twitter once or twice a day unless I a notification that someone mentioned me (I try to respond to those in a somewhat timely fashion).

    But when I get home I rarely check social media (family and maybe some writing). Weekends I start the day checking Facebook, but the rest of the day is family stuff and sometimes writing. So maybe my weekend discipline makes up for my day job "always there."

  13. Very interesting stuff here. With the book blog, I struggle with this every day. Some strategies have worked, others not so much. I figure as long as I am still seeing viewership rise, I must be doing enough of the "right" thing, at least for now.

  14. I do read Facebook every day and post on my author page to my readers almost every day. I use my Twitter account less, only posting important things (although now I have seen how effective it has been for a certain man, I may step up the tweets).
    I tell myself that I should be active on Goodreads but I simply don't have the time. My publishers do Goodreads giveaways, Netgalley and similar promotions which are helpful.
    I get loads of invites to connect on LinkedIn but frankly I can't see the value in it. And I send out a regular newsletter. Of course Jungle Reds is one of the most valuable ways to connect. And satisfying for me to be among my friends every day!

  15. As an example of someone who is doing facebook right--I would mention a couple of authors--Louise Penny--who also does a brilliant monthly newsletter--and JRW's own Deborah Crombie. Deborah posts news about her work--what's coming out in paperback, the final draft is going to the publisher, who has a deal on an ebook, etc., and also shares snippets from her travels for research, and even her personal life to some extent--readers get to see her sweet granddaughter, her pets, etc. It doesn't feel intrusive to post a comment back about how adorable Wren is, for example. And this blog makes for a great, targeted internet connection. I can remember Julia posting a series of photos of her walks with Louis, Hallie posting photos, Lucy and Rhys doing the same. It provides a sense of the real person behind the books, and I appreciate that. But would I spend everyday checking twitter feeds, hoping for instagram, etc.? No. Although, I have to say, JK Rowling does Twitter brilliantly! ;-)

  16. Thank you for this, Chris -- I'm waving from Bigfork!

    Can you say more about the outpost idea? I'd like to do that with Twitter -- maybe I already am. It's just not a platform I've ever understood, so I'm there, and accept most friend requests, I Tweet only when I've got a new release or a new blog post. I do respond to notifications, and retweet -- well, sometimes. But I don't get in Twitter conversations.

    I'm part of two group blogs, and have my own, which may also fit your definition of an outpost -- it started for my nonfiction book and legal research service for writers, but the book is a few years old now and I'm focused on my fiction. So over time, my blog has morphed, with Sat Writing Quotes and occasional reviews, and now and then a post on a legal topic. Is that the sort of "outpost" you have in mind?

    Re FB engagement: I've developed the habit of doing just what you describe, and appreciate the affirmation that that's a good method!

  17. Hallie--I teach authors a system of posting that employs an 80-20 rule--mostly an industry standard for selling. 80% of your posts should be about giving value--posting things that make a connection to your fans and to you. Then, you have earned the right to sell 20% of the time. If you honor the rule your fans will expect you to sell and you will be building trust and loyalty as someone who gives more than they ask for.

    Hank- I think I missed the question about engagement. Not sure what you were asking. Twitter is worthless as a selling channel. They are not set up for commerce options for small brands yet. Plus, only about 32% of online adults are there--compare that with 79% of online adults on Facebook. You can probably sell a trickle of books on Twitter but it's a lot of work for a little return. Facebook, on the other hand has a myriad of applications set up that help you sell stuff without having to post buy my book all the time like on Twitter. So, I do not recommend Twitter for fiction authors. Only to nonfiction authors as a place to establish expertise by offering content in a specific sector there. Still, no engagement necessary. I use it, but I'm a nonfiction writer.

    Mary- That is what I meant by checking through notifications. Just pay attention to the comments, replies, and every once in a while thank the people that share lots.

    Kristopher- It sounds like you are on the right path.

    Rhys- I agree about LinkedIn if you write fiction--it's a bust. I am a minimalist.

    Leslie- Yay BigFork. Beautiful up there. We are wintering in Arizona. As much as I love Montana, not a fan of the winters. Anyway, a word (or two) about outposts. I hope the JRW gals won't mind but I am going to defer for additional in-depth info on this to my new book. The book is going on Kindle Unlimited today or tomorrow so if you are a KU person--wait. The great thing about this book is that it has a free online course that will walk you through the processes of establishing a primary channel--show you all about selling 101, and also take you through setting up outpost channels. One nugget: outposts are places where you don't engage--you just have a presence there. Now that isn't a set it and forget it presence because (esp on Twitter) you can use a cover photo and a pinned tweet to promote you latest whatever--book, event, class, email marketing lead magnet, or use it to redirect to your primary social media channel. Another tip: once you set Twitter up as an outpost, make sure you remove the social media icon from your website and other places because you don't want to send people to outposts. They are mostly for discovery.

  18. Chris, you are preaching to the choir!! And I'm so glad to hear someone with more expertise say what I've been thinking for some time. Maybe part of the secret to finding what works for you, besides doing the research you described, is to do what you enjoy. I really enjoy my author Facebook page (AND THANK YOU, FLORA CHURCH, for the shout out!) I feel I have a personal connection with readers and that we have an ongoing conversation. I guess Twitter is my outpost, but I only tweet promotional stuff and I never read Twitter feeds--makes me feel like my head is going to explode:-)

    And then of course there is wonderful JRW. Between the blog and FB there is no time for anything else, and it's such a relief to think I don't have to do Pinterest and Instagram and Snapchat, or whatever the newest thing is.

  19. Chris, good tips -- thanks. Off to follow them right now!

    (And you're smart to winter in AZ -- it's 17 above here at the moment, and likely even chillier in Bozeman! Bright and sunny and snowy-white!)

  20. We do not mind at all you mentioning that more info can be found in your book! Red readers, it's a great value and an excellent reference if you need more help with this subject!

    Debs, I find Pinterest and Instagram fun and relaxing--not really expecting sales from this. However, I am addicted to my new crockpot since Julia posted crockpot recipes a while back, and have found some great recipes on Pinterest:).

    Hank, I agree with you that reading FB feed is fun too--we like to see what our pals are up to! It's like the giant water cooler that we don't have in real life. But balance is key...otherwise I forget to read!

  21. Deborah- Good thoughts. Facebook is a great place to forge those connections I want to say just one thing though. My advice always comes from a marketing standpoint so doing something because you enjoy it isn't always the best for marketing. We should be spending our time connecting where we hope to sell. I try and let authors know that developing all that loyalty and trust on a channel where you cannot sell is not good for marketing your books, it's just developing relationships and communicating with people you enjoy. And there is nothing wrong with that--don't get me wrong. However, if marketing is what you are after, you need to pick the right channel and they are not all create equal. You're lucky--you like the one that delivers the best results for selling in the long run. Now for somebody who really likes Snapchat or Reddit--those are fine for your personal life. But when it comes to marketing fiction books, not so much. Does that make sense?

  22. Thanks for a wonderful post, Chris! I've been struggling with my relationship with Facebook for awhile. A part of me wants to get off altogether!

    Hank brings up a good point about whether how we use it depends on where we are in our careers. For example, I have both a personal page and an author page. Since I'm at the beginning of my career, I don't have much news or many "Likes" on my author page ... I tend to ignore it, which probably isn't helpful. Meanwhile, my personal page is bursting. I adore the mystery writing community, but it is an echo chamber--the sharing of awards and kudos and publishing news ... It can be overwhelming and morale-deflating to see everyone's great news all the time when maybe I'm in a down or self-doubting mood, and it can also be a wee bit like high school -- even though, like I said, I love the community.

    How helpful is it to promote my work mostly within the writing community? Doesn't make much sense to me, but that seems to be what I'm doing right now. (I have other Facebook friends too, of course--but fellow writers outnumber other groups.)

    I'm going to try only interacting through Notifications and not browse the News Feed -- that is indeed a black hole!

    Meanwhile, I just saw the 30-day Challenge for a Better 2017 that's on your website! Thanks for that!

  23. This is wonderful! Sometimes i feel like a hostage to social media and this makes me realize that it's a-okay to take a break and be smarter about utilizing social media. I can't wait to read your book and try out the strategies you suggest. Thank you!

  24. I get the shakes if I am without my smartphone. It is my alarm clock. it is a way for me to contact family and friends through texts, not voice calls. As a person with profound hearing loss, this is my lifeline! I use Facebook once in a while. Twitter less often. When I started using Facebook, it took up a lot of my time. Now I use it to keep in touch with family and friends.


  25. Lisa- I have some posts on my website blog about dealing with the differences between using a Facebook profile or Business Page to promote your books. Also, the book goes into this as well. There is value in networking with the writing community but it isn't necessarily to sell your books. It's to build a network of authors you can partner with for promotions, etc. and that is valuable. Just beware. I've seen authors "hide" in author communities because they either don't want to or don't know how to interact with readers. I suggest following someone in your genre that really rocks their Facebook page and watch how they do it. Learn the basics of how to promote from good resources (like my book) and then it will grow. You'll get there.

    Jenn-Thanks for the encouraging words. I hope you find the book helpful. Don't forget to get into the free online course that goes with the book--it will really help.