Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Glenn Miller

JAN BROGAN:  Because of its ever evolving nature, social media always feels to me like one of those sci-fi monsters that is always changing its form. 
Today, we are lucky to have Glenn Miller, a freelance social media strategist here at Jungle Red to tame the monster by giving us a good idea of what he? she? it? actually looks like. 
Glenn has a varied career. He's been a genetic engineer, a computer programmer, a data warehouse expert, an author, a business found, a company president a chess coach, a grant writer and a charter school founder.
What they all have in common, he says, is that they required he learn to make words matter. 
Here, he makes words matter for our benefit. This is about the best advice I've seen anywhere for authors and anyone else who wants to understand and manage  the social media beast. I, for one, have already printed it out and posted it the bulletin board over my computer.

GLENN MILLERI help fiction writers do social media.
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.

The Social Landscape, with Cats
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.

Facing Facebook: Friends and Fans

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.

But Who Are You?
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.

That’s What I’m Talking About

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.

Old-School Marketing

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. 


  1. I tend to find the whole social media arena rather petrifying --- thanks to Glenn for a most helpful guide.

    And greetings to Ghost Elaine who has, interestingly enough, migrated into today's post hauntly appearing beside the "But Who Are You?" line on my computer . . . .

  2. This is the best, most common-sense piece on the whole writer-internet-marketing thing I've read. I'm turning on the printer, too. Thank you, JR. However:
    Ghost Elaine has escaped my computer and is now flying around the house. I'm sending JR half the bill if she breaks anything!

  3. Ghost Elaine has appeared for me right over the lines

    "You will have different content."

    She seems intent upon it!


  4. Thanks for de-mystifying! There are so many social media options and it can be tempting to flit from one to another but I'm with Glenn, on all counts. For the forseeable future facebook is one of the most valuable tools a writer can have.

  5. I've been doing SM for a long time and agree with everything you've said. And laughed about cat pictures because that is so true.
    Elaine just flew by.

  6. Elaine is back to haunting me, right over the middle of the Facebook section.

    Which is fine; at least I know Elaine is friendly.

  7. Glenn, thanks so much for visiting and helping us sort this mess out.

    Two questions:

    What about the latest on Facebook, in which only promoted posts show up on a fan page?

    And do you advise we somehow try to migrate friends over to the fan page, or do it the old fashioned way by begging for likes?

    I got a good laugh out of the line about Google+

  8. Lucy, promoting fan page posts does increase their visibility in their fans' news feeds, but non-promoted posts are visible as well. Facebook does keep adjusting the tools as they work on monetizing the beast, but they haven't gone so far as to publish only promoted content, yet.

    On your second point, I recommend trying to migrate your fans the old-fashioned way: begging for likes. There is a nuclear option, a one-time conversion of all of your friends to fans, but for almost everyone the drawbacks (losing all content; losing your fan page) are way too severe.

  9. What a great post! I'm copying all of these suggestions, starting with ask questions on Facebook. Great idea to start a conversation. Author Deborah Sharp does this really well and often has 50+ responses.

    I like the idea of separating Facebook fans and family. It will stop me having to delete all the posts from my father about the embarrassing things I did as a child.

    Thanks, Glenn!

    Victoria Allman
    author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain


  10. Question: How do you maneuver through social media if you hate cats?

  11. Question: If you are an unpublished author (like me) what would you put in a newsletter?

    And while I don't hate cats, I vastly prefer dogs (especially puppies).

  12. Good post on social media! Thanks, Glenn! But why would you add Pinterest? Is it really important? I'm trying to keep my social media interaction within limits--FB & Twitter & blogs daily, Goodreads weekly.

    The first thing I do now when I open JRW is to look for Elaine--who's still there. This all means... something.

    And happy birthday to our own Debs!!! Have a fantastic day!! xoxoxo

  13. Hi Glenn--You're making us all run out of printer paper today!! This is the most concise, helpful guide to social media I've seen anywhere. SO glad to know I don't have to feel guilty about not doing Google + and no longer responding to LinkedIn! Avoiding Pinterest as huge time sink, marginal on Twitter.

    But I really will get started on the newsletter--once I finish writing the damned book!

    It's a good thing my cats are so photogenic;-)

    Linda R, thanks for the birthday wishes!

  14. Thank you, Glenn, for the most common sense social media advice I've seen.

    I'm yet-to-be-published but working the social media and having fun keeping up with and meeting new people.
    My own digital bete noire is the dreaded L-word, The List.

    I already have people signing up for RSS feeds of my blogs, but that apparently doesn't count as a List.

    So, conventional wisdom has us offering a freebie goodie - in addition to a newsletter - to get names on the list. I'm stumped as to what I might offer. How do we figure that out?

    Also, I have different online places for different audiences. Can I send an interest-specific goodie to attract names to One List To Rule Them All? If so, that means, I need to come up with multiple goodies. #ohdear

    The thing is, I've been looking into online marketing for years now. No matter what social media outlet is "in" at the moment, everything always seems to funnel down into The List. Its importance is not to be underestimated, and I'm absolutely buffaloed by the idea of it.

    Didn't mean to go on so. Thanks for whatever suggestions you can offer.

  15. Glenn, thanks for adding some clarity to the sometimes-overwhelming whirlwind of marketing options.

    Off to stalk the cat with the camera... .

  16. Ramona,
    Maybe a red baby panda? http://www.flickr.com/photos/romeoliverpool/4824319959/

    Puppies work. Cute puppies. Cuddly wuddly snookums puppy breath widdle funball puppies. See? Just as cute.

    Regarding newsletter content, let your just-launched blog (body in the library) guide you. With that and your google+ presence and twitter and facebook you are already stretched so very thin. But as you find a voice and theme that captures your and your readers’ interest on those venues, amplify it. Evolve into your brand, and as it gets more tightly defined, find exemplars of it—perhaps fiction excerpts, perhaps writing insights, perhaps personal vignettes, perhaps industry lessons—and offer them to your subscribers. But also recognize that it’s not a race for numbers of followers (or email addresses). It’s a race for authenticity and intimacy.

  17. Linda,
    Six months ago I didn’t recommend Pinterest, but now I do – especially for the Jungle Red demographic, which turns out to overlap considerably with the Pinterest user profile. Pinterest now drives more traffic than twitter and LinkedIn combined. It’s easy. It’s visual. Pinterest content is themed, which allows authors to add depth to a setting they’ve only before described in words with custom pinboards. Mystery writer Laura DiSilverio does this for one of her characters whose fashion sense is … distinctive: http://pinterest.com/lauradisilverio/gigi-s-closet/ .

    Here’s the biggest difference. For you, it is not more important than your blog or your other efforts. But it’s more durable than your facebook or twitter posts, more like building another web page than holding an ongoing conversation. Thus, less work. Also, for most users, it’s fun and inspiring. If that medium doesn’t energize you when you visit, if it doesn’t feel like recess to you, then skip Pinterest. It’s not supposed to feel like work.

  18. This is great! Thanks so much for your tips. I post pet pictures regularly on Facebook, so I can tick that off the list.

    I had the same question as a few other commenters about newsletter content...As an as-yet-unpublished author I'm still unclear. Also, do you have a recommendation about how often to send out a newsletter? My qualm is that it seems intrusive somehow...

    About blogs...I have one, but I haven't posted since November, sadly. I keep hearing that we should post everyday if we really want to gain an audience. But--no way. Too consuming. What's your recommendation about maintaining a blog?

  19. Wish I'd read this two years ago:) Very funny and informative. Now I'm off to find more cat pictures!

  20. Wish I'd read this two years ago:) Very informative. Now I'm off to find more cat pictures!

  21. Louise Penny posts a newsletter to her mailing list on the first of every month. Some personal chit chat, news about the books. It seems to work well.

    I've never managed to do that and am kicking myself. Nor do I keep up my personal blog. I post on FB almost every day, short things, and between that and JR I feel stretched for content. Will really think about this with your helpful suggestions. And will check out Pinterest. When I finish the BOOK :-)

  22. Debs, happy happy happy birthday!

    Glenn, you are very very very funny. I'm off to pin you though I don't think you're quite as cute as the cuddly wuddly snookums puppy...

  23. Rhonda,
    Your use of feedburner to capture subscribers is excellent: although you don’t get details for your RSS subscribers, those who subscribe by email need to become part of your List, and you should periodically harvest them from feedburner.

    A free goodie is conventional wisdom, but it’s not mandatory. Seems to me that some sort of life-in-the-paddock or secrets-of-a-winning-trainer angle could garner interest. Who doesn’t want secrets?

    Yes, you can send interest-specific goodies to attract names to your One List. I generally do not recommend segmenting lists until you have many, many hundreds of names, so this does mean funneling names from disparate topics into one giant bucket. But the thing that all of the sources have in common is you! Your job is to project your unique personality in every profile, so that people want to keep up with you, regardless of the topic.

  24. Lisa,
    Here’s the facile answer to newsletter frequeency: Publish a newsletter whenever you have useful content. In real life, balancing other priorities, this should be between every 3 and 8 weeks. Less often? Don’t bother at all. More often suggests that you need to be either monetizing your list (because you are so popular) or writing more on your novels (because you are ignoring your real writing duties).

    Regarding content, Deb’s comment about Louise Penny is fine: “Some personal chit chat, news about the books.” As in all writing, identify your audience. Perhaps imagine that you are writing a catch-up letter to your cousin, one who years ago was your confidante. Be more personal than on your blog: these people already like you. Unpublished authors can’t write about their reviews, book releases, and public appearances, so instead talk a little about the journey, a little about the research, a little about the why. Make me want to come share a glass of wine with you. Such newsletters are the opposite of intrusive.

    Blogging is a key part of many writers’ platforms. It serves four primary purposes:
    1) Improves search engine optimization (SEO), the arcane magnetism that attracts webseekers to your site;
    2) Builds an audience, who come to adore your worldview and insights;
    3) Creates a venue for interaction, to generate ideas, connections, and feedback; and
    4) Makes you a better writer.

    You do not have to write every day to accomplish these goals, but if you blog less than once per week you will probably accomplish only the first. Twice per week is probably a decent balance for most people here. What you cannot afford to do is to exhaust your Muse on blogging when you need her caress on your fiction. When that happens, skip the blog. You are a fiction writer—write good books first.

  25. Thank you for your suggestions, Glenn. I wish I knew secrets. All I know is stuff other people won't bother to look up. :) :)

    Anyway, good luck with your projects. Thanks for visiting Reds.

  26. Hi Glenn,

    Great post!

    I've only published short stories and I'm not on FB yet, though I've started to blog.

    My question: What do you think of having a FB page for a fictional character? I was considering doing this as a way of dipping my feet in FB while maybe avoiding some of the privacy issues.

    Another question: Do you have recommendations for those of us who write several different kinds of books (in my case, historical mystery, paranormal suspense, and Christmas stories-quite the mix!).

    Thanks so much!

  27. Glenn, thanks.

    Of all, I probably spend the most time on Facebook. I'm barely ever on Google+ and forget to check it for days on end.

    Twitter is more of a "professional networking" venue for me.

    Pinterest I have deliberately stayed away from as yet.

    Now I'm definitely printing this article and the follow ups.

  28. Also, what's the best way to go about gathering email addresses? Because I'm guessing that's how people are sending the newsletters.

  29. Nancy,
    I think it’s much too hard to have success with a single fictional character on facebook. Something like the Killer Characters website is plenty fun, but they have the advantage of numbers and history. Building a facebook fan following is hard enough without introducing the added abstraction of a character that no one yet knows. I have seen this idea fail, but I’ve never seen it succeed in a way that’s worth the trouble.

    I think that spending a few minutes on facebook learning about its privacy mechanisms is a much better use of your time than dabbling as a fictional persona.

    Another advantage of having a professional fan page is that even though you write in several genres, you can discuss each through your single facebook identity. It’s hard enough building a following. Don’t fragment your audiences; combine them. Another tactic is to have sub-areas on a single website highlighting each type of fiction. Sophie Littlefield does this elegantly.

  30. Glenn, will you marry me? Ok, not really (kidding). ( no, rally, kidding). but thank you thank you thank you!!!

  31. I apologize, again, for ghost Elaine. I am trying to figure out how I did it so I can make MYSELF appear on like, Lee Child's blog.

    And Glenn, I echo Lucy's question-- I have a lovely personal page, but I am approaching sad level. Do I just-- re-start on an author page and urge people to come there, too?

  32. Mary,
    To build your pretty email newsletters and distribute them, you’ll need a service. I like MailChimp. It’s free for up to 2000 addresses, beyond which you won’t mind paying a small fee. Should you use this service, you’ll find within its list-building tools a simple procedure to make a sign-up form, which you can embed on your blog site or even link to your facebook profile. It’s not so very technical to set up, and they have good online help.

    Of course the fundamental element of gathering email addresses is to ask, just straight up. But it puts fans more at ease if your sign-up form looks all official when you do. People want to know that you’ll respect their contact info, and a nice form engenders trust.

  33. "Another advantage of having a professional fan page is that even though you write in several genres, you can discuss each through your single facebook identity. It’s hard enough building a following. Don’t fragment your audiences; combine them."

    Glenn, a question: I've used a personal page so far. My only published book is a reference book for writers. My cozy mystery series will launch in 2013, and I was planning to start a fan page in the series name. I've got a great website for my nonfiction and will connect it to a site for the mysteries. I don't anticipate a lot of cross-over between the audiences, but certainly some. Sounds like you think it's better to have one integrated FB identity, probably under my name rather than a series name. Right? Pros and cons?


  34. Thanks, Glenn. I checked out MailChimp and I will have to investigate further. Now I'm off to beg for more "likes" to my Facebook page!

  35. Thanks so much, Glenn, I really appreciate the feedback.

    I've looked at Sophie's site, too, (LOVE her Stella series) and agree it's a great model. I'd probably go for something more modest, like having a different page for each genre, which I kind of do already.

    Also glad to have "permission" to spend more time on Pinterest, heh-heh. That is one fun site. (TOO much fun--your 20-minute limit is a good idea.)

    Again, thanks so very, very much!

  36. Hank,
    You are rockin’ in on facebook. And yet … even just now, when I peeked in on your site, I didn’t “join”—which given your current configuration means making a friend request. I’d have clicked “Like” in an instant were it a fan page, but the “Friend” option now available still seems too intimate for someone who may just want to keep up with your professional identity and who feels reluctant to make a friend request. Your marriage proposals notwithstanding, most folks, even on facebook, still honor the vestiges of traditional social conventions. (Insert smileys by the hundreds.)

    So this might mean that you are missing out on thousands of fans who have the same reticence I evinced.

    And still (heavy, heavy sigh) you have a lovely personal page.

    As emotional balm, consider that there are things you can do on a fan page that you cannot do on a personal page. One is advertise. This is actually pretty cheap and ridiculously well targeted. Another is pin posts to the top of your wall; this makes certain posts more prominent. You also gain a tremendous amount of analytical data: where your fans come from, which posts get the most traffic, your fans’ collective demographics. Powerful weapons to a data Jedi, they are.

    Of course Mr Zuckerberg at facebook might at any moment alter the settings in any number of ways: he might bump the friend limit to 10,000 tomorrow, for example. But I think that won’t happen, and instead there will come a time, sooner than you would like, when you get sad because you can’t have any more friends.

    So I do think that you’ll be better served in the long run to create a fan page and ask your friends to Like it. You will have to ask them many times, and I can show you some useful tricks for this. You will lose some “friends” in the process, but I predict you’ll gain many more “fans” in time. Me included.

  37. Reiterating marriage proposal. Xoxo
    Grasshopper will do as suggested...

  38. Leslie,
    Your situation is ideal for a facebook fan page under your personal name, not the series name.

    You may find more fan cross-over than you expected, and both audiences will in no way be put off by your use of the fan page to highlight both the fiction and the non-fiction, in my opinion. The big Pro on this is that you are building your personal brand, which you’ve likely heard lately is what writers are supposed to do. That’s because you own you, but you might for any number of reasons choose to dissociate with a series title (perhaps you sell its rights). Also, operating under your name allows you to cross-promote when you eventually have multiple series.

    I think Jennifer Chase does this nicely, mixing fiction, non-fiction, and professional expertise (police forensics) into an interesting blend.

    Lastly—and I say this fondly and from personal experience—you have a distinctive name. You should capitalize on it. When new readers are looking for you on facebook they’ll search “Budewitz,” not “Food Lovers’ Village.”

    (Cons? None, sorry. Use your name.)

  39. Great post. I feel pretty comfortable on Facebook, enjoy Pinterest, and use Twitter some. I created my website recently and just set up MailChimp for a newsletter. What's a good way to drive readers to signing up for the newsletter?
    Thanks so much for such an informative post!
    P.S. I don't do kitten pictures, but may give it a go!

  40. Glenn, thank you so much! Like everyone else, I'm burning up my printer on all your great info today. I'm under deadlines right now, but I will get on Pinterest as soon as I can. I've been working The List and am about ready to go to MailChimp and do the newsletter thing--again, once these deadlines are taken care of.

    Hank, build your Fan Page and we will come. I'll LIKE it and ask all my friends to LIKE it, and I'm sure others will also. xoxo

  41. Thank you, dear Linda! I'll rely on it! Xxxx

  42. Thank you so much Glenn for spending the day with us--you have been brilliant and we so appreciate your time!

  43. Glenn,

    Many thanks. (I admit, the distinctive name may have played into my thinking more than I realized -- but once people learn it, it does stick.)

    What an excellent conversation today!

  44. Glenn,
    BIG thanks to you for sharing your expertise with us today. Really excellent input - I'm hanging on every word. Plus checking out your examples given. Printing in the cloud. Yay.