Janet here. Perhaps I’m one of the few who isn’t comfortable or savvy when it comes to social networking. I’m on Facebook and in a group of Love Inspired Historical authors at MySpace, but that doesn’t mean I have a clue what I’m doing. Figuring I couldn’t be the only one who might need a little help getting started, I cajoled Shirley Jump, my critique partner and Harlequin romance writer extraordinaire, to give us a barebones look at social networking.
Shirley not only agreed, she’s giving away a copy of A Princess for Christmas, her October 2 release. Leave a comment or share your experiences with social networking, good and bad. Don't forget to give your e-mail address.
With no further ado, here’s Shirley!
First, thank you to Janet for having me back at Seekerville! This is such a great group of writers and it’s always a pleasure to be here!
Today, I’m going to talk about social networking sites. I don’t purport to be an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on any of this, but can tell you what I’ve done and/or has worked for me.
1. The number one most important thing you can do to promote your books and your brand is WRITE A GREAT BOOK. That’s the first and biggest piece of advice I have, and the one that a lot of people, I’ve found, tend to skip over. While promoting on different websites can help sales, honestly, the thing that really makes readers buy you over and over again isn’t how many Tweets you send, but what a wonderful reading experience they find when they open the pages of your book. Concentrate on the book, because that’s really the best expenditure of your efforts—if you have to choose where to spend a few precious hours each day.
2. Don’t try to be everywhere at once. There are SO many places “demanding” a presence, and new places springing up all the time. You can quickly find yourself spending hours and hours every week trying to balance your time between Facebook, Twitter, MySpace…and the list goes on and on. Never mind your own website and blog, if you have them.
3. Don’t make it all about promotion. These are called SOCIAL networking sites for a reason. People who sign on as your fan or “friend” are there because they want to learn more about you, and not just when your next booksigning is.
4. Be careful, though, not to tell TOO much. Use the privacy settings, and use some common sense, before posting something. These people are essentially strangers and you don’t want to be giving them so much information that they can track you down at home and ring your doorbell during dinner.
Facebook is a massive, growing community that is user-friendly, interactive and one of the easier of the social networking communities to use, IMO. You have two options here—a personal page, or a fan page. The personal page is great for connecting with friends and family you haven’t seen in a long time, and communicating your life’s events with them. A fan page is less interactive, and if you want the least amount of interaction, and less “work” to maintain your page, a fan page is probably the best way to go. The fan pages don’t get all those feeds from everyone who posts, and just basically are there to announce your news and interact with your fans.
Do you need both? IMO, it all depends, again, on how much time you want to spend on Facebook and what your ultimate goal is. You WILL get readers requesting to “friend” you on your personal page; it’s inevitable if your writing name is associated with your real name. You can choose to add them or send them straight to the fan page. In the beginning, I sent all fans to the fan page, then finally gave up because I was getting several requests a week, and just added fans to my personal page as friends. However if you do that, a few things to keep in mind:
1. Tailor your privacy settings. Go to Settings->Privacy->Profile and choose who can see what. I have my friends set into two groups—Friends and Family (which is close friends and my family) and Fans. F&F are allowed to see my address, for example, but Fans can’t. So when you are in your privacy settings and you click on “Personal Info”, you can choose Customize to say who sees what. I simply created the two groups and as I approve friend requests, I choose which group the new “friend” goes into, so they are automatically covered under the privacy rules I set up. To set up the groups, you can go to “All Connections,” and choose “Create New List,” and sort your friends list like that.
2. Be sure to check the privacy settings on photos, too. I keep photos of my kids to friends and family only. You can simply choose those options when you set up the photo album. Just make sure that as you post pictures, you load them to the correct albums, so that they maintain the privacy settings you’ve chosen.
3. Virtually anything you post or add onto Facebook can be customized like this. Just watch some of the things that automatically go on your wall. The wall is the main page of Facebook, the home page. It’s where everything is posted from your friends and from you. Sort of like if you were in middle school and everyone had a real wall to hang notes and photos on. A semi-public bulletin board. You can choose, also, under your privacy settings, who can read postings on your walls from your friends. I have mine set so that the ones from my close friends and family aren’t seen by fans. You just never know what family is going to say, LOL. If you don’t want your readers to know “The Ten Craziest Things You’ve Done” then just don’t take the quiz or answer the questionnaire.
Twitter, thanks to folks like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah, who have made Twitter into a household name, is becoming huge. It’s perfect for people who have little time and want to get quick messages out. Joining is free, and it requires little more input than sending the equivalent of a text message. “Tweets” are limited to 140 characters (which is where the similarity to a text message comes from) and are designed to be quick updates. A few tips on Twitter:
1. Don’t make all your Tweets about promo: When people “follow” you, which is sort of the friend concept of Twitter, they don’t want to read a ton of “yeah-me” posts. They want to hear the same kind of fun, quirky things you might post on Facebook. The “I found a great recipe for burgers” and the “just bought a new puppy” kinds of things are as interesting to fans as “my book is in stores today!”. So mix it up when posting your Tweets.
2. Be nice and reTweet. A reTweet (RT) is when you essentially forward someone else’s Tweet. Say your friend Joe posts a link to a great story on a website. You want to share it with your Twitter friends, so you RT his Tweet.
3. Be smart and conserve your energy. If you are already on Facebook, you can add in the Twitter application and do dual duty. Once it’s added in, you can choose it from the bottom left menu and then post a Tweet that is also your Facebook status—two birds, one stone.
4. Don’t feel compelled to respond to everything. These sites move fast, and you can waste hours and hours following other people, responding to their tweets…etc. Don’t feel the need to write back to everything.
5. Also, in that vein, don’t post a Tweet every five seconds or a Facebook status update every hour, for that matter. People really don’t want to hear EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY mundane detail of your life. Be judicious in how much you post.
There’s also MySpace, which lots of people are already on. I’ve found that fans in the MySpace world tend to stay in the MySpace world. They really want everything they want/seek to be on your MySpace page. They just don’t go surfing the web outside of that little microcosm of MySpace. Why, I don’t know. If you don’t have time to set up your own MySpace page (and don’t feel compelled to; always come back to Rule Number 1: the writing comes first), then join a group one. Like a group blog, this allows you to spend less time for the same return.
Making appearances at other places like the forums of Romantic Times, the boards at eHarlequin, the forums at CoffeeTime Romance, et. al., can also seem like a great use of your promotional time. And it can be…or it can be a huge time suck. You really have to look at how many hours you are spending on all these spaces and weigh that against the time you need to be investing in the book.
In the end, the book and the writing should always come first. This post is designed to give you a basics overview of social networking, and hopefully get you pointed in the right direction, should you want to add any of the above to your promotional efforts.
Thanks, Shirley, for the detailed explanation on how to customize Facebook settings and all the social networking tips! I'm going to take a look at mine once I'm back from the ACFW conference.
I made blueberry pancakes. I’m serving them with crisp bacon, warm syrup and whipped-cream smiley faces. That’s how happy I am to have Shirley in Seekerville this Monday morning!