with guests Jana Oliver and Tyra Burton. The Social Media Muses.
Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter?
If being an author isn’t challenging enough, now there’s this whole social media thing. The days when we could remain apart from our readers, except for the occasional book signing, are over. With publishers and agents using your online presence to judge your marketability, you have to be actively engaged. But don’t worry, it’s not just a time sink. There are things to learn and gain from connecting with your target audience. But first, let’s take a look at where to do that connecting.
Let’s start with which social media platforms work best for your genre. If you’re writing Young Adult or New Adult books, then Twitter and Tumblr are your best bets. Adults? Facebook is a good choice. If your audience is primarily women, Pinterest has the strongest footprint with the female of the species. For Males and Young Adults, YouTube and Google+ work well, while a blog attracts readers no matter their age or gender.
Having a website is essential as it’s your central hub on the internet, the only site you truly control. Always make sure your readers are linked back to your “home base.” To help develop and reinforce your author brand (the “image” you present to the world) make sure your website and social media platforms are consistent in terms of graphics, colors, and theme.
No matter where you’re interacting, there is one fundamental rule: do not become that author. You know, the one who posts about their books over and over, a constant and irritating sales pitch. The main reason readers interact with an author is to get to know the person behind the books. This doesn’t mean you have to reveal all the intimate details of your life, but you do need to come across as genuine, and not an infomercial.
Now, let’s take a quick look at three of the strongest social media platforms, what target audience they reach and how they might help you connect with your readers.
Facebook is the two thousand pound gorilla in the social media jungle. With over one billion users worldwide, it’s a solid platform on which to establish your author brand.
Facebook has two main ways to interact: a Timeline (sometimes called a Profile) and a Page. A Timeline is for non-commercial use only, where a Page is designed for businesses, organizations and, of course, authors. Unlike a Timeline where people send you Friend Requests and you are limited to five thousand Friends, people “Like” your Page and the number of followers is unlimited.
A Page offers some extra goodies: you can schedule posts in advance, which is handy when you’re crunched for time but you still need to stay in touch with your fans. (To schedule a post in a Profile, you have to use a third-party application like Hootsuite or Buffer.)
Pages have the advantage of an Insights section, which shows you which of your posts performed well (or poorly), which genders and ages found those posts of interest, and how many times they were Liked or Shared. You can even determine which countries have the greatest number of Followers and when those posts are being read. This in-depth data is invaluable when it comes to planning future posts and promotions. It can also help you discover potential target markets.
For Facebook, it’s all about visibility. However, only 6-15% of what you post on your Page will make it onto your followers’ newsfeeds, so the more creative, interesting and engaging the content, the more people will see your posts.
Photographs, videos and other visual content work well, as does “sharing” other peoples’ posts. Always keep your eyes open for news articles and images that resonate with your book’s theme. If your stories are about veterans, consider posting about the many fine organizations that offer services to our military personnel, such as Pets for Patriots, Homes for Our Troops, etc.
If your books have a cooking related theme, include recipes and food preparation tips on your timeline. Or if your story is set in a certain locale (Italy, for instance), be sure to post photos or videos that tie into that setting. By using theme-related posts you can promote your books without irritating your readers with a constant “buy me” message.
Facebook recommends that you post 4-9 times per week. We recommend at least once per day.
Pinterest is where to find the ladies. With over 25 million users, eighty percent are female and thirty percent are between the ages of 25-34. Pinterest is an interactive visual medium where users “pin” images, recipes and other media to their “boards.” The more unique the pins, the better.
Some authors use the boards as a collage of book-related images to help spur the creative process. Pins might be location shots, clothing, or pictures of your hero or heroine. An example is Jana’s Pinterest board for her YA fairytale, Briar Rose.
You can also set up individual boards for your characters or showcase your hobbies, be that knitting or archery. The key is to populate your boards with eye-catching images and be sure to link them back to your website when appropriate. While you’re at it, add a Pin It! button next to book covers on your website to make it easy for your readers to share them on their own Pinterest boards.
With over a half billion users, Twitter is designed for real time conversations, with the fastest growth in the 18-24 age range. Limited to only 140 characters, messages need to be succinct. To keep all those “tweets” organized, you can assign a #Hashtag to allow other users to search for topics of interest.
You can tweet links to your website, images or articles. People are more likely to RT (retweet) your post if you place any links about a quarter of the way into the message. If you want your tweet passed on, make it shorter than the full 140 characters so the RT will not push your message over the acceptable limit. You can shorten hyperlinks using bit.ly while Instagram is an ideal platform for sharing images to Twitter.
Remember that whatever you tweet, unless it is a DM (direct message) to another user, it will be seen by the world unless you have made your account private (which is counter-productive if you are trying to gain followers).
In a creative use of Twitter, Author Jeri Smith Ready hosted two of her readers’ favorite heroes from the Shade series, letting Zachary and Logan banter back and forth while the readers asked them questions. It was a clever way to promote her books while giving her fans a special treat.
No matter which social media platform(s) you choose, be consistent. To do a flurry of posts on Facebook and then disappear for a week or two is not going to help your visibility in the long run.
If you want an easy way to judge the size of your “footprint”, consider signing up for Klout, a free service that scores your social media impact on a scale from 1-100. The higher the number, the more your followers are engaged with you. A score of 40 means you’re having an average impact on the web. 63 or above indicates you’re one of the top 5% of influencers. Jana’s score is usually about 62 while Tyra’s score is in the 64-66.
You shouldn’t try to engage with your readers on every single social media site. At the very least you should have a website, a blog and spend time on Facebook. Beyond that, decide which sites would best fit your readers and your personality. Pick which platform(s) you like best, and feel most comfortable with, and go for it.
Above all, enjoy yourself! Engage with your fans as they get to know more about you and your books. That’s the fun of this brave new world of social media.
Which social media platforms do you use and do you find them effective?
By day, Tyra
Burton is a Senior Lecturer of marketing at Kennesaw State University.
By night, she’s a gamer-girl, gadget geek who lives in Atlanta with her
husband and three adorable fur babies.
Also an Atlanta resident, Jana Oliver is a multi award-winning author who writes mysteries, romances and paranormal stories for adults and teens. When not banging away on the keyboard, she hangs with her very patient husband and Dali, the current Feline Overlord.
Together they co-authored Socially Engaged: An Author's Guide to Social Media. Please check out their website for social media tips and insights at www.socialmediamuses.com
Today our very generous guests have a special giveaway for Seekerville!
They are giving away five copies of SOCIALLY ENGAGED, either print editions or e-book (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBook or GooglePlay). International winners welcome.
Just let us know you want your name in the drawing. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.