Social media for authors. Learn social media strategies for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This is part five in the Smart Author podcast’s six-part audio serialization of the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, a free ebook coming out at the end of January, 2018. This serialization began with Episode 10 of the Smart Author podcast.
Directory of Smashwords authors on Twitter - Inclusion is automatic once you add your Twitter address to your Smashwords profile page.
Mark Coker:Welcome to the Smart Author Podcast where you'll learn to publish ebooks with greater pride, professionalism, and success. I’m your host, Mark Coker. Let’s get started.
In this episode, social media strategies for authors, this is part five of my six-part series on book marketing. This series offers an audio serialization of the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, which will be released in late January 2018. The serialization began with episode 10 of the Smart Author Podcast and will conclude with the episode after this, episode 15. This episode marks the start of chapter three, the new deep dives chapter in the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.
The deep dive section explores three in-depth topics. The first one is social media strategies for authors, which is what we’re going to do right now. The second is how to work with beta readers, and the third is how to get free press coverage. Since episode five of the Smart Author Podcast already covered beta readers in-depth, this audio serialization is going to skip that topic.
Okay, let’s jump in and start with chapter three, social media strategies for authors, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Social media is a foundational element of your book marketing strategy. Three of the most popular social media platforms for authors are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Facebook is great for reaching a general consumer audience whereas LinkedIn is more of a business audience. Twitter’s audience is a mix of both with a strong consumer lean-in. Your audience is likely to use these services for different purposes.
In prior editions of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, I listed these three separately within my checklist of marketing tips. For this new 2018 edition, I've consolidated my discussion of these three platforms into this one expanded, updated, and standalone section on social media. Good social media practices, like good marketing, are catalysts for book marketing success. In the 2017 Smashwords survey, which I covered in episode seven of the Smart Author Podcast, we found our bestselling authors have a significantly higher social media participation rate than our poor selling authors. Many books have written about each of these three social media platforms. In this space here, I’ll give you an introductory overview of each within the context of book marketing.
Social media intimidates a lot of authors. Once you learn how it works, you'll find it’s not that scary. Many of us writers, and I include myself here, are naturally introverted. For us, introverts, social media is a lot easier and comes more naturally than meeting strangers at a party. It’s not necessary to engage in social media to become a bestseller. As I mentioned earlier, the reader word of mouth generated by your books will carry most of your marketing weight but to the extent you do participate in social media, you'll find that it makes all of your marketing activities that much more impactful and it can be a lot of fun. If you're new to social media, ease into it slowly. If you're not careful, it can become such a distraction that you lose valuable writing time. Here are some social media tips to get you started.
Number one, make it easy for readers to connect with you how and where they want to connect. Promote your social media addresses for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others in your book and on your blog or website so fans can follow you. If you only start with two social media sites, start with Facebook and Twitter. These social media platforms allow readers to start forming a passive relationship with you. They’re connecting with you because they’re interested in your books and they want to hear your news.
Number two, you can use social media as an information broadcast tool, as a tool for conversational engagement with readers, or as a mix of both. It’s your choice.
Number three, use social media to further your professional development. Social media is a great tool for research and knowledge building. You can receive direct feedback and ideas from your readers. You can track industry news and trends. This is my favorite use of social media. More on this below in my discussion about Twitter.
Number four, do it yourself. Don’t hire others to write your social media posts. It’s difficult for someone else to be you. You'll miss out on many of these benefits I just mentioned.
Number five, be authentic, to a point. If your authentic self is, in the words of Jonathan Maberry, a naturally cranky, snarky, sour, tempered pain in the assistant, then I suggest you follow Jonathan’s advice and keep that off of social media unless, of course, that’s the brand you want to project.
Number six, only share what you're comfortable sharing. Some authors share everything. Some share nothing. You do what’s right for you.
Number seven, unfriend those who drag you down. Readers and fellow authors can be kind, loving, agreeable, disagreeable, angry, abusive, or delusional. Protect yourself because your mental health and personal safety come first. All three of these social media platforms make it easy to block communications from anyone you find offensive or abusive.
Now, let’s look at my three favorite social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I love these three services for different reasons. Let’s look at them individually.
We’ll look at Twitter first.
If you're not already a member of Twitter, drop everything and go join now. Well, do that after you listen to this episode of the podcast. Twitter is a microblogging site. It’s like blogging but you're restricted to posts of only 280 characters. Originally, the limit was 140 characters.
Many people, when they first hear about Twitter, think it’s the stupidest, most ego-maniacal thing anyone could do with their time. This is what I thought too before I saw the light. The critics are wrong. Give Twitter a chance and you'll discover it’s a fantastic tool. After you open a free account at twitter.com, Twitter asks you the question, “What’s happening?” Answer the question and you just tweeted your first tweet.
To send messages to other Twitter users, you post @username, so that’s the @ sign followed by the username of the Twitter user like @markcoker. I’m telling all my friends they should publish at Smashwords. If you do that, I’ll see that message. Your friends, family, fans, and complete strangers can all follow your posts, which are called tweets in Twitter parlance. You can also follow other Twitter users by visiting their profile and clicking the follow button. Follow me at twitter.com/markcoker where I tweet about developments at Smashwords and trends in the publishing industry. Tell me what you think of the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide or tell me what you think about the Smart Author Podcast.
Twitter lets you create a short profile. It’s important you do this so your followers know who you are and where they can go to learn more about you. You can include a clickable hyperlink in your profile that points to a webpage. Either enter the address of your personal website or blog, or enter a link to your Smashwords author profile page. Once you join Twitter, you can add your Twitter address to your Smashwords author profile page. This makes it easy for readers at Smashwords to follow you on Twitter.
To do this, go to Smashwords, click to the account link, and then click edit profile. After you add your Twitter address to your profile page at Smashwords, you'll receive additional promotion on the Smashwords website. Your Twitter profile will receive an automatic listing in our directory of Smashwords authors on Twitter. I’ll put a link in the show notes so you can see an example of that. Like all social media, you'll get more out of it if you participate. Make friends. Share ideas. Add value. Follow smart people and learn from them. If you're only there to promote your book, people will tune you out.
There are four types of Twitter users. Let’s look at them one by one.
The first group, I call sharers. Sharers find useful information and share it with their followers usually in the form of hyperlinks to interesting articles. Often, they will retweet other interesting tweets from people they follow. You click the retweet link in Twitter to share someone else’s tweet with your followers. Twitter users retweet tweets from others on Twitter they think would be of interest to their fellow Twitter followers. If you share useful information that gets shared by your followers, then your Twitter address will be promoted to their followers. If your tweet is retweeted by someone with 10,000 followers, that’s great exposure for your name and your brand. This is one of the ways you gain followers and build platform on Twitter.
The second group, I call conversationalists. These are people who spend most of their time in conversation with their followers and friends via the @username messages, so that’s the @ sign followed by the username of the Twitter user. If you tweet, for example, @markcoker, “I think indie authors will inherit the publishing universe,” then I’ll probably see it because I check Twitter regularly to see what people are tweeting at me. When you add a person’s screen name to your tweet preceded by that @ sign, you're saying, “This tweet is for you,” or you're saying, “This tweet is at you,” or you're saying, “Look at this.” It’s kind of the Twitter equivalent of your e-mail program’s to or cc address functions.
The third group are marketers. These are people who are trying to promote themselves or their product.
The fourth group are followers, people who use Twitter to follow others on Twitter. This is my favorite use of Twitter. The tweet stream of people I follow offers me an incredible real time curated newsfeed of important trends and news in the ebook publishing industry. It allows me to follow other interests that I have as well.
Most Twitter users are a blend of varying degrees of all four of these different groups. For example, I’m a sharer, a marketer, and a follower. I rarely have conversations on Twitter but that’s just my personal preference. More on that in a moment. Use Twitter however it best suits your needs and personality. When you log into Twitter, you'll see a tweet stream of what other people you follow have tweeted recently. I minimize the number of people I follow because if I follow too many people, it creates so much noise in my tweet stream, it diminishes the value of Twitter for me.
When I see someone following me who’s also following 20,000 other people, I view their follow as essentially worthless. How would such a person ever notice any of my tweets? Twitter as a newsfeed is my favorite use of Twitter. I follow people whose tweets keep me abreast of the topics I care about. I follow several political reporters to keep up with the political news of the day and I follow several people who tweet beautiful images of medieval manuscripts. Even if I never tweeted another tweet again, I would still use Twitter every day to follow some of these smart and fun people.
Before you follow anyone, review their recent tweets and ask yourself if these are the types of tweets you want to see filling your Twitter feed every day. Some people automatically follow or auto follow anyone who follows them. I don’t recommend auto following. Be selective about who you follow because if you follow too many people, you'll soon find yourself drowning in noise. I follow around 200 people and for me, that’s about the right number. Others follow thousands of people.
I rarely engage in conversations on Twitter because the folks who follow me are interested in Smashwords and ebook publishing specific tweets and they’re not interested or at least I assume they’re not interested in my private conversations about friends, weekend barbecue or a conversation with another Smashwords author. I also don’t answer support inquiries publicly over Twitter because it’s difficult for me to diagnose and solve an author’s complex questions over Twitter.
At Smashwords, we have an entire team of support professionals who are standing by to provide quality online support five days a week during normal business hours. At the Smashwords site, we have a great FAQ that answers most common questions. I also want to be considerate of my followers and their tweet streams. Without context, if I’m having a conversation, it’s difficult for my followers to follow that conversation. In the rare instances when I do participate in a Twitter conversation, I try to make sure my tweets offer context, so my followers can gain some benefit from what I’m tweeting. Twitter has a private messaging feature. If someone tweets a message at me and they follow me, I’ll usually send them a private reply. If they don’t follow me, Twitter won’t let me send them a private message.
My Twitter strategy can be summed up as follows. I respect my followers’ time and I try to provide them value in every tweet. If someone follows me, I feel like they’ve invited me into their Twitter feed. Just as if they’ve invited me into their home, I want to be respectful of their feed. As you gain followers, you build platform. As you build your platform, your opportunities for marketing, connecting, and learning increase. There are various strategies for gaining followers and many social marketing consultants out there do nothing but write articles or sell books or seminars on how to increase your Twitter following. Read the articles but maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.
Many strategies are underhanded and will turn people off. For example, one strategy is what I call the bait and switch. These folks start following thousands of people in the hope that some percentage of them will auto follow them back. If the people they’re following don’t auto follow them back within a few days they unfollow that person and move on to follow other people, or even if the person does follow them back, the bait and switcher unfollows them anyway. They’ll play the bait and switch game.
Don’t feel offended if the people you follow don’t follow you back. A better strategy for gaining followers is to earn your follower one tweet or retweet at a time. Before you start tweeting, ask yourself the audience you seek to attract. Do you want to attract readers, industry friends, or do you not care about who follows you? The answer to this question will help you decide what you want to tweet and retweet on Twitter. Let’s say you write gardening books. Then, you want to attract a following of people who read gardening books and a following of people who can help you connect with the readers of gardening books.
Your target audience for readers is the same as your target audience for followers. You're probably spending time already studying the news and trends in horticulture as you stumble across interesting articles, tweet about them, and share a hyperlink. In this way, you add value. If you follow someone who tweets something you think will interest your followers, retweet it by clicking the retweet button. Your followers will appreciate receiving this useful, interesting information. Your followers might then retweet your tweet, which then puts your Twitter name in front of all their followers.
If people think your tweet or retweet was useful to them, they might review your tweet stream and follow you. Most Twitter users track who’s retweeting their tweets. They might be grateful enough to tweet you back or they might check out your full tweet stream and follow you if what you’re tweeting looks interesting to them. Follow your favorite authors who write and tweet about the same topic. When you retweet something, you're helping to promote that person’s tweet to your audience or followers.
Here are eight Twitter etiquette tips.
Number one, begging. Never tweet at people and ask them to follow you. Never e-mail someone and ask them why they’re not following you. You should earn your follows, not beg for them. Earn your follows by serving the followers that you have. If you tweet and retweet worthwhile and insightful tweets, your followers will retweet your tweets and word will get out about you.
Number two, spamming. Don’t spam your Twitter stream with tweets only about your book. No one wants to be sold to all the time.
Number three, quality, not quantity. Every time I tweet, I ask myself, will this tweet inform or entertain my followers and am I respecting their tweet stream? It doesn’t matter if you have two followers or 2,000. You should respect the time and Twitter streams of your followers.
Number four, avoid stream of consciousness tweeting. Some people tweet every few minutes. I don't know how they do it. I avoid these Twitter users like the plague because they clog my Twitter stream. I don’t care what someone ate for breakfast. I don't want to hear what someone’s cooking for dinner. I don't want to know that your dog ate something disagreeable with its digestive system. Yes, I've seen this.
Number five, practice positivity. Your tweets will reflect on your author brand. People like positive people who inform or entertain.
Number six, don’t be negative. It will turn off your followers. People might fear you but they won’t like you.
Number seven, avoid snark. Snark is easily misunderstood and can come across as negative.
Number eight, don’t power trip. This is a corollary to practice positivity. If you've got hundreds or thousands of followers, don’t let it go to your head. There are a few things more unattractive than someone who uses their social media platform to bully, intimidate, or complain. Are you upset that your airline just delayed your flight or the cable company kept you on hold for an hour? Keep that to yourself. Stay humble and you'll be great.
I could go on and on about Twitter. If any of this sounds confusing, don’t worry. Just jump in. Join the conversation and you'll get the hang of it in no time. Many authors drive dozens or hundreds of visitors to their websites and book pages each month via Twitter so it’s a powerful marketing tool that you shouldn’t ignore but like all tools covered in this guide, you have to invest time over the long term to reap the biggest rewards.
Now, let’s look at Facebook.
You're probably already one of the approximately two billion people worldwide who use Facebook. If you're not yet on Facebook, sig up now. Although Twitter is a great author marketing tool, I think Facebook is even better. Facebook is the world’s largest and most popular social network. Facebook allows you to create a profile either as an individual or as a brand. Facebook makes it easy to friend other people and for others to request a friend connection with you.
Similar to Twitter, if your friends like what you're posting, they’ll click the like button or the share button. Share is the equivalent of retweet. When your posts are liked or shared, it makes your current and future posts more visible to more people. Facebook makes it much easier to have in-depth conversations than with Twitter. Social media relationships begin shallow and I don’t mean that in the negative sense. By shallow, I mean it’s a low key, low obligation relationship. It’s a chance for readers to get a sense of who you are. If they like what they see, they can begin to follow you and interact with you more closely as the relationship develops. Over time, deeper relationships and even true friendships can form. I've got friends on Facebook I've never met face-to-face but if I ever do meet them, I want to give them a big hug.
The biggest criticism I hear about Facebook from authors is that Facebook controls who sees your post in their Facebook feeds. This is a real problem. Just because a thousand people are following you on Facebook doesn’t mean that your posts are going to show up in their feeds. Your posts will be invisible to most of them most of the time. Facebook’s business model is advertising. If you want to reach ore of your followers, they offer you the opportunity to pay to boost, that’s what they call it, your individual posts. This increases the visibility of your posts to your followers.
If this smacks of some form of extortion, that’s because it is. Facebook holds your friends hostage. It’s another reminder why it’s important for authors to build platforms they control. If 4,000 of your readers subscribe to your private e-mail list, you can reach them on your own terms without Facebook or anyone else filtering your message. Facebook allows you to do promoted posts as well and in this case, you pay to have your posts appear on the Facebook feeds of people who aren’t even your friends. You can easily target these posts by demographics, geography, or interests.
Some authors have had good success advertising their books on Facebook. Others, not so much. Most authors seem to have lackluster results. If you do try advertising on Facebook, don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars right out of the gate. Instead, start small such as with $20 experiments to see what works and what doesn’t. If you find an ad and a message where a dollar invested yields more than a dollar in results, then throw more dollars at it until it stops working for you.
Define and measure your metrics of success. Do you measure your success by dollar sales, by downloads of free books, by likes or shares, or by brand exposure? You determine what matters most to you. There’s a ton of great information out there on Facebook advertising. Since the main focus of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is on free marketing opportunities, I’ll leave it to you to explore the paid options on your own.
Next subsection, authenticity or alienation.
Your readers will want to be your friends on Facebook. Should you avoid sharing interests that some might find offensive or off-putting? Do you sacrifice your authenticity if you avoid such topics? What if your favorite discussion topics among true friends are politics and religion, or what if you have strong opinions on other divisive topics where views are polarized? I struggle with this question on a daily basis. As my wife and closest friends and family can attest, I enjoy deep discussion without limits. It’s difficult for me to be superficial or stay silent on issues I’m passionate about. Most of us live in democracies where our individual votes count for something.
In my view, at a certain point, silence become complicity. Sometimes, there are important issues that deserve your support, discussion, debate, or resistance. To deal with this quandary, some authors create a fan page where the only topic discussed on that page is their books, and then they maintain their own personal page to share and discuss their broader interests. The challenge here is that sometimes, it’s difficult to separate your personal friends from your business relationships. You may view your relationship with a reader as a business relationship but the reader may view their relationship with you as a friend. Other authors never tread into sensitive subjects for fear that by expressing an opinion on a divisive subject, they could alienate half of their readership and that can happen. Do what feels right for you.
Now, let’s look at LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a free social network for business professionals. As a self-published author, you're running a business. Unless you write business books or non-fiction, you're unlikely to find many readers here. The primary reason to join LinkedIn is for professional development, business networking, and job hunting. LinkedIn offers numerous online forums where you can network with and learn from follow authors who are learning to improve their publishing business just like you.
Once you create your free account, LinkedIn allows you to create a comprehensive, online-accessible, search engine optimized, personal profile page. Think of it as a resume on steroids. On that page, you can list all of your books. At the top of the page, you can add a headshot and a short bio. If you're curious to see my LinkedIn profile, check it out at linkedin.com/in/markcoker. Many people use LinkedIn for business networking. You can add your work history online, so your connections can learn more about your experience.
I monitor Twitter and Facebook multiple times a day. By contrast, I’m probably only on LinkedIn once every week or two and sometimes, months can pass, yet I still get a lot of value from LinkedIn. For me, a big part of being there is making myself accessible to people who need to reach me. Often, when someone wants to invite me to speak somewhere and they can’t find my e-mail address, they’ll track me down at LinkedIn or if I’m about to get on a business call with someone that I've never spoken to, I’ll pop over to LinkedIn and read their resume. I want others to be able to do the same with me.
You and your connections can add a summary of your skills and your connections can add written endorsement of your skills. Under the accomplishment section of your LinkedIn profile, you can advertise all your books. At the bottom of my LinkedIn profile underneath interests, you'll find links to the LinkedIn groups that I've joined. Some of these groups are public and some are private. You might want to join a few other writing and publishing related groups yourself. Several of these groups offer weekly digest e-mails so you can still follow the conversations if you don’t have time to participate each day.
LinkedIn also offers other common social media features like newsfeeds and integration with your Twitter feed so your tweets can automatically appear in your LinkedIn feed, and the ability to publish online articles and blog posts. Just jump in, create a profile, and start learning.
Here’s some tips on how to engage with people on LinkedIn.
Number one, adding connections. When you friend somebody at LinkedIn, they call it adding a connection, type a note about who you are when you request that connection. If you don’t, the recipient will receive a generic message and is less likely to accept your connection request. If you want to friend me, add a personal note to your connection request such as, “Hi. I’m a Smashwords author,” or, “I’m an author,” or, “I listen to the Smart Author Podcast,” or, “I read one of your books.” I almost always accept friend requests from authors and publishers but if I get requests out of the blue and I don't know who these people are, I’m less likely to accept the request.
Number two, never spam. Once you create an account and start connecting with people, LinkedIn allows you to send e-mails, which they call InMails to any of your connections. Never send mass e-mails through LinkedIn. Don’t spam your connections with solicitations to purchase your book, and never use LinkedIn to build your personal mailing list. Such practices are unethical and unprofessional. Whenever I receive such solicitations, I block the person immediately. Luckily, LinkedIn makes it easy to remove a connection through the remove connections feature.
Number three, ask questions and learn. As a business person, you'll often run into questions you can’t easily answer. Maybe you have a tax accounting question or an employment law question or a copyright question. There’s probably a group or forum for any business topic at LinkedIn where you can post questions and get them answered by professionals who are passionate about helping people on that subject. Back in my PR agency days, I’d often hang out at LinkedIn answering questions people had about public relations and strategic marketing. It was fun, and every once in a while, I’d get business leads or speaking requests from it.
Number four, add value. By now, you're probably recognizing that this is a consistent theme for me. With its myriad forms, turbo charged online resume features and the ability to connect people on a professional level, I think LinkedIn is an amazing tool. If you can add value to your interactions on LinkedIn and if you can help people, it’ll increase your profile and your stature within the community.
That concludes episode 14, which was part five in my six-part series on book marketing. As always, you'll find a complete written transcript and supplemental links for this and other episodes in the show notes at smashwords.com/podcast. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Send me a tweet at @markcoker and tell me how I’m doing here on the Smart Author Podcast. Your feedback is always appreciated.
Coming up next in episode 15 is the final installment of my audio serialization of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. You'll learn how to earn free press coverage and how to build your brand and sell more books.
I really appreciate you joining me here on Smart Author. Until next time, keep writing. I’m Mark Coker.