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Social media—do I practice what I preach?

So, many of us here have been “preaching” to our clients for years about the importance of them using social media to build their fan base and to sell their books.  We have even created an “Author Website and Social Media Guide” which we share with everyone we represent.

This week, one of my authors called me on my Twitter usage (or lack thereof), saying that I wasn’t following her and asking me why that was.   She told me how important it was to her to have me follow her on these sites and I realized that if that was the case for her, then it must also be true for many of my other authors as well.  The fact is that I simply don’t use Twitter much and am only a bit better on Facebook.  Don’t even talk to me about LinkedIn.

Why is that?  The truth is that despite its value, I don’t really know how to use social media effectively – what to say, how often to say it, and most of all does anyone care are all issues that  stop me from being more active on these sites.  In fact, I who preach using it every day, several times a day to whomever will listen, am totally intimidated by it.

I wonder, as the year is coming to an end and I establish a new year’s resolution to increase my social media presence whether you can suggest ways to make this easier for me. I am eager to hear your ideas.

13 Responses to Social media—do I practice what I preach?

  1. Michael Peck says:

    My advice (and I do it a lot of social media personally, and do it off and on professionally) is to be clear with yourself as to why you’re looking to increase your presence, focus on that, and start small. You’re an agent with a lot of knowledge in your industry and you’re already blogging, so it’s not as if you have nothing to say. But are you doing it because it’s the direction the industry is heading in, because your clients expect it, or both? Any or all of those reasons are fine, but knowing which is the chief reason may make your approach easier.

    If you try to tackle them all at once, it’ll be overwhelming. So I’d say pick one, start slow and get the basics down, and then see how what you learn there applies to the others. If your motivation is a combination of industry presence and servicing clients, I think Twitter is a solid choice. Follow a list of industry people (here’s one I found that was created by another writer, and it’s a good start: https://twitter.com/emmiemears/pub-tips/members). Follow some of those people individually (I’m betting you know or are acquainted with many of them.) Comment on things they post. If you’re trying to come up with valuable things to post yourself, content curation is a way to start. Tweet links to industry stories that you think would be useful to others. (Set up an RSS feed in Google Reader that will build you a stable of industry-related news and scan it ever morning, then post at lunch. Just a suggestion.) See if you can find something particularly valuable that hasn’t been widely shared yet. No matter what, because you’re a known quantity in the industry, people are probably interested in what you have to say.

    If you start slow and safe, you’re probably not going to commit some major gaffe that embarrasses you or someone else. Just pretend you’re walking into a professional event and speaking into a microphone in fron of all of your followers and their colleagues. Because, in effect, you are. But if you keep that in mind, it’s not likely that you’re going to do anything terrible. Your greatest sin will be that you’re either kind of vanilla or don’t post as much as others, but if that’s the worst you do, you’re fine.

    But really, social media is art before it’s science. And like any art, it comes down to following the right people, emulating the ones you think do the best job of it, and then putting your own spin on it. You’ll probably find you pick it up faster than you think.

    I realize I’m rambling here, but I’m doing to in order to avoid actual writing. Which I now have to do. I hope this was helpful in a small way.

  2. Joelle says:

    I want to know, too. Almost all the people I interact with on Twitter are writers, publishers, agents, editors, and librarians. Only a handful of teens or “fans.” I love Twitter, though.

    FB is another story and I am ONLY there because MB of DGLM says I need to be. I know that it does me no good unless I’m active, but honestly, I just can’t make myself do it. I would be interested to hear if other writers really feel it’s a valuable use of their time? Of their writing time?

    It seems to me that you’re much more likely to get a lot of followers and fans if you write really good books first and trying to “create” a fanbase is a waste of writing time. But I know that MB knows way more about this than I do, so I’m there, but I know I’m not fulfilliing my end of it. And yet…I’d rather write.

  3. Katie says:

    I joined Twitter a few years ago when I started my company. I was told by mentors to tweet, but didn’t know why and was (am) intimidated. For a long time, I didn’t know how people found me because I rarely tweeted. Over the years, I’ve watched friend’s posts to learn what works and what doesn’t. Recently, I started implementing some of their strategies: Offer useful information, allow followers to help you with decisions, projects, use lots of hashtags and RT interesting stories. I still need to do the FF (Follow Friday) thing acknowledging new followers.

    More importantly, I have a better understanding of why Twitter is important. FB to me is more of a personal, friends from college, family, type of arena. I have a FB page for my business, but it’s not nearly as effective as it used to be before FB sold out.

    Twitter on the other hand has become more important as a business tool. It’s a less personal environment, since you can’t decide who can see your tweets and who cannot. By nature, I think that forces tweeters to hone their message. I’m still learning, but it seems Twitter is be best used for sharing work in a witty way, engaging in daily chatter/networking (which I miss out on since I work from home), and when hashtags/lists are used to easily find out about what’s going on in my community, the publishing world, or any other subject related interest.

    Don’t ask me about Google+ or Pinterest… Oh, the ever expanding world of social media!

    .

  4. Kellie Lovegrove says:

    I’m newer to the whole social media promotion thing, so I don’t know how much help I can be; however, I will do my best. My advice is to make it a habit. Try checking/posting to your account on said social media site(s) everyday at around the same time for three weeks (speaking as a psychologist, it usually takes this long to form a routine/habit). I would venture to guess that at the end of the three weeks you’ll feel funny if you don’t.

    I agree with Michael, start small. I have a facebook account that I use strictly for family and friends. I’ll post about writing occasionally, it’s part of who I am so how could I not, but not very often. I use Twitter more for writing purposes. I ask questions of my followers (though I have yet to get an answer from anyone), RT articles that I find interesting, and even post quotes from my manuscript on occasion. Also, I only tend to follow other writers, agents, and/or accounts that are writing related. But I try to have fun as well by posting random things. I like to make people at least smile from time to time, if not laugh out loud. I don’t know if anyone reads them, but if I was afraid no one would read what I wrote then I would have never finished my manuscript.

    As far as a blog/website, I haven’t conquered that one yet. Currently working on it, but it seems to be a whole different can of worms (le sigh).

  5. D.C. DaCosta says:

    Two comments:

    1. The few folks I’ve “followed” (what a mistake) via Twitter had nothing worthwhile to say — ever. It was like being flooded every day with the Internet equivalent of empty messages on your answering machine.

    2. Does use of Twitter or blogs or FB result in a DEMONSTRABLE increase in profitable connections (e.g., book sales, new professional contacts who will be of use down the line, etc.)?
    In her comment, above, Joelle says “Almost all the people I interact with on Twitter are writers, publishers, agents, editors, and librarians. Only a handful of teens or ‘fans’.” Maybe in her situation, this is useful. For other people, maybe not.

    I want a return on the investment of my time and effort. I am not convinced that these methods result in any significant profit.

  6. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I have to side with D.C. on this one; I think the fact you’re blogging is a lot more substantive way of putting yourself out there than tweeting-in point of fact, one of the ways I move an agent up or down on my list of prospective queries is the amount of time they waste on Twitter comparing vegetarian restaurant recommendations (or something equally silly)with their many “friends”. One of my major gripes with Publishers Weekly these days is that they’ve kicked all the interesting bloggers off their site and you can now only comment on their news bits by routing your comment through Facebook, which leads to a lot of inarticulate gibberish like “Wow! Congrats!” and “What a great book!” In fact, I think social media addiction has almost killed a lot of people’s ability to express their thoughts in more than 140 characters, so I avoid it like the plague. Sorry if I sound like Jonathon Franzen here, Jane, but you’ve got plenty of presence as it is-leave tweeting to Donald Trump and the people who can’t think of anything else to say….

  7. Andrea says:

    Well, then I’m with Kevin and D.C. I’ve read over and over again how important it is for a writer to be present on social media to connect with fans, but I’m not convinced. Someone else already suggested in the messages above that this might be more true for already successful authors and I’m inclined to believe that.

    I joined Twitter to find out what it was like and I wasn’t impressed. Other writers found my account and followed me, so at first I did the polite thing to do and I followed them back. Then they started spamming my Twitter feed with so much self-promotion that I unfollowed the lot of them with a few clicks. I’m really not interested in links to self-published Amazon e-books.

    I like to follow literary agents to find out how they think about writing and publishing, and generally to decide whether I think I’d like to work with them. Sometimes agents and editors post interesting links to articles about the industry, or about writing itself.

    If I just look at myself as a reader, I have NEVER bought a book because I heard about it on Facebook, Twitter etc. I buy books because the title and the themes make me want to read them, or I buy books because they’ve been recommended to me by other people. Real people, out there in the real world.

    If I really like a book, I try to find out more about its author. Only then will I read that author’s blog, or follow that author on Twitter. I like what Kristin Cashore does. She has a blog which she regularly updates with interesting and funny posts, and that’s it. She explicitly states her blog is her only online presence, which is fair enough, because social media take up way too much time. Time which can be better spend writing that next mind-blowing novel, a much more satisfying reading experience in my opinion than a Twitter feed.

    That said, what am I still doing here? ;-)

  8. Stef Kramer says:

    I tend to think if you build a compelling social media platform–whether it be Twitter or FB–you’re bound to gain a captive audience, which I believe is the objective. There are an abundance of poignant “tweeters” out there, that go beyond the publishing industry, but it takes time to search them out. Some of the best tweets, I find, are retweeted from the heavy-hitters. Great fodder comes from NPR (Kai Rysdal), WSJ, the New Yorker, the Huffington Post–all some of my favorites to follow.

    DGLM has great posts practically every day. You merely need to set up a twitter feed to your account and you’ve got material to tweet.

    • Fiona Druce says:

      I really think you’ve got the right of it. Social Media isn’t advertising or networking in a standard sense. The concept adds an additional third dimension to customer-business relationships: interaction.

      Each social media “giant”, if you will, provides a relatively singular perspective and angle in the process of funneling customer from introduction to point-of-sale, whatever that may be.

      Twitter is the headliner. Think of it as a newsie: “Read all about it!” And used well, it’s an amazing test of your efficiency in communication. Twitter is what grabs audience the quickest. It’s also the quickest to fluctuate in terms of numbers.

      Twitter is often highly misused, in my opinion. It should really be mostly original content, perhaps twenty percent retweets (for community interaction), and thirty percent “personal” communication.

      Ignoring those whose follower-base originates from their status as a celebrity of some sort: in my experience, it has been those who successfully balance between the three (content, RTs, and personality) who gain the most thorough and organic followers who, in turn, become faithful “customers” and spread the word to others.

      Twitter is about:

      … Having original content that someone cares about and headlining it in as few words as possible. Packing the punch.

      … Following people you want to have follow you and ignoring the Twitter numbers game. Better to have fewer but loyal followers than lots of followers you gained simply to look important. People will notice. It should also be added that, unless you’re one of the aforementioned celebrities, if you follow one hundred people and have thousands following you, you’ll look conceited to your community. People use social media to interact, not be treated as unworthy.

      … Sharing content internal and external to your industry or community.

      … Communicating with your followers. This includes determining geographical location of your primary followers and making that your primary tweet time. No sense telling the news to an empty room, after all. For example, if your primary audience is the US, in general, you would want to have most of your tweets be set around nine o’clock in the morning EST for news, RTs, and content updates and during lunch and after dinner EST for personality.

      Furthermore, Twitter is relatively useless if you use the Twitter web-based application. Generally, you begin to find Twitter useful around the point where you’re following near five hundred people or so.

      While exciting, following five hundred people on Twitter becomes a bunch of people standing in a room screaming at the ceiling and hoping you’ll hear one single voice. You won’t.

      In order to make sense of Twitter, it’s best to begin making lists of everyone you follow. For example, I have agent lists, publisher lists, author lists, Book Industry lists, self publishing and indie news lists, etc. Instead of an endlessly funneling stream of nonsense, I select the list I want information from and go from there.

      Furthermore, I would recommend use of a Twitter program. TweetDeck is the most popular for Twitter. I prefer Yoono for its capabilities in social media multi-platforming. HootSuite is perhaps the best for businesses with multiple Twitter accounts or an account managed by more than one person.

      These also allow for the fact that not all of your users will share your time zone and you can schedule tweets to match them.

      Perhaps the best thing about Twitter is the community. I met my critique group through Twitter, as well as a number of wonderfully helpful agents, publishers, editors, writers, and readers.

      Twitter is- and always will be- a dive-in-and-have-at-it environment. If you can learn to swim, Twitter can be your best friend in public relations and content.

      I would add that social media marketing and content marketing is very strategic. For the sake of internet manners, I won’t link any sites, but a quick search on social media marketing and content marketing will provide a few diagrams that will at least give an idea of how to guide your messages at each point in the process. Knowing what each point is will give you the majority of what you need.

      Just like writing a book, social media marketing is about hooking, pacing and guiding, and providing the ending the reader wanted, while leaving them hoping for more.

    • Fiona Druce says:

      Just adding that I’m not an SEO professional or a marketer, I’m merely expressing what I’ve found through experience in my own content management as well as working in positions where I had to figure this all out the hard way.

  9. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I’ve done the whole captive audience thing, Stef-several years ago I started showing up on prominent Publishers Weekly blogsites by way of (supposedly)increasing my online profile for various agents I was trying to get to read my stuff; I had a lot of fun playing blogsite racquetball with all and sundry, and by the time PW decided to dump most of the blogsites worth hanging out on (probably because they were getting more hits than the sheet itself) I had my own little fan following…And not one single agent reply to the project I was plugging. So, aside from saving Dorothea Benton Frank from a cyber bully who was trying to hassle her blogsite, I accomplished nothing of any real-world worth, other than scientific proof that agents by and large don’t read PW! So if you want to have fun tweeting, by all means go for it, but aside from occasionally useful links to substantive news bits, having a “conversation” on twitter is like watching a bunch of caffeinated parakeets trying to win a bowling tournament….

  10. Emily Carter says:

    I too have found FB, Twitter, et. al., to eat my time.

    But, I established and maintain a BLOG about cats [lost & found for my own neighborhood: Hays County Cats] and it has a literary page.

    I blog as a way to establish my ‘brand’ as a “catspert” i.e., cat expert — because I’m creating an Interactive Product with visual, sound, text, etc. to put on a mini-DVD and distribute with a print product: Tootsie the Tea Cup Kitten.

    I set up a Google news ‘clip’ service to get a constant stream of info and use it as a base to write blogs — for example — a judge in Florida just ruled that the Hemingway cats can no longer roam freely on the one acre lot at the Hemingway house museum. http://lonestarcats.wordpress.com/

    And I have a note in my electronic TO-DO list set to pop up once a week as a reminder to post.

    The blog gives me an online presence so when “Tootsie” is finished, I’ll have an online store. I have just completed a one-year video journal about how I raised a 5-week-old, 12-ounce kitten for a year. It’s also about the need for managing feral cat populations as well as a demonstration of my care and feeding techniques. Once I have it packaged, with art, sound, etc. I’ll create marketing collateral based on the original art.

    My guess, is that when “Tootsie” is finished, the social media marketing will make sense.

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