Social Media Marketing for Writers

Do you know what SMM is? You should. It stands for social media marketing, and as a writer, it’s crucial for you to understand how to use and benefit from the various social media in existence today.

There are five reasons to get social media marketing savvy:

  • You can build a platform (brand) to launch a bookwriting career and to land a book contract
  • You can create a revenue stream (by blogging)
  • You can self-publish
  • You can showcase your published work
  • You can promote your fiction, short stories or poetry

Social media operate on the concept of a viral loop, or viral marketing. In the old days we called it word-of-mouth advertising. One person tells another person about a great movie they saw, or experience they had at a new restaurant, and that person tells two others and pretty soon you’ve got some good buzz going. Marketing magic. That’s how social networks operate.

The key to successful social media marketing is to provide something of value. Generally, stay away from the hard-sell. People don’t like to be berated with sales pitches. Generally, about 80-85 percent of your content should be educational/informational and no more than 20 percent sales and promotion.

Decide what you want to accomplish with social networks and devise a strategic plan. Do you want to build brand awareness? Sell your book? Advertise book signings and appearances? All of the above

Here are some of the most important networks and ways you can take advantage of them.

Facebook: Barely six years old, Facebook passed the 500 million-user mark in mid-July. Its rate of growth (it’s added 100 million users just since last February) has it on track to hit 1 billion by early next year. Facebook is essentially an Internet-based water cooler. People swap information, share stories, answer questions and rave about new products or services.

With Facebook, you can send messages to all your “friends,” post or re-post interesting tidbits of information to your wall for all your friends to see, establish a group dedicated to a common purpose, or create a fan page for, say, your latest book. Fan pages are best for businesses, celebrities and musical groups who want to promote their latest movie, etc. A group page, which is set up and connected to a specific user, is better for more personal interactions and can be selective about membership. The average age of Facebook users is 35-64. People who follow you on Facebook are your “friends.”

LinkedIn: With about 70 million users, LinkedIn is a network for professionals and is becoming very popular with writers seeking connections with other writers and editors. Writers who teach and consult can network, find clients and post testimonials. You can join interest groups and find sources and editorial contacts. LinkedIn followers are called “connections.”

MySpace: Initially the stronger social network, MySpace now plays second fiddle to Facebook, but is quickly becoming the social network for music, particularly for young bands interested in making names for themselves.

Twitter: The go-to place for social networking, with 105 million twitterers. It takes a little while to understand how it can be an effective tool, but once you master it, it can be very powerful. Tweets are short bursts of information or musings posted in less than 140 characters. Experts suggest you tweet at least four to five times a day, and up to 20 for optimal effect. They also say the most-effective times to tweet are during Eastern Standard Time business hours, Tuesday through Thursday. On Twitter, people “follow” your tweets and become your “followers.” 

I use Twitter to promote my blog posts, to retweet timely and relevant information for other writers, to send links to my home page and others’, and to promote my appearances and workshops.

The cool thing is you can link Twitter to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts so that everything you tweet is also posted on those sites, almost instantly. You can also put a widget on your own website that shows all your recent tweets.

Blogging: While blogging is not a social network, it is a critical part of any social media marketing strategy. A blog (short for Weblog) is simply an online diary. Or, as I like to think of it, a brief personal column. Should you blog? Yes. Particularly if you are a nonfiction author, blogging regularly, and by that I mean every day or at least every other day, can help you build a platform, garner speaking engagements, establish you as an expert in a particular field, and even create a revenue stream if you can attract advertisers. (Check out Ree Drummond’s blog, “The Pioneer Woman.”)

If you combine all these tools and provide content that’s relevant and useful, you’ll find your “followers,” “friends” and “connections” will grow – and so will your writing career.

(Want to learn more? I’ll be teaching a one-day workshop, Facebook and Blogging and Tweeting, Oh My!, in Santa Barbara, CA, on Saturday, Sept. 18. Visit my website for information and to register.)