Social Media Matters

In January, I wrote a blog post offering twelve steps toward building a platform in 2012, and promised to write a specific blog about each step throughout the year. Today, I want to focus on why writers should embrace social media. There are two important reasons : first, it builds a fan (or customer) base and, second, it allows you to interact with readers, which also strengthens your customer base.

Engaging in social media need not take a lot of time. If you plan carefully, you can execute a strong social media strategy in less than 90 minutes a day. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn might seem the most obvious social networks to begin with, but there are a number of writing and book sites that could provide as much or more exposure if you plan accordingly.

If you write fiction or nonfiction books, I recommend you have both Facebook and Twitter accounts, and use them to provide “news you can use” type updates and tweets. The rule is everything you post should provide some kind of value, so endless postings asking people to buy your book is a no-no. In fact, it’s likely to lose you more followers than you gain.

It’s okay to promote your book or some other service occasionally, but you’re better off providing useful information and a link that drives readers back to your own website where you offer your books for sale. The softer sell is always preferred. A good rule of thumb is 10 percent promotion/90 percent information.

But I also like to post helpful writing and publishing information on sites like www.shewrites.com, www.redroom.com, www.fictionaut.com, www.goodreads.com and www.waenetwork.com (Writers, Agents & Editors) to help drive traffic back to my website. Comment on others’ posts and comments, and always provide a link back to your own site.

I usually spend about 30 minutes in the morning looking through Twitter posts and re-tweeting those I think will be helpful to writers. I also look through all my e-newsletters to see if there is industry news or information I can post to my Writing & Publishing group on Facebook (you can join here). I do the same at mid-day and again in the late afternoon or evening. I don’t always have time to do this, but I make it an intention every day.

Whenever I post a new blog entry, I post it to Twitter, which automatically posts it to Facebook and LinkedIn (this is a simple linking process on Facebook and LinkedIn; just do a search for “linking to (whatever site you want to link to).” If you use a software program like www.Hootsuite.com, which has a nominal monthly fee, you can schedule a day’s worth of Twitter posts (some experts suggest 15-20 tweets a day; I probably manage five or six) all at once and forget about it the rest of the day. I also like using www.Tweetdeck.com, which is free, because you have more flexibility in commenting on and retweeting other people’s posts.

Join writing groups on LinkedIn, and follow agents and editors on Twitter. If you blog, make sure you post a link to it on all the writing and book sites I mentioned above (keeping in mind the 10-90 rule).

Remember, in today’s publishing world, it’s all about exposure: how many “followers,” how many “connections” and how many “friends” you have. That is especially true if you are self-publishing. Yes, I know, it’s annoying and so high school. It’s also one of the best ways to build a platform and get noticed. So get cracking. And let me know how it goes.