Sunday, June 28, 2015

Going Social (Or Losing One's Sanity Among Friends).

It used to be the case that I actively sought out every single social networking platform available if it had the potential for me to sell my books. When I was first published back in 2010, I took on this task enthusiastically, occupying every single space I could and I shouted – Oh Man Did I Shout – because I thought that was what you had to do in order to be successful. 

But I quickly learned that, aside from the fact that there are millions of others out there shouting just as loudly, having a presence everywhere was hard work. It was really hard work. It didn't sell my books. And it didn't make me happy. I soon began to resent it. 

Some will say that making as many connections as possible is key to growing your author brand and being successful. It's not. Others say that you have to maintain a frequent and active presence on social media in order to be successful. That's true...kind of. 

image credit:

Some time ago, I reassessed my own platform and I quickly discovered why it was making me so unhappy – aside from the realization that “BUY MY BOOKS” wasn't working. I was in too many places at once. Trying to do to many things in those places without considering what those places could offer me that could streamline my workload. Eventually, I decided to jettison a lot of those platforms, bringing it back to a small number of interconnected ones. I also changed the way I present myself to the wider world. 

Central to my online platform is my author website. This is the core portal for everything related to my writing and it is here where I have information about myself, my books (including links to purchase those books), samples of my writing style in the form of short stories and unedited samples from my published works and links to media I have done – including interviews and podcast appearances. I maintain a blog here as well and I try (with the emphasis on “try”) to post once a week. That regimen is admittedly, hard to maintain particularly when I am heavily involved in a project. 

The next important portal is my Facebook Author Page. Here I post links to my blog posts when I post them. I'll also post links to interesting articles – usually related to writing or media – and you'll often find posts that promote the work of others, my friends who are writers or musicians whose work I like to support. Sometimes I'll post status updates that are just random, stream of consciousness type posts – things that I find funny and that I hope others will too. I have my Author Page linked to my Twitter account so that any time I post something on my Page, it'll immediately post to Twitter. I always try to come in under the 140 character limit dictated by Twitter so that my tweets won't get truncated and I always try to use hashtags – to enhance the potential of those posts being seen. 

I have a love/hate relationship with my Facebook Author Page. Facebook makes it hard for Page content to be seen without the Boost Your Post option – whereby you pay as much or as little as you want to promote your post - and they aren't transparent with their algorithms that they use to determine which posts get seen over others. There are a wealth of articles online that discuss this very issue and the conversations are quite complex. I have paid to boost posts in the past although I cannot attest to how successful they were. 

Twitter is the portal I tend to inhabit the most these days. This is the one place where I feel I made the most mistakes in how not to conduct oneself on a social network but it is the place where I have learned a lot. I use Twitter these days to converse and interact with people. I don't use Twitter to sell my books. A few years ago, it was the other way around. I will occasionally post a link to my work and “promote” myself but I find that the best way to use Twitter is to interact and participate in conversation, curate valuable content related to writing and I often get breaking news stories on Twitter before I get them anywhere else. I am also, not a proponent of following as many people as possible on Twitter. Some will argue that this is essential to maximizing your marketing potential, your brand but I don't agree. Twitter does not sell books.

image credit: CBS interactive.

Goodreads is a platform that I have largely automated so that content from my blog and my Twitter accounts are automatically posted to my Goodreads profile. I don't see a great level of interaction with my posts – occasionally I'll get a like or a comment but those are rare. What it does offer is a good profile space, it has all of my titles listed there along with reviews and it has links to purchase them. Of course, Goodreads is reader specific, so there is potential to engage with readers by way of the groups and communities there, however these can be time consuming and difficult to navigate.

Pinterest is a tool I have come to regard as increasingly valuable as a creative tool. For my upcoming novel The Recipient (Central Avenue Publishing), I created a board specifically for my research where I pinned imagery of settings that I wanted to for the novel, samples of architecture that would help me describe certain places, samples of furnishings that I wanted to put in those places. Even images of nightmares that would help me to describe the nightmares my protagonist, Casey Schillinge, experiences in the novel. Most importantly, I built up a catalog of people, faces both known and unknown that helped me to visualize the characters I wanted to portray in the novel. Again, I don't use Pinterest as a promotional tool however it does have a certain promotional value if readers and those who are familiar with my work want to step inside my creative mind to see what drives me. 

Instagram is a part of my platform that I use totally for fun and it represents the most personal side of myself. Here I tend to post random images and short videos, of things that inspire me, engage me and make me laugh. It also has the option of sharing content to both Facebook and Twitter and promotes the use of hashtags to add additional specificity to the descriptions of my content. Again, I don't use Instagram with promotion in mind but I will admit I have recently begun to structure promotional posts. I do these sparingly however as I don't want to piss people off.

I do have a presence on LinkedIn but I don't use it nearly as much. With it's corporate focus and limited functionality (in my opinion), LinkedIn is a curious platform that I have never been fully able to come to grips with. 

Google's G+ is another platform that I use but use sparingly. My blog posts, which are powered by Google's Blogger, are automatically shared to G+ but as a tool for engagement I find it frustratingly barren. I have tried many times to interact with my connections there but it is rare – if ever – that they reciprocate.

image credit: We Know Memes.

There are so many social networking portals out there on the web, with new ones being added every day. I used to subscribe to the maxim that, as an author, you have to be on as many platforms as possible to grow your brand. But that is simply untrue and it is a sure fire way to burn out quickly and start to resent your author brand. 

By having a small, interconnected “portfolio” of platforms, you can maintain your author brand efficiently while interacting with and enhancing your connections. You will actually enjoy yourself and most importantly, you will be able to invest more in the activity that brought you here in the first place. 



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