These are the key areas you will need to consider when developing a social media plan as an author:
- What are your objectives?
- How will you get all this social media activity done and still be able to write?
- What resources do you have available?
- How will you integrate social media with other promotions that might take place, either offline or from your publisher, if you have one?
- What guidelines will you use for your social media development?
- How will your content be generated?
- How will you monitor the results?
Your number one objective should not simply be to increase your follower numbers.
Possible objectives might be to develop as a writer, to develop your craft, or to earn enough from writing to quit your day job. Other possible objectives might be to build relationships with your readers, to successfully self-publish your work or to increase the number of reviews you have of your books.
These are all good objectives. If you don’t have well defined objectives, perhaps now is the time to think about them.
Social media is expected, over the next ten years or so, to become as integrated with the way we operate as writers as notebooks and pens were to a previous generation. Some writers will survive without integrating social media, but increasingly the writers that do integrate it with their writing will obtain a real advantage. These are the writers who will deliver on the promise of social media.
Even if you are a part time writer, it will be good to think through a plan for how you will develop as a writer on social media. Having a plan will also provide something to measure success by. You might even consider turning your plan into a written document.
It is well accepted that having written goals helps us all to achieve our objectives. Without goals we can drift. Making your goals tough to achieve, yet possible, is the recommended approach.
There are a number of challenges facing you in integrating your development on social media with your work as a writer. I believe that social media, in its widest sense, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook and all the other tools, can provide an online extension to whatever you have written or intend to write. I see the main written work, the ebook or book, as the core and the social media tools as the extension, providing access to additional material you may not have included in the work.
Social media can function as the outreach and communication arms of the work, allowing you to tell followers about your work and respond to queries. This can help bring your work to life. You can do this in the following ways:
- Provide visual images, which may not have been appropriate for inclusion in the book. These could be from your research, from locations or images you create. I include video, animations and still images, both edited and unedited in this category. Everything from maps to infographics can also be included.
- Communication. By telling people about your work or aspects of it, you are linking your promotion directly to your writing. By responding to questions and amending your work based on this feedback you are turning your work into a living thing. This could have been done in the past, but the author is much more accessible these days and much more likely to respond too. I see this ability for the work to live and grow as a good thing, though I am sure some authors will want to have nothing to do with this. That is their right.
- Deepening the work by giving extra information, possibly too lengthy to include in the work.
- Providing updates to the work and correcting errors.
- Giving the author’s evolving opinion on the subject matter and also allowing readers to comment, both negatively and positively. With comments being moderated you can remove the worst excesses of personal attacks, while allowing valid criticism. The author or their representative can decide what that means.
These aspects of your plan may help you decide on what to talk about on your blog or social media channels. They can help you to see your online work as being integrated with your work as an author. They take nothing away from the hard slog of writing, but I hope they add additional dimensions, which were generally unavailable to previous generations of writers.
This is probably the key issue in the development of any social media plan. Resources, money, time available, will all determine the success or failure of any plan.
If your plan is starved of resources don’t expect it to achieve anything, but a token level of success. And if you don’t have the inclination or willingness to take part in all this, I suggest you retain an outside agency to do it for you. We do this work for some authors at TheBookPromoter.com, though we recommend that author do as much as suits them and that the agency carries out the other tasks.
When planning your resource requirements you should also consider:
- Set up and preparation time for the establishment of your social media presence.
- Training costs and time. If you can self-train, great, but even for those who can do that it will take time and multiple efforts before becoming proficient in each social media tool. Be prepared for mistakes, dead-ends and abandoned schemes. And don’t put all your eggs into one social media basket.
- Hardware, software and online tools. Some good sites have free resources, but you may find yourself upgrading to the premium services on the better sites. Make sure your hardware and software are all reasonably up to date too. You will find out pretty soon if they aren’t.
- Marketing and promotion costs. If you need to redo business cards to include LinkedIn addresses or Twitter handles (names), or need to update book covers and web sites then all this will cost money.
- Have you got or do you know people with photography, artistic and graphic design skills for things like avatars and images for Facebook and other sites? Will you need to hire someone or buy in images?
Understanding the resources required to make social media a success is important. If you are facing an uphill struggle start small. Pick key areas that can be improved and define a small budget for them.
Here are some things to think about as you integrate social media into your development as a writer.
- What to post about, when to post, what “tone” to take (positive, generally), what to include and exclude.
- Ethical guidelines. This references the need to be truthful and open, yet not give away personal information that could expose you or your family to unwanted intrusion. I never post pictures or information about my family for instance or my plans for holidays. Ethics in this area also includes the need to refrain from attacking others and the need to consider people’s feelings when you post anything online.
- Content guidelines. Content should be accurate and be corrected as soon as possible if it is found to be inaccurate. We should be conscientious about our contributions, whilst also being personal and sociable.
- No SPAM. That you will not simply post advertisements for your books or use contact data extracted for purposes beyond which it was given. A small number/percentage of promotional posts are generally allowed, usually 10% or less of all posts. A content-first strategy will provide followers with useful information, before ever promoting your work.
- To remember that what you post will be around for a long time. Social media can have a positive and a negative impact. We all have to think twice before we post.
HOW WILL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT BE GENERATED?
There are a number of ways content can be generated. You can write it yourself or have others do it for you. You can curate content – use other people’s content with attribution and permission, if required – or get people to create guest posts for you.
While long blog posts can be created on an occasional basis, short blog or Facebook posts, and Tweets, can easily be generated on a daily basis without a significant time commitment.
There’s nothing wrong with Re-tweeting other people’s content too, especially if you maintain a high standard, relevant to what your writing is about. But please do originate most of your own content.
It is important that whatever you do post and Tweet about, that the items are likely to be of interest to your readers and followers. Understanding who your followers are, and what they expect of you, will help you determine what to post.
You can also ask yourself some simple question to help you decide what to post, such as: What is your personal area of expertise? Can you combine any areas of expertise to create something unique for your followers? Can you bring your own personal perspectives and skills to bear to help you come up with new content on a regular basis? Can you plan your posts, create a series of posts for instance, so that followers can know what will be delivered in advance?
HOW WILL YOU MONITOR RESULTS?
There are a variety of tools available to monitor and manage social media. Tweetdeck and Socialoomph are two management tools. There are plenty of others.
Perhaps the most important metric of success is income generated or book sales. One difficulty however will be identifying the income directly attributable to your social media efforts. There will be every reason to believe that all your new readers came in because of the fine work you’ve done on social media, but you will need data to prove that is the case.
One method of gathering this is to conduct reader research on a regular basis.
Further metrics could include the number of followers, posts, mentions and Retweets you get, indicators of the level of engagement you are reaching on social media.
I hope the above has given you some things to think about as you plan your social media development as a writer. Social media is not going away. As writers we need to think about how to use it effectively.
- Develop a realistic social media plan, appropriate for you.
- Take time to understand how to make the best of your resources.
- Be imaginative about content creation.
- Focus on measurable results.
Laurence O’Bryan teaches digital marketing at diploma level, has been training authors in digital marketing since 2011 and is also a published author with Harper Collins in the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. His books are available in 11 languages.
Laurence started BooksGoSocial.com site to help authors get discovered. His background of twenty five years in marketing and training contributes to his helpful and results focused style. For Laurence’s book promotion service see TheBookPromoter.com.