San Francisco Writers Conference: Digital platform a major concern for emerging writers

The omnipresent questions at the  San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) were about digital marketing, social media for writers, and platform building.    Over the weekend I delivered a couple of presentations and met with at least twenty people individually to discuss various public relations questions and options.  Some people were already building their audiences; others were daunted at the prospect, but willing to try; then there were those who just felt exhausted by the whole thing.  This is some of the advice I gave:
Q: I am a professional with a website and a Facebook account.  Should I create a second account and another website for my book?

A: If you have an existing website and your book relates in some way to what you already do, don’t add another website to the mix.  Instead, put a new tab and page on the current site.  If your writing is a complete detour from your professional life then try adding a page to your Facebook account that is for your “author self”.  I don’t recommend separate pages for different books, because that could get confusing and it dilutes your brand.  Also, for most writers, you should maintain an Instagram account, since that is where the largest demographic resides.  Facebook is skewing to an older set.

Q: I loathe everything about social media and don’t see myself doing it, so how do I gain any kind of online presence? 

A: A website and a blog will give you some searchable real estate online, but without social media, it will be difficult to drive people to it from the comfort of your own home.  I recommend a landing page or a more developed website and you could try to pitch individual pieces to other sites and blogs that already have an established audience.  Try writing 700 – 1000 words that reflect something about you, your writing, and the topics you are writing about.  If you can’t get something picked up by a site, then you can post on your own blog.  Some sites will allow you to send them items that have already been online, but others won’t.  Check out the submission requirements so you know how best to manage the approach.

Q: When should I start working on my platform?

A: Write your book first.  If you are the kind of person who does well compartmentalizing tasks and can write a book and tackle marketing at the same time, then start building yourself asap.  What you don’t want to do is jeopardize your purpose–writing the book.  So unless the writing and the digital marketing via social media complement each other, I would turn your attention to the latter when you’ve sent the first draft off to an editor.

Q: Should I buy advertising online?

A: I’ve tested various advertising methods on Facebook, in particular, and have found that the best thing is to promote the page itself.  Advertising individual books hasn’t worked that well for my clients in the past few years, although it used to.  I think the algorithms have changed and it’s harder to get your sponsored posts seen.  To measure this on your own, see how many engagements, shares, and clicks you get from an ad.  It doesn’t matter if your ad reaches 2000 people if you don’t get any interaction.  When Facebook talks about “reaching” they mean “impressions”.  The post can appear on a person’s feed but that doesn’t mean it has actually been seen.

Q: My Twitter followers have been dwindling dramatically, what can I do about it?  

A: Twitter has been cleaning house, getting rid of inactive accounts and spam accounts.  If your numbers have been decreasing it is because the quality of followers isn’t up to Twitter’s current standards.  It’s actually a blessing because you don’t want junk followers or spambots on your account.  It really doesn’t look good.

Q: Do I need to be in my pajamas to manage my social media?

A: Haha.

Yes, that was a question–there’s a clown in every class.  Seriously though the main point here is about generating awareness of you and your work.  There are other things that publishers look for beyond how many followers or cyber friends you have.  Are you an expert who could be lecturing about your topic?  Are you a member of a writers group?  Can you pitch yourself to a panel at one of the smaller writers conferences or can you offer to speak at your local library about writing?  Have you looked at what other authors you admire or whose work is similar to yours are doing to promote themselves?  Can you go to your local independent store and get to know the owner?  Are you telling everyone you know that you have a book that will be coming out someday?

Remember that although digital platforms can be a more convenient way to reach many people at the same time, there is no

the digital world is about people and relationships

substitute for building relationships in person.  Think about the things you have to offer and start sharing.  It’s okay to take it one step at a time and to learn as you go.  It’s a process and I know you can do it.

Here’s a link to where you can download a free guide that will provide a wealth of information about social media for writers and the most current platforms and their uses.

 

Social Media 101: Content Strategizing the 2019 Way

If you read our recent blog post Social Media 101: Branding the 2019 Way, you’ll know just how critical it is to do social media marketing rather than banking only on traditional media to spread the word about your product/service/brand. You also might’ve been left wondering how to go about branding on social media. Well, we have you covered there, too—and the answer is content strategizing.

The most important aspect of social media branding is implementing a strategy behind the content you are going to put out in the world. Perhaps you are already plugged in to the major platforms but haven’t seen results in your engagement levels or follower count. Perhaps you’re starting from square one. Either way, it’s crucial to formulate a strategy before you post. Ask yourself:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What is that audience’s age demographic?
  • What social channels are they on?
  • Why should they care about me and my brand?
  • How can I showcase my brand in a way that will attract them?
  • What content do I already have available?
  • What content do I need to create for effective brand display?
  • What do I bring to the table that my competitors don’t, and how can I present that through my social channels?

It’s important to know your target audience inside and out. Having inside knowledge about key groups will tell you exactly what channels they populate. Here’s a breakdown, according to a 2019 study done by Sprout Social:

Users on Facebook: 74% female, 62% male

  • 51% of 13-17 year olds
  • 81% of 18-29 year olds
  • 78% of 30-49 year olds
  • 65% of 50-64 year olds
  • 41% of 65+ year olds

Users on Instagram: 39% female, 30% male

  • 72% of 13-17 year olds
  • 64% of 18-29 year olds
  • 40% of 30-49 year olds
  • 21% of 50-64 year olds
  • 10% of 65+ year olds

Users on Twitter: 24% female, 23% male

  • 32% of 13-17 year olds
  • 40% of 18-29 year olds
  • 27% of 30-49 year olds
  • 19% of 50-64 year olds
  • 8% of 65+ year olds

Users on LinkedIn: 25% female, 25% male

  • 29% of 18-29 year olds
  • 33% of 30-49 year olds
  • 24% of 50-64 year olds
  • 9% of 65+ year olds

Users on Snapchat: 31% female, 23% male

  • 69% of 13-17 year olds
  • 68% of 18-29 year olds
  • 26% of 30-49 year olds
  • 10% of 50-64 year olds
  • 3% of 65+ year olds

TikTok is also becoming a popular outlet for the younger demographic. Nonetheless, identifying and creating on-brand content that caters to a specific audience is the key to success in any niche. You want to highlight what makes your brand unique while keeping your audience’s expectations in mind.

From there, develop a content calendar to keep yourself organized and pay attention to your social media analytics. It may be beneficial to look into different scheduling services like Hootsuite and Loomly (we have used both) that can also track engagement levels, relevant hashtags, and other important metrics. Knowledge is power.

Bottom line: You want your content to be true to who you are as a brand while capturing the essence of what you do and why you’re important.

To learn more about the importance of social media in business, check out our recent blog.

Social Media 101: Snapchat and Author Branding

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn have dominated the world of branding since Facebook’s JP Morgan and Chase ads in the early 2000’s (IAS Insider). We’ve discussed in previous blogs how valuable these markets are, but there’s a new platform in town. Better yet, it’s rather untouched by the saturation of advertisements the other media have today: Snapchat.

Snapchat is unique in that it is a hybrid social media platform and messenger. This medium is almost entirely visual, and only available for mobile device. These unique qualities require a creativity in branding that the other platforms do not. Because of this, while Facebook controls roughly 20.6% of the US ad market, Snapchat comes in at just 0.6% (Influencer Marketing Hub).

The application is intended as a messaging medium where users exchange photos, videos, or short messages. Photos and videos can have captions, but there is character limit. There is also a character limit for private messages. Reminiscent of the point-and-shoot model, to take photos, you focus the front (or back) camera of your device and hit the large circular button at the bottom of your screen. For videos, you hold the button down in 30-second increments. You can alter the amount of time users can view your content, set an expiration date for your private messages, and other nifty features that Accessar dives in-depth with here.

Sound familiar? That is probably because Instagram operates similarly, but in a much more public way. Snapchat is a majority user-to-user application.

Don’t let the unfamiliarity of Snapchat stop you. As of 2019, Snapchat has an astonishing 191 million daily active users, and climbing (Snapchat). There is an array of stickers, GIFs, geofilters (filters that are only available in certain locations), and many other interactive features that allow you to get creative with your Snapchat branding. Their demographic is in the 18-24-year-old range, so if you’ve been looking for a way to reach an overloaded Millennial/Generation Z audience, here’s your chance!

With the medium’s use-to-user atmosphere, you can form a personalized and meaningful relationship with your audience. You can find our shortlist of Snapchat musts to make this happen for your brand below.

Snapchat stories are a vital function of most popular platforms nowadays, and we’ve gone over them in great detail recently. Update your audience on the publication of your new book, introduce merchandise, and start conversations! Users can reply to your stories via private message. You can also link to the products mentioned above with our next Snapchat must.

Snapchat links or “swipe-ups” are an organic way to expose your audience to new and exciting content surrounding your brand. Simply take a photo or video, select the paperclip thumbnail to the right of your screen, and add the appropriate URL. This allows users to view your material with a simple screen swipe.

Influencer collaboration not only gets exposure for your author brand but builds a trustworthy sense of community which your audience values. Reaching out to fellow influencers about mentioning your work in a story goes a long way in broadening your own fanbase.

Armed with your new guide to Snapchat in the world of author branding, make the most of this untapped resource. If you’d like to learn more about traditional means of author branding on social media before the trickier methods, check out our recent blog posts.

Social Media 101: 4 Reasons Why Buying Followers is a Bad Idea

buying followers
This office dog is confused and upset about why he is seeing so many disturbing spam followers on a Twitter account that is supposed to be family friendly!

A recent article (February 1st) on BuzzFeed said that the Newsweek Media Group has been buying followers and manipulating traffic on some of their websites, and that they are being accused of ad fraud.  The ad fraud part of this story is not my area, but I do have something to say about the other part—buying followers—as it relates to marketing and branding using social media platforms.

There was a time when having 200,000 Twitter followers looked impressive to the naked eye, but those days are long gone.  Now it isn’t very difficult to look through someone’s following on various platforms to find out that many of those 200,000 are spam bots and other kinds of cheap “friends”.  In fact, the people who have more modest numbers of active followers, who engage with them, and build more solid relationships over time, could have the upper hand in social media marketing.

Here are some reasons why buying followers is a bad idea:

  1. The internet is not an alien universe.  The people using the internet and social media are just that—people.  And the rules of engagement apply just as they would at a cocktail party or a business conference.  If you want to grow as an influencer on social media, your audience needs to feel like you are a real person —not a virtual identity with no substance, which brings me to the next point.
  2. Trust is more important than ever. The internet, the very tool you want to use to market your products and ideas, has eroded trust in its own population.  This is partly due to the “bad apples” in the bunch who have figured out how to buy and sell cotton candy entities and canned content.  If someone takes more than a cursory look at who is following you and they find porn (true story) in the form of bots, it will not make a good impression (unless that is what you are selling).
  3. Relationships rule! When there is trust, the chance for a relationship to grow increases.  In a relationship with good communication, the other person believes what you have to say, appreciates your advice and counsel, and may even talk about you with others in a positive way.
  4. Protect the brand. Would you wear dirty clothes to a job interview?  Why sully your brand with ineffective and questionable marketing practices, like buying a fake community?

Perhaps we think that, because we are typing on a keyboard or a phone in our own private spaces, that our anonymity allows us to behave in any manner we want.  Well, it doesn’t.  Companies who engage in buying followers or traffic in order to beef up their potential advertising power may not be doing something illegal, but it is certainly unethical.  If an individual wants to be an influencer, it needs to be clear that community and engagement are a priority.  If bots are all we see, we assume that you aren’t real either.

Check out our other social media blog posts here.

Publicity 101: What is your book about?

What is your book about CMPRIf someone asked you what is your book is about, how would you answer?  Can you respond in two or three sentences?  Is it an interesting description that would make you stand up and pay attention?  Clearly book topics and subjects will appeal to different types of people, and that is just fine.

When you are determining what your book is and how you will describe it, you must envision the audience you are trying to engage with.   If your book is a mystery, then say “It’s mystery/thriller/suspense”.  The way you shape your response to the question “What is your book about?” is the opportunity for you to hook a potential reader or media entity.  Then you can dig deeper.

To get to the heart of your “story’s story” and find the hidden chances for better publicity coverage, try answering the following questions:

  • What is your book about?
  • Where does it take place?
  • Where do you live?
  • Do you have any autobiographical contributions to the story, such as medical expertise?
  • Who would find this interesting?
  • Does your story address any “hot button” issues like civil rights, drug abuse, weight loss, relationships?

Knowing what you are delivering is a critical key in preparing a publicity campaign. With any kind of book written by an unknown, the publicity plan and promotional trajectory is about trying to get the most people to open the book and read it!  Bloggers, book reviewers, trade reviews, author events, conferences, parties, local tv, radio, and print are all pitched all of the time.  The idea is to create a media list of fans who will support the books and the author by reviewing the books favorably and encouraging their readerships to get the books for themselves.

“What is your book about?” is just one aspect to be explored in the name of publicity and promotion of your book. Check out our blog for future blog posts on other aspects you need to consider for a book pr campaign!

Questions? Tweet us @McKinneyPR!