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: Branding the 2019 Way

You might notice that, in your regular grocery-shopping routine, there are always those go-to items that undeniably end up in your cart at checkout. I’m not just talking about the core food groups. Think about bananas. Sure, they might all taste the same, or even ring in at similar prices, but you’re still always reaching for Chiquita or Dole brand.

Let’s leave the supermarket behind and head to your favorite gadget store. Why do loyal Apple consumers go back to iPhone time and again, even when the newest model retails for over $1000? There are certainly other options that offer competitive hardware. The reason is because, from bananas to mobile devices, the most successful businesses strategically brand. Chiquita and Apple established their distinctive brands at a time when most media was only disseminated through a few channels; print, radio, and television.

Business owners at present-day are overwhelmed with options. Yet, many up-and-comers make the mistake of focusing efforts on penetrating the already over-saturated legacy media. Not only are these channels over-crowded, they are incredibly expensive due to the high demand. Last year’s Superbowl host network charged $5.25 million for one 30-second commercial. But even the well-established companies with bigger budgets are turning to the new wave of branding in 2019: social media. Here are three reasons why your business needs social media branding:

The audience. So much of the world is on social media. It is even predicted that the U.S. population will spend more time on social media/mobile devices than on TV by the end of this year. Social media host a wealth of loyal niche communities. With clear messaging and focused branding, these communities can quickly become your repeat-consumers.

The price point. Like any promotional content on a popular medium, ads on social media can be pricey. Luckily, there is more to this strategy than paid advertisements. Channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are a one-stop shop. You can create your own original content in-house, free of charge. The average user is bombarded daily with big-budget marketing. In fact, 86% of people on social crave authentic content rather than expertly-crafted material from ad agencies. Stand out in the crowded market and create something to which your audience can authentically relate, without breaking the bank!

The immediacy. We’ve talked about the ways social media branding is useful, but how will you know it’s working? There is a way, and unlike mail surveys or television polls, you won’t have to wait weeks and months to see results. Simply start a poll on your desired outlet. The media mentioned above offer  functions where you can pose a question with two or more answer options, and users can select their response. These polls can run any where from one day to one week. Once the poll closes, you instantly have your results – you can even see votes as they are happening.

Traditional media are already at capacity. Rather than beating your head against the wall trying to break into an incredibly competitive market, take matters into your own hands. Use freely available social media and make your mark today.

The Influencer Series: Targeting People in Your Niche

When reaching out to influencers in the hopes of getting them to promote your product, it’s essential to target the right people – for your brand, and theirs.

Here are 3 important questions to consider as you compile your pitch list:

1. Who is my audience? Identifying your own audience first and foremost will give you the framework to then identify the type of influencer(s) that attracts the people you are trying to reach. For example, we’re currently working with a children’s book called Scout Camp! by Judy Newman (under the pseudonym Pepper Springfield) and have been reaching out to elementary school teacher influencers to post about the book. Because teachers are our main target audience, it makes sense to connect with influencers who have a solid following of other teachers.

2. Does this influencer have a need for my product? One of the biggest “no-no’s” with any kind of influencer or blogger outreach is lack of research. You must make sure the person you’re about to pitch could realistically use what you want promoted in their day-to-day life. This will be the difference between quality leads that yield fruitful relationships, and dead ends yielding a waste of time -and money. Case in point, we would not pitch Scout Camp! to a high school math teacher influencer as they have absolutely no need for an elementary-level book.

3. Is it realistic to expect a response? Believe it or not, there are three different types of influencers (Jeff Bullas):

  • Mega Influencers: Over one million followers
  • Macro-Influencers: 100,000-one million followers
  • Micro-Influencers: Less than 100,000 followers

Typically, mega influencers are of celebrity status. That’s not to say that macro and micro-influencers aren’t celebrities in and of themselves, however, mega influencers are typically harder to reach. That’s why the safest option is to go after the macro and micro influencers (for more on who micro-influencers are exactly, click here). With that said, depending on the product, brand, endorsements, etc., anything’s possible.

Looking for more information on influencer outreach? Check out our guide.

Social Media 101: TikTok and Book Promotion

If you aren’t using it, you’ve heard of it. However, you might not know how to use it -or, you might not even know what it is. Today we will be discussing the underdog tool in your promotional belt. The overnight, 15-second sensation: TikTok.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a window to the latest pop culture trends among Generation Z. Gen Z (any individual roughly between 13-and-24-years-old) dominates TikTok’s user base; the same generation also happens to be the next large target group of potential consumers.

TikTok was created by the Beijing news-media tech company ByteDance. Often described as a combination of both Snapchat and Instagram, TikTok is a video-only application that posts in 15-second bursts. The app hit over one billion downloads in February of 2019, exceeding its competitors up to that point (HooteSuite). Their net user and download numbers only continue to climb.

Needless to say, a large audience is there for the taking – particularly ripe for YA authors.

How do I use TikTok?

Currently, the application is only available for download on mobile device. You will need to download via smartphone or tablet. While this sounds limiting, don’t fear: TikTok has a host of editing tools in-app that enable you to create unique and original content.

  • Setup: The first prompt you get when logging in to the application is one asking your interests. Would you like to see comedy skits? Do you follow beauty influencers? What about dance performance? Your answers to these questions feed TikTok’s algorithm and influence what content you view under the “For You” page (one of two pages that make up your TikTok “Home” screen). The “Following” page consists of users you are subscribed to after tapping around the app and finding what you like. Each user has a page setup much like Instagram -a photo of themselves, their handle, a follower count, bio, and their content.
  • Creating Content: Similar to Snapchat, creating your own content starts with a simple point-and-shoot clip. As talked about before, you only have fifteen seconds to deliver your message. Spend more time focusing on visuals, use dialogue sparingly. Most users supplement sound clips from popular music or memes rather than talking in their TikToks.

How can I use TikTok for book promotion?

Here is where you’ll need to get creative. TikTok is very similar to Twitter’s late application Vine -there is little to no text involved, and strictly video-based. In other words, TikTok users aren’t looking to read when they engage with the app.

Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to promote your book.

  • Challenges: TikTok users generate a great deal of challenge-based content. An example of social media challenge is the ALS ice bucket challenge that took social media by storm in 2015. Users would dump a bucket of ice water over their heads in the name of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, then nominate fellow users in order to raise awareness for those affected.

TikTok is rife with similar challenges, distinguished by hashtags (much like challenges seen across other social media). There is even a “#bookschallenge” with over 109.2K views! Feature your new book in original content to spread the word. You can even create your own hashtag and start a trend by simply adding a # before your desired phrase.

  • Memes: Aside from challenges, memes spread like wildfire. Users essentially take a pop culture item and tweak it with their own personal style. From songs to live-TV bloopers, TikTokers take soundbites from these moments and make a 15-second video performing their own take. Like we mentioned before, it’s all about the visuals with this application. Having a stack of your own books as the background of a TikTok is the perfect subliminal marketing strategy.

TikTok has increased in notoriety to the point of Facebook imitating the application (Wired). It’s time for you to make use of the trend. Now you’re ready to TikTok with the best of them!

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.