The Benefits of Social Networking
*This was originally posted on my alternate blog, Writing in the Modern Age.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Okay, so we’ve all heard that to make it in the new publishing world, we have to promote, promote, promote! Sigh. Unfortunately, it’s true. It is important to maintain author accounts on significant social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Did I miss any? Probably. I’ve heard Pinterest is up and coming, but that is not what I’m going to talk about here.
LinkedIn was at one time a social networking site for mainly the business world. Now, it still is, but tons of people use it. If you do decide to create an account on LinkedIn, make sure you connect to as many people as possible. As I have tons of accounts (one for each pen name…LOL), this is a hard thing to do. For the benefit of this blog, I’ll only mention my Marie Lavender identity. LOL. To this day, it still gets me that I have so many pen names, but I digress.
On LinkedIn, I have 1126 connections. What? How did that happen? Network, network, network. If someone wants to connect with you, do it. The more connections you have, the more potential readers you’ll have. Or peers. Fellow writers always come in handy because you can ask them questions. And they may recommend you to someone else. Cool, right? Mostly, I do it because I feel an affinity with other writers. We’re all going through the same thing. Also, try to reach out to as many people as you can and connect with them. If LinkedIn is suggesting you connect with five people, take the suggestion. LinkedIn will make suggestions depending on if you happen to be connected to someone else in that person’s network. LinkedIn has a three tier system for networking. The first level is who you’re connected to. The second is who those people are connected to. And the third…well, for the most part you don’t need to be concerned with them. They are so out of your reach, it would be a miracle if you ever connected to people like them. Think Bill Gates. But, if you happen to connect to Bill Gates, good for you. Those “third” connections are persons of influence.
So, on to my next thing about LinkedIn. The other way to gain more connections is to join groups. Yes, I did say “groups”. Discussion groups are a time-consuming process, but believe me, they foster a lot of learning and networking. Try to join discussion groups that have a lot of members, and are about a subject you’re genuinely interested in. If you like making pottery, don’t join a comic book club. You get the idea. And LinkedIn lets you have about 50 groups, so you have a lot to choose from. Considering there’s about a million discussion groups on LinkedIn (I could be exaggerating...then maybe I'm not), you have your work cut out for you. In some cases, the moderator of the group will have to approve you to let you in. Nowadays, a lot of discussion groups are becoming open groups so it may be easier for you.
Once you are in a group, you can post discussions. Yes, some people take this to the extreme and use it as an advertising tool. “Please look at my book….please go to my website…buy my pet rocks…” But, this is a sure-proof way to get the moderator to block you or boot you from the group. You can advertise, but please, oh please…do it sparingly. The thing you want to focus on here is the discussions posted asking someone else’s opinion about a topic or advice. If you have something to say, comment on the discussion. Be mindful of your image, however. You can choose to follow the discussion, and you will receive email notifications about other comments from group members. And if you’d like to post a question, go ahead. In most cases, you will get a response. You will get a ton of emails once you join a group though. Not only because of these discussions you participated in, but because of the discussions posted in the group overall. You’ll receive updates. Thankfully, you can change your notification settings when you click on each group. You can tell it to only send those once a day, once a week, etc. Take advantage of that, or you’ll end up screaming in frustration at the craziness in your inbox.
The other thing you can do on LinkedIn is create a discussion group. If you really feel there aren’t many groups that interest you and you think there’s a niche for it, then make one. Be sure to make the rules for the group clear, and the description as accurate as possible. You can invite your connections to the group. You can sit and wait for people to join. In some cases, it totally works. In others, not so much. Really consider what you’re doing when you start a discussion group. For one of my accounts, I created a romance writing discussion group, and it has gone very well. People are posting discussions all of the time. For another account, that didn’t go so well. I had plenty of members, but no one wanted to say anything. You will have to post the occasional discussion in your group to actually foster discussion. And moderation is very important. You will have to approve members quite often and approve discussions. Occasionally, you’ll get someone that posts the same topic/advertising tool like crazy, and you have to delete those posts or it will make the group look bad. In some cases, you may have to tell that person the group is not a forum to advertise, but a “discussion” group. Again, I digress. But, forming a group can be a powerful tool, if that’s what you want to do and you have the time to moderate it.
There are ways of advertising on LinkedIn. Yes, you can send a blitz of messages to your connections, but you may get some pretty hateful replies in return. LinkedIn has paid advertising just like Google, if you want to do that. LinkedIn offers free accounts as well, but there are paid accounts that will give you more power. Do that if your budget allows it. For most of us writers, at least at the start of our careers, our budgets are pretty meager so we have to evaluate things like this.
On to the next tool. Facebook. Facebook can be a pretty useful medium. Once you have an account, you can “friend” people. At first, it might seem like you don’t know anybody. You want to look up your friends from high school? You can do that. You want to connect with other writers? You can do that. Facebook will suggest friends for you like LinkedIn does. Take the suggestion. The more friends you have, the better. Right now, I have 870 friends. Also, if you are an author, you will want to find fellow author’s pages and “like” them. They will likely connect with you and “like” your page if you have one. Like other people’s pages if you want too.
Yes, you can create a page. It’s free, and it’s a very useful tool. You can create an author page and a page for each of your books. For some writers, this is very nice because once they reach the maximum amount of friends that Facebook allows, they can refer people to this page. If you are connecting with other authors, you’ll understand exactly what I mean very shortly. Then, you want to try to get people to “like” your page (or pages, if you have more than one). Sure, you can message people like crazy, but this can also get a pretty unsavory response. Believe me. LOL. You don’t want that can of worms.
The best thing to do next is to join some discussion groups. “Oh, no!” you say. Not more discussion groups. Yes, my minions. LOL. Just kidding. You should join more groups. On Facebook, you really don’t need to join that many. Between five or ten is a good number. Sometimes people will automatically add you to their groups, which can be good and bad. You can choose to leave at anytime, of course, just liked you can on LinkedIn. Within these groups, you can post questions and present topics.
The other thing is “events”. You may get invited to join “events.” Sometimes it’s a book signing or release. You can choose to join or decline. Or click “maybe” if you don’t know yet. In my case on two of my accounts, it was a “Liking” event. This was very, very cool because a bunch of authors joined it. And all of us started “liking” each other’s pages. And yes, you need as many likes as possible on your pages. In some cases, you can even encourage people to “like” your Amazon book page, if Amazon still allows that. Never forget to return the favor of liking. If someone likes you or your book page, do the same. It’s only fair.
If you want to get the word out, Facebook has advertising too, and it’s cool if it’s within your budget. But, I don’t even have that kind of budget right now so I can’t give you advice in that regard.
The next tool is Twitter. Ah, Twitter. The wonderful Twitter where you can “tweet” like crazy. You can create your author account here. Yes, it is an advertising tool for the most part. Or it seems like that. It doesn’t have to be. If you are a new member, you will need to “follow” your interests. Most likely, Twitter will offer a tutorial. Once you have established what interests you, Twitter will make suggestions based on that. You can also search for what you want to follow. If you like healthcare, follow the CDC. If you like Taylor Swift (*shudder), follow her. If you like writing, follow other authors and their books. In most cases, people will “follow” you back.
You want to get as many followers as possible. This may seem hard. It will look as if you follow more than you’re followed. Keep pushing forward. You will also receive notifications about Tweets the people you’ve followed have posted. Yes, it does make your inbox crazy. I believe you can change the notification settings here too. Another tip. With Twitter, you can customize your profile with your book cover, author pic or other background to make it look nice. Other people will see this when they follow you. Because you do want a lot of followers, I will give you this.
Recently, I heard of a way to actually buy followers. You can go to http://cheaptwitterfollowerz.com/ and see how it works. I haven’t tried it yet. But, it might be a decent way to get potential readers. As of right now, I have 181 followers. I’m getting there! LOL.
As always, I’m still learning. We all try to pick stuff up every day to keep promoting ourselves as authors. Do you have any tips for writers in the modern age? Want to write an article for my blog here or maybe you’d like me to interview you? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you promptly.