“These word-of-mouth moments are still the greatest form of promotion available, they are free, and many believe they are the only form of advertising that really works.”
IT’S not time for writers to stress about our writing (there’ll be hours of that later) just keep up a regular writing schedule and start creating social media assets. These are tools such as WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads and others which allow us to interact with other social media users and – importantly for writers – for readers to find and follow us to access our books.
Why do I need social media assets?
The social media has become the greatest shop window for writing the world has ever seen. Having multiple social media assets also increases a writer’s search engine optimisation (SEO) – your ranking on search results via search engines like Google (which you’ve already created your account within, I hope? If not, head back to Writer, identify yourself!).
Web of Fabulousness
By creating a cluster of social media assets using your real name, you are telling the internet you exist. As search engines aggregate information about you, they’ll notice you more when your name pops up on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites. I call this a writer’s ‘Web of Fabulousness’ as it nets followers naturally (without you having to buy them).
Use your social media assets regularly. Read, share and comment online as you normally would. Participate! Remember, it’s called the ‘social’ media. Like the level of socialisation that employees participate in at the coffee station, you share something, you learn something, and you’re sociable, which means keeping yourself a bit nice. Don’t do the hard sell, however. If someone’s at the water cooler flogging their cleaning products every day, you’ll avoid them, right? The key to social media participation is to do it genuinely without constant pressure to buy things.
Why is this essential for marketing and promotion?
Because these word-of-mouth moments are still the greatest form of promotion available, they are free, and many believe they are the only form of advertising that really works. If you want your work to find readers, participate in the social media.
Domain names don’t matter
In the early years of the internet, everyone was focussed on domain names, and there’s still a common fear that we need to buy a domain name before someone gets the one we want. While this used to be the case, it’s no longer essential to have a domain name to market something. I am a writer called Michael Burge who lived on Coochiemudlo Island, and all my social media assets have my name, my vocation and my location embedded in them. If you google the terms: ‘Writer’, ‘Michael’ and ‘Coochiemudlo’, you’ll find my website. If you google those terms and add ‘Facebook’ or ‘Twitter’, you’ll find my website, Facebook and Twitter accounts in one search. You don’t need to ensure people write down your domain name these days, just say: “Google ‘Writer Michael Burge’ and you’ll find me!” Even if they forget half the details, they’ll find you, thanks to what’s known as metadata.
Metadata is what matters
Metadata describes something (e.g. a writer, or a book) and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. In the blogging world, metadata has been filtered-down into a process of creating tags and categories for each page of information you publish on your website or blog. I participate in the social media with a special interest in LGBTI equality, so if you google my name and ‘marriage equality’ or ‘LGBTI’, you’ll also find me, because I regularly use these terms as tags and categories. More on this process when we get to blogging. For now, let go of domain-name thinking, the world has moved on to metadata.
Usernames and User IDs
In order to generate good SEO and social media followings, using your real name is ideal for social media assets, however, in most cases your real name will already have been used by someone else. To counter this issue, social media platforms allow you to have a User ID, sometimes known as a ‘handle’, which is a form of nickname (for example, my Twitter handle and my WordPress URL both use ‘burgewords’); leaving you to label your asset profile with your real name. Think of a simple, short word that describes what you do and that nobody else in the world is using, and consider this for your URL and social media username or User ID.
WordPress is the way
Every writer needs a website, an online place to showcase our work to the world, allowing readers to find our books, and public relations (PR) people and journalists, booksellers and book trade people to contact us. Creating a website was once an expensive business that many writers needed to pay someone to do for us, but since the advent of the world’s largest blogging platforms, Blogger and WordPress, it’s been possible to create a free blog that works as a website.
A blog (a ‘web-log’) is not for everyone. I have a WordPress blog platform which I use as a website, and for more than three years I had a basic, free, WordPress account, recently upgraded in order for me to host video marketing material for around USD$129 annually. Set up your free site with your service provider of choice – it will be a major tool in your writing journey, and it will evolve.
Since you already have a Gravatar account, setting up WordPress will be easy as the platforms are linked (here’s how). Remember, if someone else is using your real name as their WordPress URL, think of an alternative name (like mine – ‘burgewords’) and use your real name as the profile User ID. The next part of the Write, regardless! series will be all about using a WordPress site.
Twitter is tops
Twitter is misunderstood. Before I was on it I believed it was the domain of navel gazers and people intent on telling me what it was like on the bus as they commuted… boring! It is all that, but used wisely, Twitter is also a fantastic distribution network for journalism, books and other publications.
Set up your free Twitter account, but remember, if someone else is using your real name as their Twitter handle, think of an alternative handle name (like mine,@burgewords) and use your real name as the profile User ID. Twitter will assist you to set up and start tweeting. Find my Twitter handle and follow me. I’ll follow you back if you send me a tweet (learn how to ‘tweet to’ someone). More about using Twitter for marketing in a later chapter.
Facebook is fab
If you have a Facebook timeline (the basic Facebook account to keep tabs on your friends) you can also create a free Facebook Page. Facebook will ask you to identify the type of business you are. Like me, the word ‘business’ might give you a jolt, but publishing your books will be a business, I assure you, so move past this with confidence. There is an option to select ‘Writer’. My Facebook Page allows me to promote myself in all forms of writing – non-fiction, fiction, journalism and playwriting.
The benefit of having a Facebook Page (your business) in addition to your Facebook timeline (your personal life) is that it gives you a place specifically for communicating about your books to an interested following. More about using Facebook for marketing later in Write, regardless!
A LinkedIn your chain (see what I did there?)
LinkedIn is a bit strange to me as it’s very corporate, but I embraced it as a social media asset simply because it adds to my Web of Fabulousness, and the basic version is free. Of all the social media assets I use, LinkedIn is the one that puts most pressure on me to upgrade to premium, paid services, but creating a free profile on LinkedIn allows us to add a list of our publications – which is great for promoting books. Find me on LinkedIn and create your profile. I don’t go behind the scenes on LinkedIn very often – I set it and forget it, and update things when I need to. You may want to participate there more often, especially if you are writing something in the corporate/employment sphere.
Goodreads is great
One of the world’s largest reader-reviewed sources of book information, Amazon-owned Goodreads is often described as ‘Facebook for readers’. Until you have published titles, you’ll only be able to create a reader’s profile, where you can share your reading experiences and follow authors and other readers. I was a Goodreads reader and reviewer for years before upgrading to my author page.
My social media asset is better than yours
Many in the day-job world love and swear by LinkedIn, as much as creatives swear by Pinterest and writers cannot sing Twitter’s praises loud enough. All platforms get eager, loyal followers who will sell their granny on the promise that if only you were on that same one, all your marketing problems would be solved. Try to move through this enthusiasm with a firm smile plastered on your face, accepting that not everything is everything to everyone. Choose your social media assets based on your interests, just ensure you don’t miss Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads if you want to promote writing and books.
High rolling on the social network
People may try to convince you that social media assets cost money, that they need ‘premium’ accounts in order to be secure and give you a large audience. They don’t. All online entities have levels. Just create the most basic, free social media assets and ensure that when they try to sell you bells and whistles, you either decline, or understand why you’re saying yes.
Get your social media assets sorted, adding your usernames and passwords to your safe place for future reference. This process will take a few sessions, but don’t get despondent! When you hit an obstacle, make a cup of tea and go back to it with fresh eyes. When you’re done, add your social media assets to your Gravatar profile (have a look at my Gravatar profile to see how that will look), that way, when you make that brilliant observation on The Guardian culture page, people will be able to find your full range of social media assets!
An extract from Write, regardless!
© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.