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We’ve covered three of the biggest social media platforms already (Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest), but have only begun to scratch the surface of possibilities when it comes to meeting potential readers and building relationships as you provide value to their lives. Remember how we said to focus on a few places and do them well? Interaction takes time and that time could be spent writing your next masterpiece, making balance critical when it comes to a social media strategy.
However, different audiences tend to gravitate toward different social media formats, so remember, the key is to find where your ideal reader spends time and go there. Also keep in mind the return on your investment of time and how a specific platform reflects on your branding as an author. If you are a professional speaker on a topic, the business-like interactions of LinkedIn might be best. But if you write dystopian tales or fantasy that appeals to a younger audience, SnapChat or Instagram are more likely to be populated by your ideal reader.
I personally have accounts on most of the available social media platforms in order to have a basic presence and a biography section that points back to my website in case potential readers try to find me there. However, I don’t interact as much on many of those networks and am not as familiar with their current features. My goal in this section is to give you an overview of the possibilities and let you dig deeper on your own by studying what others are doing in those arenas.
Tool #1: Try Linked In for professional connections, especially if you do freelance non-fiction work or are building a platform as an expert in a non-fiction topic. A basic account includes a resume of past and current work while allowing your connections to personally endorse your particular skills. I simply feed my latest blog post into my account to show a minimum of activity and let potential connections see what I have to offer. However, I’ve heard of others who use their connections to find opportunities for work or collaborate ideas. There is a business account (or “company page”) option that opens up possibilities to showcase a particular product or service, target select audiences, and even create advertisements or sponsored content.
Tool #2: Be prepared to be highly searchable with Google+. In a day where “Google” has become a verb thanks to the popular search engine, one could assume that a Google+ account would yield more “Google juice” in search results to help with discoverability. Beyond a basic profile filled with a typical biography and website link, there lies a social media format where I feed my latest blog post in to maintain a presence. Similar to several Twitter-like features, you find people to follow and add them to various customizable circles like family, acquaintances, work contacts, editors, fellow genre writers, and so on. Those circles, similar to Twitter’s lists, allow you to filter your feed down to the relevant posts. Similar to Facebook’s “like” button on a post, here you give the post a “+” to add your vote of approval. As expected, there’s a powerful search feature to find conversations and people.
One unique feature of Google+ is the video chat room or Hangouts section. You can join existing public Hangouts or schedule one by invitation only. My publisher’s marketing representative has tried using a Hangout for a one-on-one consultation with an author, as a way to do a teaching session with multiple authors at once, and even as a meet-several-of-our-authors gathering with a book club. Since Google owns YouTube, it is possible to do a Hangout Live with the recording automatically saved as a video on YouTube. Even if no one came to watch the Hangout while it was live, you could use this feature to a easily record and upload teaching or training videos that could then be shared and promoted elsewhere.
Tool #3: Let your pictures do the talking through Instagram. In a super-speed culture of microscopic attention spans, this platform relies completely on images first and less on the words and hashtags to follow. While other platforms display your words first with a picture below, Instagram is one big square picture with the words as an afterthought so photo editor applications become even more important, especially those that allow you to create a “layout” with multiple photos into a collage, apply filters, or even add words. Numerous and highly-creative hashtags are strongly encouraged so watch how others use this platform to send their message. Posts made on Instagram can instantly be shared to your Facebook or Twitter accounts making it easy to update numerous places at once with a powerful picture. There is also a new “My Story” feature where you create a super-short video or photo montage that disappears after a day.
Tool #4: If being in the moment is more your style than creating a permanent record on a profile, consider SnapChat. The short duration of a post on this platform made it a popular one with teens because it was harder for parents and other adults to see what they’d been sharing with their friends. It was started as more of a messaging app rather than a true social interaction, but the view-it-or-lose-it urgency kept users coming back often to see a picture or video complete with text overlays. However, just like Instagram added a “disappearing post” feature, rumor has it that SnapChat will likely add a more permanent feature as well.
Tool #5: If the live video possibilities of Facebook are appealing, consider one of the first platforms to offer this streaming video technology. Periscope (which is linked to Twitter) allows you to broadcast live from anywhere using your phone. Initially, this was a way for the ordinary person to let the world know what was going on in situations long before traditional media outlets could dispatch their camera crews. Savvy marketers discovered a way to build an audience around a topic whether it be testing unique cuisine, taking in the sights as a tourist, sharing a devotional topic to encourage mothers, or like one “scoper” I follow who encourages other authors to keep writing and creating.
When this medium first started, Periscope videos (called “scopes”) were temporary and disappeared after 24-hours. This led to numerous other applications that sprung up to allow the scopers to save their recordings and even upload them to their websites or YouTube. Periscope changed their policy and now you can scroll through to find the old scopes of those you want to follow.
I suggest you start out as a lurker and learn the etiquette first before going live. First, viewers tap the screen to create hearts, Periscope’s version of clapping or head-nodding that the audience agrees and likes what they are hearing. The more hearts a scoper accumulates over time, the more visibility they gain. Second, be aware that all scopes are very public and you never know who might be watching…then adding troll-ish inappropriate comments. If you tap on that person’s comment, you have the option to block them and report them as abuse or spam. Third, experiment with the other features like taking a screen shot, sharing the link to the scope on other platforms, or inviting your own followers to come watch. If you decide to step in front of the camera, you will want to encourage your viewers to interact with hearts, comments, shares, and the occasional screen shot of a note you hold up. When apparently talking to a picture of yourself on your phone, those hearts and comments are the only feedback you’ll get.
Oh, and a few more tips I’ve learned from an author friend who is conquering this platform: Get a stand or tripod of some sort even if it’s a giant spring clip on a coffee mug atop a pile of books to hold your phone stationary and at a higher level. This eliminates the double-chin and up-the-nose angle while holding the camera steady so viewers don’t get seasick. Plus it frees your hands to reach for things to show the audience or even jot notes to yourself. Last, don’t be afraid to go mobile at times or be creative with the reverse camera to show what you’re seeing while still being able to monitor comments.
Tool #6: With all the talk of live video streaming on various other channels, there is still a lot of power and discoverability in creating videos for YouTube. Not to mention, YouTube has added a live stream option as well. I know that there are a lot of programs and applications available to help record and edit professional looking videos so if you are interested in producing instructional videos on a topic in order to build an audience for your non-fiction book, be prepared to invest the time and possibly money to learn how to do it well. Personally, I’ve used the webcam program on my computer to record a few short book promotion videos and then uploaded them into YouTube. There is generally an expectation of professionalism on YouTube that is discarded in the spontaneity of Facebook live, so if the idea of video is appealing but the learning curve for YouTube is daunting, consider one of the other platforms that already incorporates live video.
Whew. Congratulations on making it this far and being willing to explore the social media options available as avenues to meet potential readers and build relationships with them. As I’ve said before, when it comes to platform building, authors need a website or home base that they control, an email list that is guaranteed to reach every name with a targeted message, and two or three other outposts to meet people and hopefully create a fan base through relationship.
While there are readers sprinkled in among the millions who use the various social media accounts, there are a few places where only readers would visit. So, it’s vitally important for authors to go plant a flag in those places too, starting with Amazon Author Central.
(NOTE: If you found this post helpful, the entire blog series is now contained in a single book here.)