Note: Originally published on my blog for authors.
At its core, Internet marketing is all about publishing, and the better the content you publish the better your results… [I]t’s absolutely critical to publish assets that can have a positive impact on your business.
–Brian G. Johnson, Trust Funnel: Leverage Today’s Online Currency to Grab Attention, Drive and Convert Traffic, and Live a Fabulous Wealthy Life (pp. 21 and 22)
When building an online platform, authors are often overwhelmed by the varied possibilities, and completely at a loss as to exactly what content should go into each component of their platform, particularly on their blog and social media sites. It’s really not that hard as long as each component’s best functions are understood and properly used: As tools to help authors connect with and provide information to readers, and, ultimately, sell their books.
Two Tools in the Author’s Toolbox
Blogging and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are both incredibly useful tools for authors. They’re also two of the most misused tools. Social media is particularly misunderstood, with cringe-worthy results, in part because authors tend to focus on their version of marketing rather than focusing on social media’s primary function as social connectors.
Facebook ads aside (those are a whole nother piglet), “marketing” by overwhelming followers with Buy my book! messages simply doesn’t work; that’s not why readers follow authors. It’s not why they join social media sites.
In fact, I’m always surprised by how many authors fail to grasp this, including myself. (Hey, I was new to all this at one point. Still am, sometimes!) Social media sites exist to help people find and interact with one another. In other words, these sites facilitate socialization. That Facebook, etc., have commercialized the process doesn’t change social media’s core function, as an online gathering place of friends and/or people sharing common interests.
The same can be said for blogging, which is more about reaching out and connecting with others than it is about selling to them, although any blog can certainly achieve both without stepping on anyone’s toes.
I’m not a huge participant in social media, even on my author sites. (I’m about to quit Twitter, as a matter of fact, in part so I can focus my efforts elsewhere.) But when I do post to Facebook, guess which posts are more widely seen? You got it. Non-marketing posts reach more people faster than any post about giveaways, sales, new releases, or cover reveals.
Part of this is due to Facebook’s suppression of business-oriented posts in a thinly disguised push to force businesses to pay for post boosts and other advertising, but part of it is simply a matter of followers’ interest. Be honest, now. Which would you rather see in your Facebook feed: Yet another Buy my book! post or one about why an author draws the line at researching goats?
Likewise, when I published regular, somewhat personal blog posts via my Lucy Varna website, readership spiked. Readers love to know what their favorite authors are up to. Sure, they also want to know when your next book is out, but that’s not the only reason they follow your blog.
Quality vs. Quantity
Social media and blogging are both easy to overdo, particularly in a tight schedule. Russell Blake suggests limiting all marketing activities to the 25% of our workday not spent writing. It’s a good rule of thumb. After all, shouldn’t our time be spent where it will do the most good, in producing the next book?
New writers are the most vulnerable to advice for authors to “be everywhere” and admonitions to “build a social media presence.” I made the same mistake. I have websites, blogs, and Facebook pages for both of my current pen names, and boy, is it hard to juggle all of them in addition to managing mailing lists and marketing efforts, and keeping on top of all the nitpicky aspects of maintaining a productive writing business.
By the time I discovered Pinterest, I’d wised up a little. I have one Pinterest account and group all my pen names under it. I’ve also discontinued blogging separately for each pen name, and am now focusing my blogging efforts on this blog (specifically to give back to the writing community) and a personal blog housed at Dreaming If, where I can direct readers of all my fiction and non-fiction. In the near future, I’m going to consolidate my various Facebook pages and group most of my social media activities under one page. At that point, I hope to begin posting again on a regular basis.
Why all these changes? It’s simple: I’d rather focus on posting quality content than on posting a large quantity of material. Focusing my attention allows me to cut down on the amount of time I spend on social media and blogging each week without sacrificing my main goals: Connecting with readers and keeping them up to date on new publications.
Positive Content Creation
Everything authors do should be geared toward meeting their personal and business goals, including blogging and social media. One of my goals, for instance, is connecting with readers. Another is to inform them about the various story worlds and characters I write. I can choose to blog solely about personal matters, but since I’m a fairly private individual, doing so would leave me with precious little to blog about.
Instead, I try to mix personal and overtly business-related posts (like cover reveals) with evergreen content, i.e. posts pertinent to stories, story worlds, and characters that add to a reader’s knowledge of my books, share insights into the creation of stories, story wolds, and characters, and at the same time provide extra content for search engines to crawl so that my site is the one that comes up on the first page of searches.
Did you get all that? If not, here it is in short: Evergreen content adds value to your site and to your books, and it makes your website/blog the place for readers to learn about your writing.
That’s exactly what I mean by positive content creation. Every time you publish a blog post (or write a Facebook post), consider the impact it will make on readers. Will they learn more about you and your stories? Will it engage readers by helping them relate to your life and books? Does the post encourage interaction and sharing? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you’re doing great.
Avoid Negativity and Oversharing
If, on the other hand, your posts are full of negativity (envy of other authors, anger over a negative review, etc.), stop immediately and reconsider what you’re doing. Every time we publish something online, whether it’s a blog post, a Facebook status update, or a forum reply, we’re building our image (aka our brand) in the eyes of readers and our peers.
That image should be a positive one. No writer wants to hang around another writer who’s too busy finding fault to add to the discussion. Likewise, what motivation do readers have to follow and interact with a writer who’s constantly complaining about his or her life?
Always be yourself. That goes without saying. But also consider whether you’re stepping over any lines before hitting that post button. Is your post polite and otherwise within the boundaries of your culture’s social mores? Does it pertain to an intimate matter that shouldn’t be shared in a public forum? Does it have a positive slant or a negative one? Is it belittling or bullying someone, or are you treating your readers and peers with kindness and simple social courtesy?
Everything you write and publish online can and will be bandied about by others. Make sure they always walk away with exactly the image you want them to have.
Blogging and the use of social media are excellent tools to help authors engage, interact, and connect with readers. Focus on positive content creation to add value and substance to your platform, and you’ll create online meccas everyone will love to visit and share.
Do you have tips on ways to create great content? Share them below!