apps, Book Promotion, Marketing, writing

Chatbots: How Authors Are Using Them For Marketing And More!

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Image via Pixabay

In the past three years, a new type of book marketing has emerged using internet bots which has indie authors buzzing.  Now bots have been around for years, but they were only available to those who understood coding or had deep pockets to hire someone else who did.   Today,  I want to explain the possibilities as well as the pitfalls of this new marketing tool.  But before we move on, let me explain what a bot is…

According to Techopedia, an internet bot is piece of software that is programmed to do automated tasks on the internet. This can include things like; answering questions, collecting data, selling products, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.  In an article from the Atlantic, it was estimated that more than half of all internet traffic now consists of bots.  So you’ve most likely encounter one either on social media or at a major retailer’s site.  Internet bots can be a life saver for small businesses, because they save both time and money.  Imagine having a bot greet a person who just signed up for your email list right on your website, or who answers questions on social media.  Now let’s take it a step further, image a bot conducting a giveaway or doing deep research on your behalf.  Neat, huh?  Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this type of technology.

The Publishing Industry Is Already Onboard

Last year, Harper Collins launched its own Epicreads chatbot for teens on  Facebook Messenger, they also have another bot called, Book Genie both bots offer book suggestions to readers.

 

Epic Reads Bot
Epic Reads Chatbot

 

The traditional publishers aren’t the only ones getting onboard with social media bots, indie author Nick Stephenson, has a bot of his own on Messenger as well.  His bot alerts you to new articles and free video training.

On the Self-Publishing Formula podcast, host James Blatch spoke with indie author Kerry Gardiner, who gave examples of how authors are using bots in order to;

  • Build up their email lists
  • Increase their social media following
  • Ask for reviews
  • Create choose your adventures for readers

She has a bot of her own which she created for her website called, BookBotBob.  On the site readers choose whether they want a free or discounted book.  Once the choice is made, the bot eventually moves the conversation over to Facebook Messenger.

Kerrys Book Bot
BookBotBob Chatbot

Kerry also has a course in which she teaches indie authors the in’s and out’s of creating a bot for Messenger.  (Not affiliated.)

The Pitfalls of Automating Your Marketing: A Warning

There are numerous stories of people who have used bots to automate their marketing and failed miserably.  The results include situations where bots spouted inappropriate gibberish at random people, to bots that got social media accounts deactivated for violating terms of service.  Remember, before creating your bot for a social media site learn about the rules because bots need to be approved before they can deployed on any site.  For example, did you know that on Facebook Messenger, promotional content is allowed for standard messaging but not allowed for subscription messaging?  Strange, huh?  To learn more, check out more about Facebook’s rules and regulations for developers here.

How To Create Your Own DIY Bot

Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to learn how to create a bot, because these days you don’t even have to know how to code to do it.  There are several services also that will allow you to create a basic bot for free (restrictions apply).  The service that lots indie authors are going gaga over is ManyChat because it’s a free site and easy to use.

Here are just a small list of resources which can help you to design your own bot:

If You’re Not Technically Inclined

If you aren’t technically gifted, you can always find someone to do the job for you.  Below, I’ve list several websites where you can find a freelance chatbot developer.

Final Thoughts

Marketing experts believe that bots are here to stay but there are others who believe that AI devices like voice assistants are the future, and will make bots obsolete very soon.  Personally, I can’t say what the future holds but if bots can help make our lives easier now then why not use them?  They are much cheaper than hiring an assistant and they don’t need rest nor do they give you (the boss), attitude.  If you’re an overwhelmed author who can’t find the time for things like social media or email marketing then bots may be the answer for you.

 

 

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Marketing, Social Media

How Indie Authors Can Steal Social Media Techniques of the Rich & Famous

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Image via Pixabay

I’ll admit it, social media used to kick my butt, with the constant platform changes, to the shifting of audiences from one site to another, it’s hard to keep up. I’m a YA and romance author so I have to be everywhere because teens will only congregate on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Meanwhile, women (who like romance) are crazy about Pinterest and Facebook. Can you say #SocialMediaBurnout?

But recently, I had an epiphany when I read this article about how one publishing company was using a Tumblr page to promote a new book release. I took a long hard look at the page and saw where I was going wrong. You see, the publishing company turned a Tumblr site into a website, complete with email opt-in form and even an about me section a.k.a. The Creator tab.

Tumblr Epiphany

Genius right? But it doesn’t end there, I looked at George Takei’s Facebook page and saw the same thing.

George Takei

His page has freebies (Takei Swag) for his fans, cool huh?

Why Customizing Tabs Helps Tell Your Story

It’s no secret that Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are poorly designed which complicates things. As a book marketers we need to make things easy to read and understand. Yeah, that’s YOUR job unless you can farm that kind of stuff out. If not, here are a few tips I’ve learned from the big guys.

Book Pages: When it comes to creating a page for your book, don’t settle for the default layout when setting up a page. Use that space to tell your story, if you’re setting up a site for a book, create tabs for characters, freebies and an about the author section.

Author Pages: Same goes for the author page, don’t settle for the plain default layout. Try to customize it with both a book and an about me section. I did this on Pinterest and Tumblr recently.

It’s been proven time and time again that people won’t leave a particular social media platform to visit websites. So you are going to have to present yourself and your work to them on their preferred turf. Well, as much as the site will allow. You can do this by creating tabs/boards on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

The most important things that should be on your social media account:

• An About Me Section (unlike the Facebook one that no one can see).
• The link to your email opt-in form. (You are collecting emails, right?)
• Information on where to buy your books.
• Freebies or swag (if you have any)
• Requests for things like; beta readers, reviews, shares or even a street team.

Free Facebook Tabs

Of course Facebook doesn’t make things easy so many of us have to resort to a third party app. But don’t worry, there are free services that you can use. (Not affiliated)
1. Page Modo
2. Décor
3. TabFusion

In Parting…

Is it vital that we put our best foot forward on social media? I think so. If you’re going to have a page, why not have a cool one. Social media is only 50% what you post, and 50% presentation.

I’m not going to get into the effectiveness of social because nobody really knows what works anymore. With the algorithms changing at least once a year, and all the platform “improvements,” there are no real experts except those who are succeeding at social media and those people are usually celebrities and artists.

Social Media

The Argument for Spending Money Part 9: Social Media: The Non-Douchey Way

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Pic via Pixabay

 

Imagine being at a rock concert and the band hands you the microphone, the spotlight is beaming and all eyes are focused on you.  What do you say?  How do you act?  Social media can often feel like this to a lot of shy authors.

Sadly, there are authors who have ruined their reputations simply by being inappropriate or crude online. There are even a few who’ve had to delete their accounts at the request of their publishers.  Please don’t be that author!

Regurgitation and Deviation, Oh My!

I’m going to regurgitate some of what the other gurus have said (Sigh) but in order to build a following you may need to bug your family and friends.

But what happens if nobody responds to the call?  Then you’ll have to go where all the other nerds go to find dates, umm…I mean likes.

Now here’s where I deviate from the advice and tell you how people really get followers without spending money or humiliating themselves.  On just about every social media site there are hacks for finding fans, likes and followers.  Let’s start with the world’s largest social media site, Facebook…

The Secret World of Facebook:

On FB there are pages, groups and even like events where page owners help each other by liking one others page.  It’s a reciprocation thing and if you’re not cool with it then, forget it.  You’ll have to advertise or use a promoted a post.

I’ve found that the best way to get likes outside of advertising are events.  I participated in one of these several months ago and managed to secure 60 new likes.  It was an open event where you were allowed to invite others as well.  Here are some tips on how to create a Facebook event. Make sure you invite people with pages or people interested in what you do otherwise, you won’t get much of a response.

*Tip*  If you really want a big turnout, promote your event on writer’s groups to spread the word.  However, make sure you have permission to post first!

Having said that, there are also groups and pages devoted to helping page owners get a few likes.  Now before you ask, no, I haven’t altered the names of these groups to amuse you.  It really is this easy to find these people just by searching, “Like My Page” on the Facebook search engine.

  1. Like My Page
  2. Like My Page
  3. Like My Page
  4. Like My Page
  5. My personal favorite: You Wanna Like My Page

On Twitter

You can search hastags like, #TeamFollowBack, #INeedTwitterFollowers, or #FollowMeBack And before you ask, yes, Facebook has groups for those looking for Twitter followers, here are a few:

  1. Twitter Followers
  2. Twitter Followers
  3. Twitter Followers
  4. Follow Me on Twitter
  5. Follow Me on Twitter

Another way to get followers is to participate in a trending topic.  There are many writing related topics that are discussed on Twitter and here’s a list of the who, what and when. 

Goodreads Likes, Votes, etc

The same rules apply to Goodreads but you must be careful here, this is a place where you don’t want to make a fool out of yourself.  It’s where the readers and reviewers actually hang out.

On Goodreads:

  1. Authors Helping Authors
  2. You Like Me, I Like You
  3. Indie Book Club
  4. Independent Author Services and Promotions
  5. Tips for Self-Promotion, Sales and Advertising

Congratulations, You’ve Won Half the Battle

Now that you have a few likes/followers, you’re on to the hard part.  You’re gonna need engagement and that means reaching out to other authors and cross promoting.  That includes liking other pages and getting to know people.  Don’t like someone’s page and message them with something stupid like, “Okay, I liked your page, now like mine.”  I’ve actually received these kinds of messages on Facebook.  And by the way, no, I don’t ever bother with these people!

Find authors in your genre with thriving communities and try to study them as well as participate in what they’re doing.  Share posts and comment when you know something about the topic.  It is key that someone is comfortable with you before they’ll even consider working with you.  Remember, trust takes time.

Why Are We Doing This All Crap?

It’s a sad but God awful truth, that agents and editors want authors to have a large following on social media as this former editor explains here. It’s also a fact that some agents are now Googling prospective clients just to see what you’re up to online.

Personally, I wouldn’t drive myself crazy with social media, it’s just one pillar of an author’s platform.  I don’t believe you should be paying for fans or ads on social media especially, when there are free alternatives to build your numbers.

Many authors have done well without social media, but if you want to get an agent or a decent contract with a trade pub then, you’ll need to impress them.  Tragically, the only thing that seems impressive to them these days is not your ability to write, but your ability to pimp a book.

Okay, now it’s your turn, do you know any social media hacks?  Dish in the comments section.

Participant in the Make a Living Writing link party.

Networking, Social Media

Why Likes, Retweets and Pluses Don’t Mean Anything

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Recently, UNICEF Sweden released a video geared towards “slacktivists” people who like their page but never cut a check.  UNICEF isn’t the only group to notice the apathy of social media users.  Indie authors as well have complained about people liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter only to receive no engagement whatsoever.

Vanity Metrics

On Twitter I have around 2,200 followers and 1,300 Facebook likes but did I sell 5,500 books?  Ah, nope.  That’s because these people may have simply stumbled upon my page/account and found me interesting.  Some of them may not even be readers, let alone, fans.  The amount of followers, subscribers or likes a person has is considered vanity metrics and is often confused with social proof.

You can have the biggest following on Twitter, and millions of subscribers on your blog, but if no one isn’t buying your book or helping you promote it, then, it’s pointless.  You win at social media by leveraging your connections, that’s means finding out what can you get from these likes, follows and pluses.  Recently, I was offered a discount on book marketing services just for being a Twitter follower of a particular agency.  Now that’s way better than a like, in my book.

Incest or a Relationship?

It’s been preached for a while that authors shouldn’t follow other authors on social media, in fact, it’s been called incestuous but that’s total nonsense.  Social media is about mingling, sharing news, and asking questions.  For example, this week, an author in one of my Facebook groups asked, about free images she could use for her book.  Immediately, several of us gave our input which ended up saving her big money.  If all you want to do is sell, sell, sell then social media isn’t going to work for you.

Social media can he helpful for promoting, but you have to connect with the right people.  I started networking online almost 5 years ago, without even realizing it.  I started joining groups and asking questions about writing but most importantly, I listened. Many authors are under the impression that they can sell books to a complete stranger.  When in fact, people who don’t know you have no obligation to help you let alone give you their money.  So in closing, if it feels weird asking for help, you may not be as well connected as you thought.  Asking for help only feels weird when you’re asking complete strangers like UNICEF.