Marketing, Networking, Social Media

The New Rules For Social Media: The No BS Guide

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It’s no secret that social media has gotten tough for authors with many reporting dismal reach and even worse engagement rates.  This past year, the biggest social media site Facebook, announced they would show less content from business pages and favor community groups.  This was a huge blow to authors with business pages.  So what is an author to do?  Believe it or not, there are still ways to reach your audience without having to pay a site to promote your posts.  However, it will require time and effort on your part, so if you’re willing to put in the work, you can maintain your connection to your followers.

Old Tricks On A New Day

The problem that I often see on social media is that many authors are still following rules that don’t work anymore.  The hacks, tips and tricks that were supposed to help you game the system years ago may actually be hurting you now.  Below, I put together a list of just a few tricks that just don’t work anymore:

Trick #1: Posting Frequently

Several years back when I created my author page on Facebook, the marketing gurus told people to post frequently and that worked, for a while.  But social media users complained when spammers and the power users began overtaking their feeds so algorithms were given the task of prioritizing content.  This meant that it didn’t matter if you posted 5 or 500 times per day, it would all be ignored if your content wasn’t relevant to your followers. In fact sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have a limit on how much activity an account can have before it’s flagged as suspicious.  This means you can be locked out of your account for 24 hrs or even have it suspended indefinitely.

Trick #2: Like Groups & Events

On Chris Syme’s podcast: Smarty Pants, her guest, author Shawn Inmon, talked about the regret he had about holding “like events” where he would invite other people to like his Facebook page.  He described those likes as, “An anchor around your neck,” because those people who liked his page, did so, and never returned.  You see having a large following but no interaction is pointless on a site like Facebook.  The same goes for Twitter and Instagram.  As you can imagine, when your followers far exceed your engagement, the algorithms assume your posts aren’t of a good quality and so your content gets less priority.

As if that weren’t enough, this past May, it was reported that Facebook shutdown several large Instagram groups, who were artificially inflating the popularity of certain posts, violating the company’s terms of service.  I believe things like this will continue as Facebook desperately tries to clean house after their recent data scandals.

Trick #3: Blindly Following & Unfollowing

I still hear this one being repeated as a sure fire way to get a large following.  In fact, there are services that deploy bots which follow and unfollow people en masse to help their clients build up their social media following.  As you can imagine this type of technique was abused by shady marketers and now, algorithms are programmed to detect this sort of thing.  So if you’re following and unfollowing more than 40 – 50 people per day, it’s possible that you can trigger the algorithms and get locked out of your account for suspicious behavior.

Trick #4: Posting & Running

Most authors are guilty of this and I am no exception, it’s the set it and forget it technique where you use a scheduling app to post on your behalf.  However, algorithms these days monitor what people respond to and if nobody is responding to your content then your scheduling is in vain.  Today, authors must show up and engage their followers so leave the scheduling for important things like announcing publication dates, sales or public appearances.

Trick #4: Using Quotes

For years authors have been urged to create quotes on stunning backgrounds to get attention.  However, that too has become blasé, in fact, it’s actually become a meme on social media:

-Very Famous Person (2)

 

Visual posts do garner the attention of people but take quotes from your own books.  Trust me, famous people don’t need our help to promote them on social media.

Trick #5: Clickbait Headlines

For those of you who don’t know what clickbait is, it’s basically a headline such as: “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!” which is a ploy designed to get people off of one site and onto a less secure one.  Clickbait is a popular technique used by criminals and shady marketers which is why sites like Facebook and Twitter now have rules against it.

Things That Still Work…For Now

Okay, so now that you know what doesn’t work, I’ll explain what does.  Surprisingly, it’s not all that complicated but it does require a bit of your time and effort.  Below, I have just a few tips to help you to remain visible to your followers:

Tip #1: Creating a Community Group 

Groups are nothing new to social media, you can create them on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  As of this date, none of the social media sites have tried to monetize groups—yet!  This means the members of your group will see ALL of your posts.

Now I know what you’re wondering, how can you build a group on a site like Twitter? Well that’s simple, you can create your own hashtag around an important topic and build a group that way.  If you want to take it a step further, you can even register your own hashtag with a service like Hashtag.org.  It won’t mean that you own it or can prevent others from using it but it will mean that your account will be linked to the hashtag.  So when people look for it in the search engine, your account will pop up at the top of the results.  Neat, huh?

Tip #2: Networking

Okay, I’ve said this before but I’m saying it again, you’re not on social media only to promote yourself.  You’re there to establish relationships with your readers as well as book reviewers, influencers and authors in your genre.  If you’re doing those things you are one step ahead of 80% of your peers who just auto post.

When I say go out there and socialize, I mean go out and find where the book and writing conversations are and contribute to the discussion.  I know authors who set goals of commenting on at least 50 discussions when trying to grow their following or boost their engagement.  Most of the time it works for them plus, it doesn’t cost any money.  I talked about this in my post: How to Approach & Pitch Influencers several years ago, you might want to give it a look.

Tip #3: Videos

In the past year or so, all the major sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have begun favoring video content.  They seem to be trying to amass as much video as possible in order to keep users on their site instead of Youtube, or Snapchat.  Now, I know what you’re saying, “I don’t have the money or skills to create a video!“.  That’s where you’re wrong.  You may not be able to deliver Steven Spielberg work but you can do a basic video where you stream together pictures and add a little text or music like a slideshow.

Most authors can create basic videos using software that’s probably already installed on your computer like Windows 10 Photos, or iMovie.  You can even create a basic video on your smartphone with software like Magisto and iMotion.

Tip #4: Live Streaming

Live streaming began in social media with the launch of Periscope, a video app which was acquired by Twitter in 2015.  Since then, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram all have their own version of live streaming.  It’s still relatively new so it’s given more weight by the algorithms.  If you want to see indie authors who have used this feature well check out Mark Dawson and Toby Neal.

In Closing

As you may have noticed, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are designing their algorithms to keep users on their sites for a longer period of time.  Gone are the days where you could put your social media accounts on autopilot and not log in for days.  Today, you need to show up and interact with actual human beings.  If you don’t, you stand the risk of becoming invisible to your followers.  This is the new reality of social media and if you’re not into the whole community aspect of things, then you might have to pony up with some cash in order to stay on minds of your followers.

Now I’m handing the mic to you, are there any social media tips that you find don’t work anymore?  Tell us in the comments section.

 

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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.

 

 

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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Pic via Pixabay

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.