Part 1: The Setup

Go do some Twitter!  Get on Facebook!  Where is your blog?  When are you going to have your website up?  Have you ever noticed how everyone has plenty of advice about how you should be using the Internet, but nobody really seems to know how?  After years of popularity, the Internet and Social Media remain this huge untapped resource that everyone knows they need to take advantage of but have no idea how.

Writing, whether fiction writing or non-fiction, is a business that requires self-promotion.  Social Media a very useful tool for self-promotion but few people ever use it properly. As a writer and an Internet marketer I know that writers, especially, need to learn to use social media properly.  I also realized that the writing community was in real need of a good article about Social Media for Writers.

During an e-mail correspondence, Randy Ingermanson the author of Writing Fiction for Dummies, said to me: “A lot of authors are being told by their publishers to Twitter. No explanation is given on how or why this should work. A lot of time is being wasted.”  He was “appalled” and at a loss for how a writer could use Twitter effectively.

Then I attended the Writers at the Beach: Seaglass 2010, a writer’s conference in Rehoboth Beach, and I came away with an even greater sense of the need for this article.  The  word on the street was that writers are being expected to do their own marketing more and more.

The first thing to keep in mind when some publisher just tells you to go Twitter, with no explanation and no guidance, is that they probably don’t know how to do it any better than you do.  They have just heard the hype and are hoping you can figure out the secret.

To the publisher it makes perfect sense.  There are people out there making low budget films into blockbusters using free Social Media tools.  Logically, they don’t need to put any money into book promotion anymore!  The one thing that everyone always forgets is that where you don’t spend money you have to make up for it in time, and time is not exactly a luxury when you are trying to write your next novel!

So the publisher has left publicity and promotion in your hands.  Do not panic!  Everyone else is in the same boat when it comes to Social Media and Internet Marketing.  I have searched for some authors and found virtually no web presence, others have some web presence, but its haphazard, disorganized and incomplete.  If you are worried because you think all the other authors are doing better than you at tapping the resources of the Internet—don’t be.

If you want to learn, and are willing to listen, I will give you some basics on how to quickly and easily manage a key set of Social Media and Internet marketing tools.  Yes I said quickly! Quick enough that you can do it between one chapter and the next!  Not only that, but it will be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.  Unheard of, unthinkable but entirely possible!

There are far too many Social Media outlets for me to go into detail on all of them.  I am going to focus on just three things which I believe are the foundations of a good Web Presence: Website, Facebook and Twitter.  If you can master these, the rest will be easy.

Part 2: Your Website

Get a dot-com, not a dot-info or a dot-net.Yournamehere.com” is one of your best choices. Do I really need to explain what I mean when I use the phrase yournamehere? A dot-com is just easier to remember.  If you can’t get the exact dot-com you wanted, think of another.  For example, if your name is John Smith and johnsmith.com is taken maybe you can get johnwilliamsmith.com or jwsmith.com.  The product you are really selling is your self. So you need to brand yourself, not your book.  People will feel more connected to you and they will be more loyal fans for it.

Make a better website

Can you make an organized and professional looking website? If you answered yes, are you being honest or just cheap?  The cost of hiring someone to do it for you is not as much as you think, and it’s the only thing you really should spend money on when creating your web presence.  Make sure you can maintain it and make changes to it easily yourself. For an easy to maintain and professional looking website try a WordPress blog.

Links, Links and more Links! Have links to all the various websites where people can find out information about you, including your Twitter account and your Facebook Fan Page. Link to other websites if they are worthwhile, relevant and you want to share them. Get “backlinks” wherever possible (links to your website on other people’s websites).

Put good content on your website!! I will say it again because it is so important: Put good content on your website! And keep adding fresh content daily, weekly or at the very least monthly.  Blogs are great for this. This makes both your fans and the search engines happy.  Content can be news about your book, the list of stops along your book tour, events you are attending, or anything you want to share with your fans and potential fans.

Pictures make a thousand words more bearable. Pictures break up the monotony of text and create anchors that keep people on a web page longer.  A picture of yourself somewhere on your web page is crucial.  Pictures of you interacting with fans are great.  Pictures relevant to your content are helpful.

Don’t forget video. Video is an increasingly popular way to get your message across to those people who don’t have the patience to read every blog post on the Internet.  Remember you are competing for the limited number of minutes which are willing to commit and attention spans are short these days.  Video can give you an edge that few others are taking advantage of.

Create ways for people to interact with you on your website. Interactions are what make Media social.  Allowing comments, feedback and rating systems are all simple ways to encourage interaction on your website.  Do not be afraid of ratings and reviews.

Learn some basics about keyword and SEO optimizing. Its not hard! This is how you make search engines your friend.  You don’t have to be an expert, or hire an expert, to take advantage of them.  Just be aware of some of the tricks and keep them in mind when you are adding to your website.

Part 3: Effective Facebook

Get a personal account and keep it personal. Make it only for your friends, family, colleagues and one or two of your really special fans.

Keep the number of friends under 175. It is my magic number.  I read once that this is the number of people that a human being is capable of keeping up with socially, and it has served me pretty well.  If you have more people than this then it becomes overwhelming and you are not able to interact with everyone effectively or quickly.

Have fun, chat, be friendly. Or don’t. It’s your personal account, use it as you like.

Next, create a Fan Page with your name. The whole point is to have Fans right? You need to use your name, this is your brand! You can create separate ones for each book, but make sure you have one for you as an author.  Think of it as a way to keep from having to re-invite people to be your fans every time you put out a new book.

Fill in some of the info details. Please include your website, and add a picture of yourself!  The picture of you again gives that personal touch and if you don’t add your website, what the frog is the point!! There is a little box, just above the “Information” box and below your profile photo, use this to add a brief one line bio.

Be shameless about getting fans even if you haven’t published a blessed thing!! Invite your friends and family to be your fans.  Remember I said no shame! If any of your close friends and family don’t become your fan, then harass and heckle them until they do, and hope they don’t disown you for it.  Post the link to your fan page on your website.  Ask your friends and family to invite their friends to be your fan.  Do whatever it takes!  There is no magic number limit to having fans—you want to have as many as possible. My Facebook Fan Page. Shameless!

Put Good Content on your Facebook Fan Page!!! I don’t need to say it again do I? Post new things once a day if you can but at least once a week.  Post links to blog posts.  Post news about yourself as a writer.  All the things you want to share with your fans.

Interactions are your goal. If your fans interact with you then reward them by interacting back.  The more people post comments or “like” your posts the better.

Part 4: Twitterverse, The Final Frontier!

Create a Twitter account using your name. Your name is your brand.  Your name makes you a person!

Fill in your information. Add a picture of yourself and add your website address.  Fill in your bio with the same brief bio you used on your Facebook fan page or something similar.  Are you starting to see the common steps that can translate to all Social Media?  Each one will have differences in how you use them but the basic setup is always the same.

People to follow: friends and family, agents, editors, publishers, fellow writers, people who interest you and a few special fans.  Remember, keep it under 175.

Visit once a day or every few days or at the very least once a week. Skim through the most recent posts of others in your feed.  Send them little @ replies or retweet what they say if you think its worth repeating.

Interactions and getting exposure are your goal. If someone sends you a message or retweets you, then reward them with a reply or a thank you. A retweet is a powerful thing.  It’s like a referral or a recommendation.  It makes it possible for your Tweets to reach hundreds of people who aren’t even following you.  Every person has a sphere of influence (people who know, like and trust them) and every person in that sphere has their own sphere.  When you use Twitter you are tapping into the exponential power of influence.

Having followers is not your greatest concern, but don’t worry, they will come.  When they do, you are under no obligation to follow back, so don’t do it unless they really interest you.  If they all interest you then you are going to have a hard time keeping it under 175.

Tweet good content when not interacting with people! For the love of all you hold sacred, please do not interpret “good content” as “quotes by famous people.” Be original even if it means telling people what you are cooking for supper (but please don’t do this too often).

Things to Tweet: Things that make you a real person.  Things you feel the need to communicate to your peers, colleagues and fans. If you are going to have a book signing, not only should you Tweet about it but you should also @ refer to the bookstore or venue if they have a Twitter account.  This will give them the opportunity to promote themselves, and you, by retweeting it.  Have conversations with your fellow writers, publishers, agents and other colleagues, keeping in mind that your fans and millions of potential fans can listen in.  This adds a slightly different experience for your followers than on your Facebook fan page.  When a fan gets to see your chit chat with your agent they feel special, and making your fans feel special makes them more loyal.

Things not to Tweet: Do not Tweet Quotes by famous people, unless its infrequent and something that has very special meaning to you personally. Endless, bare links are unappealing; make sure you tell people what they are or why you are recommending them.  Intersperse your Tweeting of links with Tweets that remind people you are a real person and not just a robot regurgitating links.  Never Tweet your website, unless you have something new, which you are pointing your link to directly, like a blog post.  Please keep in mind the risk for spam!  There is more to say on Twitter than just: “buy my book”.

Use keywords.  Learn to use #channels.  Twitter search is your friend! Twitter is more that talking at people and getting followers.

The whole is greater than the parts

Where Facebook is a way to keep your fans informed about what you are up to, Twitter is the best way too increase your fan base and expose new people to your brand—i.e. you!  Your website is the center of it all. When they are all working together they create a powerful web presence that will increase your fan base and your exposure and ultimately the sale of your books!  You just need to remember a few simple things:  You must brand yourself and show people that you are a real person.  Provide good content, interact with people and make your fans feel special. These are the foundations of good Social Media marketing. So what are you waiting for? Go do some Twitter!

I hope you have found this article helpful.  People write entire books on these subjects, so I couldn’t possibly cover everything you need to know, but my goal was to give you brief introduction and get you pointed in the right direction.  I welcome questions in either e-mail or comments on the blog.