LinkedIn for Writers (Build a Social Media Platform)

Linked In for Writers via @janalynvoigt for Wordserve Water Cooler

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When deciding where to focus online, most writers veer toward Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Developing a presence at those sites can be a great idea. However, with 250 million users worldwide, LinkedIn carries a clout all its own. Chances are you think of LinkedIn as a network for job seekers, and while it does function in that capacity, it offers other benefits to writers.

Reach Readers

Although LinkedIn’s focus is business-to-business, don’t discount it as an avenue to reach readers. I personally experienced a spike in book sales after putting the word out on LinkedIn about DawnSinger (Tales of Faeraven 1). The link I posted had a lot of shares, which means my network kicked in to help. As members of my network shared my update to their networks, they increased its impact exponentially, creating additional exposure for my book. This is social networking at its best. Just remember that giving more than you receive will help you tap its power. (It’s also a great way to live.)

Extend Your Network

LinkedIn allows you to introduce yourself to those in the networks of your network. This can be a powerful tool for growing your sphere of influence. Be careful about approaching agents and editors this way, though. It’s best to send them a contact request after an in-person meeting.

Give and Receive Endorsements

LinkedIn lets you easily endorse people you respect for their professional skills. This also means that others can do the same for you. While you can request that others endorse you, use this tool wisely. If people don’t know you or your work, don’t send them an endorsement request.

Discover Who Views Your Profile

It’s fun to click a sidebar link and discover who has recently visited your profile. While those who upgrade to a professional account receive more information, even those who use a free plan can see a few names. As an example, recent visitors to the LinkedIn profile for Janalyn Voigt included a librarian, another author and speaker, a digital publisher, a barbershop manager, and a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. In the past I’ve also caught a film producer and agent checking out my profile. These people can represent contacts you may want to follow up with.

Link Your Blog

LinkedIn’s blog link tool enables you to feed your blog to your LinkedIn profile. This helps you brand while giving your blog additional reach.

Automatically Update from Twitter

Feed your Twitter updates to LinkedIn. Go to settings to enable this feature.

Conduct Polls

Use the LinkedIn polls application to gain insights that can help you determine what to write, how to promote, and where to find your target audience. You can integrate your LinkedIn polls to Facebook or Twitter and also embed them in your website.

Improve Your Website’s SEO

Be sure to include a link to your website and/or blog in your profile. Garnering links back to your blog from high-authority sites helps raise its visibility in search engines. A good search-engine ranking means that when people search the internet for keywords within your topic, your site shows as close as possible to the first page of their results. This is known as search engine optimization, or SEO.

Focus on Business

One of my author friends centers his online social networking at LinkedIn more than at other sites. When I asked him why he prefers LinkedIn, he answered that it’s all business. Since he’s had to break himself of an online gaming habit, this makes sense for him. LinkedIn’s business focus extends even further than not featuring games, and that’s good news for writers in a lot of ways. On LinkedIn you don’t “friend” or “follow” people, you add them into your network. Having an established network means that you can connect on a strictly-business level with (to name a few) publishing professionals (such as agents and editors), experts in fields you need to research, technical experts who design websites or make book trailers, and other authors willing to cross-promote.

Join Relevant Groups

LinkedIn is another place to connect with others on topics of interest to your author brand. You can also participate in groups of writers to talk shop. As an example, I’ve used LinkedIn groups to compare notes with other writers in an effort to discover where to focus promotional efforts. A simple search on LinkedIn will turn up groups to consider joining. If you’re new at writing, you may want to check out a post that gives details on 20 sites of interest to aspiring authors.

Follow Publishing Houses and Agencies

Use the follow companies LinkedIn feature to keep tabs on publishing houses and agencies. As a bonus, you can see how you are connected to these companies, which can give you contact leads.

How to Proceed with LinkedIn

Start by creating a free account, and then fill in your profile completely, using targeted keywords (see the section, above, on improving website SEO). Once you’ve done this, send invitations to connect with all your contacts and concentrate on growing your network in the ways mentioned throughout this post. I’m sure you’ll agree that LinkedIn is a powerhouse for writers.

Radio Days

When I completed my first book, my boss was incredibly supportive and offered to get a marketing package for me of my own choosing. Having very little understanding of book marketing, I was soon swimming in a flood of possible opportunities of all different shapes, sizes, and price tags. I finally settled on the Readers Favorite’s Book Promotion Packagewhich I found to be reasonably priced and reputable. One of their strategic partners, The Authors Show, welcomed me as a preferred guest as part of said package.

I had never been on the radio before and was rather anxious about sounding like a moron.  I didn’t worry for long, though, because it was clear that The Authors Show staff had the interview process down to a science. They sent me an author interview form to complete. It asked for pertinent information about the book. They allowed me to create 8-10 suggested questions that would relate to its content and would connect with an audience. There was a place to create a synopsis, a call to action to encourage buying behavior, and a list of preparatory questions so I would have an idea of what to expect.  Some of the questions were very thought provoking and have helped me during other marketing initiatives as well. For example: What benefits will the buyer get from reading the book?

After I completed the interview form and submitted it, I didn’t wait long until the interview was scheduled. It was conducted over the phone by Don McCauley, who was very kind. Before we got started, he encouraged me to relax and be as natural as possible. He assured me that they would edit the interview and remove any pauses or filler words.

When the time for the interview came, I was sure to secure a remote location without any distractions or background noises. I used a headset which seemed to help the audio quality. My gracious host made me feel very much at ease throughout the call which only lasted about thirty minutes.

Once the interview was edited, it came out to be fifteen minutes long. The interview was featured on The Authors Show for an entire month. During this time, I leveraged all the social media tools in my arsenal to get the word out: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my website, et cetera. After my time on The Authors Show website was up, they sent me an MP3 file of the interview. It’s still available on YouTube and accessible through my website. People have marveled, “You sound so knowledgeable!”  That’s nice to hear, but it’s because the marketing company set me up for success.

Aside from Amazon, the radio interview has been the best marketing vehicle I have found so far, and it’s by far the most impressive facet of my campaign.  It lives on the front page of my website and enjoys prime real estate. I will always be grateful to my boss, to Don, and to the good people at The Authors Show for providing me with this great facet of my marketing toolbox.

Have you ever used radio as a book marketing tool? How do you get the word out about your writing?

Antisocial Media

God bless the Internet.

It’s the great equalizer of our time. It has been a tour de force for introverts the world over who feel more confident and less prone to risk behind a laptop than a podium. Marketing no longer is the exclusive playground of handsome and highly articulate extroverts, people that really know how to connect with other people.  A website can have an infinite amount of charm – or at least charm enough not to require a spokesmodel.

How has this been possible? One reason is a fundamental shift in marketing itself and how society sees it. Marketing strategy has evolved from outbound to inbound. An outbound marketing strategy involves actively finding people and making them aware of your product and offerings.  An inbound marketing strategy is about being easy to find. It requires a high level of visibility. If you are invisible to Google, it’s not going to work.

This being said, I recently met with a visibility coach to discuss the next steps for how to continue building a writing platform. It seemed like many bases had been covered, and now I was stuck on how to proceed. After all, the infrastructure seemed to be coming along:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Writing contest award site
  • Book reviews
  • Smashwords and Amazon purchase links
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest board
  • YouTube radio interview
  • Google Adwords, Google+

I reviewed all of these facets of the marketing platform with the visibility coach. She was glad that some visibility had already been created, but there was still a lot to do. She said that the aforementioned social media sites are tools. Such tools are only part of a marketing strategy’s infrastructure and did not constitute its entirety.

Some of the things I had been putting off on my to-do list started coming back to mind:

  • Determine how many prospective customers would be interested in your product
  • Define that group – Who are they? How old are they? What is their demographic data?
  • Create a buzz among that target profile
  • Identify their buying behavior
  • Develop a message that speaks to that group
  • Become highly visible to that customer group
  • Learn their communication style and preferred methods of contact

The coach said, “I think we need to get you some REAL fans and not just virtual ones.” She kind of laughed a little bit, and I hadn’t realized until then that it was kind of funny. All my supporters are either friends or ones I’ve garnered online.  “Virtual fans are all well and good, but you need to meet and connect with some REAL people, some actual people now. We’re going to move forward with a press release and creating some events.”

The coach could probably tell that I was a little uneasy about the whole ‘events’ thing.  It’s awkward enough pumping up a site with one’s name and picture on it in cyberspace. How could I look people in the eye and do it for real? I would know if they didn’t really want to meet me.  What if someone told me to get lost? What if they said they had already read my book and they thought I was destroying literature or something? Besides, I had never met any of the authors I had always admired. Was that really necessary? Talking about my work with strangers… ugh. It seemed like the worst kind of vanity.

But the visibility coach pointed out something enlightening. When positioning the book and other works to the audience, there is no reason to focus on the author. The focus is on the characters in the book. She said to become the cheerleader of my main characters and pump them up constantly – and to take myself out of the equation. That resonated with my introverted nature, and I breathed a little easier.

Marketing is about telling a story. Who better to market, then, than us storytellers?

The ancient concept of the group storyteller conjures up images of tribes fixated on a speaker, basking in the orange glow of a campfire.  That kind of storytelling is interactive. Actors are storytellers, but of a different sort. They tell stories with their physical beings-not with words.

Writing, as a form of storytelling, can’t be purely antisocial because life and the human experience aren’t antisocial. That’s the whole point. People are trying to connect and feel something.  The Internet has made it very easy to forget that – but people go to the movies and read books for a reason. They are looking to connect. And as uncomfortable as it may be at times, connections just do not belong in the realm of the antisocial.

In what ways have you RECENTLY connected with your non-virtual reader fans? How might you reach out to them, specifically, this week?