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.

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4 Pillars to Build an Effective Social Media Platform

Piller

A social media platform needs a support system, a set of pillars that stabilizes and suspends the infrastructure. Attempting to build a platform before its supports are in place isn’t practical or sustainable. Take things logically and in order, and you’ll do yourself a tremendous favor.

4 Support Pillars 

The first pillar in platform building is that infamous c-word, commitment. Tap into your passion to find the strength of mind and sheer grit to see you through. Decide now to ignore self-doubt and believe in yourself. Determine that no matter what, you’ll invest your time and talent so you can thrive and survive in the competitive world of publishing.

The second pillar in platform building, self-discipline, is just as difficult and necessary as the first. No one is going to force you to spend time on building a social media platform. If you cut corners, you only cheat yourself. In this series you’ll learn ways to work with social media more efficiently, but learning anything new always starts with an investment of time. The good news is that you can tailor your social media platform to fit within your time constraints. But remaining constant is important, and that takes self-discipline.

The third pillar in platform building is developing and adhering to a plan.  Thinking through the sites you will use, how often to update them, and who you will interact with helps you make better use of that non-renewable and precious commodity, time. A good rule of thumb is to devote only 20% of your time to promotion. Platform building should be a large part of your promotional effort. As an example, 20% of a 40-hour work week is the equivalent of an eight-hour day. If you have less hours than that for writing, do the math to find how much time to devote to promotion, and then determine what proportion of that will be spent on platform-building. That will look different for a novelist divided between book promotion and platform management than it will for a writer just starting to learn craft. Once you’ve sorted out how much time to allot, determine how long to work on your social media platform and then follow through.

The fourth pillar in platform building is identifying your support network. As John Dunne famously pointed out, no man is an island, sufficient unto himself. Each of us needs the encouragement of others. If you have the support of your family, you are indeed blessed. But even if it takes your family a while to understand your efforts, other writers already do. Seek them out online or locally and support them as they support you. Church is a great place to find prayer warriors who will encourage and pray for you as a writer.

Unless its pillars are strong, a structure can come crashing down. Make sure these four vital pillars are ready and able to serve the platform you plan to build. We’ve laid the foundation of this series by looking at the spiritual, emotional, and mundane aspects of platform building. With next month’s post we’ll begin analyzing social media sites from a writer’s perspective.

Related Posts:

Build an Effective Social Media Platform: The First Step May Surprise You

10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

What is Branding Anyway? 7 Reasons Why Seo Companies Care

 

10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

Image of a ship at seaWhat’s a writer to do? Publishers expect you to connect with readers online, but new networks spring up before you can learn what to do with the old ones. New invitations arrive daily in the various inboxes you don’t have time to check. You’re tweeted, emailed, and updated out, and never mind all the invitations you have no time to decline. It’s a slow-drip torture.

If the treacherous waters of social networking are swamping your ship, you’re not alone. A wise writer fights back with a strategy. Here are ten strategies to help you:

  1. Pick your battles. Decide where to focus your energy online. Although Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have a greater share of traffic, your results may vary, depending on the audience you want to reach, your brand, and your particular style of networking. Pay attention to where your visitors come from, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision about where to focus your efforts.
  2. Set aside specific times or a time limit for social networking. Decide where and when and how you’ll interact online and stick to your guns. Failing to approach the Internet with this mindset makes it far too easy to lose track of time. If you have trouble adhering to a set time, use an egg timer or other alarm to warn you when your time is up.
  3. Manage your social networks from one dashboard. I use and recommend http://hootsuite.com for posting to and tracking my social sites. With Hootsuite, I can post the same update to more than one site simultaneously and pre-schedule or auto-schedule updates. Another popular option is Tweetdeck.
  4. Use browser extensions to shortcut social tasks. I favor Google Chrome because of the extensions I can add to my browser. I use Silver Bird to post to Twitter, check my tweet stream, follow search terms and hashtags, and for alerts when I’m mentioned on Twitter–all from my browser. I use Hootsuite’s Hootlet, Bitly (a link shortener that tracks stats), Google+ FacebookLinkedIn, and Stumbleupon extensions as well. Pinterest’s Pin It button is a big time-saver. All of these tools operate from small icons embedded at the top of my browser. This cuts down my visits to the social sites themselves, saving a tremendous amount of time.
  5. Understand your brand and how it applies to your social networking efforts. If you don’t know who you are and what you have to offer, you won’t know what to build and can spend a lot of time investing in the wrong thing. Watch for my next post, which will be all about finding your brand. (If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, sign up in the sidebar to receive the blog’s email updates.)
  6. Know your audience. Understanding who you’re writing for and what they care about is an essential step in developing an effective social media strategy. Make the effort to discover and develop your target audience. If you’re not sure how to do that, this post for novelists can help nonfiction writers as well: How to Find an Audience for Your Novel.
  7. Develop tunnel-vision and wear blinders. When you log into a social site, distractions abound. Keep your focus. It can help to follow a simple list. Here’s an example for Facebook: respond to comments and post to my wall, post to three friends’ walls, upload a picture, check emails, accept or decline new friends, respond to event invitations, and log off (30 minutes).
  8. Adhere to a social media schedule. I’ve programmed Google Calendar to send me email reminders to pay more attention to one social site over others on a specific schedule. During these visits, which occur weekly, I do maintenance tasks like revamp my bio, check that my links are current, swap out my profile picture, upload videos, make sure my site adheres to my brand, and the like.
  9. Count the opportunity costs. Time spent on social sites is time not spent doing other things. It’s easy to get caught up by online friendships to the detriment of real-life relationships. Reminding yourself of your priorities helps you switch activities or power down the computer.
  10. Track yourself online. Install Rescue Time to track you online and send you productivity reports. If you lack discipline, this software can help you find it again. There are even options you can set to restrict your Internet access at certain times.

I rarely spend more than half an hour a day on social networking, and often considerably less, but for the most part I cover the bases. I hope you can glean from the strategies that have kept me sailing away on SS Social Media.

Marketing Your Debut Novel: Part One

After I got the call from my agent, Greg Johnson, that a publisher offered a contract, two thoughts crossed my mind. Strangely, they were not, “WOW, I’m going to be famous!” or “Yes! I can quit my day job.” Rather, I thought, “Oh no, he’s going to expect me to be able to write another book!” and “How on earth am I going to market it?”

After that, I considered going back to college for a marketing degree. Nursing school didn’t include classes on author branding.

Panic set in.

Now, it’s a few days after June 1 and my novel, Proof, has found its way into the big, scary world. So, what did I do to market my novel? What areas did I concentrate on? I’m going to break this down into phases. This post: Phase One.

Before your publishing contract (possibly even before agent submission):

Work on writing a great book first and foremost.

Then…

Branding. Click the link for a post I did on branding basics. Some authors don’t yet know what genre they want to commit to and therefore can’t build a strong brand. What I will say to that is maybe you’re not ready to publish. Think of athletes–a minuscule few excel at more than one sport. When they play professionally, it’s one sport. In the beginning, it’s paramount to have a singular focus. Once you’re super-famous like Ted Dekker, that may be the time to branch into another genre. But even then, you’ll likely be encouraged to go with a pen name.

Social Media: There’s nothing like making a group of introverts try to interact with one another. I hear some ask, what’s the point of all this social media? Marketing, at its most basic, it is about building relationships. You’re going to need help from your friends to do that. You’ll need influencers, endorsers, guest bloggers, and places to guest blog. Social media sites are among the best places to find the people who can help you. But, honest interaction should always come first. It’s easy to spot those who are trolling for selfish reasons.

Your social media involvement should start, if possible, years before your book is published. Long before book proposal submission to publishers. I started in October 2010 with my blog and Facebook. After that, Twitter. Then Goodreads. Lately, I’ve done Pinterest.

It takes time to feel comfortable with social media, so concentrate on one at a time until you feel like you have the hang of it. You can’t learn them all at once!

For me, Twitter is the most labor intensive. Then Facebook. Goodreads and Pinterest seem to grow on their own without a big time investment.

I haven’t found Linked In or Google + very helpful, so I don’t focus any efforts there.

WHY social media? An agent and eventual publisher are going to want to see that you’ve built relationships with people who may, in turn, buy your book. Say a publisher is on the fence between two books. Book A author has 20,000 Twitter followers, 5000 Facebook followers, and actively blogs versus Book B author who has 50 Twitter followers, 200 Facebook friends, and no active blog site. Which one would you pick to risk your money on?

Blogging: Many authors question whether it’s worth their time. Why blog? What an agent or publisher wants to see is that readers are interested in your content. Your content should support your brand. I’m a nurse and a suspense novelist so my blog is about medical accuracy in fiction. The blog gives me an additional venue for talking about killing, injuring, and maiming fictional people. Great for a suspense author. It’s not going to do me any good to blog about cooking unless my novel is about cooking. Everything you do should support your brand.

Blogging basics. Great content first. A consistent schedule–whatever you can commit to. I blog four times/week. Some only blog once/month. Content should be short–somewhere between 500-1000 words. We encourage our authors at the Water Cooler to keep it fewer than 750 words.

Register on Klout: Here’s a post I did when I first started Klout. Klout can be used as a tool to look at all these things to see if your efforts are growing your influence, but not to recover deleted text messages.

WHO CARES?

Well, actually, an agent and a publisher. I don’t know many agent types who are saying, “Your Klout score needs to be this before I’ll sign you.” However, one publisher wanted to know my Klout score before they would give me free books to blog about. If I had a Klout score higher than 30, I was eligible for more books.

What about you? What marketing efforts do you think are important during the pre-contract phase?

Social Media and Your Book Release

Often, authors ask me what they can do to put their book in the social media limelight. While it is not difficult to accomplish, as we have discussed before, there are a few important steps that you can take to ensure that your book receives the attention it deserves. Here are a few ideas that scratch the surface…

1. Start Immediately I had a client named Dan (all names have been changed to protect the innocent).  Dan had a wonderful book coming out in about six months.  He was so excited, I am sure he felt like he was going to give birth to a baby, or as close as guys get to this feeling (besides kidney stones).  Dan wanted to wait until his book came out to get all social media going.  Although waiting can still be effective, I don’t advise this or think it is best. Make sure you are lined up with all of your social media accounts now. Do you have Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, and maybe even Google Plus?  Make them look pretty. Get your friends and family on board and let them know what you are doing, so they can be your biggest cheerleaders.  Don’t wait. Start today.
2. Start Blogging and Guest Blogging  Here are my three simple rules for having a successful blog:

* Be consistent. Same time, same day.

* Don’t be too wordy or too simple.  500 -700 words is a good mark. Don’t over blog. Sadly, I just unsubscribed to one of my favorite blogs because I would receive two or three updates from that person a day. Save the poetry you like for your Facebook page.

* Be consistent. Oh, I said that? But it is valuable. I want my blogs in my inbox the same time every week.

Guest blogs need to be done strategically.  Pair up with friends who blog as well. Showcase yourself.  It can be a win – win for both of you. Promote it well,  and you both will end the day with a bigger audience.

3. Create A Data Base. Compile an email list and blast it out to all your friends and family.  I use Mail Chimp: it’s easy, it’s free and it does a great job managing a database.  There are some other ones that people have told me about,  author Lucille Zimmerman said that AWeber is great.  Celebrate great reviews, talk about new projects, and keep people on the inside of your circle, making them feel valuable.
4. Give Away Books. When your book is going to come out, encourage your friends and family to buy a copy.  Sure if you are REALLY close to them, you can give them a copy for free, but still get them to buy one and give it to a friend.  (Ever heard of Guerilla Marketing?) If your publisher gives you books to give to your friends and family, tell them they can only have one if they agree to write a review on Amazon after reading it. If your book is about the church, give it to church leaders ask them to help promote your masterpiece.

Get your books in the hands of “tastemakers.”  What is a tastemaker, you ask? Acoording to Urban Dictionary, “Tastemaker: An individual who’s determination of what’s stylish influences a significant quantity or quality of people resulting in a supportive trend.”  A tastemaker is someone who is savvy and all-knowing. It could be your best friend or your coffee shop barista. You want your tastemaker friends to talk about your book; people listen to tastemakers.
What is your best tip to be socially media savvy? 

Ingrid Schneider is WordServe’s resident Marketing Maven. With a specialty in social media, Ingrid loves helping authors find and manage an online tribe of readers. After spending the last 15 years managing and marketing restaurants, people, and businesses, Ingrid knew that helping people market themselves via social media and online platforms was a passion and something at which she excelled. Now doing social media marketing for some great-named authors, Ingrid also loves to imagine that she is a secret agent, because she can’t disclose with whom she is working. (Believe us when we tell you that Ingrid handles some big names, but for anonymity’s sake, we can’t disclose this TOP SECRET information.)  Imagination and creativity is something Ingrid is serious about and loves to incorporate into her work with her clients.

Word of Mouth or Cyber Bully?

I’m hearing more and more conversations crop up lately from small business owners who say dissatisfied customers with even an ounce of Internet savvy can create an unfair disadvantage for their businesses. They argue customers are too quick to zap off a bad review, poor rating, or negative ‘word of mouth’ without ever giving the business a chance to make it right. “Feedback is a gift,” business owners claim. “And I never even got to open it until it was too late.” I can’t help wondering if it’s more like a party too many businesses don’t pay attention to until a hundred people jump out of the dark and yell “Surprise!” Either way, these highly visible online rants and ratings of the unhappy and dissatisfied can be a real detriment to acquiring new customers. And some businesses are crying, “Cyber bully!” 

But are they really? Let me take it closer to home: enter the novice or mid-list author. These author folks may feel a similar squeeze when negative comments or one-star ratings crop up for their books at various reader/author social networking sites or online booksellers—sometimes even before the book is released and based solely on how excited someone is (or isn’t) to read the book. Add the rumor of authors gaming the system by soliciting everyone and their brother for 4 and 5 star ratings and by low-balling competitors’ titles, and you can see why authors can be squeamish about the power of word of mouth on the Internet. At its best, it works for you. At its worst, not so much.

But does that mean people who scatter low ratings like jellybeans at an Easter egg hunt—with or without commentary to support them—are really abusing the author? Don’t readers realize how much power they wield, how much of a boon or a detriment their ratings could be for an emerging author? 

Probably not. And not only is it a bad idea to police the system, I think it’s futile to try. Internet word of mouth is organic in nature. Those who trust and value the opinions of others will continue to seek them out, and in the long run, that’s a good thing for everyone. Just like when we write we make positive assumptions about our reader’s intelligence and ability to follow our stream of consciousness, we shouldn’t underestimate the sensibility of those same readers when it comes to their ability to sort through the good, the bad and the ugly reviews. I like to think unless the negative rating came from a highly trusted or personal source, most prospective readers toss out the outliers and look for themes anyway.

What about you? As a reader, how much do negative ratings influence your decision to try a new author?