I thought I would talk about branding, SEO, and social media marketing for authors even though I am not an author, nor have ever marketed a book. So then, you might ask, why would I be qualified to talk about bootstrap marketing for anyone, let alone authors?
Thanks for asking. When I was twenty years ago, I co-founded a business out of my college dorm room that has grown — twenty-seven years later — into a large enterprise staffing creatives around the world. But my marketing story starts with a book I found at a local bookstore called Guerilla Marketing.
Using the ideas from this book, my partners and I tried out bootstrap marketing ideas starting with [illegally] posting flyers with tear-off tabs all over Harvard Square. A few years later, my partners and I went to business school (different ones) and our company hit the 12th spot on the Inc. 500 List for Fastest-Growing Private Company. I majored in Entrepreneurial Marketing but I was really back in school to fill in gaps in knowledge that I needed such as accounting so that I could understand my company’s annual report. (And now that I have three kids with busy schedules, I really wish I had paid more attention to logistics.)
Blogging for the past five years has also required a similar quest to master new skills in order to succeed and this amalgam of book learning and self-learning through trial and error, paid video courses, and reverse engineering Pinterest boards is what I am going to talk about in Social Media Bootstrap Marketing 101 for Authors. Because the lifeblood for bloggers to drive traffic is social media.
Branding for Authors
I have never worked as a brand manager so I take liberty in boiling down the essence into one basic idea and that is: be memorable. By that, I mean that your audience is inundated with information via screens large and small such that the world has never experienced before. Couple that with short-term recall that can really only handle about 7 (plus or minus 2) elements at a time.
The basic idea here is consistency and I see egregious errors by authors all the time. How many of you — raise hands please! — have a different social media handle for your website, your Twitter account, your Facebook page (not your personal Facebook account), and your Pinterest account?
Lesson 1: When setting up your social media handles, BE CONSISTENT.
Do not use different variants across your social media channels as your “handle.” It should all be the exact same name. Yes, that’s tricky because Twitter only allows for a maximum of 15 characters.
Lesson 2: When setting up your social media handles, BE MEMORABLE.
I know that your first choice — e.g. your name — is taken but that does not mean that you should then inject your middle initial into the mix because who but your spouse and parents actually remember what your middle name is? And do you really expect your would-be reader to remember your middle initial?!
Who remembers your middle name and therefore your Twitter handle? Answer: none of us. We have to look up your Twitter handle every time we want to tweet about you and that, my friend, is too much work!
Lesson 3: Research, research, research what is available.
PragmaticMom was not my first choice for a social media handle but PracticalMom was taken. Also PracticalMama. No matter. I simply went down the list of my 10 to 15 ideas for my Social Media Identity until I found one that was available.
Pick the best handle that allows for consistency and ease of recall and then swoops in and buy or obtain all the handles across all social media channels even if you don’t plan to use them right away.
First I use Go Daddy to see what URLs were available. Some folks will say using .net is fine if .com is taken. I disagree. Others also think you should grab all the URL variations including .net. That’s too expensive for me. I only buy the one I want. BUT… I don’t buy it unless I can also get the same name on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook (as a page). And make sure to check Google + and Instagram while you are at it.
So, quickly check to see if the Twitter handle is free and then GRAB IT. Same for Facebook which tends to be easier because it’s a page off of your personal Facebook account. I would do the same for Pinterest too (even though most authors are not on Pinterest and I’ll talk about that later.)
Now that you have your Twitter and Facebook handles, buy the URL. Do this at once because if URL hijackers love to buy up URLs that they perceive to be useful to someone. Very important: once you have your social media handles THAT ARE EXACTLY THE SAME ON ALL PLATFORMS, buy the URL ASAP. Do not take a coffee break. Do not do this “tomorrow”.
To Blog or Not To Blog?
You’re a writer, you write. Blogging is writing but the time, the time… Who has time for a blog you ask?! Why blog anyway? And should the blog be attached to your website? One short answer: YES!
Why? Search engines like Google reward change. A static website doesn’t change and won’t come up as easily. Also, readers won’t come back again and again only to see the exact same content. A website that never changes is called a brochure. A website that changes constantly with new content is … a blog! And Google is a tough mistress. I think she judges us weekly or even daily (or it sure feels that way). And yes, you want and need SEO (Search Engine Optimization) traffic. It’s the traffic of HUNTERS, not GATHERERS. The HUNTERS are in buying mode. The GATHERERS are in research mode.
When you set up your website/blog, you should also make sure you have a responsive web design which simply means that it is mobile phone friendly. Google will reward you but more importantly, your audience can access you on their smartphones and they are doing everything these days on their phone including making purchasing decisions. You want to make sure that your web design is MOBILE-FRIENDLY. If your current website/blog is not a responsive web design, time to fix it! Yes, it’s that important!
- The best results for blogs are when they are posted regularly and consistently. If you can swing it, I’d suggest 1x per week, same day every week.
- The best times are Monday, Friday, and Saturday at 11 a.m, while the worst time is 11 pm-8 am (My traffic patterns differ. My best days to post are Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Friday and Saturday are my lowest traffic days. I post at 6 am but my best traffic referrals start around 10:30 am -ish).
Which Social Media Platforms Should I Use?
This is a good marketing question because the answer is NOT “spent time on what social media platforms you enjoy.” It’s really about knowing who your reader — your customer — is and where THEY are. First of all, are these people different — the reader versus the customer? Are there gatekeepers to your reader, i.e. mom and dad but also teachers and librarians? Is your tween or teen reader the person choosing your book or the person paying for your book?
Let’s face it, women make 64% of all book purchases. Women over 40 years of age. You especially want the mom audience if you write KidLit or YA.
So… where do these women hang out on social media? Also, given that you are busy — you are writing your books; you are marketing your books, you need to have an online presence that includes a blog; you need to be active on social media channels, and you need to sleep — let’s focus on growing your audience on platforms where your buyers reside. Let’s be smart about how you are going to spend your time. (*stats on when to post from Research Brief from the Center of Media Research: Post On Social Media While Your Prospects Are There).
- Tumblr’s audience is among the youngest with 45% under 35 years of age
- 47% of US Tumblr users are male
- 35% of Tumblr users make less than $30k annually
Is this your audience? If so, dive in. If not, pass. But set up a Tumblr account anyway as part of your Brand Equity. But note that this is not a book buying crowd. Maybe for manga or comic books so if that is what you create, you need to be active on Tumblr.
- Instagram skews heavily toward women; 68% of its users are female
- Over 90% of the 150 million people on Instagram are under the age of 35
Is this your audience? Even if it is not, set up an Instagram account and keep an eye on it. Inactive accounts will get purged by Instagram. Once caveat I noticed, influential mom bloggers that are the first-to-technology types are on Instagram and it’s easier to interact with them here and get noticed because they have smaller followings on this platform.
Your reading audience might be here too though they probably don’t make the buying decision. Instagram is a train that still on a growth trajectory and, as such, a boat floats more easily on a rising ride.
Who Uses Flickr?
Who indeed? Ah, mobile. There’s a seismic paradigm shift here:
For me personally, Flickr was an incredible tool when I joined way back in 2005. It provided a central location for me to store and upload photos, and allowed me to share them with my parents and extended family. I used it heavily, eventually uploading over 13,000 photos to the service.
A few years ago, I just sort of stopped using it. I know for a fact that it coincided with my increased use of taking photos with my phone — these photos were going to websites and services that I had more friends on: Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter.
Is it worth it to spend time on Flickr? Maybe if your book is a coffee table photo-driven thing of beauty. Otherwise, best not to waste time here.
Who Uses Facebook (aka Who Doesn’t Use Facebook?)
- 1.3 billion active adults per month
- 72% of adults visit it at least once a month
- 751 million people use Facebook mobile
- 80% of mobile users check their phones early each morning
- Not likely to check Facebook during working hours
- The best times to post are Weekdays 6 am- 8 am and 2 pm-5 pm, while the worst times are all weekends, 10 pm-4 am
But here’s the thing. It’s hard to grow your Facebook “Likes”. A Facebook “Like” is a committed relationship between you and your audience. Yes, you want it. Yes, it’s hard to get it.
Also, Facebook is going to charge for your own audience to see your posts! Yes, that’s right. You are going to have to pay Facebook so that the audience you grew so painfully can read your stuff. This is not making us bloggers happy either.
The lesson here is: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That basket can TURN on you. So … yes to Facebook but is it worth it to spend lots of time growing your audience here? Yes and no!
Who Uses Twitter?
- 18 percent of online U.S. adults are now active on Twitter
- The typical Twitter user is an 18-29-year-old educated minority with a well-paying job, and slightly more likely to be male than female.
- Twitter engagement goes up 30% on weekends compared to weekdays
- Short tweets more likely to engage vs >100 characters
- Ask for retweets
- Use two hashtags on each tweet for best results
- The best time to post is on weekends from 1 pm-3 pm, and the worst is 8 pm-8 am
But … Twitter is the least committed social media relationship. We’re not married. We not engaged. We’re not even dating. Twitter is that we agree to check you out from afar and maybe become an acquaintance. Twitter is the easiest among all the social media channels to get followers simply by engaging or following someone in my opinion.
So, is your customer here? Not exactly, but it’s where Fortune 500 companies are building their brand awareness. Does that mean you should be here too? Decisions, decisions! That is what marketing is. Making informed decisions given the limits of your resources in order to drive the result you want.
- Pinterest has more than 12 million US users
- 69% of online consumers who visit Pinterest have found an item they’ve purchased
- Pinterest users spend more than twice as much as Facebook users ($180 vs. $85)
- Pinterest drives 2.5 times more traffic to its homepage than Twitter. Similarly, there are 10 times more clicks of the ‘Pin-it’ button than the ‘Tweet This’ one
- Women Use Pinterest as a Wish List…..Men Use Pinterest as a Shopping Cart
- 28.1% of Pinterest users have an annual household income of at least $100,000
- Appeals to home decorators, party planners, hair stylists, and DIY persons
- The average Pinterest visit is over 16 minutes… longer than almost all other social media sites
- The best times to post is on Saturday from 2 pm-4 pm, and 8 pm-11 pm, with the worst posting times being 5-7 pm, and 1-7 am
Without a doubt, Pinterest is where it’s at but sadly, the go-go days of obtaining Pinterest followers ended two years ago. Now, I’ve noticed that it’s very hard to grow a Pinterest following. But don’t feel bad. Read on. I have some ideas of how to make the most of Pinterest for new Pinterest users.
So yes, PINTEREST IS WHERE IT IS AT. This is where moms and educators hang out. The go-go days are over in terms of growing a following easily, so now you are going to have to work for it. Is it worth it? Yes, it is.
Pinterest is the number 1 driver of referral traffic for all bloggers that I know!!
- 18-24 years old: 18.1%
- 25-34 years old: 31.2%
- 35-54 years old: 39.8%
- Over 55 years old: 10.5%
- 30 million male; 26 million female
- Most often used right before, and right after, work hours
- Tuesday and Thursday receive the most social media traffic from business people
- Posts during work hours receive less traffic
- The best times to post are 7 am-8:30 pm, and 5 pm-6 pm, and the worst times are Monday and Friday from 9 am-5 pm
I come from the recruiting field so I spent years building up my LinkedIn connections and yes, it’s a tool for hiring, but if you get into the weeds and really understand it, you will find (as I have) that:
- Men read LinkedIn postings
- There are groups to find your audience that are very specifically sliced and diced. They are also easy to join
- There’s a new blogging feature that can cause posts here on LinkedIn to go viral
- Over 4 billion videos are viewed a day
- Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month
- 79% of UK moms use YouTube
This is also why you need video and a YouTube channel: Google loves it. Do it for the SEO (Search Engine Optimization which means how high you come up in a search engine search. Want to be on page 1? It’s not random. You have to earn this spot).
Who isn’t using YouTube? Seriously, everyone is. You really need to make book trailers and encourage others (like your loyal readers) to make book trailers on your book.
- Google Plus has only one-quarter as many global users as Facebook
- Rather than trust Google’s own user data, we [Forbes Magazine] decided to run our own survey. We asked more than 60,000 US online adults which social sites they used — and 22% told us they visited Google Plus each month. That’s the same number who told us they use Twitter, and more than told us they use LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram.
- Nighttime posts perform worst
- The best time to post is 9 am-11 a.m, while the worst is 6 pm-7 am
Ok, no one except bloggers and SEO types are using Google+ it seems, but Google loves us and rewards us via its search engine. That’s reasoning enough for me. But also, the über educator and parenting bloggers are hard at work building their communities there, ahead of the curve. The smart money is here waiting for Google + to boom. Will it ever boom? Who knows but better to hedge your bet than to miss out on the gold rush!
The bottom line …
You are an author. As such, your publishing company expects you to do your own marketing. Sure, they will do the tried and true when your book launches which seem to be focused on traditional channels like book stores and book chains (which are becoming dinosaurs). They might set up book signings but they don’t seem to be very good at setting up blog tours.
If they have a savvy social media team, you will also get a social media blast, but … you are your own brand. You need to do your own marketing in the limited time you have. You are also not trained as a marketer which is the real rub. And why should you be? You are a writer!
How do you make it work for you? It’s time to work smart.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Yes, set up your branding so that it’s the EXACT SAME THING across your website and all social media channels. It does not have to be your name. It does not have to be your first book. It just has to be easy to remember. Underscores (“_”), initials such as a middle name initial, or weird numbers like JennyLee20655 are not easy to remember. Avoid them. Spend time to come up with choices. Get the best available choice.
- Make sure your website is responsive (ie MOBILE FRIENDLY). Set up a blog within your website even if you only post once a month. Don’t have a website? Your current website isn’t responsive? Hire someone and fix it ASAP!
- Figure out who your audience is for your books. Who is making the purchasing decision and where do they hang out via social media? Follow them and engage them.
- Facebook (set up a page as an author that is separate from your personal account)
- LinkedIn (you want to find the groups your target market hangs out)
- Pinterest (I know you are not on there but you need to be)
- Twitter (I know you are there but it feels like a waste of time)
- Instagram (it’s easier than you think)
- Tell a story. You are like — duh, I do that for a living. I’m like: yeah, do this across your social media. Tell a story visually with a beginning, middle, and end, and share this over many days across all your social media channels. And that story is NOT “I have a new book.” That’s not a story.
- Make a book trailer. Make one yourself or hire a kid to make one for you. You need it and they are easy to do. Do kids make great book trailers? You bet. Plus they often get assigned this in their middle school English class. Get them to do one on your book. Host a contest. Give a prize. It’s not that hard to motivate a kid who is on YouTube all day anyway. And we parents like it when they do a creative, educational bookish project!
- Repurpose your content across all channels. If you write a blog post and include a Social Share button, not only can you share across all social media platforms in minutes, but so can your readers. You can be lazy like me and use the same Tweet for everything.
- Some platforms auto post to others. Take Instagram for example, you can post your Instagram post and hit Facebook and Twitter buttons on Instagram, and it with the auto-post there for you. Easy Peasy!
- Facebook is going to hide some of your content to your own followers unless you pay them. This makes it a lot less attractive to spend time building a Facebook following. It’s also a good argument for not putting all your eggs in one basket.
- I mentioned that it’s hard to build a Pinterest following these days so what to do? Join collaborative boards and build collaborative boards. If you look at my Pinterest, you’ll see that I have 137,000 followers. That’s a good amount but not a huge amount. But if you examine my collaborative boards, you’ll see that I can pin to two boards that have over 500,000 followers EACH! That increases my reach from 137,000 followers to 1,137,000 followers. It’s hard to get invited to large boards; they have to know you so start with smaller boards. Don’t just self-promote either. It’s easy to dis-invite a pinner to a collaborative board AND remove all of their pins from that board.
- Abandon a Twitter handle that doesn’t fit your Branding and has less than 1000 followers. I’d recommend setting up a new handle consistent with your Branding and just growing that following. If you use Twitter correctly, you should be able to get 1000 followers in a few months.
- You can time your social media posts using apps such as HootSuite, Buffer, etc so that you can line up your marketing for a week in one fell swoop.
- Don’t just talk about yourself on social media. Yes, you are excited about your new book but if that is all you ever talk about, you come across as self-obsessed and downright rude. This is doubly so if you just show up to take about your book and then disappear.
- Don’t just pop in and out of social media to promote your latest book either. We are all here on social media creating micro-communities. You need to have a consistent presence on social media in order to create your own community.
- Promote and support others to create your community. Answer questions, ask questions, and use your social media to promote the best stuff you see out there whether it’s a book, a blog post, or an article. Be a curator of “good stuff”.
- Social media is a CONVERSATION. It’s not marketing in the traditional sense of a one-way message to be pummeled into your brain. As such — a conversation — there is give and take. And this is why you can’t just hog the spotlight to talk about yourself and your latest book (even on your blog).
- The bonus is that in creating a community around like-minded people, you are creating brand awareness that is extremely loyal to a fault. These are the people that will do some of the work promoting you and your book. These are the folks who will happily write reviews for you in GoodReads and on Amazon but simply putting a request out there on social media. They are your best customers and biggest fans. They are gold and they are out there, waiting to meet you, wanting to get to know you and interact with you, and willing to help you with your cause whether it’s a fundraising one or a plea for reviews on Amazon for your book launch. It’s never to late to develop this kind of audience and the sooner you do it, the more it will grow organically.
How to Think of Social Media
If you are confused by all the different social media platforms, here’s a cheat sheet using a cocktail party analogy.
Let’s say we meet at a party, make eye contact, and start to chit-chat.
That’s Twitter. You follow me; I’m likely to follow you back.
Exchanging Business Cards
During our chit-chat, we discover that we might have need of each other’s services or know someone who might. We exchange business cards.
That’s LinkedIn. You email me to connect; I’m likely to accept. It’s pretty easy to get LinkedIn connections. We’re ready to do business in the form of referrals but I’m open to other suggestions you might have on other topics besides work.
We find out that we have a lot in common and I reveal that I really like your taste (whether it’s your outfit, your hairstyle, the books you read, or the photos you take).
That’s Pinterest. Follow me on Pinterest and ask to join my collaborative board; I’m likely to let you join my boards and follow you back. It’s not easy to get Pinterest followers so be sure to make beautiful boards of great content that reads like a visual storyboard. Pinterest is visual but it’s also about the content behind the pretty image.
The upshot is that my collaborative board might have a lot of followers! And by a lot, I mean hundreds of thousands! I’m on many collaborative boards. Some of the bigger ones have 500,000+ followers!
I Really Want to Be Your Friend
Let’s meet for coffee.
That’s Facebook. Invite me to friend you; I’ll likely accept. It’s not that easy to grow Facebook and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort given that Facebook will start charging you.
I Make Videos and iMovies
I want to share my videos.
That’s YouTube. Just throw your videos up on a consistent basis along the same theme and with decent lighting, editing and music to grow your YouTube subscribers. It’s not easy to get YouTube subscribers.
I Like to Share Photos and Video
I want to share my photos and video.
That’s Flickr, Instagram, and Tumblr. It’s Vine too, in 6 seconds. Snapchat too. Of these platforms, I’d recommend going with Instagram. That’s the one that’s growing the fastest where you are the most likely to find the people who actually buy books.
The Pew Report from 2013:
- 71% of online adults use Facebook
- 22% use LinkedIn
- 21% use Pinterest
- 18% use Twitter
- 17% use Instagram
Want to learn more?
Twitter Tips and How I Got 55,000+ Twitter Followers from me, PragmaticMom
Are you Pinterest Savvy? Simple Steps to Building Pinterest Boards that work for you! from Educators’ Spin On It. These two teachers have a rockin blog plus 1.6 million Pinterest followers. Kim Vij is my go-to on Pinterest. I think she is coming out with a book soon. If she does, read it. She really knows her stuff!
Google Plus for Bloggers from Mama Smiles. MaryAnne is my go-to for Google +. She loves it because she says it’s the most geeky.
That’s just the beginning. We didn’t cover keywords, SEO, hashtags, permalinks, blogging platforms, and more. There’s a lot to learn but your eyes are glazing over so I’ll stop here with one last motivating thought …
Does Social Media Marketing really work to sell books?
One anecdote to illustrate how this works. I box five times a week and met a nice guy who grew up with my trainer who is also there a lot. We are frequently waiting outside in the cold for someone to open the door for us and we got to chatting.
It turns out that he’s a mortgage originator and has a book on How To Get a Mortgage. To be supportive, I posted it on my microblog about the town I live in and did a three-book giveaway because three book giveaways get more entries than one book giveaways. After one round of social media blasting, the entries were low, so I extended the giveaway by one day and blasted it out to my social media again.
The next day I saw the author, he said I had shot his book from the #500’s rank on Amazon to #11. And honestly, my microblog gets a small amount of traffic and I literally spent 5 minutes doing the second social media blast.
Find me on social media:
Twitter: @PragmaticMom (63,400 followers)
Pinterest: PragmaticMom (137,972 followers)
Facebook: PragmaticMom (3005 Likes; now posting 4-5 times a day ON OTHER PEOPLE’s stuff to drive Likes)
Facebook (personal): Mia Wenjen (2224 friends)
LinkedIn: Mia Wenjen (500+ connections)
Google +: Mia Wenjen (8,674 followers. I also set up Google + for PragmaticMom but was advised by bloggers wiser than I to only maintain one account for time management reasons. They advise building your personal account before trying to maintain two accounts.)
Instagram: PragmaticMom (1,100 followers but I have been on it only 1 year)
YouTube: Mia Wenjen (YouTube is attached to my Gmail account which is why it’s Mia Wenjen and not PragmaticMom. I have only 35 subscribers because my kids say I suck at making videos. They are correct.)
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.