Social Networking 101 for Authors and Publishers

By Beth Whitman

There are many ways to build your web presence but I’m going to outline here the method that I used to build an online readership.

Start by creating a website
For an easy and inexpensive solution, you can check out Homestead.com which provides basic templates to choose from. For less than $5/month, you can create a site and have it hosted at Homestead. Not great for a site that you want to update often or as a blog, but it is OK for a landing area to direct people elsewhere… like to a blog.

Then create a blog
This is going to be the way you’ll reach your audience. By blogging regularly, even as little as once a week, people will come back to see what you have to say. Free blogging platforms include Blogger, WordPress and LiveJournal. You can also have a blog custom created, one that might include your logo and your own design, for anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Blog regularly and start creating your community of readers
Writing a blog is great, but not if no one is reading it :-). You’ll need to alert your friends and family and start getting the word out that you’re blogging.

•    Create posts that tie into your book(s) and become the authority on your topic.
•    Read other blogs and comment on them, linking back to your blog
•    Create a blogroll that includes the other blogs you read and request that those bloggers add you to their blogroll

Start a newsletter
Have a way to capture email addresses and the location of your fans by sending out a newsletter. Constant Contact is a great service for this but there are lots of them out there. Start with friends and family and encourage them to share your newsletter so that it can grow. Include a way on your website for people to sign up for this FREE newsletter and then provide them with relative, pertinent and timely information. Personally, I have found that a monthly newsletter works well but others may find that weekly emails work better.

Social networking
This is where the bigger payoff is. Though it can seem a bit overwhelming, spending a little time every day building up your online social network will eventually pay off and you’ll find dedicated readers subscribing to your RSS feed and buying your book(s).

Facebook – Probably the most interesting and easiest to understand, Facebook connects friends (real and virtual) and allows them to share website articles, blog posts, photos, videos and much more. Start by locating your real friends. Join (or start) groups that have like-minded people and then friend those folks. When you post information about your latest book, they will see this. Drive traffic back to your site and to the pages where you’re selling books.

Create a Fan Page so that people can stay posted about your events, book signings and anything else you want to alert them about. You can find my Fan Page by logging in to Facebook and searching on Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Stumbleupon – Though the traffic from SU isn’t always “sticky” (meaning they usually don’t stay on your site for a long period of time), a good blog post or website article can get thousands of page views and, with little effort, can alert a lot of people about your site and expertise. You’ll want to build up your friends by finding like-minded stumblers and then sending them your articles to stumble and returning the favor.

Twitter – Though it’s not so easy to grasp why anyone would want to be on this site where you are limited to 140 characters in each of your posts, it has become an important addition to the world of social networking. Publicists, other authors and your readers are all on Twitter. Start following them (they are likely to start following you, too) and then post relative content regularly. The more you post and the more people you follow, the more followers you’ll have.

Ning, Google or Yahoo Groups – By joining or starting one of these groups, you’ll be involved with a community of people who share similar interests and may be the perfect audience/ buyers of your book!

Amazon Connects – Your book is already being sold on Amazon, make sure that you are part of their Connects program for authors. Create an author page and feed your blog to it so the world can stay posted on your updates.

LinkedIn – Some would say this is an important social networking tool. I honestly haven’t used it much as an independent publisher. It seems like a great way to network your way into a job and to let professionals know what you’re doing, but it hasn’t been an important tool for me (yet).

Shelfari – Part of Amazon, this is a social networking site for book lovers. Because I try to manage so many other things, I don’t participate here, but you might find it of value.

Goodreads – Similar to Shelfari in that you can social network with other booklovers.

MySpace – Probably more appealing to the younger crowd. Geared toward bands and the performing arts. Quickly surpassed by Facebook and other social networking sites.

The key with all of this is to get the word out there as much as possible to potential buyers. It’s difficult to measure the direct effect that any of these sites have on sales but I’d venture to say that I’d have about 1/3 the sales if I weren’t involved in all of these. In my community, travel, I’d have very little visibility if I wasn’t so tied in to other bloggers, travel writers and, in some cases, PR people through these sites.

Some key tips:
Don’t try to do everything at once. Pick a network that seems most appealing to you. After all, you want to have fun.

Spend 30 minutes a day for a month developing your friends/network. You’ll see how quickly this can grow with just a little time spent daily.

Once you’ve built up the network, spend 15 minutes a day updating your posts, events and other information. There are several programs that you can use that will automatically update your posts to these sites so that, in theory, you wouldn’t have to log on. However, giving these a personal touch is always better than an automated update.

Here are some ways you can automatically update your feeds:

Facebook – You can feed your blog posts into your Facebook account automatically by doing the following:
Manually import your blog to FB (preferred) – I like this method for a number of reasons. It allows me to have control over what images and text appear AND I can add multiple blogs if and when I want to. Sometimes I don’t add a blog post at all and because I currently write 3 separate blogs on my site, I am able to add these throughout the day, rather than having them all upload at once. In order to post manually, you’ll need to add a little widget to your web browse.

Here’s how to set this up so you can add yours manually:
1)    Search for “Applications” in the upper right hand side search box.
2)    Click on the Applications tab
3)    Search for “posted items” in the search box above the applications
4)    Click on the application that says “Links”
5)    Click on Go to Application in the upper left corner
6)    Grab and drop the box that says “Share on Facebook” into the browser bar of your browser. This box can be found on the right hand side of the page under the Post a Link box.

Now after you’ve posted a blog, all you have to do is be ON that blog post, click on Share on Facebook (in your browser) and a popup box will appear where you can choose the image and text to go along with that post.

Note that it’s best to already be logged into FB in order to Share your post but using this applications means you don’t have to go TO FB to create the post (we all know how easily it is to get sucked into FB once you’re actually on the site!).

Automatically import your blog to FB – Unfortunately, with the new FB site redesign, I have not been able to figure out a direct way to find the application needed for this, namely Notes. So, to find it, do the following:
1)    Search on “notes” in the upper right hand search box.
2)    Click on the Applications tab when you’ve got your search results.
3)    Click on the Notes application, should be the 2nd listing.
4)    Click on Go to Application in the upper left hand side
5)    Now look for Notes Settings on the right hand side and click on Import a blog
6)    Import the RSS feed for your blog

Note that you can only import one blog at a time so if you write multiple blogs you can only choose one that is automatically imported.

Twitter – It’s possible to have feeds automatically update your Twitter account. I did this for a year before actually ever using Twitter in any kind of serious fashion. It allowed me to get set up quickly and build some followers but doing little work. I have found, however, that manually adding my Tweets allows me to personalize the tweet and, ultimately, get even more followers. So, while I recommend this as a way to get started, it won’t yield great results unless you are also manually tweeting the same items in a more personalized fashion.

There are probably lots of ways to set this up, but this is how I set mine up a long time ago, so I’ll start here:

1)    Log into Twitterfeed (www.twitterfeed.com) using one of the account sign in options provided in the sign in box.
2)    Click on Create a New Feed
3)    Click on Authenticate at Twitter to make sure that you’re logged into your Twitter account and that the RSS feed will link to that account. Allow access if the account is correct or Deny if it’s the wrong account (then enter the correct account).
4)    Enter your blog’s RSS feed and test it to make sure it’s been entered properly
5)    Note how often you want Twitterfeed to check for blog posts, how you want the url to show up (TinyURL is a good option), whether you want any words to precede your tweet and then click Create.

This will set up your feed to automatically publish to Twitter!

StumbleUpon
Stumbleupon is a social networking site for bookmarking your favorite websites or posts. Once you have made friends with people, at the click of button, you can start “stumbling upon” sites that those other people like. So, if you’re sci-fi geek and have lots of sci-fi “friends” on SU, you can see what sites they like and share your favorites with them.

Besides finding new sites that you might like, SU is great for building traffic immediately on your own site – but the traffic isn’t necessarily very loyal. They won’t stay long, they won’t click on ads and they may never come back. But, by friending the right folks, you may bring some more awareness to your brand, books, services and reputation which could get you more attention and links back to your blog or website down the road.

Here’s a primer on how you might build up your friends and traffic using SU:

1)    Friend as many people as you can. Start with real life friends or acquaintances and then friend the friends of those folks. I tend to friend people who have some sort of travel theme in their name.
2)    Pay attention to those with a large number of subscribers. People with 300+ are the best but you can still be friends with those that have fewer.
3)    Start a spreadsheet that has a row for their SU names, the article name and then the date you request a stumble. Make a note (mine are highlighted in red) next to those with a high number of subscribers.
4)    To request stumbles, usually I go into my SU account, go to my friends tab and start requesting stumbles from people who are currently online. Those people show at the top of your list and then it descends to who hasn’t been online in a long time. (Forget people who haven’t been on in weeks.) I send the people at the top of the list messages using the tab on the far right that says: Send a message. And then I just ask nicely…

Hi,

Would love a stumble on this article if you like it. Comments appreciated!

URL

Thanks and happy to return the favor!

Beth

There is a Stumbleupon application that you need to download into your browser that will allow you to give a thumbs up (stumble) to web pages. Be a good social networker and stumble other people’s posts and pages often. To find the SU toolbar, log in to SU, scroll down to the bottom, look under About and Download the Toolbar.

This same application allows you to send links to your friends for pages you like (like yours!) without signing into the SU homepage. This is the “Send To” link that has the dropdown of your SU friends. I get tons of requests from this and recently decided to stumble the requests I got and then ask for one in return. This method didn’t work so well for me. I hardly got any traffic from these folks. It could be that they aren’t stumbling in return or they aren’t quality stumblers so it’s not making the rounds. So, I’ve abandoned that method and am now only asking people to stumble when I’m logged in and can send them a direct message (see #4).

If you have a person who has a lot of subscribers “Discover” your article (meaning they are the first ones to Stumble it) – you’ll get A LOT more traffic than someone with few subscribers – even if that high volume person eventually stumbles it.

5)    I track everyone I request a stumble from (in that spreadsheet) so that I’m not asking the same people over and over and I’m not asking them too often.

With so many other of the social networking sites, spend 30 minutes a day for a month building up your friends and then start workin’ it to your benefit.

Now go outside and get some fresh air 🙂