I recently caught up with author and social media strategist Frances Caballo, to find out more about social media for writers, particularly authors. How can you use social media best while writing a book? What do you need to know about social media to make your book successful? Here’s the direct scoop from the author of Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers Who Want to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write and Social Media Just for Writers: The best online marketing tips for selling your books .
Lisa: Where does social media for writers begin? Is it important to start right away or can they wait until they’ve written the book? What opportunities might they miss by waiting?
Frances: I recommend that writers become active on social media before their books are published. I have several reasons. First, it’s hard to market a book if you don’t have an existing platform. By being active on social media during the writing process you can build relationships with potential readers as well as other authors who will in turn help you to market your book. Also, if you are active on social media before your book is completed, you can ask your Facebook fans and friends and Twitter followers for their advice about a book cover or even names for your characters. The more you get your audience involved in your book while you’re still writing it, the more committed your readership will be to you and your book when it is published.
Lisa: Where should writers start with their social media?
Frances: Twitter is the most important social media network for writers. There is a strong community of Indie authors as well as ardent readers on this platform. So I would focus on Twitter first.
With respect to Facebook, start a Facebook profile if you don’t already have one. If you do, work on building it to the point that you’ll feel comfortable about starting a Facebook author page later, which you will be able to use to market your book. Profiles are for people and Pages for businesses and products, such as your books. You can’t market your book on your profile but you can market your book, workshops, and readings on your Facebook Page.
Finally, sign up for LinkedIn and join some groups. You will learn a lot about publishing and marketing in the groups and you will meet new people and grow your connections. An alternative would be to join Google+. Google+ is Google’s social media network and since Google is the number one most trafficked website in the world and since Google loves its own products, it makes sense that if you have a presence on Google+ your search engine optimization (SEO) results will improve. Having good SEO means that your website will have a better chance of rising to Page One of Google’s search engine results.
Lisa: So, it is important to start right away in order to build community over time and gather momentum. Sometimes writers feel they need to focus. Is it ever okay/advisable to do a social media fast when writing?
Frances: I don’t recommend taking a social media fast. For example, if you stop posting on your Facebook author page, over time your posts will disappear from your fans’ news feeds. In other works, they will no longer see your posts unless they make the effort to navigate to your Facebook page, which people seldom do once they’ve liked your page. The same is true for your Facebook profile. Also, when there is a lapse in posting information, your Facebook page will appear abandoned. That’s not a good message to send to your readers. Similarly, you will lose your momentum on other social media channels you’re using and you may find it difficult to build that momentum back up.
Lisa: What would you advise an author to focus on social media-wise when writing their book?
Frances: Instead of taking a fast, you can limit the number of posts you add to your social profiles. Suppose you were posting twice a day to Facebook. While you are actively writing you might want to post once daily instead. If you were posting once daily, try posting four times a week instead. On Twitter, if you were tweeting eight times every day, limit your tweets to four. So just post less frequently but try to post every day.
Lisa: What are some of the ways that staying connected through social media can enhance a book?
Frances: Social media enables writers to reach a worldwide audience. My book, Social Media Just for Writers, sells in every pocket of the U.S. and the UK because of social media. Local readings and local sales are fabulous and important ways to promote one’s book in your community. But if you want to reach English-speaking readers around the world, social media is the tool that will enable you to accomplish this.
Social media also enables writers to become more visible and more discoverable, and it allows writers to meet and converse with their readers. The great access a reader has to an author, the more committed they can become to that writer and his/her subsequent books.
Lisa: What are the biggest mistakes authors make in using social media?
Frances: The two biggest mistakes authors make on Twitter are these: their tweets are too long and they post too much information about themselves and their own books. Let’s tackle the first issue. Although on Twitter you have 140 characters to work with, it’s best to keep your tweets to 110 to 120 characters. If you stay within the 120-character limit, others will be able to retweet you and give you credit for the original tweet.
Lisa: Okay, shorter tweets–I make that mistake ALL the time—taking what seems like hours to pare a tweet down to exactly 140 characters!
Frances: The second mistake authors make is they post too many updates about their own books and blog posts. On all of your social media platforms, make sure you adhere to the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time you will promote others or post information that you didn’t write; 20% of the time you can promote your books and blog posts.
Lisa: What did you do in the social media realm while writing your books? Did you do things differently with different books?
Frances: My activity level doesn’t change while I’m actively writing a book. I keep my social media presence active despite what is happening in my life. I always let my audience help me select a cover. Typically, my cover designer (Kit Foster) will give me five options from which to choose. I’ll select three of them and then ask my Facebook friends and Fans to select their favorite cover. So far, my friends and fans have always selected the one I privately prefer.
Lisa: So that brings us back to the idea of involving your community in the process—not only will they be more invested in the book—buying it and sharing it—but you’re likely to have a better product because of their input.
Frances: Yes. Since I write nonfiction, I will share an excerpt of a chapter I’ve written and turn it into a blog post. This way my audience can see what I’m working on while I build momentum for my book’s debut.
Lisa: In Avoid Social Media Time Suck, you mention several apps to help writers, which app is your absolute favorite, can’t live without app for writers?
Frances: My favorite app in that section of the book is Coffitivity. It creates the right background sound to keep me focused on my writing. I also use Dropbox for file sharing, Grammarly (I’m not an editor), and Cliché Finder.
Lisa: You have a whole big list of social media scheduling apps. Which do you tend to use most and why?
Frances: My favorite scheduling application is Social Oomph because it has so much to offer. I can schedule LinkedIn posts and tweets and receive daily keyword digests of my Twitter handle, which means I can reply, retweet and thank people for retweeting right from my email inbox. I can also track click-through rates to my website and find new people to follow. It’s a wonderful application. Plus, I can schedule recurring tweets that appear once a week, once a month, or on whatever schedule I select.
Lisa: In Social Media Just for Writers, I was very excited to find apps and recommendations for discovering your tribe and deepening relationships. Even so, it seems overwhelming. How do you avoid overwhelm?
Frances: I don’t socialize until the late afternoon, after I’ve done my important work for the day and I can relax. I actually enjoy this part of social media the best!
Readers can find Frances at www.socialmediajustforwriters.com. And you can hear her speak on How to Manage Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day at the San Francisco Writers Conference this February. You can even take her half day workshop on Monday Feb. 17 as part of the post-conference.