Every author needs a platform, a way to connect with readers and let them know when their next book is ready to be purchase. So what is a platform? A platform is simply the reliable ways in which an author can connect with fans and encourage them to buy books.
Bestselling authors have a history of bestsellers, creating a kind of literary celebrity. That’s a platform. Some authors have national television shows, magazine columns or are regulars on nationally syndicated radio. These are platforms too. An author might have a commitment from Staples or IBM to buy books and give them to employees. That’s a kind of platform, too.
Until recently, the average author was out of luck if they didn’t have a platform. That was before social media and the power it has to excite, engage, build community and create media for authors.
Today authors can have their own digital TV show on YouTube, their own well-read column on a blog and their own radio program via blog. These can be as useful as traditional media when it comes to selling books.
Now the sheer volume of social media sites available could make a grown author weep as they try to navigate the landscape and place themselves and their books into the hands of readers. Social Media can introduce a book to new readers, extend the promotional cycle of a book beyond the traditional 6-week launch period and re-energize an author’s back list – or social can be an enormous time waster.
Knowing where to put your energy, when and how to communicate your author brand and when to turn your attention elsewhere is the difference between effective book marketing and madness.
Let’s talk about the “where” right now. Here’s a quick down and dirty checklist of sites worth the attention of any author as they stake their space in the social media world and create their own branded digital footprint. In future posts, I’ll discuss the how and when, so don’t be overwhelmed. Just take a look.
10 Social Profiles for Authors
- Facebook Profile: Facebook has more than a billion users. Enough said. You need to be here. Create a Facebook personal profile and begin inviting people to join you as friends. For authors, I recommend that you allow people to subscribe to your public updates – an option you can select by going to your settings and clicking on “Followers,” and selecting “Everybody” in the section that asks “who can follow me on Facebook?” Whether or not they are your Facebook friends. Remember that you’re on social media as a public figure, if you’re an author. Making your Facebook profile public will allow you to attract more than the current cap of 5,000 friends. An unlimited number of people can subscribe to your public updates.
- Facebook Business Page: Create a business page for you, the author. I recommend you call it “Your name, Author.” Why create a business page and make your profile public. Visibility. Your Facebook business page and your profile will show up in a Google search. The words you choose to include in your bio and description on your business page is metadata that will help readers find you on Facebook and equally as important, help Facebook recommend your business page to people who’ve liked similar author pages. Wouldn’t it be great to have Facebook suggest your page to the fans of a famous writer in your genre? Facebook helps you achieve virtual visibility. If you do nothing else, create a Facebook business page for you, the author. Here’s an example of the Facebook page I created for my first book, Queen of Your Own Life, which as of this writing has more than 255,000 very active fans.
- Twitter: Twitter now has more than 48.2 million users in the United States alone, depending on whose stats you’re viewing. Come on. Who wouldn’t like the opportunity to put their work in front of even a tiny fraction of those users? Twitter is a 120-character micro-blogging platform. You can find the time. Note: Each tweet can be 140 characters but keep it to 120 so others can re-tweet you – the Twitter term for sharing your post verbatim, the highest compliment on Twitter. Twitter can be addictive. It’s real-time conversation with the entire world. You can easily lose your focus and participate for long periods of time with this cyber cocktail party. Set a time limit (and a kitchen timer if necessary). Start with 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at another time during the day. Pre-schedule tweets with a tool like Hootsuite or Bufferapp so your voice goes out into the stream while you’re off the platform. Tweet about books, authors, writing and other things of interest to readers. Share your expertise and look for others who are interested books too. Ask others about themselves. Engage, share worthwhile information, link to your website for more detailed information and then stop for the day. Go back to writing. You tweet because you write. You don’t write because you tweet.
- YouTube: Owned by Google, and the #2 search engine, second only to Google, YouTube is You TV on jet fuel. YouTube is virtual television programming by you, about you and on the platform most likely to put your name in front of a reader searching for “new crime fiction,” or “best new dysphoria novels.” Hate being in front of the camera. Don’t worry. You can still harness the power of YouTube. Videos can be narrated Powerpoint or Prezzi presentations, short Animoto video mash-ups of digital photos from your book tour or writers conference, short videos of inspirational scenes with your voice in the background or they can be straight up, full face video messages direct from your desktop or mobile device to readers. You can create a free YouTube Channel, and upload videos, share them on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and even embed them on your website. Don’t spend another moment asking “how do I get on Oprah?” Create your own digital TV station with YouTube and put yourself out there for readers to discover. Make your own national media.
- Google Profile: When you set up your YouTube account, you’ll be asked if you’d like to use this name to create a Google profile. Say yes and Google will auto-generate a G+ account for you. I’ve made mine slightly less corporate and with a little more personality because I have multiple businesses and I want to engage the reader more with my personality than with my professional resume. I’ve included my professional links on my G+ profile to cover those bases, but you’ll want to include links to your blog, your YouTube Channel, your Facebook account and your other social sites. This is free, easy and highly indexed by Google. Be there or be square. You can now begin adding other authors, bookstores, publishers, book media and influencers in your genre to your G+ Circles.
- Pinterest: You might be surprised to learn that Pinterest isn’t just for recipes or jewelry. A passionate fan base of readers are already sharing their favorite books and authors on Pinterest right now. If you want to see just a quick example of the reader activity, take a look at this: http://www.pinterest.com/source/noraroberts.com/. By replacing noraroberts.com at the end of this URL with the web address of your favorite author, you’ll see exactly what Pinterest users are pinning from that website. Anything that is pinned from your website will automatically carry a digital link directly back to your website. Pinterest is a powerful digital breadcrumb that leads readers back to your home base, your blog or website. That’s why it’s so important for you to post interesting, inspirational and sharable images with every post. You want to be pin-able.
- LinkedIn: You simply must be on LinkedIn if you want to supplement your writing with speaking engagements. It’s the yellow pages of professionals. But it’s also a wonderful platform for finding and creating relationships with other writers and readers. Join a group or better yet, start one of your own. This is another platform for sharing your blog posts and details of your book tour or updates on media appearances. Don’t overlook LinkedIn because it seems more formal. There are a wealth of great groups and terrific information within the platform.
- Blog: Content is key and a blog, be it WordPress (my favorite), Blogger or another program, it is a great avenue for communicating your passion and purpose. You need to have a home base where you can express your author voice, share links to buy your books and gather email names of people interested in hearing from you regularly. Social media sites are great, but only as a way to direct people to your branded website. If Facebook or any other social site disappeared (remember Friendster or MySpace), you would lose touch with the fans you’ve worked so hard to gather. But not if you have their email address. When someone signs up to get either a newsletter or occasional emails from you, that’s called Permission Based Marketing. They’ve given you permission to contact them. They have already expressed an interest in what you do and your new books. You’re email list is among your most important digital assets. These are the people most likely to purchase your book, read it and tell others what they thought. You can link to your blog on Twitter and Facebook to drive additional interest in your content. You’re blog can live on your website or you blog can serve as your website, depending on your goals and the needs of your business. I like using a blog as my website and adding pages whenever I need a landing page or a special offer page. WordPress is search engine friendly, easy to update and serves the needs of most authors. You can do something simple or you can have a WordPress blogsite custom designed for you. For most new authors, just begin by going to WordPress.com, chose a free theme (design) and begin. You can upgrade to a self-hosted site with more bells and whistles later. Just begin to stake a claim for your name, your author brand and your books. IF you just can’t bring yourself to do a blog right now, at least set up a profile at About.me. Here you can upload a good head shot, create a well crafted bio, list your other social sites and even a link to your book on one of the sales sites. This gives you a digital home base that has the flexibility to be changed whenever you need to add information and it ranks highly in a Google search for your name. It’s like an author one-sheet with all your stats. And it’s free.
- Instagram This almost 4 year-old platform has 200 million active monthly users, 1.6 billion photo likes per day and a massive foreign audience in addition to the US audience. This just may be the social platform to take your book brand to a global audience. This a mobile platform and the app is available for both android and iphone. This is the “demonstrate my brand” app. Taking photos, recording short videos and sharing your writer’s world has never been easier. This is truly point, click and share social. This platform’s search feature is driven by hashtags. The same core brand words or phrases you’ll be using for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, your blog and Google are applicable here as well.
- Goodreads: Amazon owns Goodreads. Goodreads is a peer to peer book review community with built in opportunities for the self-published or legacy published author to garner reviews, get early feedback on new writing projects, discover new writers and develop connections with passionate readers who can become your best advocates as you continue your writing career. With more than 20 million active users, Goodreads is a site highly concentrated with exactly the folks with whom authors most want to connect – readers.
Stake your claim to your name on these social networks. Go register an account with each of these social sites. If you have a common name, such as Jane Smith, you’ll most likely find someone has already used that name. Try variations such as Jane T. Smith or Jane Smith Author or Jane Smith Novelist. Some writers use “official,” or “The” to reclaim their digital fame, as in OfficialJohnDoe or TheJohnDoe. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to set each one up perfectly right away. Just make sure you have an account on each of these sites.
Don’t wait for national media to discover you. Create your own national media through digital platforms where readers spend their leisure time and introduce your work to an eager audience.