Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG – Swim The Social Media Pool... Without Drowning

Modern authors need to feel confident about more than just writing. Marketing and social media participation is a must, and we need to be conscious of our online persona. For my IWSG post this month, I decided to address social media venues and habits, with an emphasis on things to do and things to avoid. I hope you’ll find something helpful.

I’ll start off with Twitter.


Much has been written about Twitter—what it is, what it isn’t, and what we should and shouldn’t do—so I won’t belabor the fine points. Suffice it to say you should be interacting on Twitter, not spamming. Automated messaging and constant self-promotion are out. Personal replies, re-tweets and chats are in.

As with all your social media links, make sure your Twitter handlehopefully a form of your author nameis easy to find, and consider adding a ‘Follow me on Twitter’ button to your blog. 


Some tools that can help you manage Twitter and get the most out of it are: Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Tweepi, and Tweetchat.

Email

It’s best if your email address is some form of your author name. And it should be professional. You don’t want to query a publisher or agent with something like honeybuns@kissme.com.



Facebook

I don’t use Facebook much, so I can’t offer advice. To redeem myself, I’ll provide links on setting up an author page. Here’s one by NathanBransford from 2/2011 and one from TheDavid Black Agency updated 1/2012.


Blogs
Ah, blog design. My favorite. Let’s go down the list.

#1 – The blog’s title. For writers, it’s best if our blog title includes our author name. We want visitors to know who we are and remember us.

Placing your picture and bio near the top is also important. I’m surprised by how many blogs don’t have this readily visible. Some don’t even have it at all! We need to make it clear to visitors who we are and what we’re about. And they shouldn’t have to scroll until they get carpel tunnel to find it.

Your blog’s follow options should be easy to spot and be plentiful. The most popular (according to a poll I did) is Blogger’s Follower gadget. Second to that is ‘follow by email.’ This is another thing I find missing from many blogs.


I’ll tell you a secret. Although I follow many wonderful blogs, I never make it to my Google Reader as often as I’d like. If I want to be sure to visit a blog often, I follow by email.  And I’m not the only one.

If you don’t give your visitors a follow by email option, you’ll lose blog traffic.

Something else that will hinder blog participation is requiring word verification for comments. I am NOT a robot. Please disable your Captcha! If you have a Blogger blog and you haven't turned off word verification, it's on. Trust me. 

For more info, click here: What isword verification and how do I turn it off?  If your blog is Captcha-free, advertise that with a sidebar button. :)  There’s a link to instructions for button installation right on the page.

Visitors should have a way to contact you besides leaving blog comments. Can you believe I’ve found blogs that didn’t have any way to contact the author! No email when I clicked on their bio and no contact form anywhere on their blog. Not good.

Another item that should be easy to find is your Blog Archive. (That’s the linked list, grouped by month, of all your blog posts.) Why? Because visitors need to be able to search for things easily.

I use Hootsuite’s Hootlet—a tool that lets me tweet right from any web page. When I tweet this way, I like to have a clean, post-specific blog address in the address bar so that anyone who clicks on the link will go directly to the post or page. Having an easy-to-spot archive on your blog helps me do this.

You do want my Twitter blog luv, don’t you?

You should also have a ‘search this blog’ gadget. This allows someone to search for a post even if they don’t remember the title. They can search by topic.


If you have more than just a home page, you need to have a page index that’s easy to spot and navigate. You can choose tabs at the top or put one in the sidebar like I’ve done.

As far as formatting, color and design go, that’s up to you. Your blog should reflect your personality and your writing. It should also be professional and appealing to the eye. Avoid disorganization, clutter, and light, bright font on dark backgrounds. Excessively small or large font should be avoided as well. 

If you insist on light font on a black or dark background, at least tone the font down a little. Don’t make it stark white. And don't place text on a translucent page that allows objects on the background to show through.

(Ugh. My bifocal prescription increased just from posting the pic.)

And lastly... Post length and posting frequency.

Truth? The more involved I get in blogging, the more I appreciate short posts. If your post (like this one *blush*) is longer than a few paragraphs, I’ll probably skim it to save time. Or as another blogger said, 'read on the diagonal.' :D

Aim for keeping your posts between 300 and 600 words (less than 250 decreases SEO). If you’re nearing 1000, consider breaking it into two or more parts and doing a series.

Hint: Type out your post in a Word document first so you can see how long it is. After a while, you’ll get a feel for it. ;)

To keep readers on track (and keep them from going cross-eyed): 
  • make paragraphs short 
  • bold titles and key statements, or place them on a separate line
  • and use bullet lists when appropriate

Regarding content, visitors like variety. It should go without saying, but keep your posts kind, considerate, and professional. Unless it's part of your brand (e.g. you're a Christian Fiction author), divisive topics like politics and religion should be avoided.

If you encounter a troll, don’t engage.

As to post frequency, 2 to 3 times a week won. For me, daily is too much (to post or to visit), and less than about once a week gives the appearance of an inactive blog. Visitors seem to like a schedule but don’t mind if the blogger varies it some.


What do you think?
Did you discover anything helpful?
Do you have a tip I didn’t list?

Oh, and

 Carrie Butler 

:D



56 comments:

  1. I'm not a published author (yet *looks hopeful*) but these are great tips. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for visiting. :)

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  2. FANTASTIC article, Melissa. Wonderful. I'm bookmarking and referring to this more as I enter the twitter world.

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  3. Great tips. If I had to do it again, I'd use my name in the blog title. But my name-- or at least the one I put out there-- was an evolution process.

    Twitter-- Since I don't have anything published yet, I can experiment a bit in anonymity. People love retweets and replies. Sometimes I throw out more "this is who I am" comments and there are only cricket sounds in response. All very interesting.

    I also have a non-personal FB set up under my writer name. Actually, like the blog, what I'm enjoying the most is the camaraderie it allows. And I agree, short blogs, bullets, easy to scan, help me find the main point, are the best.

    Such a learning curve-- thanks for sharing Melissa!

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    1. I hear ya. I was lucky that I had Carrie to advise me when I started my blog, etc. If I had found out some of this stuff after the fact, it would have been a pain to change.

      As for Twitter, I have over 1200 followers, so, honestly, I don't usually see someone's tweet unless the @mention me or reply to me (e.g. something that pings my email) or they are in my 'short list' or keyword tweet streams.

      I'm still wavering on FB. Having a pen name makes it tricky. And I'm already spread thin with the social media.

      Thanks for visiting. :)

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  4. You nailed this post, Melissa. So many great points. And I'm *trying* to be better about fb... I'm sadly lacking on there. And I've had to cut down my twitter time because I used to be addicted, LOL! I do love the blogging world and am so grateful I found it! :D

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    1. Thank you!

      Don't sweat FB. We all have to choose how much we can handle and stick to that. We don't have time to do EVERYTHING. ;)

      I agree about the blogging world. :)

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  5. This is the post that every new blogger should read and consider. And bloggers who've been at it for a while, too. Great work! This business feels so much more manageable now. :)

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    1. Thanks for that. I'm lucky to have had Carrie to help me get started. ;)

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  6. Great tips. My name isn't in my blog - I started it before I published a book. Need to get it up top someplace. I'll work on that. And a follow by email option. Don't have that either. Not sure how to do that in Blogger. I see yours right below here. Will search :)

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    1. I might not have made mine that way if it wasn't for my CP advising me, so don't feel bad. Carrie Butler does wonderful blog headers, etc. If you want something special, look her up.

      As for Follow By Email, for Blogger, it's a gadget. 'Design' ...'Layout' ...'Add a Gadget' ...'Follow by Email' ;)

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  7. All great social media tips. I try to keep my posts short and sweet, but it's hard sometimes.

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    1. Oh, I know. I don't always follow my own rules. LOL
      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  8. Loved all the great tips here- especially the blogging tips. I've never figured out twitter (too busy anyway!).

    Wonderful post!

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  9. Trimming my blog posts is one of my goals for next year. Not sure how they grew to be so long. As least each topic is short.
    Never Tweeted 'buy my book' and dig Tweetdeck.

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    1. Your posts are long, but they're well-designed and easy to skim for what interests the visitor. I think you do a great job, Alex. You must to have 1700+ followers! :D

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  10. People should make their books really easy to find, too, and in multiple ways. I'm surprised how hard it is to find some author's books.

    Since I've been blogging less, i seem to have more to say latley... lol I'm still not great at FB, but am getting better. Just know that fans like to contact us any number of ways. I've gotten several fan tweets and messages on TWitter and FB.

    Yeah, talk to people. Don't just sell.

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    1. Yes! Great point! Visitors DEFINITELY need to be able to locate you book info and buy links. ABSOLUTELY.

      LOL I guess my unpublished author state is showing. ;)

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  11. FABULOUS, my dear! Yes, I wrote in all caps, because I was yelling it! Informative, helpful, and to the point. But I really wish you'd Facebook!! I tweeted myself out last year. And all the self-love and no share (except you and a couple of others!), really turned me off. I only FB with writerly peeps, no family for me. Also, FB is very visual, and I like that.

    These are great tips. :) Happy IWSG post day, friend!

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    1. Thank you. That is kind. :)

      I hear ya. I love FB for a lot of things, but Twitter has it's usefulness, too. I like scheduled tweet chats, for one. And... I've amassed over 1200 followers so far. When I DO finally have a book to tweet about, it'll come in handy. ;)

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  12. Glad to know at least by blog has all the right things going for it, but more than once a week is out for me. Doesn't leave enough time for writing or marketing, which is a HUGE time suck right now. Plus, if you post, you gotta cruise the other blogs. I only allow one day for that. But I do wish I could do it more often.

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    1. I'd like to get down to 1 day a week most weeks, but folks seem to like GPM, and I like to have a day to post other stuff. For now, I'm stuck with 2. ;)

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  13. You're so awesome at tips! I'm gonna have to come back to this post soon and make sure I'm covering all these things :)

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    1. Thanks! Nice to *see* you again. :)

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  14. yes! Great tips!! I can't count the number of blogs I visit where I don't even know the name of the writer and can't contact them via email.

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    1. Thanks.
      Yes. It's a surprising number. 0_0

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  15. I'm so proud! Look at how far you've come in nine months. Wonderful advice! :D

    And thank you for the birthday wishes!

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    1. I had a great mentor. ;)
      And you're welcome. :)

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  16. Great pointers! I agree with everything you said. One of the first things I did when taking over as managing editor at a secondary blog was add various types of "follow" buttons. They weren't there before. Without reaching out in any other way from there, we've gained a bunch of followers. Not as much as I'd like, but it's a different sort of blog and I'm learning how to get a professional collaborative blog out there. (Oh yeah, and the second thing I did was remove captcha...ugh).

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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    1. Good for you. It DOES make a difference.

      My Follower gadget broke not long after I built this blog, and I lost all 60 followers. I finally had to rebuild the entire blog this summer to get Follower back, but when I did, I regained those 60 fairly quickly, and now I have over 100.

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  17. Thanks for all the great info! There are so many choices with social media that a lot of people feel overwhelmed. One person can only do so much, though.

    I started out with just my blog, then later added Twitter. I like it best when I can get into conversations on Twitter, but those seem to be few and far between. I've wondered if the constant "buy my book" tweets actually make people run the other way. I know they turn me off.

    Also - thanks so much for stopping by my blog!

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  18. You totally nailed it Melissa with this post. The only other thing I'd add is for people who comment often, make sure they are not a non-reply commenter. It never bothered me before, but lately it's driving me nuts because I sometimes like replying to comments directly from my in box.

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    1. Good point! I wondered why there was a difference. I didn't know we could control it. I'll have to go look at my settings. ;)

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  19. Some great info here, thanks. I agree about the length of posts I am guilty of skimming if they are too long. Not because I don't care but due to time constraints I'm afraid! I am going to add the follow by email gadget to my blog too.

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    1. Oh, absolutely. I'd LOVE to have time to leisurely peruse everyone's posts.

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  20. Great information on here... I'm a Facebooker, really bad at Twitter. Every time I go to Twitter I feel like I've just walked into a party where everyone is already in the middle of a conversation. Betwen the kiddo and my writing it's hard to keep up.

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    1. Yeah. Twitter takes a little getting used to. Once you realize what it can do and what it can't, you adjust your way of thinking about it. It's definitely not like FB. LOL

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  21. I kind of fell into blogging because I thought it was so darn cool to see my words up there on the screen! So here I am, one of those bloggers with no name or contact info in sight. (Well, it could also be because I'm really insecure ... ;) )
    I'm going to look into becoming be more reachable, in case you know, I ever finish a book or two!
    Great post. I don't mind the length a bit. I just saved it for when I had some time.

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    1. I know what you mean. I had to be forced at gunpoint (well, not quite) to put a picture of myself on my blog. LOL

      Yup. This is a post to bookmark for later. I did try and break it up with bolded lines to help people who wanted to skim. The idea was: skim through and read what interests you. I'm sure everyone found at least *something* they already knew.

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  22. Yeah, I really enjoy having the conversations on Twitter, especially #NALitChat. I know it's not easy to interact with everyone travelling through the internet, but I strive to do my best.

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    1. I've decided one has to choose a few things to be involved in - whatever their schedule can handle. We can't do everything.

      Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

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  23. I'm starting to like Twitter the best. I'd always liked Facebook and Blogging the best, but see Twitter eeking them out a little bit. It's just so much more interactive. And the parties...oh, those Twitter parties are soooo much fun! :) So fast paced...but then again, my name is Lynn RUSH! LOL. :)

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  24. Twitter, Facebook, and my blog are my three main social media links. I have a website, dabble in Goodreads and Wattpad (slightly), but any more than that and I'd be totally overwhelmed.

    So I think it's important to limit which media you choose. Spreading too thin is just unmanageable, at least for me.

    Great post!

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  25. This is an excellent post! I really have to freshen my blog up, thanks for the inspiration..
    doreenmcgettigan.com

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  26. Melissa, I agree TOTALLY on the blog stuff in particular. I am so glad you highlighted a lot of the things you covered, because going one blogs that don't utilize this great advice can be so frustrating. Thanks for shedding the light.

    Also, I do believe there's such a thing as social media overkill. Keep it simple and don't get caught up in the hype.

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  27. Great post, Melissa! Love the tips! I can be seen in the blogosphere and Facebook, but I still gotta get myself onto Twitter. Then that will be ENOUGH social media for me. It's so time-consuming...

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  28. Some great tips here. Thanks for sharing.
    Social networking is important, but has to be managed correctly because it can be a real time suck.

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  29. Great post - packed with information, and very thorough. A few of the rules I break quite badly (website name, for example) but I think I'm doing surprisingly well, judging by this!

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  30. Great post...a ton of excellent advice here. I think the share bar is so important. It drives me crazy when I find a great post and there is no share bar. Also, I think that tagging or labels is super important for blogs as well. People don't often have time to go back and read an archive, but if they can look up by subject and find more content on that topic. :)

    Thanks for this!

    Angela

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    1. Great points!
      Thanks for visiting. :)

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