before we delve into a
social media discussion, I just have to know: when is it okay to drop
the smiley faces from my emails?
I’m over doing it, smiling three
and four times as if the reader might misread my “Hope you’re having a
great day!” :-)
The other day I used them in an
email to my publisher as if he had no funny to his bone. He sent back a
witty line sans smiley face and I laughed out loud in Panera.
Really, is there a statute of
limitations on email smileys?
On to social media. How can we
as authors, publishers, readers, and industry professionals make the
most out of social media sites? A lot of “conversation” is going on in
cyberspace and it’s critical to be heard.
Susan Payton, a social media
writer on Mashable.com,
writes that making a mark in the social media
world requires conversation, engagement, and interaction.
It’s not acceptable, let alone
effective, in today’s environment to send out a press release or
blindly tweet a journalist or PR professional without some kind of
research or relationship. Peyton writes, “I always like to learn about
the journalist I’m targeting before I contact them. I start on the
media website and read her bio. Sometimes I find [what I’m pitching]
isn’t really right.”
Finding our target audiences to
help spread the news about fiction requires time, patience, and a bit
Sometimes our social media field
is too wide. Perhaps too narrow. Authors and publishers are busy folks,
so how can we maximize our social media footprint without draining our
creativity and energy? How can we be sure social media is really right
Marketing expert and author Jim
Rubart has some wise advice.
RH: Where do
you see social media going? Is it going to expand, meaning more social
media sites, or contract like cell phone companies and cable have done?
media sites will expand for a time, then shrink back. Start-ups will
try to get in on the social media craze, but people themselves will
eventually slow the growth and the weaker sites will fade away. There
simply isn’t enough time for people to do an effective job on five
If you asked twenty friends—who
have been doing social media for over two years—how many sites they
have a profile on, they might tell you five, six, even seven. But when
you ask how many they keep up with on a weekly basis, it will be two,
RH: As a
marketer, you’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. Talk about the
impact of social media. Why is it important?
want to buy from people, whether it’s books, clothes, or cars. Back in
the ’70s, Lee Iaccoa brought Chrysler back from the brink by doing his
own commercials. People were more prone to buy a car from a big teddy
bear named Lee than some faceless corporation.
We are living in an age of
authenticity. The ’80s were the days of hype: big hair, big clothes,
big promises. But the younger generation doesn’t believe the hype the
Baby Boomers bought into, and now the Boomers themselves have become
skeptical. When Walter Cronkite gave the news, we believed him. But
that’s not the case anymore.
Social media allows the covers
to be ripped off. When an NFL star is tweeting about the game, instead
of it coming from the team’s media spin doctors, you feel like you’re
getting to know the real person. When Ryan Seacrest tweets, you feel
like he’s your friend.
Social media does the same for
authors. People can get to know the person behind the curtain, get a
feel for your likes, dislikes, personality, your style of humor. They
can get to like you and people buy from people they like. And if they
like you, they’ll tell other people about you and your product. Word of
mouth will always be the most effective form of advertising. Social
media—if used right—is word of mouth on steroids.
RH: I like
of mouth on steroids.” Is there wisdom to deciding which social sites
to join, say, Facebook over MySpace? How does one evaluate the most
question and it ties into my comment above that few people have the
time to do more than two or three sites at a time. These days my top
picks are Facebook and Twitter. MySpace is geared more toward music and
a younger demo. Facebook is everyone. Twitter is everyone.
I were to rank which social
media device to focus on, I’d pick Facebook first, Twitter second, then
a blog. But let me be clear, I think all three should be the goal of
most authors to effectively cross promote.
RH: Should we
consider “who we want to be” before we start down the social media
path? Or should our “brand” develop as we go along?
JR: This is
most critical part of social media. This is the most critical
part of Social Media. No, the repeat isn’t a typo. I want to
drive this point home: You must have a plan going in. Everything you do
is projecting and creating a public image, a brand.
Remember, a brand is what comes
to other people when they think of you, not what
you consider your brand to be. And once you get into a person’s mind
with a brand, it’s extremely difficult to get into their minds as
Every time you post on Facebook,
it’s like standing up on stage in front of five hundred people saying,
“This is who I am!”
I bet if most people were going
to physically stand on a stage in front of five hundred people every
day for a month for five seconds at a time, they’d give serious
consideration to what they were going to say, how they’d say it, and
the impression they’d want to leave. Especially
for authors who are going to stand on the stage at some point and
suggest the crowd buy their books.
Wow, Jim, such great insight. Posting does define us. How do we want
“our crowd” to respond? What do you see as the biggest mistake people
make in social media?
posts are an overdose of melatonin--incredibly boring. I’m serious.
Most blogs I read have a point to them, make a statement, express a
belief, point me to an interesting article or video. But the majority
of posts I see on Facebook and Twitter could be headlines for the
For those using Facebook and
Twitter to keep in touch with friends, it’s no big deal if they post
“today I had a double-shot espresso instead of my usual single shot.”
But most novelists see Facebook
and Twitter as a way to promote themselves and their writing as well as
a place to stay in touch with friends.
If our novels have to be
captivating and surprising to hook readers, so should our Facebook and
Twitter updates. Everything we write is either establishing
us as someone to listen to or someone to skip over.
I’m not saying we can’t talk
about the ordinary things of life. But we need to make them fascinating
to read about. Isn’t that what writers do? Take the ordinary and make
us see it in new intriguing ways?
RH: Okay, now
I’m terrified to tweet again, but don’t worry, it’s not your fault.
Ahem, so, any final thoughts?
the earthquakes going on in publishing, it’s a challenging time to be
an author. But it’s also a time of opportunity like never before. Where
else can you get two thousand plus friends in a relatively short period
of time? Where else can you give people a sample of your writing skill
as many times per day as you like? When in history could prepublished
authors post sample chapters for the world to see?
Dive in, the water is fine.
Thank you so
much, Jim! Such encouraging words and wise advise. Happy tweeting.