Rachel Hauck

Best-selling author and award winning author Rachel Hauck lives in central Florida with her husband and loving pets. She earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Ohio State University and spent seventeen years in the corporate software world before leaving to write full time. Rachel loves to teach and mentor writers.

She is a Book Therapist at www.MyBookTherapy.com, a daily craft blog and community for writers. In the past, Rachel is the president of American Christian Fiction Writers and now servers on the Advisor Board. Visit her blog and web site at www.rachelhauck.com.

Having A Strategy For Social Media

First, 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 of research.

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 for us?

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?

JR: Social 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 sites.

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, maybe three.

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?

JR: People 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 that, “word of mouth on steroids.” Is there wisdom to deciding which social sites to join, say, Facebook over MySpace? How does one evaluate the most effective place?

JR: Great 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.

If 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 something else.

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.

RH: 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?

JR: Most 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 Snoozeville Times.

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?

JR: With 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.

Love Starts With Elle