4 Ways Authors Need to Prepare For and Adapt To Facebook Timeline

Fake Protest Part Deux 2011 by Sheila Dee

Fake Protest Part Deux 2011 by Sheila Dee

I’m stealing a page — literally — from Jay Baer. Luckily, he’s a friend and will probably forgive the intrusion or be flattered by the mimicry. On Sunday, he published 14 Ways Facebook Betrays Small Businesses. His post is less scathing than it sounds, but it is a warning cry. I’m taking his post as inspiration, giving you the 4 Ways Authors Need to Prepare For and Adapt To Facebook Timeline.

First of all, the info below applies to those authors who’ve opted to engage on Facebook with a Page, not a Profile. As we have discussed before, authors reluctant to join the social space of Facebook may be better off with a Page. And if you’re one of those who took my advice from months back; sorry. Your world just changed. Here’s how:

  1. Cover image
    You need one. Not just a nice profile image. But a gigantic, 850×315 pixel shot that shows you at your best as an author. What, you don’t have one of those? Well… tough. Get one. Maybe from a signing you did. Or make a collage of your book covers. Whatever it is, it needs to look great. And it needs to be 850 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. And don’t make is salesy: Facebook has prohibited including things like your website, price-points for your books, or any sort of call-to-action. It’s intended to be an image that represents you as a brand. Leave it that way.
  2. Pin, for the win!
    The new vertical timeline flow is a little strange, and looks totally different from the “wall” you’re probably used to seeing. One of the neat things you can do with your timeline is highlight a post. It takes up twice the space of anything else posted, making a very clear landmark. Use this for the dates when your books were published, or any other major milestones in your career as an author. Pinning is something special that moves a post to the top of the page. This is only for serious stuff, and anything pinned goes back to its normal timeline position after 7 days.
  3. Be on the lookout for Direct Messages
    People (and by that I mean Profiles) can now send direct messages to brands (and by that I mean Pages). So a “fan” could send you a direct message and expect a response from you. Yikes! Couple that with the fact that Facebook’s notifications of these events to Pages currently is less-than-optimal, and it means regular policing of these messages so you don’t look like you’re ignoring your fans. I anticipate Facebook will provide a fix for this soon, so that you are notified when someone sends a DM to your Page. But for now, that doesn’t happen. Check your Page at least daily for new messages. And don’t trust Facebook’s built-in notification system. Log into Facebook. Select your page. Visit the Admin panel. And _then_ check for new messages. Don’t leave your fans hanging!
  4. Be active!
    Activity now displays for every page to anyone who happens to look. Fans can see how many of their friends like your Page, and have easy access to how often you’ve been engaging. Or not. This means you have to be posting often — daily is good — to make sure that you have solid engagement. If not, the page may look abandoned. And who wants to fan a page that isn’t interacting? Answer: few.

So take note, authors. Facebook has changed the game. They will again. And so will the other social properties in which you engage. Or should be engaging. They don’t do this to penalize you. They do it to benefit them. And as long as their users see benefits as well, they’ll continue to do so. So stop lamenting. Stop pining for stability and uniformity. Embrace change, for it is the only constant in this world.

And go get your Facebook Page set up for Timeline. You have until the end of the month. Then Facebook is gonna do it for you.

 

It pays for digital authors to be social

Being online and engaged in social media is more than just an activity for your spare time. Authors who build their digital following not only raise their personal visibility but create a powerful network they can use to promote their work. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and your personal blog are just a few of the tools out there that you should be considering:

Some authors are realizing that this social aspect of their work can be a powerful engine: Earlier this year, author John Green — who writes fiction for young adults — showed that it is possible to hit number one on the bestseller list with a book that hasn’t even been published yet. He was able to do this in part because he had already spent the past couple of years building up a following on Twitter (where he has over a million followers) and on YouTube, where he posts clips of himself reading from his books. The simple mention of a sequel to a book was enough to push it to the top of the bestseller list.

via Do authors have to be social? No, but it helps — Tech News and Analysis.

And this doesn’t mean you can just post junk – you have to have a plan for your social media strategy just like you have a plan for your book!

Tips for Authors starting out on Google+ & Facebook

branding iron by Martin Kelley

branding iron by Martin Kelley

If you’re an author wondering if you should join social networking sites like Google+ or Facebook, or how to engage with people once you’re there, this post is for you. If you’ve already fully embraced either (or both) platforms, then keep on keepin’ on!

Which is a better social platform for authors: Facebook or Google+?

It’s a popular question right now. Projections that Google+ will hit 400 million users by the end of 2012 (still only have the size of Facebook!) are simply adding fuel to the fire.

Unfortunately, I can’t answer which is better. Sorry. Like so many things in life, it depends. In this post, I’ll make a case for why you should approach both properties differently. To wit Authors need a Facebook Page and authors need a Google+ Profile.

On Facebook, Authors need Facebook Pages (not Facebook Profiles)

Many authors can’t find a healthy mix of personal and professional content sharing, especially with the barrage of input from existing friends, family and mindless games. These challenges and more make it difficult for reluctant authors to find a firm place to start.

When you set up a Facebook Page, many of these problems disappear. An Author Page will look and feel a lot like an author Profile, but with some key differences. Like:

  • Public only – By design, everything you post on your Page is for the masses. Know that, and you’re never in danger of over-sharing embarrassing personal stuff. That happens a lot on Profiles. Oops.
  • Your wall, your content – The wall is the lifeblood of Faceook. A big portion of users like to post things on other people’s walls. As an author, you probably don’t want this. A Facebook Page makes it very easy to prohibit anyone posting anything at all to your wall. That keeps you completely in control of the content.
  • Everything in its place –  Your bio. Awards you’ve won. Books you recommend. Yes, there’s a spot for personal interests, but nothing about your favorite band or TV show. Ah, specificity!
  • Multiple user management – You can assign someone rights to help create, manage or maintain your Page, without giving them access to your personal profile. That’s a huge win for your privacy and security.
  • Branded events – Perfect for the things you do as an author. Book signings. Release dates. Classes. Lectures. If it’s a physical event with a physical address, you can use events on your Page to invite people — and ask them to spread the word.
  • Engagement on your terms – No “instant messages” to contend with. No showing “available”. No inane requests to join the latest time-wasting craze.
  • Likes, not friends – Pages aren’t allowed to like Profiles. So there’s no feeling of guilt when you don’t follow-back a fan. With a Page, you can’t!
  • Prestige by association – Pages can like other Pages. So like your publisher (if you do), the company that does your ebook conversion, bookstores that carry your work, etc..
  • Unlimited likes – Profiles cap out at 5,000 friends. So if you get popular, you may have to go this route. Because there’s no limit to the number of people who can like your Page. Millions? Sure.

It took some time for me to warm up to the idea of authors creating their own Pages on Facebook, but now I think the idea has merit. Oh, and be advised that you can’t create a Facebook Page for yourself until you’ve made a Profile. So make one with the minimal amount of info, and then spend your time on your Facebook Page!

On Google+, Authors need Google+ Profiles (not Google+ Pages)

Google+ is an “identity service“. I didn’t call it that. Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, did. Even though they’ve recently released Google+ Pages for business… those pages really aren’t designed for actual people. Where the benefits of Facebook Pages led the prior list, the reasons authors should choose Google+ Profiles over Pages are largely negative. Things like:

  • G+ Pages can’t circle Profiles – A Page can circle all the other Pages it likes, but a Page can only circle-back Profiles. It’s very difficult for content to  get shared beyond those who already have it circled. With a Profile, you can circle as many (up to 5000) Profiles and/or Pages as you like. Your action of circling probably notifies the other Profile/Page. They might circle you back.
  • G+ Pages can’t share un-circled content – If you made an outstanding post on Google+ about digital publishing, I’m physically unable to share that information on the ePublish Unum Google+ Page unless you’ve already circled us. Sharing of content is baked in nicely to Google+ and a great way to build engagement. But Pages are rather stymied from this action.
  • G+ Pages can’t make un-circled comments – Track all the hashtags you want to find great content where you’d like to engage. Your Page cannot reply unless the person who made the post has your Page it their circle. But with a Profile, you can comment on (just about) any post. A great way to show your expertise!
  • G+ Pages have Hangout limitations – Hangouts are one of the coolest features on Google+ right now, and a huge differentiator for them. But Profiles have more options than Pages on Hangouts, like sharing documents. And (as far as I understand it currently) On Air Hangouts, which combines the multi-user video chat with a YouTube-esque broadcast. Pages don’t come with those options. Score one more for a Profile.
  • G+ Pages have limited biographical data – With a G+ Page, a single “Introduction” text box exists. But a Profile gets a lot more personal. Your full CV. Where you’ve lived. Bragging rights, even! Sure, you can put most of this in the Intro section of a Page, but it feels a lot less like a person than a… business. Yes, your business is being an author. But you’re a person first. At least on Google+.

Even with all that, there are some excellent opportunities G+ Pages provide authors. Like creating Pages for your books or characters. That’s something you really can’t do on Facebook. And you probably wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) want to. More about those opportunities later.

Bottom line

I like Facebook. I like Google+. And I’d love it if every author really embraced both platforms. Maybe that will come with time, but time is something precious to most authors. I’m hopeful that these tips will steer you, the reluctant author, in the right direction when you decide to make the investment in time on one or both of these social channels. It’ll pay off. Promise.

Ready for more?

Jeff and I are proud to be presenting at the Indie Author Publishing Conference in Phoenix on February 25th. If you register now, you’ll save $15. Take a look at the planned content and see if it’s for you. If so, be sure and say hi to us when you see us, OK? And ask lots of questions. We’re here to help!

5 Quick Tips For Perfect Google+ Profiles for Authors

Google+ for authors

Google+ for authors

I’ve been playing pretty hard with Google+ for a while now, and sharing my thoughts as-they-happen over on my personal blog, A Simpler Way. My ideas are ever-evolving as this new social channel continues to change, so be advised before following any advice I might share over there. It may be short lived.

Over here, I’ll try and focus on the ideas that are fully baked. Of course, Google+ could (and probably will) change things that affect my shared suggestions. But I don’t expect to have to post complete retractions over here when I’ve changed my mind for the umpteenth time.

I’m terribly excited about the opportunities Google+ presents to independent authors and publishers. I think anyone betting against Google on this on is a fool. Though Google has made several failed attempts at social, I’m convinced this is the one that will stick. So come join me.

Like all social media sites, your personal profile is the nerve-center of your presence on Google+. It’s easy to get wrong, and luckily not all that hard to get right. With that, here are my five quick tips to give you, the professional author, a perfect Google+ profile*:

  1. Use an avatar banner. This is your best chance to make a good impression on someone who finds your Google+ profile. Don’t just randomly upload five photos of you or your books. I suggest using http://gpluspic.com/ and hunting for a picture that works well. Play around with several and find the one that looks the best.
  2. Fill out your profile completely. Make smart use of bold and italics in your Introduction. Adding links in here is good idea, too. Bragging rights, occupation, employment… add in all that stuff. And don’t forget the Other profiles and Contributor to sections on the right side.
  3. Hide tabs you don’t need. If you don’t have any uploaded photos (other than your avatar banner) or videos, don’t show those tabs. Ideally, you’ll start getting great photos and videos from signings, book covers, video trailers for your books, etc. When you get those and start loading them to Google+, you can uncheck the box and start showing those tabs on your profile. (Oh, and kill the “Buzz” tab. Totally failed experiment that is soon going away.)
  4. Show off your +1s. Enable this tab on your profile. Of course, you need to be proud of what you are giving a +1 to, so be advised. Be selective, and make sure that the +1 is the default action when you see something that you want to be associated with. This is you giving “juice” to web content. Share those +1s with the world.
  5. Make (at least) 80% of your posts rich media posts. Posts with photos and videos go farther. They are more compelling and engaging. Learn to use the bold and italic formatting shortcuts to make your posts pop. If you need, create an empty circle called “test” and post things there first to see how they look when shared.

I’d love nothing more than to end this post with some examples of authors who have a perfect Google+ profile. But I can’t. Of the dozens I follow, none of them are hitting all the marks. Does that mean I’m terribly picky? Perhaps. But I think it showcases a great opportunity for you to do better. There’s ample room to make a big splash on Google+. So go do that. And then let me know so I can add you to my list of perfect profiles on Google+.

I’m on Google+, and so is Jeff. When you add us to your circles, be sure and shoot us a message telling us you’re reading the blog, have attended one of our classes, or just stumbled across us. That we we get you in the right circle. More on that in the coming weeks!

 

* – Jeff always gets twitchy when I talk in absolutes about social media. To be fair, there is no one right way. There are many right ways. There are also many wrong ways. If you have an a well-thought-out idea that doesn’t quite jive with what I’ve said; groovy. I promise not to hold it against you.

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7 Ways for Authors To Get More Comments

Mail

Image by Bogdan Suditu via Flickr

Part of the appeal of social media is the social aspect. That doesn’t just mean a two-way conversation between the author and the fans, but also many-way communications, where fans are interacting with each other. That’s a social conversation, and it’s a goal authors should have in mind. More importantly, they should have a plan to get there.

Getting comments is, as many of you have found, a bit of a challenge. Below you’ll find seven tips to help you, the social author, get more comments. Take a step back and consider how the whole commenting process works, and you’ll easily fit these into your daily (yeah, we said daily) routine.

Tip 01 – Make it dead simple to comment

OK, this one seems a little obvious but many authors fall down right out of the gate with this one. Go check your main social properties right now and see if it’s easy to comment. Chances are, you’ve got one or more barriers in the way:

  • Requiring approval before comments appear – Big mistake for the under-published author. Let comments post as they are written. Yes, you’ll have to deal with the occasional spammer and troll,  but those will be infrequent if you’ve set your site up properly. Requiring approval says you don’t trust your audience, and no one likes to feel untrustworthy.
  • Not allowing comments – Before you spend money to have your website developed, can it handle comments? If you stick with something like a WordPress installation of your home base, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re not using some blog-based system, make sure what you are using actually allows people to comment on all your posts.
  • Forcing a comment path – Not all who comment want their words to be public. Do you have an easy way for them to send you private communications? No, not from some form on your website. I already told you why not to do that. I mean your email address. Yes, I’m repeating myself. It’s that important.

Standard social sites frequented by authors — Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. — automatically remove most of the barriers above. But you should check that someone interacting with you in the social space has every  bit as much chance commenting on your social stuff as your own website. Go check. I’ll wait.

Tip 02 – Post new content often

If you have a static website, no one will comment on it. If you post once a month at best, no one will comment. No one will comment because it’s not worth their time or effort to do so. Without fail, the properties that receive the most comments are owned by authors who make the dedication to post new content often. Very, very often.

Need a definition of often? Future posts will go into that in more depth. For now, here are are some good minimum standards:

  • Update your Facebook status daily
  • Tweet daily
  • Share on Google+ daily
  • Post on your blog twice a week

Remember, those are minimum standards. More is OK. Don’t have time? Sure you do. You just need help making a calendar. We’ll get there in future content.

Tip 03 – Monitor comments as if you were obsessive/compulsive

No, I’m not suggesting you intentionally cultivate a mental disorder. Most of the popular social sites and even your blog make it easy to stay on top of comments as they happen. Until it makes you crazy, I highly recommend having all comments to your Facebook profile or page alert you via SMS text messaging. With a little work, you can make all tweets about you buzz your phone, too. And the same goes for comments made on your blog.

When you get to the point where your phone buzzes so much you can’t keep a battery charged, then you can scale back and check periodically throughout the day. But you must check frequently. Which leads me to the next tip…

Tip 04 – Comments beget more comments

Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of comment threads where dozens of people are merrily commenting away amongst themselves, while the content originator is blissfully absent. That won’t happen to you. So stop thinking of that.

Instead, think about responding to each and every comment, tweet, status update, review and anything else you can find where someone said nice things about you. You must participate in the conversation. It’ll be great when people people start talking to each other when they are commenting on your work. But even when that eventually does start to happen, you still need to be there commenting right back. (Note – Slightly different rules apply to negative comments. For now, keep a cool head and don’t feel the need to defend yourself. We’ll deal with negative comments in future materials.)

Tip 05 – Make commentable stuff

If all you’re posting is what your cat had for lunch, you’re not making commentable stuff. Yes, I’m sure your cat is fascinating and you can point to other authors who do write about their cat. A lot. But those are exceptions to the rule. You need to be focusing on making good stuff.

What is good stuff, you ask? Remarkable things is the answer. I’m using the literal definition of the roots of remarkable: Something that can be remarked upon.

Polls and questions are easy ways to get comments, because you’re asking a question. Don’t rely on this completely, as you should be generating content, not seeking content from your masses. Post controversial topics, but don’t stray too far from your knitting. Just because it’s politicking season, it doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon when you aren’t remotely political in nature.

The best advice is this: be true to yourself, but skip the boring stuff. Start writing down things that you do that are both interesting and remarkable. Then build on that list.

Tip 06 – Showcase the best comments

Not all comments are created equal, and that’s OK. Nothing feels better than to see a string of 10 or 20 “you rock!” notes. Good for the ego. But you should start to notice some comments rise above the rest. Maybe it’s a really good review. Maybe it’s a question that you can answer to really let your personality shine. Whatever the nature, grab  that outstanding comment and elevate it.

Make that comment the subject of a new blog post. Like that comment on Facebook. Re-tweet an excellent review. Yes, it is very OK to draw attention to this kind of stuff. Is it a little self-congratulatory? Yes; and your point is? Bonus tip: send the originator of that great comment a personal thank you note, message, direct message or email. Maybe they’ll do it again!

Tip 07 – Cross-pollinate comment threads.

You’ll quickly learn that your social channels don’t have 100% cross over. While your hard-core fans may keep up with you on multiple social channels, most people have a favorite that they check into frequently. Similar to the “showcasing” tip above, shine some light across your channels from time to time. Facebook and Google+ are great places to do this, as you can associate individuals in your post, drawing even more attention. But don’t forget to do that in reverse. If there’s a great Google+ thread happening, send out a tweet to let your followers on Twitter know about it. More is better!

Got a tip to share?

We’re going to start sharing social tips on a regular basis. Leave your suggestions for future topics to cover in the comment section below. And if you’ve got a great tip that needs to be shared, tell us!

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Author contact info – Do you make it hard for your readers to interact with you?

Just for the record, you do not want to open your mailbox one day and find this waiting for you:

Dear Author,

I know it’s odd to receive a hand-written letter in 2011. Strange as it is for you, you have no idea the trials and tribulations I went through to send it. I had to go buy a stamp. Yes, they still make stamps. Then I had to go to my mom’s house and ask her for an envelope. Then I had to call my 4th grade teacher from 30 years ago and ask her how to actually fill out the information on the envelope that the post office needed to traffick this letter to you.

Why did I do all of this? Because finding your email address was an impossibility. I checked your blog. I checked your Twitter account. I checked Facebook and LinkedIn. They all link to each other and a dozen other properties. But nowhere on any of those properties did you bother to leave a good email address for you.

So you get a letter. Because it was easier to track down your physical address than figure out your email. And with all this effort, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say to you. How ironic.

 

Sincerely,

An ex-reader who’s moved on to easier pickings.

Want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Follow these easy steps:

  1. Search for your name on Google.
  2. Click the top search result that you own. And by “own” I mean “are able to make edits to”.
  3. On that site, find your email address. What? You can’t find it? Add it. Prominently.
  4. Go back to #1 and repeat for the rest of your owned pages.

Worried about spam? Stop. It’s almost 2012. There are ways to obfuscate your email address, but the best line of defense is getting a decent email program that fights spam. I’m a Gmail user and rarely have to deal with it. And my email has been public and exposed in un-obfuscated ways for years.

I also suggest a bit of investigation on the social media property you engage with most of the time. What links are you providing for someone who wants more information? You should have a common landing spot for all that stuff, and that landing spot should have an email address for you. Not a contact form. An email. Again, it’s almost 2012. Time to get savvy about this stuff and stop making it hard for people to get in contact with you.

No, I don’t want to send you a DM. No, I don’t want to message you on Facebook. Those are fine methods of communicating, but they pale in comparison to the original killer app — email. Do it. Now.

And you do know we’ve got a kick-butt author’s conference coming up in a few short weeks, right? It’s a day-long intensive that will give any author a comprehensive look at the digital publishing world. This post is the type of thing we’ll cover — real-world ideas, tips and techniques that you can walk away with and implement immediately. Because the future isn’t going to stop knocking on the door. Make plans to attend, or forward the link to an author you know who needs to be there!