Thursday, May 30, 2013

Social media news for writers

This week's link wrap-up is short for two reasons: (1) I'm crashing like mad on revisions to a book that's going out on submission (wish me luck!) and (2) Google IO conference (their annual conference for developers) was last week and it's still dominating the tech news... But I have a few interesting tidbits for you here, including three clever things you can do on Pinterest, two primers chock-full of ideas for marketing yourself AND using social media more effectively, and a great article about live author events and how to make them better experiences for you and your audience.

1. Pinterest to Win: Here's an article with three ways you probably haven't thought of to use Pinterest to engage followers. Clever! One of those ways is it run a "pin it to win it" contest--and here's an article that gives thorough rundown of Pinterest's rules concerning contests (via Social Media Examiner and Social Media Today, respectively).

2. Twitter help: More "power" tips for using Twitter (via Mashable).

3. Advertising on Twitter: I admit, I didn't even think about advertising on Twitter until I read this article (via Social Media Today). I still haven't, but at least now it's an interesting possibility.

4. Live author events: I don't know about you, but I have mixed feelings about doing live events. I enjoy them, but many times you don't know what you're really getting into until you arrive at the venue. Although this story isn't social media-related, here's a really good post by Matthew Dicks on what works and what doesn't at live author appearances (via the Huffington Post).

5. A social media primer: This article on "26 ways to create more engaging content" is really a primer of things you need to know about social media, from keeping metrics in mind, to using social media along with a newsletter to drive interest in your books, there are 26 solid tips here for you to ponder.

6. Marketing yourself (another primer): Stuck for ideas of how to get the word out about you and your awesome books? I bet there's at least one or two things in this article that you haven't thought of.

7. Things to check out in your copious spare time: Not that you, as a writer, need anything else to keep you from that manuscript calling your name. But here's an article from Social Media Examiner with ten resources for writers. The article really is a time sink. For instance, the first link is to Libroville, a website builder "for authors". But this link leads to a clever, Pinterest-like page with a bunch of links to writing-related websites, some of which you definitely know (Query Shark! Writer Beware!) and some you might want to check out. And on and on...through ten links.

8. Blog help: I heard this from writers all the time: "Is it worth writing a blog? I have a blog and no one reads!" This article gives it to you plain and straight: reasons why your blog might be considered to, uh, suck and what you can do about it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Social media news for writers: visual is the new black; going viral; and more

The social media world is going visual and how you can keep up; secrets of going viral; a new resource for self-publishers and when is it worth printing paper copies; how to drive more traffic to your website or blog; making a memorable impression, and more in this week's social media news.

1. Images--not words--may be the new currency of online content. With Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat taking over the social media landscape, and Yahoo going for Tumblr (it wasn't just to gain hipster cred), many industry watchers are saying social media is moving toward platforms based on visual content. Great news if you've got a picture book, cookbook or other book geared toward the visual. Otherwise, you've got to get creative about how to get potential readers to connect with your story. And where are you going to get the visuals to post on your blog, Pinterest board, etc. Well, there's that little doo-hickey called a camera on your smartphone. And there are also stock imagery sites happy to sell you the pictures.

  • If you take your own pictures and need a photo editing tool on your smartphone (to upload those pictures on the go!) this article names some apps to consider.
  • Pinterest is now allowing brands to include information on pins, so consumers don't have to chase images down all over Pinterest (or the internet) to find out where to buy something that's caught their fancy.

2. Discoverability: how likely are potential readers to find your book in the sea of books being published every year? Publishers and authors are hoping that developers will come up with a great discoverability tool, one that will connect readers with books they've never heard about but which are similar to the ones they love. Goodreads and Amazon are perhaps the best-known tools for discovery, but the next big thing may come out of the publishing hackathon held recently in NYC. You can read about the six finalists here (via paidContent). The winner will be announced at BEA.  

Speaking of discovery, have you seen Zola Books, a new online bookseller? It's the brainchild of Joe Regal, former literary agent. A smart, well-designed and aesthetically pleasing site for traditionally published books and select original content, with plenty of input from indie bookstores and customers. If you're tired of wading through a lot of chaff to get to the literary wheat, this site is for you.

3. What does it take to be memorable? Need help thinking outside the box? Brilliant business cards that will grab anyone's attention.

4. When should books be ebook only and when it makes sense to produce paper copies? Advice from Open Road Media and St. Martins Press in paidContent blog's notes from the Book Industry Study Group's (BISG) session on this subject.

5. Is anything new coming up in video? While this isn't specifically about books, consumers are one step closer to being able to purchase products they see in videos thanks to this new technology. And if you're still making book trailers, you might want to consider this analysis of what made these six videos go viral. (Both via Mashable.)

6. Speaking of going viral, here's an analysis of how one pin ended up going viral. It shows how it went from the original pinner, who had only 30 followers, to four repinners to, 48 weeks later, to being repinned 66 times until it reached--and was repinned by--one person with 1.5 million followers. Lesson one: be patient. Lesson two is about the power of networks: even if none of your followers has a million followers, it still has the potential to reach strong influencers.

If you've ever wondered how things go viral, this piece from Social Media Today will remind you that it's not all organic: many viral videos get their initial push through paid campaigns, where companies pay others to push their videos. It's not new (buzz marketing has not gone away) but worth a reminder that there's often this hidden component to virality.

7. Following up on last week's piece on search engine optimization (SEO), here's an article from Social Media Today on how to optimize your blog content for discoverability. Help new potential readers find you.

8. Color Me Interested: Designers explain the psychology behind color & online advertising. Which colors appeal most to women? To men? Let's cut to the chase--which colors will get people to buy your book?

9. Self-publishing resources: Bowker has created this handy-dandy one-stop shop, complete with checklist and tools for converting document files, for your publishing project. I didn't poke around; some of the tools and resources are probably for-fee. Worth a look.

10. Making the most of your Facebook cover image: Don't worry about the "rules" discussed in the opening of this article: FB isn't going to be coming after you. Scroll down to the second half of the article for inspirational photos of successful cover images that will get your creative juices flowing.

11. Need convincing that Facebook has been going all-out to monetize after going public a year ago? It's not just me saying this; read what Mashable has to say on the subject.

12. Could your Facebook page be working harder for you? This article gives you five tools you can use to see how your Facebook page's performance stacks up against your competitors.

13. Driving traffic to your website or blog: Getting people to come to your website or blog is tough. It's good to remember that it generally takes at least a year before you start to see any numbers. Ask yourself if you're doing all you can to drive traffic to your site. Here's a list from Social Media Today, good for beginners, of ways to drive traffic. It's a general list, not geared specifically for writers, but it may give you an idea or two for stirring things up.

14. Interested in doing more on Google+? Here's an article on how to host a hangout.

15. A new online science magazine: bills itself as a new kind of science magazine, one that takes a "big picture" approach to a theme by going wide, looking at a subject from the perspectives of social science, art, memoir, and hard science. They think of it as a new way to tell a narrative, one that's intellectually provocative. I doubt most of us will be writing for it, but it is worth a look both for design ideas but also a mind-widening experience.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Social Media News for Writers--The "Baker's Dozen" Edition

This week's social media news is all about helping you do things better: how to keep your newsletter subscribers from unsubscribing; how to get wider distribution for your Facebook posts; a better way to book live events; holding better contests and making better homepages to engage potential readers; and a whole lot more. Read on!

1. Live Book Appearance 2.0: Katherine Grissom got her novel The Kitchen House on the bestseller lists two years after it was published, and she did so by connecting with book clubs across the country. You can read how she did it here, thanks to Togather.

If you haven’t heard of Togather, it’s an online platform that lets you crowdsource live book events. You set the criteria for a live event—such as minimum size of the group you’ll speak for, distance, etc.—and then you direct your fans to Togather where they can vote for (“vie for” might be a better term) an event near them.

2. Understanding Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm 101: Here’s a nice infographic from PostRocket (via Mashable) explaining, at a basic level, how Facebook decides which posts your friends and followers will see from you; WHY; and what you can do to tip the odds in your favor. 

3. Why Do Your Newsletter Subscribers Unsubscribe?: It must be infographic week because here is another infographic (this one from Social Media Today) explaining why people unsubscribe from mailing lists. Their bottom lines: let your readers know up front how frequently they can expect to receive mailings from you; be consistent as to when (day/time) you send your newsletter; but also mix up your content, giving them something new and fresh to look forward to.

And If You Liked That, Here Are Even More Infographics:
  •       What Size IS the Cover Photo on Facebook? Here’s one that’s a cheat sheet for the images sizes you’ll need for your various social media accounts.
  •        More Photos = More Views: This infographic from Kelsey Trabue will have you thinking of incorporating more photos into your social content.

4. Better Web design: Don't most authors' websites look the same? And just how effective is your home page, anyway? This article from Fast Co. talks about the problem magazines and news outlets face with home pages, and offers this design solution.

5. Need Ideas for Contests? Social Media Today lists some of the most popular kinds of contests being held on social media, and the pros and cons of each. If you're looking for ways to increase reader engagement and attract new followers, you may get some new ideas here.

6. Do you write children's books? There's a new site, Zoobean, that curates children's books, making it easier for parents to find the kind of book they're looking for. You might want to make sure that your book is properly represented.

7. Ad analytics: Ever wonder what happens when you click on an online ad? You've heard a lot about how ads are targeted to users: this video explains the complex computational process that goes on behind the scenes to match consumer to ad. 

8. Need Help With Twitter?: Basic Twitter tips. Don’t be shy; no one will know you clicked on the link.

9. Advice for self-publishing: Sure, advice for self-publishing your book is a dime a dozen these days but when it comes from bestselling author Guy Kawasaki, it's probably worth a glance. Not much new here but it is good advice presented in tight, precise nuggets.

10. Scheduling posts: Ironically, I was just looking for a tool that would help schedule Facebook posts when I saw this story on Buffer (hint: it manages Twitter and LinkedIn, too).

11. Remember our story on the death of Google Alerts? Here's an article from VentureBeat with more potential replacements.

12. How to Create Engaging Social Content: We're writers. We should be able to create our own content but feeding Twitter or even a blog isn't like writing a book. So if you struggle with writing social media stuff, here are some tips from Social Media Today. My favorite line: "Social content should be thought of in the same way a stand-up comic would think about a joke—as immediate and fairly disposable." 

13. Another tool to make reading social: It seems like an oxymoron to most writers, but the tech industry is constantly trying to come up with new ways to make reading social. It's somewhat social on certain ereaders, which allow you to see which lines from a book have been highlighted most by other readers, for instance. Or Goodreads, which lets readers connect over favorite books, share quotes, comments on jacket covers and the like. Fast Co. magazine writes about a new app, dotdotdot, that purports to make reading even more social by allowing friends to interact. Maybe a good tool for book clubs--the next best thing to getting together to discuss the book over tea and lemon bars.

You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the working writer, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing and you can read them here every Friday.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Social media news for writers

This week's social media news for writers is a bit abbreviated because I'm still catching up after spending most of last week at RT Booklovers Con. Before we launch into the news, I wanted to ask readers for feedback. After steadily climbing numbers since this feature launched, the numbers were down last week, and I'm curious if there's a reason why. Is there not enough of an explanation--why this tidbit of information might be useful to you, the writer--or is it not what you're looking for? Head down to the comments section to suggest topics, ask questions. Thank you!

Search engine optimization: You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “search engine optimization”* or SEO. It may even strike terror in your heart. SEO is the (witch)craft of embedding your website with keywords and driving linkage so that your site is among the top returns on any search on you or your books. It’s gaming search engine’s indexing algorithms. If you’re unsure about the perils of letting other people hijack your potential online audience, you might want to read this cautionary Mashable article on politician Rick Santorum. (“Dear Rick Santorum: 6 Ways to Fix Your Google Problem”).

Now, few of us are going to have a branding problem of the magnitude of Rick Santorium. There's nothing political in that statement; I’m not posting the article to be inflammatory but because it is an easily understandable example of why you, as an author, might want to pay attention to SEO.
I am far from the expert on this subject, but I have seen a lot of snake oil sold as “SEO help”. If I ever find a clean, easy and not too expensive SEO management option, I will definitely write about it. Until then, I can only point to a couple of the tools referenced in the article. I have no first-hand experience with either.

The first tool, Visibility, is a mobile app that helps you manage your online professional presence. A basic account is free; bells & whistles for individuals or small businesses are $5/month.

The second is BrandYourself. I can’t tell you anything about the product because the site says it’s been overhauled. You can check back at a future date.

* Here's an article that will give you a better idea than my two-sentence explanation of what SEO means, specifically geared to authors.

Getting the most out of a Twitterchat: I've done two Twitterchats in my short career as an author. Both times, this particular tweetchat hadn't been around very long (in one case, it was the inaugural event) and meaning no disrespect to the hosts, but the attendance was limited. That's not to say that there aren't mature, weekly twitterchats with great audiences out there--it just hasn't been my experience. In case you've been invited to be the subject of a Twitterchat and were wondering how to prepare, this article can help you with that. And if you're looking for an existing Twitterchat that might be interested in having you as a guest (a twitterchat for nurses and you write novels with a nurse heroine, for instance), here's a list.  

Pay to play: Advertising on Facebook, Twitter and the like are author-friendly because they're tailorable and don't cost a fortune just to get your foot in the door. Want a run down of some common advertising options on social media? Here's a nice roundup from Sean Royer at Social Media Today.

Priming the pump: We've talked about algorithms before, haven't we? They're the engines that calculate how results are sorted, whether your book is number one with a bullet on a list or idling in the basement . . . Social media algorithms use social criteria as part of the equation, and by social criteria I mean how many "likes" something has gotten, how many times your FB post has been shared, retweets, etc. What does that mean? You should be "favoriting" tweets, among other things, people, as this article explains. 

LinkedIn and authors: Should you be on LinkedIn if you're a writer? I only started doing this and haven't formed an opinion yet on the utility (which I suspect, from preliminary observations, will depend a lot on where you are in your writing career). But in the interest of fair play, here's an article from someone who thinks you should.

You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the working writer, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing and you can read them here every Friday.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Frontline Fridays: social media news for authors

Welcome to this week's social media news. 

This is criminal: as Cory Doctorow correctly points out in this article he wrote for the Bookseller, he who has the most data wins. Knowing who's bought your book, what other books they've bought, patterns and timing of purchases--business intelligence gold, people. Which means the publishers are losing if they can't get Amazon and Barnes&Noble to share their data.

More on Facebook's falling numbers, this time from the Guardian: active monthly users declined in the US, Europe and developed markets, but FB is still adding new users in South America, something to consider if you're growing your South American audience.  

Do you worry about online reviews? I do. This infographic from PeopleClaim will give you something to think about. Granted, their statistics apply to all consumer goods and services and not just books, but consider this: 70 percent of consumers say they consult online reviews before they make a purchase, and 10-15 percent of online reviews are fake (for some sites like Yelp, the percentage is believed to be higher). We know that fake online book reviews are a huge problem and yet consumers trust them implicitly (84 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews over those of a critic). (This NY Times article from last year on the business of selling fake book reviews is a must-read on the subject.)

Speaking of fakes: Lots of folks were interested in last week's article on buying fake Twitter followers. This article explains the science behind detecting a real follower from a fake one (sort of). Basically, it's hard for a machine to tell the difference between an inactive user and a fake one, and the majority of Twitter accounts are inactive.

Getting 15,000 followers on Pinterest: This user tries to figure out how he got thousands of new followers on Pinterest in a very short time--and fails. Like most things in life, the answer is 'it's a mystery'.

Speaking of Pinterest, even more ways to use Pinterest smartly.

Help for the pain of live events?: We all know that live events for authors have turned into nightmares. Unless you're EL James or JK Rowling, it's nearly impossible to get a good turn-out these days. I am intrigued by SpotOn. It's a new start up that says it scans your Google calendar and then comes back with recommendations for events for you. It could be a neat way to get word of your book events out to compete strangers but it depends on what sources the tool goes to in order to pull it's recommendations. The local Examiner or Patch, other newspapers? Intriguing, but there's not much information on the "about" page. It's active in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Austin and Chicago and if you live in one of those cities (I do not) I suggest you check it out.

Do you have a street team? How about a handful of really great superfans? Here's an article to help you get the most out of your staunchest supporters.

Improving your "call to action": If you're going to use social media to ask people to do something, you do so through what's known as the "call to action". If you have a hard time crafting your call to action so that people know what's expected of them, or how they're going to benefit--that's a problem. This article will help you sharp those calls to action.

Using social media to promote an event: Live tweeting, organizing in advance, selecting the right hashtag ... This advice is particularly useful if you're holding a large event, like a conference or workshop. But the principles can apply to anything.

You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the novelist, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing and I'll publish them here every Friday.