Monday, January 14, 2013

Guest Blogger Holly Worton on Social Media

I'm happy to have Holly Worton as my guest blogger today. Holly helps authors sell more books by using social media to build their author platform. She also writes a personal development blog at Ready To Bloom. In this post, Holly answers the question most authors ask:

How can an author stand out in the crowd in social media?

I often get asked how authors can stand out from the crowd on social media. The “author platform” is the big buzzword these days, and every author knows they need a platform...even if they've been putting off getting started. So if most self published (and traditionally published) authors are on social media, what can you possibly do to stand out?

You may have noticed that Amy started a campaign called “Authors Are Weird Too,” because it’s the new authors, especially the new Indie authors, who need support. To me, standing out in the social media crowd is all about embracing your “weirdness.” And by weirdness I mean your USP, or unique selling point.

There are three main questions you need to get clarity on so you can make sure you stand out from the crowd: Who are you? Who are they? And where are they? If you don't know the answers to these three questions, your social media efforts are likely to be a waste of time.

Who are you?

Start out by Googling yourself, to see what's already been said about you and your books online. Set up regular Google Alerts so that you're notified each time your name (or your books' titles) are mentioned. Scott Cook said that, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” So it's vital to know what others are saying about you.

You are your brand, and your consumers are your readers. The thing is, if you're a new author, readers have yet to understand what your brand is all about. If you like horror novels, you know you'll probably like Stephen King. And you wouldn't buy one of his books expecting a steamy romance, would you? That's because his brand has been clearly defined over the years. 

This is something that you've got to start working on as an author. Ask yourself some questions, and make notes of your answers. What makes you unique? What makes your books different?

What do friends/colleagues/readers/family say about you? How would they describe you to someone else? How do these qualities show up (or not) in your writing? How would others define your writing?

Do you have a tagline? How would you describe the overarching theme of your books (or the books you've got planned)? How do you want to be perceived as an author?

Look at other authors in your genre, and see how they brand themselves. What do their bios say? What's their tagline? How do they use social media? Make note of what things you have in common with them and how you're different. Focus on the differences: what makes you unique. Be sure to express that on your website and on your social media profiles.

If you don't already have an official bio written for your website, do that now. Your bio is something that can be adjusted as you clarify your brand, but you've got to start somewhere, and your first version of it doesn't have to be perfect. Writing your bio can be very helpful in getting clear on your personal brand as an author, and it's important to project a consistent image of yourself on all of your social media profiles.

Next, create a tagline for yourself. You may or may not decide to use it on your website, but it's a great way of defining yourself and your writing in a brief phrase.

The most important thing is to be your authentic self on social media: don't hide behind a mask. Be who you really are, not who you wish you were. The authentic you will always be more powerful and attractive than a fake version of yourself, and you'll be more likely to stand out from the crowd.

Who are they?

Once you're clear on who you are as an author, focus on your readers. Who are they? If you haven't yet published your first book, who are your potential readers? Who are you writing for?

It's important to narrow it down to a clearly defined group. Some people are hesitant to do this, but the more clearly you define your reader, the easier it will be for you to stand out from the crowd. Certainly, people from outside your target market of readers will purchase your books, and they may like them, but there's a core group of people who are most likely to enjoy what you write.

Let's put it this way: would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? You're more likely to be successful if you choose the former, and you're more likely to get positive reviews online for your books if you clearly identify your readers.
So, who are your ideal readers? What are they like? How old are they? Are they male, female, or both? What's their income? Profession? Religion or spiritual beliefs? Are they into politics, and are they of a particular political preference? What are their problems in life? How might they define themselves?

What keeps them awake at night? What beliefs do they have? What are their aspirations in life? Who are their role models? What do those role models have that they want? What's most important to them in life?

And, most important: what other authors do they read? What are their favorite books? Favorite genres? Write down all of the answers to these questions, as it will help clarify who your ideal reader is and what they're like.

This may sound silly, but it can be helpful to create your ideal reader on paper, as if they were a character in one of your books: give them a name and write about them in the first person, using your answers from the questions above. When you're getting started on social media, imagine that you're speaking to this person: post things that might be of interest to this ideal reader.

Once you become more active on social media, you'll start engaging with others, and if your message is clear, you'll attract more people like your target reader. These are the readers who are most likely to read (and enjoy) your books. And by engaging on social media with a target reader in mind, it will help you stand out from the crowd. Which leads me to the final question...

Where are they?

Your target market of readers is already out there. You just need to find them. Think back to your ideal reader. Where does this person hang out, both online and offline?
Start with where they spend time offline. Do they regularly go to the gym? Are they into meditation groups? Fishing? Sports? If so, which sport? Are they crafty? Are they a member of a knitting group? What's the point of all this, you may be asking? It's all about helping you get clear on where you can find your ideal reader, because in order to reach your readers, you need to know where to find them. And knowing where they hang out offline can help you get clear on where they spend time online.

Then ask yourself where your ideal reader hangs out online. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? Google+? Reddit? LinkedIn? Goodreads? YouTube? Are they big readers of blogs? Which ones?

You've probably read all about how the biggest social media sites to be on are Facebook and Twitter, and how your blog is an important part of your author platform. But in reality, you need to focus on where your target readers are hanging out online. If you're a romance writer, your readers probably aren't discussing the latest juicy book covers on LinkedIn. If you're a travel writer, your readers are likely to be on Pinterest and Instagram, where they can follow people sharing images from their travels. If you're writing a personal development book for corporates, your readers won't be baring their souls on a Facebook page. 

Does that make sense? Find out where your target readers hang out online (and just as important, where they aren't spending time online), and focus your efforts where they're most likely to be. That's the best way to stand out from the crowd. You've identified your small pond, and now you're ready to make friends there.

I hope that clarified how to stand out in the social media crowd. There are no secret tricks. You just have to embrace your own personal “weirdness” and get clear on what makes you uniquely you, both as a person and as an author. Then clearly identify your target market of readers and where they hang out online. Focus on those types of people and on those places.

You know how a lot of authors feel like they have to get involved with social media for marketing purposes but don't know where to start? Or even worse, they set up a bunch of accounts and start tweeting and posting random things without even knowing what they're doing? Don't let that be you. Get clear on who you are, who they are, and where they are, and you'll be a lot more successful in your social media efforts.

Holly Worton owns a company called Tribal Publishing, which helps authors plan and implement their online marketing and social media strategies to achieve their business goals. She also blogs at Ready To Bloom, a personal development blog, and she's working on a book by the same title.

Connect with Holly!

Tribal Publishing's Facebook page
Holly on Twitter
Holly on Linkedin