Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Should Authors Use Social Media?

Back to basics: All of the students from my first six-session "Writing and Publishing Your Memoir" course have signed up for a six-session extension. One of the areas we'll be looking at is how to use social media effectively when you're an author.

This will be something of a challenge for me. A good one. I'm not an unabashed fan of social media. On one hand, I don't dare ignore it. On the other hand, umm, does anyone really know what they are doing? Emails. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn, Pinterest. Tumblr. Blogs. When I look around, I know that some people have no idea. It's entertainment. It's a time-waster. It's a reputation-damager. But some people do know what they're doing. I'd like to be one of those, and I'd like my customers to join the in-crowd.

I'm looking forward to the next weeks as a way to work with authors to come up with some strategies and tactics that makes sense for them. But where do we start? It occurs to me that social media is, well, media. Interactive media, to be exact, which is a powerful concept when you think about it. As book authors and publishers, we should have a leg up on this. We're authors. We're dealing with media, specifically printed books and digitally distributed books. However, books are--or were, anyway--information delivered in one direction. Social media is information (and other things, like emotion) delivered in two (or many more) directions. How can we take advantage of that?

Let's begin with the same principles I teach my book authors.

Principle #1: Identify your core customer (reader or audience). Rookie authors often set out to write a book "for everyone," thinking this is the way to generate a best seller. If your book is for everyone, it's unfocused. You won't have any idea how to write your book, let alone how to market it. Instead, the more specific you are, the better off you'll be. When you identify your core customer, be specific. The more specific the better. Not people. Not women. Not thirty-something women. Maybe something like, "a 35-year African American woman going through a career change."

Principle #2: Define your subject area. Again, be specific. If your core customer is the above, your subject area might be careers.

Principle #3: Define how you will change your core customer's life. The whole idea of your book, or ultimately your business, is to change your customer's life for the better. If you can promise to do so with some justification, your customers will be looking for you as much as you're looking for them. So ... with the above example, you're mission might be to help your thirty-something African-American woman find the job of her dreams (or get to the next level or make more money).

Once you do that, you can begin to look at each of your social media accounts and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this account aimed at my core customer?
  • Is this account about my basic subject area?
  • Will this account help me change my core customer's life?

If you can look at one of your social media accounts and answer yes to those three questions, you're on your way (at least with that account). If you can't answer yes to all three questions, you have some work to do. Stay tuned. The Publishing Pro. 

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