Getting the Word Out – And Still Having a Life

As indie authors, we fill many roles, especially when we’re first starting out. We are the marketing department; the quality control department; the design team; and most importantly, the content creator.

Once you finish that book and upload it to your outlet of choice, you’re going to need to tell the world about it. This is something I see newer authors balk at, maybe because they don’t understand social media and how it works. Some try, only to walk away feeling like a failure when it doesn’t work out.

In this post, I’m going to share my secrets – approaches and tools to help you automate your social networking. If you automate, you can do more in less time – freeing you up to create more.

Wasted Time = Lost Money

Many of us start as creatives because we enjoy it. The process of making something from nothing exhilarates us. We’re energized when we create something new and original. However, if you want to move beyond your art as a hobby, you need to view it as a business.

Whether you go indie or you publish through a traditional publisher, you’re going to be the one who needs to care most about promoting your work. Promoting on social media can be a time suck and it can take time to bear fruit, so many people throw their hands up and walk away.

There’s a saying that in business time is money. Every hour you spend on social media is an hour less you have for creating new work. If you learn effective ways to automate that, though, you can set things on auto-pilot for a while so you can get back to creating.

Which Social Network?

I don’t have the space to explore every social network, so I’m going to focus on Twitter. It’s where I spend most of my time and I’ve had the most success. Some of the concepts like hashtags are the same across different networks – but they’re all very different animals.

One of the things you need to consider while you’re planning your social media strategy is where is your target audience. A Google search can pull up relatively current metrics on who’s using which social media platform. I strongly recommend HubSpot, they offer lots of free reports and guides if you give them your email address. All are highly visual and easy to understand.

Your Primary Focus: Good, Relevant Content

I can’t say this enough. In order to get noticed on any social media, you need to send out good quality content that’s relevant to your target audience.

What’s good content? Things your audience finds valuable. An author you like is running a free promotion? That’s good content. New movie coming out by your favorite director? That’s great too. You’re going to a conference? Fantastic.

Do you see a pattern here? The secret here is most of your messages shouldn’t be about you, they should be supporting other people. Every once in a while, I see some statistic that 2 out of every 10 tweets need to be about you, everything else should be about other people.

In reality, there’s no Twitter cop coming to give you a ticket because you didn’t follow that convention – just know if you overdo it you’ll lose followers.

How Often?

Some people tweet two or three times a day, some several times an hour. Either approach can be effective if you do it right. It’s all about who you want to reach: the internet is an always available, global system; people are constantly coming and going.  Tweets have a very short lifespan.

If you’re targeting consumers, plan your tweets around commuting times and weekends. If you’re after businesses, most of them are on during business hours. But in the end I don’t think you can tweet too much.

You should probably repeat your messages since people are always coming or going; there’s no law, but a good balance for me seems to be repeating after 8-12 hours.

Funny true story – when I first started tweeting, I was getting all kinds of followers in the United Kingdom. For a while I thought maybe my work was more appealing to people over there; then I realized I was sending out most of my tweets during the business day in the US – but if you were in the UK, you saw my tweets as you were going home.

Start locally, but don’t be afraid to think globally.

Effective Hashtagging and Tagging

For the uninitiated, hashtags are those words with a pound sign in front of them (#tag). These are used to aid discovery – I think they started on Twitter, but now are supported on just about all social networks. These help people find you. If you use a hashtag make sure it’s related.

Use them judiciously: some posts need a hashtag or two, some don’t need one at all. If you use them don’t use more than three or you’ll look like a spammer. (Yeah, I’ve done that and I’m not proud of it. Mea culpa.)

You can also use a popular hashtag to bring followers over to your product. There are no rules against this and it can aid your exposure, as long as it’s relevant.

Tagging is when you use an at sign in front of a name (@name). This is mentioning someone and will alert the person you tagged. Use these carefully as well; if you mention someone too many times you’ll get unfollowed or blocked. Once or twice a day is probably enough.

The Tools

Most of these are websites where you can do research and automate your messaging. They all provide free basic options as well as paid subscriptions that offer more features. HootSuite and Dlvr.it both work across multiple social networks – paying for an account will get you access to more social networks along with other bonuses.

The Library – Core Strategy

When I started I kept trying to think of new tweets every week. It was tough and I often found myself blocked, and even worse – it ate up most of my Saturday mornings.

Inspiration struck when I heard Lynn Serafinn interviewed on The Author’s Marketing Podcast. Lynn talked about having a tweet library. I was thinking the same thing but thought it was nuts until I heard that interview.

Lynn created a library of tweets she uses for her messaging. She has a plan to rotate through them and had enough to not repeat a message for several weeks.

I went a little further: I use a spreadsheet of messages broken out by category (books, blog, film, screenwriting, etc). This way I can filter the sheet and pull up relevant messages. This simple method has saved me so much work and it cost nothing.

HootSuite – Schedule Your Messages

HootSuite is a web-based social message scheduler. It allows you to queue messages to be sent at a later time. Going to be signing at a bookstore? New book coming out? Review being published? If you know in advance you can time messages accordingly.

You can also set up messages that plug your books, other people’s books, or other things you find interesting.

HootSuite offers a free version with a limited number of social networks, with paid options that increase the number of networks you can manage.

http://www.hootsuite.com

Dlvr.it – Auto-Post Relevant Blogs

Who said you have to be the one coming up with all the content? Dlvr.it lets you ping that blog’s RSS feed on a regular basis, posting new items to your social networks.

Dlvr.it allows up to four blogs free.

http://dlvr.it

Hashtags.org – When is Your Audience Active

To maximize your chances of success, you need to figure out when people are talking about your topic. Hashtags.org lets you see a graph of hashtag mentions over time. In the free tool you can see the last 24 hours; paid options let you track this over time.

http://www.hashtags.org

Hashtagify – The Hashtag Thesaurus

Hashtagify is a visual representation of other hashtags related to a term you entered. If you enter the hashtag horror, for instance, Hashtagify will suggest other popular hashtags related to it. This is handy when you want to expand your reach but you’re stuck on new terms. A few minutes on here can free you up.

You can click on a related term and pull up other related hashtags as well.

http://www.hashtagify.com

The Result

At the time of this writing, I’ve been actively working with most of these tools for about four years. In the early days before automation, I was able to get a week’s worth of messages scheduled in about four hours on a Saturday morning.

After automating, I spend maybe an hour a week scheduling messages.

Don’t expect a big bang. It took a very long time for me to cross 900 followers; before that point things were really slow. After that things picked up significantly. I can’t tell you how long it will take; all I can say is it can take time. As you’re getting off the ground be patient, be persistent, and above all don’t give up.

Good luck, I’d love to hear if these tools help you, or if you have some I haven’t mentioned here.

Tim Morgan is a writer who masquerades as a software developer by day. He is the author of the novels WITCH CITY: CARDINAL, the launch of a paranormal detective series; THE TRIP, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse; and IC9: A CYBERPUNK DETECTIVE STORY. Tim’s very active on Twitter (@tmorgan_2100) and he shares writing advice on his own blog.

You can find out more about Tim and what he’s up to at his web site: http://www.timmorgan.us