Friends or Fans? Social Networking Basics for Authors

one of my friends

one of my friends

Social Media for Book Promotion, Part III

People new to social media often get confused when it comes to what the internet means by “friend.” In the following post, I help explain the basics of how to establish a thriving network of friends and other contacts on the internet.

Anyone who uses social media to keep track of friends and colleagues in the same way they used an address book, are pretty much missing out on web 2.0 — and they are making a mistake similar to the kind made by those who shy away from using a word processor when writing books, or from emails when they are penning letters.

Friends in social media websites are the backbone of the networking potential unleashed by the web, and the “tail that wags the dog” of the new media. Making good use of effective social networking makes sense, especially for anyone with something to promote.

Buzz Builder

But celebrities and authors have another challenge, one of harnessing their fans as a “word of mouth” resource.

Getting Started

When you first sign up for sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, you will quickly discover that you need to figure out this “friending” thing. After you have created a profile, with some relevant information about yourself, you can select other users of the same site to be your “friend,” if you want to have a connection. The rationale for asking for and accepting someone as a friend/connection can range from a weak shared interest, to intimate bonds of trust, but one thing that you need to remember is that it will be fairly public.

Whom should I add as a friend?

Friends and family of course, for starters. But other kinds of people can and should be your friends on social media sites. What other type of person you want as a friend may well vary from site to site.

Freud Friend

Freud Friend

On a site like Linked In, where the emphasis is on connections in the professional arena, you will want to be sure to add friends who are from your professional life. For authors, that means publishers, agents, reviewers, distributors, book sellers, publicists and such. But it helps if the people you add in a site like that are well connected in the industry.

An author may well choose to use a site like Facebook and/or MySpace to inexpensively and easily keep in frequent contact with fans, or even with readers with similar tastes, who may well become fans of your book sometime well after they become fans or followers of you. And this may be a good place to stay in touch with your peers as well.

On still other sites, such as Digg or StumbleUpon, friendship means something else, or at least it serves a different additional purpose. On social news sites and similar venues that recommend things of interest – a funny video, a thoughtful commentary, a useful website, a great tutorial, a pithy blog comment –for these sites, friends are primarily useful as collaborators. It’s a culture of “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.” If you plan to use these sights to champion anything you wish to promote or “shout out,” then you need reliable and persistent friends who will help you get your impact.

Can I really ask a stranger to be a friend?

Most certainly, some people prefer to have only close friends and maybe family as their social networks, and yet others want literally 1000’s. Some choose to have one site which they use for closer relationships, and then use Facebook to reach out to the universe. It’s partly a matter of style, temperament, and what you’re looking for. But if you are planning on using the web to advance your career, or publicize your novel launch, or promote your blog, you will want to start connecting to a wider group of people.

Here are some basic steps to get you started adding friends you know:

1. Invite your email list address book (yahoo or gmail, etc.) to become a friend. Most of the major sites will make this easy for you if you feel comfortable letting them have your password.
2. Put a link to your profile on your website or blog, if you have one, inviting people to friend you.
3. In many sites you can search classmates, people at places you have worked, or people from your hometown, to see if there are any familiar faces.
4. Put a link to your socail media site or sites in the signature of your email.
5. Join and participate in some groups, at each of oru sites; you will make friends.
6. Once you have a few friends, you can look at their profile. In most cases you can see who their friends are as well, and some of them are often people you know in common.
7. Accept the friend requests that come your way. If the new friend turns out to be selling something you wouldn’t dream of owning, you can simply remove them as your friend.

How About Approaching People I Do Not Know?

If you have carefully read a site’s spam policy, (so you don’t misuse these ideas), it is perfectly all right, in fact it is standard in social media sites, to befriend people whom you do not know. It is always polite to include a small note saying what prompted your friend request, but this is a matter of etiquette and not a requirement. Usually you ask someone to be your friend because they are a friend of a friend, and/or something about their profile interests you, or because you share a professional or personal interest, entertainment taste, or common goals, values or ideas.

How does an author connect to his or her fans?

In addition to the standard friendship steps, authors may want to attract their fans. You can advertise or promote in order to do that, but I suggest you save your money. If you already have 50,000 readers, you can expect at least 5,000 of them already are, or soon will be, on sites like Facebook or MySpace. You can locate them by searching their profiles. Most people list the kinds of books they like to read, and also cite specific author or book favorites.

Romantic Comedy

Romantic Comedy

Start by searching for your own name, in quotes, or one of your more popular books. So for example, Romantic Comedy author Charlotte Hughes should search for “Charlotte Hughes” (the quotes are important, don’t leave them out), as well as some recent books like “What Looks Like Crazy” and “Nutcase.” You will get a list of everybody on the site who said she was their favorite author, or who has mentioned those books as favorites in their profile.

Next, to broaden the net you cast, you can search for your genre. In the above example, Charlotte would certainly want to see who said they liked romances, and also do a separate search for potential friends who like comedy. Since “What Looks Like Crazy” was sold on the mystery shelves, she would also want to search for mystery. Problem is, each of these genre searches will give you way too many potential friends, and you might want to narrow it down. You could require, in the search, for example, that they have mentioned that genre and be from your home state. More practically, why not become friends with people who share your genre, and who live in the cities where you plan to have your next book tour?

Try Joining and Participating in Some Interest Groups

One other obvious source of new friends is from the various interest groups that form on the sites you join. If you have a dachshund or two, and love them, there is a good chance you will make a few new friends, among the 5000+ people who belong to the Facebook Dachshund Lovers group. Authors might enjoy, and make new friends in the various groups that are focused on writing, or their genres, or related areas such as book publicity or publishing.

Once you have over a hundred or so fans, you can relax a bit, because, if you are a good writer, and people enjoy your book, you will start to also get friend requests, especially on Facebook, where they give you friend recommendations of people whom “you might know.” There is a good chance you will have a lot of “friends in common” with people who share your interests, so you will be suggested by the site to others over and over again, or people will read about your activities on their friend’s site.

How Many is Too Many?

There is some research that shows most people do best when their network of friends is no more than 150. If your goal is to become closely interconnected, 150 is a good target, if that is your style, and you will actively network with these friends. But if you plan instead to gather your fans or readers there, then there is an upper limit (several thousand) to the number of friends you can have on some of the sites. There are ways around that problem and we will be touching on that again in later posts.

How Can Friends Create The Buzz to Sell a Book?

Now that you have a ton of friends, how will that help you sell any books? The next several posts will introduce you to five important sites on the social media web where you should begin; we will touch on how to make use of what each has to offer if you are producing something of value, like maybe a book that you feel deserves to be a best seller. Then after we have grounding in the basics, we will move on to a more advanced understanding of how social media connections drive the new media.

For other artcles in the series:
Part I: Overview of Social Media: New Opportunities for Book Promotion
Part II: Five Best Sites for Your Book Promotion

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Five Best Sites For Your Book Promotion On The Web

(Social Media for Book Promotion), Part II

Social networking sites grew by 60+ million users in the last 6 month period. There are dozens of very popular places an author could join, but unless you really want to miss your deadline and annoy your publisher, it is better to prioritize. To that end I recommend the following strategy. For each of these sites, when you set up an account, be sure to put a link to your website, a picture of your upcoming book, and a link to your blog, if you have one.

1. Start accounts on Facebook and Myspace, if you do not yet have them. Myspace is the third ranked website in the USA, only Yahoo and Google are more often visited, so swallow any of your reservations and begin there. One in fifty people worldwide have a Facebook account, can you afford not to? Later (or now, if you are already on top of these) you can turn your attention to sites that are specialized like librarything.com, or mycrimespace. In later articles I will go into more depth on all the sites discussed in this article.

2. Twitter. It’s quick and easy, and some day you may just get addicted. But you have to have it, to stay in rapid touch with fans, peers and others when you get your networking activities rolling. Get an account, and when you have your profile ready and a password, then go to summize and twellow. Twellow has a directory; you need to enter some basic information so others can find you.

3. Digg and Stumbleupon are your next stops. Digg is a social news site (later you will want to join at least one other such site) and Stumbleupon is similar, but its has  a focus on saving and sharing bookmarks of the sites you like the most.

OK, well there are a lot more to join, but for now its time to get familiar with the terrain. In the next series of articles, I will begin with a discussion of networking; helping you determine how to make friends and fans feel a part of it all.

After that, we will explore blogs and how writing blogs, or commenting in other author’s blogs, can help you become a welcome and contributing member of the growing internet community that will, if you are a good author, help your book rise to the surface and get noticed across the internet.

Then we will offer a series of “how to” articles that will take you a little more into what you don’t yet know about each of the sites mentioned in this article.

Finally, a series of more advanced offerings will discuss blog book tours, podcasting, how to find and make use of a niche in your social media efforts, a survey of book review sites, and ideas about where to go next.

Other Links in this Series:
Part I: Overview of Social Media: New Opportunities for Book Promotion
Part III: Friends or Fans? Social Networking Basics for Authors

Overview of Social Media: New Opportunities for Book Promotion

While many authors by now have discovered MySpace, most writers still glaze over when they hear about Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg, Facebook, De.li.cio.us. YouTube and Linked In.  In a series of articles over the next few months, I hope to put the reader on more friendly terms with this strange but wonderful new world.

 

Today I am going to explain why authors need to learn to use social media to promote their books and themselves. In later posts, we will spend a little time getting acquainted with some of these tools, and to introduce a few of the major opportunities for networking that can help you launch the next best seller.

 

Be realistic. Even with a top notch publicist pitching it, your best book ever, and a hot and catchy title, you still have virtually no chance of getting your book featured on Oprah’s Book of the Month.  The number of newspapers and magazines that still review  books has been scaled back dramatically–  for example Sara Pearce, book editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer has left and is not being replaced. Traditional means of promoting your book to the media have been evaporating for some time. But all is not lost, a new champion is riding to the rescue, on the white horse known as social media.

 

Social media is a phrase that describes interactive social communities like MySpace and Facebook.  It also includes blogs (at least when they are actively networking, and social news sites like Digg and Stumbleupon, that ideally allow the average web surfer to decide (literally vote) who on the internet gets the headlines and all the traffic. And it consists of strange forms of communication like  YouTube, or Twitter, an instant messaging mini-blogging tool. All of these and more have converged to create a whole new media face that is rapidly replacing the traditional print, TV, and radio media stallworts. Social media is faster, more creative, more personal, more connected, and typically much more knowledgeable than old fashioned TV, magazines, and newpapers.

 

To authors who hope to promote their  books, with social media it is much easier to rise to the top, if you are funny, talented or interesting.  If your book is good, or your voice one that grabs the ear, you have a better chance of being “found” because your peers- your old and new readers, your fellow authors, book store owners, librarians and the next door neighbor all will have a say in this new media. Because people are getting connected, the reach of web sites, blogs,  and various social media is now limitted only by how much interest your book can stir.

 

In coming articles in this series I will describe more fully the various ways an energetic and talented author can promote a book on the internet with social media, and I will point out some of the pitfalls to avoid. I will also help you, if you are new to all this, to decide which doors you want to open first. Next in the series?

Part II: Five Best Tools For Your Book Promotion on the Web
Part III: Friends or Fans Social Networking Basics for Authors

Groupthink and What’s Wrong With Social Networking

Ever wonder why the herd mentality is holding back social networking? Consider if you will the lens of Groupthink.

Groupthink is a social psychology concept, that might well be a useful concept to apply to social networking. I was reminded of this by a recent post by Klezak’s social marketing blog on applicatons of Group Theory. Groupthink happens when a committee or group does not live up to its potential and instead stifles thought that is outside the mainstream. Analysts credit Kennedy’s mistakes during the Bay of Pigs fiasco to groupthink. He put the best minds of his country in charge, and they blew it because no one spoke up.

This could explain the tension between groupthink reactions like pimping your profile on Myspace and spammers on digg and related sites, on the one hand, and innovative uses of facebook like Help a Reporter Out and other creative ways to wag the tail.

So what does this suggest about how social networks can be improved? Well we need to find a way to encourage as many people as possible to use the current socail networks in an innovative way, and to find ways to voice their new or different thoughts. It doesn’t matter if most users put glitter on their myspace pages, or shout a gazilion marketing sites on Digg. But what does matter is that we find a way of standing out with good ideas. At the moment, to break away from the pack you either need to know how to right a catchy title to your StumbleUpon post or name for your facebook group.

But what if someone developed a ranking system for blogs, or websites, that awarded “authority” better? Can someone out there come up with a way in which to reward to creative ideas (and posts)? I know many of you will say that web 3.0 will solve the problems of web 2.0 with some organic solution, but I think we need to promulgate a means for real skill, expertise and creativity to be nurtured rather than submerged.