Monday, August 6, 2012

Social Media for Authors: Groups and Forums

Posting in social media groups and Web forums lets you promote to large audiences with common interests. It can also be a huge waste of time.

Here are some tips for using groups on common social media (Linked In, Facebook, Twitter), book sites (Goodreads, Shelfari), and search sites (Google and Yahoo!). Web sites that target your audience may also have forums into which you can connect with potential readers.

General Tips

- Your book marketing goal is to post links and tidbits that will entice potential readers to your Web site. Even if your posts don't drive a lot of traffic, you are creating links back to your site (SEO) and currying favor with Google.
- Choose groups with lots of active members. A group with 10,000 members who never post or visit is useless. Also, check the date of recent posts. I've found groups with lots of members but no posts since 2009.
- Find groups in which members are allowed post. Some groups only allow the group owner to post which will defeat your purposes.
- Examine the posts: If the group is full of spam, porn, or authors pitching their books, you may want to avoid it.
- Again, if you're a non-fiction writer, finding groups is easier. For fiction writers, you need to consider sub-topics addressed in your book. My novel-in-progress involves travel, relationships, and erotica -- so I'm always searching for groups interested in these topics. (for more on sub-topics for novelists, scroll down to "Finding Your Audience" on this page about Twitter.)
- Create posts so they appeal to forum members -- not just promote your books. For example: "Buy my book!!!" won't do much for you. But "How to Avoid Being Ripped Off in Bangkok" should catch the attention in a group about travel.

Linked In Groups

Linked In allows you to join 50 or so groups. (The limitation is supposed to be 50, but for some reason, I belong to 51.) Most groups are professional groups -- people in the same line of work looking to network. But there are some consumer-type groups. So far, I've posted to groups interested in travel and have found groups devoted to my other topics, erotica and dating.

Once you join a group, it's easier to connect with people in the group who you don't know. When you attempt to add them as a connection, Linked In will ask how you know them and you can click the groups option.

Note: If you attempt to connect with a lot of people who either decline or say they don't know you, Linked In will first give you a warning, then it will remove the "groups" option, and you'll have to enter their e-mail, which you probably don't have. (click image to enlarge)

Busted! Invite too many people who say they don't know you and you'll be forced to provide their e-mail address.

Other tips:
- In the settings for each group, consider turning off daily e-mail -- or all e-mail except from the moderator and people who comment on your postings. This will prevent e-mail overload.
- Start your own group: If you're popular and a lot of people are asking you to connect, you may want to have them sign up to your group instead. Owning a group has another benefit: You can send e-mail to all members in one shot.
- Avoid Facebook LikeFests and Twitter FollowFests. In some groups, members will offer to follow you if you follow them. This is a great way to increase your likes and followers, but it's time consuming to Like and Follow everyone back, you'll get huge volumes of e-mails, and you'll be connecting to people more interested in increasing their stats than they are in your book. (For more quick and dirty tips for boosting your tips, see "Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing.")
- For some reason, I've had better luck using links shortened with than I have with (Sometimes, when I enter a link created with Bitly, Linked In stalls. Entering the same link created with Tinyurl works. I don't know why or if my experience is unique.)

Facebook Groups

Facebook also offers a search function for finding groups and pages targeting a specific audience. But to join a group or Like a page, you have to do it from your Profile account -- not your Fan Page. Also, be sure the group or page allows you to post links.


Search for hashtags related to your particular topics. Read my post dedicated to finding and managing hashtags on Twitter.

Goodreads and Other Book/Reader Sites

Many of these Sites have forums into which you can post links. These posts won't be as pretty as those you make in Facebook or Linked In. Typically, you can post a note and sometimes a link -- provided you use paste the HTML code for the link into your post. (Don't worry, it's pretty simple.) I have not been able to figure out how to post a link to Shelfari's groups beyond spelling it out. I.e. "For the rest of this article visit my site" (If you figure it out, please let me know.)

A groups search on GoodReads for "erotica" produces a mixture of forums for authors and readers.

Other sites for authors and readers:
Library Thing

Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups

These are mainly e-mail groups, which means your posts won't be as pretty as those you make in Linked In and Facebook, which both include a screen shot of your post and your photo. But one really nice feature: You can post by sending an e-mail to the group. You can even post to multiple groups at once from e-mail.

Note: You'll probably need to set up an e-mail account with Yahoo or Google before you can join a group. (You can still have e-mail from the group sent to your regular e-mail account -- even if it's not with Yahoo! or Gmail.)

Waste of Time Alert: I have yet to find a group on either of these sites that's worth the time and effort. Several travel groups on Google I looked at were full of ads and spam. A promising group wanted money (a membership) if you wanted to post. Several publishing groups I joined on Yahoo! have turned out to be worthless. I didn't do an exhaustive search on either site, so my experience may be atypical -- or not.

More Book Promotions Tips:

- Linked In Tips for Authors
- Is Online Book Marketing a Waste of Time? (Often, it is)

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