Monday, September 23, 2013

Social Media for Writers: One Thing That Works

One of the best places to connect with potential readers is the groups -- essentially online clubs -- offered by social media sites. Groups lets you to post comments and links to relevant Web articles, including those you've written. However, posting links willy-nilly is a type of spamming known as "link-dropping"  and can get you banned from the group, or even the site. This article includes both basic and more advanced tips working with online groups. (Advanced folks should skip to "Posting," sections III and IV, at the bottom of the page.)

I) The Basics

Facebook, Linked In, Google+, and Goodreads provide some form of group feature that allows people interested in a particular topic to congregate. Twitter doesn't have groups per se, but instead uses a feature called hashtags that lets users follow a particular topic. Likewise, many popular Web sites include forums and discussion groups to which you can join and post links.

How to Find Groups

Search for groups by entering your topic of interest in the social media site's search bar. If you're writing about travel, search for groups related to travel. If you join a writing group, you probably don't want to post links about your travel.

Once you join the group, you can begin commenting and posting links. As with most social media features, this is trickier than it sounds because the sites keep changing their rules.

For Linked In
- Enter your topic in the search bar (top red arrow below)
- Then narrow your results to only groups (second red arrow)
- Note: Linked In only allows you to join 50 groups at a time.
- Note: Linked In is a business site, so their groups are generally for people who work in a particular industry. For example, a search on "travel" will not produce a lot of travelers, but will produce a lot of people who work in the travel industry: travel agents, travel bloggers, etc.
- See "Tips" section below before you begin posting. Linked In added a feature that allows group owners to black-ball you from posting in their groups or other people's groups. (Yes, it's very screwy)

Linked In

For Facebook
- Enter your topic in the search bar (top arrow below)
- You'll get results that includes groups, pages, and people.
- Narrow the results only to groups (second arrow)
- Note: Some Facebook Pages created by businesses will let you post comments and links to your blogs. I have not found this useful for driving traffic.
- Note: Facebook will allow you to join up to 300 groups.
- Note: You must use your Profile page to join a group, to comment, or to post links for group members. You can't do this from an Author, Fan, or Business page.


For Google+
- Go to your "Home."
- Click on "Communities" and search by topic.
- Note: I'm not sure if Google+ limits the number of Communities you can join.  I belong to 46 and can still join more.
- Note: Google+ has a lot of oddball groups. If you're having trouble finding relevant groups on the other sites, give Google+ a try.
- Note: You can join and post in Communities from a Google+ business page. (If you don't know what a Google+ page is, don't worry about it.)


For Goodreads
- Similar to the others.

Web Sites in General
- Search Google for your topic
- Look for Web sites that have a "group" or "forums" option.
- For example, my novel-in-progress is about a chronically-single guy. I searched for dating and singles sites. Here's one I found that has forums. I joined and post links to dating scenes in my book. (I have not gotten any dates, but I'm getting some traffic.)


II) Now What?

 When you find groups of interest, weed them out by considering the following:
- Number of members
- How active the members are (Are the posts recent? Are posts from different people, which is good, or from just one person, which is bad.)
- Content: are people making intelligent comments or are the posts spam for products and services unrelated to the topic.
- If you are looking for readers don't spend time promoting your work to groups for writers.

A word about Twitter:
- With Twitter you can post to groups of people interested in a particular topic using hashtags. One way to find appropriate hashtags is to Google: "best hashtags for <insert your topic>" For example, you might Google: "Best hastags for travel" 
- For this blog, I have found Twitter virtually useless for enticing people to click my links and visit my site. Maybe I'm doing something. Maybe I'm an idiot. Maybe for topics related to this book marketing blog, Twitter is a waste of my time.
- I have a fair amount of followers on Twitter (4,000), some of them retweet my stuff -- so I'm getting interactions, but few of my followers visit my site. But my Twitter activity is responsible for much of my Klout score of 54. I assume that my Klout score will of interest to an employer or publisher, so I keep using Twitter.


III) Tips for Posting Links to Your Blog in Groups

As mentioned earlier, joining a group and then immediately posting links to your blog, can get you banned from the group and maybe even the social media site.

Getting Started

- If the owner of the group, posted rules of engagement, read them. (Some groups on Google+ do not want people posting links to blogs.)

- Spend some time commenting and reading other people's posts. "Like" good posts. Re-post good ones to your followers on Twitter, Facebook, or Linked In.

- See what other members are doing. Are they posting links to other Web sites and their own blogs? Great, you'll be in good company. Is the group very chatty and informal? Then make your posts chatty. For example, instead of just posting the link, lead in with a comment. For a chatty travel group: "Here are some travel sites that I thought were cool" then add a link to your blog.

Formatting Your Blog Posts

Format posts appropriately for social media: Include a simple image at the top of the blog followed by a summary paragraph describing the content of the blog. Cutesy, clever, or complicated images and leads won't cut it because group members only see a snippet of your article.

Here's what they saw on a recent post I made on Linked In

And on Facebook

Note: Google+ recently changed it's rules and no longer pulls any text from your blog -- you should add it manually. You can even include the first few paragraphs of your blog as I did here:

IV) Posting Problems

 1) Linked In made some changes that make it easy for you to get black-balled if you piss off the moderator of one of your groups. If you are posting on Linked In and your posts -- and even your comments -- produce a note that says something, like this, you've been black-balled.

This note means that many of your posts will sit in a Pending folder until a moderator approves them. Your posts may eventually go live. Or they may not. But it's easy for you to check. In the past, I've sent a nice note to moderators and asked if my posts were Pending because I had done something wrong. Most said "no" and my post went live. Others didn't respond. Read more about this issue. There is even a Linked In group about this problem.

2) Sometimes, Facebook will fail to grab the top image from your blog. In that case, look for the little pointers next to the image -- you may be able to choose another image.

 3) Wasting too much time on this? It's easy to measure whether you are connecting with readers in social media groups. 
- Are you getting positive comments from other group members?
- Are people visiting your Web site? Signing up for your blog?
- Are group members asking to be your Facebook friend or Linked In Connection or adding you to their Google+ circles? 
- Some groups will work for you, others won't. Leave the groups that don't appreciate your unique genius.

4) Social media sites change their policies constantly. Be sure to verify that your posts are going live.

More Self-Promotion for Writer's Articles

Attribution for image at top of this blog: By RRZEicons (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  




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