There is a lot of talk about how indie writers can or can’t use social networks like Twitter and Facebook to climb the Amazon charts. From my own experience, here are 8 things you should do if you want to avoid making stupid mistakes and wasting precious hours that could be spent writing.
1. Pick your subject
This is the first hurdle, and the place where many people fall. You need something to talk about. And no, that doesn’t mean yourself. I’m sure that you are the most fascinating and funny individual who ever walked this earth, but you don’t have to go on about it all the time. Think about the individuals you find most interesting, the people you follow on Twitter, or whose newspaper columns you read. They have a topic. You need one too.
My topic when I started (as now) was indie publishing and how exciting it was that authors were now free to publish their own work. It’s fine to stray outside your niche occasionally, but generally your friends and audience will want to know what to expect from you.
2. Create a plan
It’s important to start off with a plan – a marketing plan, if you will. Nobody ever won a war by walking blindly into battle. You need to have an idea of what you are going to do and when. It’s fine to start off by exploring and experimenting, but you should even plan this out. Set yourself targets: I want to get 500 new followers by July, for example. It doesn’t matter if you miss your targets – but having them will make you strive to hit them. Again, be a tough boss!
3. Make sure your products are easy to find and buy
If you are selling ebooks on Amazon, they do most of the hard work for you. But, although you are not going to shout at people to ‘buy my stuff’, you still need to make sure the people you come into contact with know that you have something to sell. When and if they like you, they will go and check it out.
So make sure you mention it on your Twitter biography and add a link to your blog or site. Put it in your Facebook bio too. And make sure you have some product pages on your blog, which are linked to prominently. You can’t afford to hide your light under a bushel. Just don’t keep shining the light into people’s faces. Let them find it.
The worst kind of tweeters and Facebook users are a people who just bang on about themselves, the people who don’t join in the conversation but just stand there and yell ‘Me me me me me.’ Those are the kind of people who everyone avoids at parties. The popular people get involved, make a contribution. And that contribution does not include the words ‘buy my stuff’ – unless it’s really relevant, like if people are talking about the problem of removing egg stains from trousers and you happen to have written a guide about that very subject. Even then, those people will be far more likely to check out your egg-stain removal guide if they have conversed with you before about non-egg-stain-related topics.
When people talk to you on Twitter, you should reply. If they recommend you to others, thank them. If they say something interesting, reply to them, as long as you have something relevant, interesting or funny (if funny is appropriate) to say.
5. Share and share alike
A lot of the time you will struggle for things to say, either on your blog or social networks. We can’t all be ideas machines every day. In fact, some of us struggle to be ideas machines full stop. This is where content curation comes in.
The great thing about the internet is that there are millions – billions – of people out there, creating stuff. Great stuff. And that will include people in your niche, assuming you haven’t chosen the most obscure topic in the world: the architecture of public toilets built 1908-09 in south-east Tunbridge Wells. Even then, there’s probably still someone else out there who’s writing about it.
So it is a valid – nay, important – job to sift, sort and share this content. You should look through all the blogs, sites, Twitter feeds, etc, of people who are in your space, and share that content with your followers. You will then start to build a reputation as a great source of interesting content, someone who sifts out the crap and saves their followers precious time. You will even begin to be seen as an expert.
You should adopt a 70/30 rule. 70% of the time, link to other people’s content. 30% of the time, be original. And you should comment on the things you link to. You could even make money from your 3rd party links by using a service like refer.ly.
6. Be ‘everso ‘umble. But not too ‘umble
There is a lot of debate about whether one should retweet praise. This is where someone else says something nice about you and you share that praise with your followers and friends. Some people think this is the equivalent to shouting ‘Mr Smith just said I was his favourite and the best at maths!’ in the playground and that you should refrain from such vulgar, show-offy behaviour. But it’s very hard to resist, and I think it’s OK. The way I look at it, you are simply showing delight that someone said something nice. Just don’t do it all the time.
In a similar vein you have the humblebrag. This is where people show off about how great they are while pretending to be generous to others. ‘Congrats to @Bert for hitting No.1 on Amazon. I remember how that felt!’
Yes, I have been guilty of all these things.
7. Join a community
Whatever niche you are in, there will be other people in the same boat as you. For writers, there are a number of thriving communities such as forums and Facebook groups. Same for internet marketers, cat lovers, eBayers, teapot collectors, eggstain-removal experts…
I joined a very friendly forum called Kindleboards, where writers exchange information and tips. Just do a Google search for your area of expertise and you’re bound to find other people like you. Do the same on Facebook and ask to join the group. As well as being a source of support and advice, your fellows are also potential customers, and they know potential customers. Just remember the golden rules – join in, don’t just sell, be nice.
One small word of warning – although most of the people out there are as nice as you, if you are successful you may provoke jealousy. We discovered that one writer who was very friendly via email and who we helped out was so envious of our success that she started writing bad reviews of our books under a fake name. There’s not much you can do about this but be aware that it might happen and hope that karma gets them in the end.
8. Be a guest star
This is one of the most effective uses of social networking. Most of your fellow writers will have their own blog and their own fans and followers. You want to reach those fans because if they like so-and-so, if so-and-so is similar to you, they might like what you have to sell too. So ask people if you can write a guest post on their blog, or perhaps do a Q&A. Bloggers are always looking for content, and getting someone else to write the words is much easier than doing it yourself. By guest-starring on their blog you will be getting in front of their readers, thus increasing your exposure.
It’s a great idea to do it the other way round too. Get other interesting people with something relevant to say to write something for you. This will provide content for your blog and give you a reason to send out tweets, Facebook posts, etc. And your guest will almost certainly link to and promote their guest post, thereby sending you more traffic. As new readers visit your blog, make sure they see ads for your product or, better still, try to get them on your email list or to follow you on Twitter, or like your Facebook page. That way you have multiple opportunities to network with them.