Social Media Balance

Social Media Balance

Social media balance is sometimes elusive. Yet much like everything else, social media needs to be balanced. Too much, and you’ll alienate your readers. And too little, and they’ll wonder if you’re still alive.

I’ll confine my comments to just blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are other outlets, but let’s just look at those three.

Too Much

social media balance
CHRISTMAS MUSIC (Photo credit: Zellaby)

During the 2012 Christmas season here in Boston, the oldies station began broadcasting all-day Christmas music early. How early? And it was, if I am recalling correctly, before Veterans’ Day. Egad, it was awful. And then of course other radio stations began their regular broadcast of holiday music. So it was very hard to get away from it all.

Now, lots of these songs are lovely. This is not me slamming religion – don’t misunderstand me. Rather, it was just … c’mon already! Because it was way too much!

It was not festive. Instead, it annoyed. And the same can be said of social media. If you’re a small outlet, a tiny company, a Mom and Pop operation, here’s a little secret. You don’t need to constantly tweet and update Facebook.

Reasons why you shouldn’t overdo it

  • You’ll oversaturate the people you’re trying to endear, and they’ll turn off to your message.
  • And you’ll burn out.
  • You’ll run out of things to say.

Not Enough

It continually amuses me when people say something like, “I have a blog.” And they’ll post

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr... social media balance
Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

their link. However, the last time they updated was 13 months ago, or more, or they’ve never updated. Or it’s a Twitter stream with three tweets, and the account is over a year old. Maybe they have a Facebook page with nearly nothing on it.

Given the number of abandoned accounts, and the number of deceased persons’ accounts on Facebook and the like, followers might be wondering. Have you gone to the great computer room in the sky?

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Underdo It

  • Your readers will leave you, big time. They may be loyal but today’s audiences are also pretty fickle. You’re no longer shiny and new. So they leave.
  • Google still indexes abandoned accounts, although the information is out of date. And it can sometimes end up making you look worse than not having a social media presence at all.
  • You show, essentially, that you no longer care about your subject matter. So why should anyone read what you write at all, if even you don’t believe in it?

Balance

It’s rather Zen, I suppose, to seek a balance here.

social media balance
zen (Photo credit: mkebbe)

But how do you get it?

The easiest way is to consider the people who you follow where you just love their updates. They don’t seem forced or rushed, and they seem to come in, just at the right time.

Don’t think of really big wigs in social media, like George Takei, Shama Hyder Kabani, Wil Wheaton, Guy Kawasaki, Ashton Kutcher,

Shama Kabani social media balance
Shama Kabani (Photo credit: bjmccray)

etc. Instead, consider your friends, colleagues, and neighbors, even if it’s people who aren’t making (or trying to make) a career out of social media.

Look at their Facebook walls and their Twitter streams and their blogs. What is it about those outlets that grabs you?

By the way, recognize that a person might be really good at one form of balance, but not at another. That’s not unexpected, as these are all rather different forms of media.

Reasons Why You Should Strike a Balance

  • Posting too much at the beginning can lead directly to posting pretty much nothing later on, so spread things out over time, and you can avoid both issues simultaneously.

Schedule Those Suckers

  • If you’re really inspired and have a lot to say, that’s great! But unless it’s time-sensitive, use the scheduling features of programs like HootSuite. Or try Facebook’s own post scheduling feature. WordPress and Blogger both allow you to save drafts and schedule them to publish when you want them to.
  • Spreading the wealth over time will assure your readers that you’re not just some flash in the pan. It will also assure them that you’re still among the living.
  • Too many posts means that many of them get lost in the shuffle. Too few means that they can loom large, and maybe seem more important than you think they should be. Spread the wealth, and you can avoid both problems.

One more thing. While Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. should be mindful, it should also be kinda fun. Overdoing it means that you’re probably spending too much time online. While underdoing it probably means that it no longer interests you that much.

Consider what either of those scenarios means to you. Because social media balance matters.

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The Cyber Legacy

The Cyber Legacy

What’s your cyber legacy?

Introductions

So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.

And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.

However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.

Life Online

You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.

And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.

Transitioning to the In-Person Experience

My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.

After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.

Cyber Mourning

With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.

I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).

Internet Afterlife

The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.

But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?

English: American actor George Takei at the St... cyber legacy
English: American actor George Takei at the Star Trek Convention UFP Con One in Hamm, Germany, 1996. Deutsch: Der US-amerikanische Schauspieler George Takei auf der Star Trek-Convention UFP Con One in Hamm, Deutschland, 1996. Français : L’acteur américain George Takei à la convention de Star Trek UFP Con One à Hamm, Allemagne, 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might feel we are rather shallow people indeed.

Forums Tell a Different Story

However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.

Heiroglyphics cyber legacy
Heiroglyphics

So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?

Social Networking/Social Media Tips

Social Networking/Social Media Tips

Social Media Tips? Yes, please! A while back, Grassroots Giving Group published some great Social Networking tips. I agreed with their ideas but would like to expand upon them a bit.

English: A pie chart created in Excel 2007 sho... Social Media Tips
English: A pie chart created in Excel 2007 showing the content of tweets on Twitter, based on the data gathered by Pear Analytics in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And they were essentially exploring when Facebook and Twitter are useful. Here are some of their ideas.

Ideas

  • Announcements – don’t just announce upcoming or new things but also add links in order to drive traffic. Agreed! However, I would add a targeted landing page. If you’ve got people coming in from Facebook, why not create a new landing page to personally welcome them (e. g. Welcome to our Facebook Friends!). The best part about that is that, since it’s a separate page, Google Analytics will track the clicks separately. You’ve got a fighting chance of getting good metrics, so you’ll know whether your announcement of the opening of a new branch of the Widget Factory played better on Facebook or on Twitter.
  • Sending shortened website addresses on Twitter – use an URL shortener. Of course! But why not use one (such as from HootSuite or Social Oomph) where you can get some click metrics? Using both a personalized landing page and an URL with click metrics can give you an even clearer idea of how traffic flows. Oh, and they don’t tell you why you should shorten an URL on Twitter (even if the URL fits), but I will: to make it easier for people to retweet.

Planning

  • Planning in Advance – nothing new here. You should keep up with things and plan in advance. Absolutely. And that means, when you’re hot and creative, write, write, write! Keep drafts and ideas going, and also think about how you can expand on your own blog entries or others’ (such as this blog entry). Get yourself a stable of other blogs/blog writers, news sources, etc. Who inspires you? Who interests you? And don’t repeat or steal, of course. Rather, expand and comment. These are perfectly legitimate ways to update your blog.
  • This Day in History – Commemorate occasions in your company! There must be something you’ve done that is good blog fodder. Of course, not every day is memorable, but it’s another way to keep the pipeline going. If July 12th is an important day in your organization, make sure that the July 12th blog post and Tweets are ready to rock and roll, and they are updated to the correct year. Heck, in HootSuite and SocialOomph (mentioned above), you can schedule Tweets. Why not schedule the Tweets for July 12th (or whatever your special day just so happens to be) and be done with them?

Quotes

  • Quote Collection – I like this idea, and I think it can be used for a lot of purposes. This is not only quotes about your specific organization or its work, but even more generalized quotations. Surely there is something from Shakespeare (My Kingdom for a horse!) or the Bible that could work for you in some capacity or another. It can be another jumping off point for creativity.
  • Ask Your Audience Questions – I think this is more useful if you have a somewhat large and actively commenting readership. While a rhetorical question is lovely, I think it’s just better if you can get at least a little feedback. Otherwise, it feels like you’re just shouting out to the wilderness.
  • Staff Introductions – this is another great idea. While your site might already have staff biographies, that’s another way to get the readership acquainted with who’s making the product.

Notes From Your Day

  • Notes from Your Day – I don’t know about this one. Your day, maybe. Mine? I guess this is, in part, centered around the event reviews I’ve done. But otherwise, my days tend to be spent, well, here, blogging. Which may or may not be thrilling to others. But I can see where my coworkers could have some very interesting days. The process of invention is pretty fascinating.

So there you have it. Some pretty amazing ideas for getting and keeping things going. And, while the post wasn’t, specifically, about blogging, it rings very true for that very specific – and sometimes challenging and elusive – task.

Finally, many, many thanks to the Grassroots Giving Group.

For more information, see the December 16, 2010 edition of Grassroots Giving Group.com’s blog.

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Are You Promoting Your Writing With Social Media?

Promoting Writing With Social Media

Promoting Writing is important! So let’s say you’re an amateur writer. You know you should be promoting writing with social media. But how do you get started?

Not to worry; I’ve got you covered, whether you’re looking to sell your work or just get your unsellable fanfiction noticed.

My Background

I have my Masters’ degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University. I blog, tweet, and go to Facebook pretty much every day. And I did all of that for grades and now for work.

Promoting Writing With Social Media
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, I have been in the social media space for years, long before the term was even so much as coined. I go back to Usenet.

Getting Started

So it may be tempting to just plunge right in and start hyping your work on Facebook or Twitter or the like. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It seems so easy. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s free. But I want you to take a step backward because we are going to do some basic strategizing. It’s called the POST Strategy.

P is for Personas

A persona, or a buyer persona, is the person who would typically buy your work. This is demographics, generally including gender, age range, and race. It can include highest educational level attained. It can also include marital status or sexual identity, time zone, and sometimes household income.

I know you don’t have the bucks to hire a team to build a demographic profile. That’s okay. You’re more or less covered online, if you don’t mind some vagueness.

In 2013, Pew Research investigated who in America is reading. You can also pull related data, such as this study on gaming. Google, as is often the case, is your friend.

Once you’ve got your general demographics together, write a short thumbnail sketch of a biography of them. E. g.

Steve loves science fiction as he enjoys the escapism elements. He’s in his thirties and lives in a small town where he has a technical job. Unmarried, Steve wants to escape into the strange worlds that are a staple of science fiction. Because Steve is bi, and he’s in a small town where that might seem strange to his neighbors, he is semi-closeted. He wants to read about people like him or more or less like him. He enjoys action and adventure but doesn’t mind some romance in the storyline so long as it’s not dominant.

This is a description of your ideal reader. That person might be a lot like you. They might turn out not to be. Plus you might find more than one persona. That’s okay, too.

O is for Objectives

We’ve all got pie in the sky notions, where we want to be recognized for our art, published, get an agent, make a mint, and hobnob with the best writers we can think of. Or maybe that’s just me. But you’ve got to be realistic here.

What’s realistic? Breaking even, on a first novel, is probably not realistic. But selling at least one copy to someone you do not personally know? That’s a good, attainable goal. It may not sound like a lot, but you start this way.

And do some measuring, in order to know you met your objectives. Amazon shows sales data, and many places show read counts even if you aren’t publishing for $$ at this time. I personally use spreadsheets but I’ve got a data analysis background so this appeals to me. You don’t need to go nuts! You can get by with just vague ideas, such as to see that sales have gone up, or you haven’t broken 1,000 reads, that sort of thing.

S is for Strategy

What’s your plan? First of all, allow me to suggest one thing right off the top – get HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Buffer or some combination and learn how to use their scheduling features. Don’t be tweeting in the middle of the night. So schedule stuff. Trust me; scheduling will save your offline life.

T is for Technology

So now let’s start thinking about platforms. And do some more research (Pew is awesome!). Where is your buyer persona going online?

Our mythological buyer persona, Steve, is fairly young and male. I bet he likes Tumblr and Twitter. Plus he’s on Facebook because many people are. While he might be on Pinterest (it’s not 100% female), the likelihood is greater that he’s elsewhere.

So what’s your mission? To post your promotional links where Steve is. Maybe Betty. Or Lakeisha. Perhaps Hong. Or José. And change up to reach whoever your buyer persona is.

Want to know more about POST Strategy? Go to the source!

More Information

However, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to promoting writing. Because there’s a ton more to know! Where can you get started? I just so happen to have a book for that. And it also just so happens to be free. Ask me anything, here or on Wattpad in the comments for that book. Am I missing something? And do you want anything updated or clarified? I gladly take requests to update the Social Media Guide.

Now go out there and knock ’em dead!

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott, A Book Review

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that I had as required reading for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).

The Premise

World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland David Meerman Scott
World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland (Photo credit: Krishna De)

First of all, the premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system. Instead, it has instead evolved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.

And perhaps the most interesting part of the book consists of the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –

The New Rules

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

  • First of all, marketing is more than just advertising
  • In addition, public relations is for more than just a mainstream media audience
  • You are what you publish
  • And people want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Furthermore, marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web
  • In addition, public relations is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. Instead, it’s about your organization winning business
  • And the internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
  • Furthermore, companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • In addition, blogs, online video, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • And social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and connect with the people and companies they do business with
  • Finally, on the web, the lines between marketing and public relations have blurred

Because customers are talking back.  And companies and their marketing departments had better start listening.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

Chicken Scratch

Neurotic Writers. I know aspiring writers.

You probably do, too. There are lots of people with a Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Neurotic Writersmanuscript out there … somewhere. Perhaps it’s just in a hard drive. Or maybe it’s been uploaded to a fiction site. Or perhaps it has gotten a little exposure by having a chapter or a tantalizing fragment tossed onto a forums site. It might take the form of a blog (Gee, I wonder if I’m doing that …?). There are some that are typed (Remember that?). Others are only in long hand. And still others are locked away in brain form only.

Attention Monsters, All

Neurotic Writers
Social Media Iceberg (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Whatever form it has taken, there is one thing I have learned about aspiring writers (And this includes fan fiction writers, by the way. Don’t dis ’em; they care about what they do, too!). This may also be true of established writers as well. I’m not even so sure where “established” starts happening. If it starts when you’ve gotten a check for writing, then count me in the established camp. If not, well, then it might be that I am still waiting for my established writer card. But I digress. What have I learned about aspiring writers?

It’s that we are all attention monsters.

We all crave attention. But it’s more than just “Look at me! Look at me!” Instead, it’s more like, “Please oh please oh please read my stuff and leave detailed feedback so I know you really read it and don’t forget to tell me how kick-bun awesome I am!

Er, yeah.

Now, pretty much everyone on the planet adores hugs and positive attention and love and happiness. For aspiring writers, though, it’s poured onto a page. The soul is naked, for all to poke at (Erm, that wasn’t meant to evoke an NC-17 image. Shame on you for thinking so. And now that’s all you can think of, am I right?). It is scary and it is daunting. And it is exhilarating when you get even a scrap of positive feedback.

Enter Social Media

For aspiring writers with a backbone and a somewhat thicker skin, social media can be a way to get some of that craved feedback.

How?

The first and probably most obvious method is to have a Twitter stream dedicated to your writing. I doubt that most people want to read about writer’s block, so you need to have something going on. Perhaps you could write about inspirations, or earlier works, or how things fit together in your universe.

Hence I am also talking about a blog. You can blog about writing. The creative process can be fascinating for people who are into it. Maybe you’d like to review your own work, and comment on what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown as an author. Put both of these together, and you’ve got a pretty dynamic combination. You write, you blog about it and then you tweet about your blog posts and your writing.

Plus writing begets writing. Even blog writing (which is a rather different animal from book-writing) can help keep writer’s block at bay. It helps to exercise these muscles fairly regularly.

Another Option?

Post on social sites. Hence for fan fiction, there is Fanfiction.net. And for purely original stories, they have a sister site, Fiction Press. Or try Wattpad. In addition, plenty of more specialized fiction and fan fiction sites exist. Google is your friend!

Be aware of scams; they do exist. Furthermore, putting your work out there does not guarantee that you retain full rights to it. And this is despite the laws in your own country. In addition, understand there’s a lot of plagiarism and downright theft out there. So remain as cautious as with any other information you put online.

Understand, too, that if you neurotic writers are going to submit to a traditional publisher, they often don’t want you to have posted your story elsewhere beforehand. Because this has to do with the full rights to your product. Hence you might want to put out your smaller or less important works, and save your really big one, if you are ever planning to submit to a traditional publishing house.

Competitions

Yet another option is competitions. Here’s one, at America’s Next Author. Because the inspiration from this blog post came from learning that a friend had a story in this competition. The competition ran as a pure social media experiment. Hence, while good storytelling and story-crafting matter, so does publicity. Like with any other social media site, “likes”, comments and popularity all play a role. For my friend, and for others trying to make it, putting the link onto Facebook or Twitter is essential to getting the word out. Even this blog post is helpful (FYI, and just for the record, this post is my own idea and she did not request or suggest it).

The Reader End of Things

The community of aspiring writers is, truly, a community. And that means give and take. What kind of give and take? The kind that goes along with reviews and comments. Because for those who are trying to write for a living, commenting and reviewing should be a part of that. Readily and cheerfully provide constructive criticism, if desired.

Aspiring neurotic writers write for exposure. And often they get exposure from fellow aspirants. What better way to forge a sense of community than to read one another’s works, and comment thereon?

The Upshot of It All

For those of us neurotic writers who put it out there every day, who bare ourselves and our souls with prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction, fan or wholly original, short story or multi-novel series, we all have a major issue in common – we want recognition. We don’t even necessarily want to be famous, but we want to be the one at the fireside who spins a yarn as others sit, enraptured. And with social media, we hope, there just might be some people listening.

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors – do you do it?

I am published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, concerns how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family far removed from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to help out.

And for the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

This one’s easy. Buy their book! Which version? Any version!

However, authors might get better percentages of the take with a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale beats out no sale), if we have our druthers and it really makes a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

So once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way to help out even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book. Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review (and some places require it now).

The Sum and Substance of Your Review

What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group the work is aimed at, then no problem. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, really help. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.

Negative Reviews

What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (an unethical request, by the way). If the book stinks (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:

  1. Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
  2. Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. However be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
  3. Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book utterly bored you, the term ‘interesting’ works. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you have just damned with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.

Really going negative

  1. Post a negative review. However, be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). But if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.

Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.

The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author

Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, Tumblr rebloggings, clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content is delivered to more people. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.

The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors

Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies who have larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.

You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). You can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends, but if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?

If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.

The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author

Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling? You can also act as a beta reader. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? The protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). This is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.

As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.

Final Thoughts on How to Support Independent Authors

The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. You get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.

… And Facebook for All — All the Rest of It

… And Facebook for All — All the Rest of It

What’s the rest of it? There are really only two areas that I haven’t delved into: Groups and Notes (and keep in mind, FB changes constantly, so these could go away).

Groups

Groups: a lot more self-explanatory than you might expect.

 Rest
Trekkies at Florida Supercon (Photo credit: daspader)

They are, of course, a means for people to gather themselves together. Facebook is enormous and so, instead of looking through several million people to try to find someone who likes, say, Star Trek United, you can hunt for a Star Trek group, join it and, voila! Instant collection of people with an interest similar to your own.

Joining in a group affords few obligations. Get invited to a group event? Well, it’s nice to RSVP, but not necessary. New discussion in the group? Well, it’s nice to participate, but you don’t need to. Add photos? Again, lovely, but no one’s holding a gun to your head.

Group Management

Managing a group differs a tad because it’s good to keep it lively. I’ve already talked a bit about groups before in this series, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said. However, mainly you want to keep discussions going (if any) and interest up. Gathering an enormous number of fans (yes, I know they are called Likes now, but what’s the human term? Likers? That just sounds weird, Facebook) helps with that.

This helps because it’s a somewhat objective means of showing interest in your group or cause or company, but since there’s a proliferation of dual accounts, that’s not necessarily much of an achievement. Plus, since it’s so easy to toss a share or Like button on any site, and Liking is so easy, having a lot of fans often just means you got your group in front of a bunch of people who are fine with clicking on a Like button, and nothing more. A group with 1,000 fans is not necessarily going to be easier to monetize than a group with only 100.

Notes

Notes became yet another means of getting across information. The main difference between them and discussions? The replies seem more like subordinate-appearing comments versus discussion replies.

Huh?

Yeah, it’s a difference without much of a real distinction.

The main usage I’ve seen for Notes consists of old-fashioned “getting to know you” kinds of notes. You know, the kind where you’re asked your favorite ice cream flavor or the name of your childhood pet. I’ve been on the Internet for over a decade and a half and, frankly, I think I’ve seen all of these by now.

The last bit about Facebook is its very ubiquity. One of the reasons why it is so successful is because it’s, well, so successful. E. g., a long time ago, it hit a tipping point and started to become famous for the sake of being famous, and got bigger pretty much just because it was already huge.

It is well-known to be a world-wide phenomenon. Mentioning it is so obvious, so simple and so well-known that it practically isn’t product placement to talk about it any more, much like mentioning a telephone in a movie isn’t really product placement to give a profit to Alexander Graham Bell’s descendants.

See you online. And, yes, I will friend you if you like.

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Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

The Yahoo! Style Guide. For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac University, we were required to purchase this book and use it as a reference.

However, instead of just referencing the guide as needed, I read it from cover to cover. And it is a fantastic guide.

Writing Online

So for most people, the act of writing online seems to mainly consist of ejecting words and hoping that they will somehow collide in a manner that is coherent or at least semi-understandable. The Yahoo! Style Guide, instead, serves to provide some well-needed guidance.

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide
Cover of The Yahoo! Style Guide via Amazon

Rather than displaying seemingly antiquated grammar rules, the guide provides logical explanations. Hence as the guide says on Page 50,

“Scan an article reading only the headlines. If you can understand the flow and substance of the story, your content passed the test. If something seems confusing, you may need to rewrite the headings or even reorder some paragraphs.”

So to my mind, this makes infinite sense. Consider how quickly we all skim articles and newspapers these days, whether online or in dead tree format. Headlines and graphics grab our attention. Perhaps they are more fraught with meaning than they should be, but those are the current rules of the game. Therefore, writers on the Internet need to understand that headings, image captions and the like are important to the human reader.

In addition, and unsurprisingly, these elements are also important to machine readers, e. g. search engine bots.

Worth the Price of Admission

And then on Page 4, the guide talks about eye tracking. Yahoo! has surveyed users, and they have come up with an understanding of a general pattern as  to how people browse websites. Here’s what they said:

  • “People scan the main sections of a page to determine what it’s about and whether they want to stay longer
  • They make decisions about the page in as little as three seconds
  • If they decide to stay, they pay the most attention to the content in the upper top part of the screen”

So you’d better get your pages and posts in gear, and pay particularly close attention to headings and the content that sits above the fold. Because the guide shows you the way.

Review: 5/5 stars.

Michael Fleischner’s SEO Made Simple, a Book Review

Michael Fleischner’s SEO Made Simple

Michael Fleischner‘s SEO Made Simple is a terrific book about search engine optimization.

Michael Fleischner's SEO Made Simple

First of all, written in a straightforward and engaging style, Mr. Fleischner makes his point: in order to dominate search engine listings, you need to make yourself known. Furthermore, you need to get your keywords into your website (but not stuffed there!) in a logical and natural manner.

Yahoo and MSN

Mr. Fleischner’s sole focus is Google but he does talk a bit about Yahoo and MSN. Furthermore, the reason to zero in on Google is made immediately apparent by the fifteenth page: Google is dominant. Here’s how the percentages of search stack up (he got his numbers from comScore for SearchEngineWatch.com)

  • Google: 43.7%
  • Yahoo: 28.8%
  • MSN: 12.8%
  • AOL: 5.9%
  • Ask: 5.4%
  • Others: 3.4%

Hence Google matters – but so do Yahoo and MSN, particularly when you consider that, combined, their share is nearly identical to Google’s. Yet don’t worry: many of the techniques Mr. Fleischner advocates will help with your placement on those search engines, too.

White Hat

White hat techniques abound, everything from adding unique keywords on each page to making sure that your page’s overall design doesn’t keep the spiders and crawlers from doing their thing. And that’s just on-site optimization. In addition, he also covers off-site optimization, e. g. writing and distributing articles, or generating press releases.

Furthermore, interestingly enough, there is little to no information on working the social media angle, e. g. Tweeting the existence of new blog posts or announcing page updates, adding similar information to one’s LinkedIn or Facebook statuses, or creating a fan page for your work (or, better yet, getting someone else to do that). However, that is, in part, a function of this being a book and not an e-book – there’s a time lag between going to press and the actual production of a paper book. Hence information is sometimes not as fresh as desired.

Instincts

However, there’s still plenty in here, for the serious web entrepreneur and the hobbyist. In addition, for someone like me, one great piece of it was some validation that I’ve got pretty good instincts when it comes to my own social media website. Oh, and if you’re paying attention – you’ll see that I just practiced two of his techniques in this very paragraph.

Dominate Google and get noticed. It’s that simple.

Rating

4/5