Because publicity IS your job: social media for authors

This lady knows her stuff.

That was obvious to me the first time  I “met” Marian Schembari on Twitter (she’s @marianschembari). She knows what she’s talking about. Whenever I have an idea about social media, I bounce it off Marian.

Marian Schembari, who helps authors sell boatloads of books.

And the cool things for readers of this blog? Marian specializes in social media for authors. That’s right, she focuses on helping writers sell books. And she’s here today to tell us how she does it.

Thanks for joining us, Marian! How’d you get into social media consulting? What makes you qualified to work with authors?

My background is in book publicity, and the way I landed that job is where the social media part comes in. I left college wanting to get into publishing, but getting my foot in the door was way more difficult than I had thought. After three months of sending out resumes and cover letters and hearing nothing back, I decided to take a “guerrilla marketing” approach. I used Facebook ads, Twitter, LinkedIn and a blog to get my name out there, and two weeks later I had a job as a book publicist. It was that easy. And that hard because no one taught me how powerful social media could be!

After three months of book PR, I realized a) I really enjoyed working for myself and b) most publicists still don’t really have a handle on social media, and traditional publicity is fading fast. Print and TV opportunities are limited, and having a review in The New York Times just doesn’t have the effect it used to. Readers want a personal connection, not some unrelatable opinion from a faceless reviewer. Readers want recommendations tailored to their interests, friendly neighborhood book bloggers and fan pages where the author actually participates in discussions.

Today, what can help sell books are relationships. Make it easy for readers to engage. Connect directly with book clubs on Twitter. Update fans on your writing/tours/signings/readings. Fiction or nonfiction, it doesn’t matter. There are incredible communities online – covering everything from knitting to politics to cooking to rock climbing.

You teach authors to use social networking rather than doing it for them. Why does that work better?

For a million reasons, the most important one being that no one knows a book better than the author. The second being that it’s more authentic. Like I said, readers want a personal connection with an author and if that author is going to make the effort to be online, it’s silly to have someone else do it for them.

Social media is not one of those things you can outsource. I show authors how to create a real presence online based on their interests and goals. I do a little tutorial work for those who are brand-spanking new, but when it comes to the actual tweeting, blogging, etc… well, that’s where they have to put the work in. There are ways to approach social media so it doesn’t consume your life, and I give my authors a daily, weekly and monthly schedule so they actually have time for writing and aren’t just sitting at their computers tweeting all day. This makes all the difference.

What are two of the top mistakes you see authors make when it comes to social media?

Only two? Sigh. Well, the first is attitude and this definitely comes across through their profiles. So many authors think it’s “not their job” to take care of the marketing and publicity of their book. But as much as I love publishing houses and their employees, here’s a little word to all you authors out there: your publisher’s not going to do sh*t for you.

While unfortunate, it’s the truth. And this isn’t the publisher’s fault! With the economy in bad shape and the interwebs making it harder and harder to sell books, their staff is spread incredibly thin. So if you want to make sure you actually sell your book, take some of the easy marketing into your own hands. Get on Twitter. I’ll help you find that community of readers who’s going to fall in love with your book. Create a Facebook fan page and spread the word. But don’t sit at your desk whining that it’s not your responsibility. The incredible power of social media is that you don’t need to be a marketing expert, you just need to have a passion for your book, be willing to learn the basics and have fun with it! [Note from Alexis: Love this tough love approach. Marian’s so right.]

The second mistake? Blatant self-promotion. While people will start following you on Twitter or become your fan on Facebook because they want to hear more about you, they don’t want to hear you shouting “Me! Me! Me!” from the social media rooftops. They want to hear where your next reading will be or get a link to your latest review, but they also want to hear about your favorite authors. Writing tips you can provide. Extra tidbits about your book. And, of course, you need to give love to get love. So retweet (that’s Twitter lingo) and engage others in conversation to get the most out of your online presence.

You offer solid tips on your site about how job seekers should use LinkedIn. Do you think LinkedIn is also valuable for authors?

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En lieu of a Writers’ Roundup… Socialexis

I’ve felt slightly overwhelmed this week trying to juggle three major projects: book revisions, my new social media biz and a revamp of my website. Everything, including this blog, will soon be at alexisgrant.com. Finally!

To lighten my to-do list, I’m going to pass on the writers’ roundup this week, and instead ask you to “like” the new Facebook page for my biz, Socialexis. I promise not to inundate you with updates (because that’s what prompts me to unlike pages I follow), but I will let you know what I’m up to and occasionally post social media tips.

A Facebook page is also an easy way for you to refer me to friends who might be able to use my help, since there’s a “Suggest to Friends” link under the main photo.

Thanks for your support, guys! Couldn’t do it without you. And I mean that.

A simple tip to help you build your online community

Everyone’s always complaining about how much time it takes to build an online community — to grow a following on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc. It’s true. It does take a lot of time.

So I like to give my clients tips to maximize every minute they spend online. And this particular tip will help you across the board, on every network and platform. Best of all? It’s easy.

Whenever you write the name of your blog, make it clickable. How do you do that? By including http:// at the beginning of the address.

I’m going to use my friend Melanie’s blog as an example, because I was teaching her this yesterday. I know she won’t mind because y’all are going to go check out her blog about life as a new mom, right?

Melanie should be writing her blog address like this: http://soveryvienna.blogspot.com

Not: http://www.soveryvienna.blogspot.com

Not: soveryvienna.blogspot.com

The http:// is crucial. It lets readers click on your link right there, rather than having to cut and paste it into their browser. The fewer steps it takes to get to your blog, the more readers will visit. The easier it is for readers to visit you, the faster your online community will grow.

Do this when you’re leaving comments on other people’s blogs. Do it in your e-mail signature. Do it in the blurb on the left-hand side of your Facebook fan page. (Profiles have a website option built in, so no need to worry there.)

This applies to all parts of your online life! To your Twitter handle! http://twitter.com/yourhandle. To your Facebook fan page! http://www.facebook.com/yourpage. To everything!

Ingrain it in your head. I will always use http://. It doesn’t matter whether or not you include www. That’s your choice.

Note: This trick will NOT work when you’re writing a blog post. You’ve got to use your link button to make a link live.

If you already knew this, don’t growl. Pat yourself on the back. That’s way more productive. And if you learned something new today, go forth in your online community and show off those skills!

Why your biz or book needs a Facebook page, not a group

I don’t want to give away all my social media hints — I want people to pay me for this, remember? — but here’s a common mistake I’m seeing clients (and small businesses who should become my clients) make: creating a Facebook group or profile for a business, product or public figure when they should create a page.

Say your first book comes out, and you want to build relationships with readers. Or you’ve got an awesome freelance writing business you’re looking to promote. Or you run a travel company and want more clients. Or you’re looking to draw more customers into your coffee shop.

Lots of business owners — including writers who need to sell books or services — know they should use Facebook. It’s a good place to start building your social media relationships for lots of reasons, including 1. you might already know how to use it if you have a personal profile and 2. millions of people network there. But too many people make the mistake of creating a group or profile (that’s what you’d have for your personal account) when it would be far more beneficial to have a fan page.

Here’s why it’s better to have a fan page than a group:

  • It’s less of a commitment to become a fan of a page than to join a group. Yes, either way all your followers have to do is click a button. But this is a big difference in the minds of regular Facebookers. A group is more like an exclusive club, while anyone with minor appreciation for a certain brand might be willing to say they like it. That means followers are more likely to like a brand than join its group page.
  • Page updates appear in fans’ news feeds, while group updates do not. That means group members have to visit the group to be reminded of your services. Since you’re essentially advertising here, you want to be able to put your product in front of potential buyers without making them come to you.
  • The content on a page is expected to come from you, while the content in a group depends more on group members. Either way, you’re aiming to build a community, and interaction by followers in a group or on a page is always encouraged. But it’s easier to maintain a page’s momentum because you’re in charge. Groups can wither if there’s not enough participation.
  • Anyone can see a fan page. Groups tend to be more private; you might have to become a member to see all the content. You determine your own privacy settings, of course. But to promote your business, you want the most open option available.
  • Pages are more customizable than groups.
  • Pages allow an unlimited number of followers. Groups have a 5,000-person limit. Right now that might not seem like a big deal. But when your biz or book becomes super popular — like this author, who accidentally got 700,000 fans on his page — you’re going to want to have room for more than 5K fans.

Want more reasons? Mashable and Squidoo have posts on the differences between Facebook pages and groups.

Half of using Facebook to market your business is about not annoying your followers. Get in front of them, let them see what you offer, but don’t annoy them. The hard part about this is you have to be well-versed in the culture of Facebook to know how to avoid annoying people. And let’s face it, even some regular users annoy us. You don’t want your business to be like the friend who’s always throwing FarmVille pigs at you or has linked their Twitter account to Facebook so their updates take over your feed.

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Creating a page, not a group, is a step toward using Facebook effectively. And since it’s impossible to turn a group into a fan page, this is one thing that’s worth getting right from the beginning.

If you liked this post, you might want to read: How to use Facebook to — shhh — promote your book.

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What exactly does a social media consultant DO, anyhow?

Since announcing yesterday that my doors are open to social media business, several friends and potential clients have written to me asking, so what does that mean you actually do?

Like most consulting positions, social media consulting can mean a lot of different things. Consultants provide a huge range of services and their prices fall across the board. But me? I’m looking to help businesses and organizations use social media to extend their reach.

My services fall generally into two categories:

1. For businesses who don’t have the time and/or the know-how to use social media themselves, I help them create a plan and then implement it for them. Could be as simple as growing a following on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, or a more in-depth online community-building strategy. It all depends on your specific goals and budget.

2. For businesses who know how to use social media or want to learn, I help them figure out which networks and strategies will be most effective for their goals and how to leverage them effectively. I can tailor a plan, talk with you over the phone and leave you to implement it (with optional follow-ups), or I can coach you through implementing that plan if you’re starting from scratch with social media. A lot of my ideas revolve around social networks, but I also help with blogging, finding customers in forums, etc.

I’m also available to write press releases and reach out to appropriate media for businesses that would benefit from some more traditional marketing.

If what you need falls outside these categories, that doesn’t mean I can’t help you! By all means, drop me a note, let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll give you an idea of how much it would cost. Since I’m just starting to turn this into a business, I’m willing to size the scope of your project to your budget. Especially for small businesses and organizations with financial restraints, I recognize that working with you to make my services affordable helps us both.

My e-mail: alexiskgrant@gmail.com

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Want to help me succeed? Post this on Facebook, tweet it or tell a friend who might want to hire me! Thanks, y’all!

I’m open for social media business!

My job hunt has taken an unexpected turn. A good one.

Though I’ve applied mostly for journalism positions, plus a few other writing-heavy jobs, something different keeps falling into my lap: social media gigs.

I resisted it at first. I see “social media consulting” and immediately think snake-oil salesman. I mean, who really needs someone to help their company with social media? Everyone knows how to do this stuff!

But everyone, apparently, doesn’t. Look at the job boards, and you’ll see tons of social-media positions. (Mashable Jobs is my favorite social-media-heavy board.) Lots of companies that want to expand their client base through social media don’t have the know-how or the time to do it.

These positions keep finding me. Here’s one example: I applied for a writing/editing position with an international organization. The woman in charge of hiring wrote me an e-mail saying that yes, I looked qualified for the Web-writing position, but what they’d really noticed on my resume was my social media skills. Would I be interested in a job along those lines?

Now, social media is on my resume, but I hadn’t exactly highlighted it. Mostly because I didn’t realize how much I could leverage my experience in this field. Yeah, blogging and building online communities and using all sorts of social networks is part of my daily life. I use those tools because they help me accomplish what I need. I ran the @freeroxana Twitter campaign because I thought it was an important cause. I created a Ning group for writers of travel memoir because I saw a gap in the writing community. I figured out the ins-and-outs of using social media for networking because it helped me with my job hunt. I put that experience on my resume because I thought it made me more marketable all-around, not because I expected an employer to hire me specifically for those skills.

But small businesses and organizations are offering to pay me to build online communities. C’mon. How can I say no to that? I’m excited to help them!

On top of that, it seems that all the press releases I threw into my trash as a journalist are now coming in handy. For small businesses looking to build online communities with the end goal of finding new clients, it turns out I have something else to offer: I can write a damn good press release, and I’m smart about figuring out who to send it to. I’m an affordable one-woman social-media-slash-media-relations band! Who would’ve thought?

So I’ve started taking on clients. And thanks to this bridge-builder we call the Internet, they can be in the next town over or across the country. I’m not jumping off the job search train just yet, but this might have the potential to turn into a full-blown business.

If you know a small company or organization who wants to extend their reach and needs help doing it, you know where to send ’em.

If you’re in the social media biz too, I’d love to hear from you.

Another reason writers should use Twitter

You all know I think writers should use Twitter. And Facebook. And other social media that helps you create your own community.

Here’s yet another reason you should use Twitter: that’s how I connected with my agent.

Well, not directly. I have long followed Rachelle because her tweets about publishing are helpful and entertaining. But the connection I made on Twitter that led me to Rachelle was not the agent herself.

It was another writer. That’s right, folks! A Twitter friend — who became an e-mail and phone friend — put me in touch with Rachelle.

I connected with this author about a year ago for the same reason many of you connect with certain tweeps: we have stuff in common. We both have a background in journalism, and we’re both working on memoir projects. After chatting occasionally over e-mail for several months, this tweep offered to critique my book proposal. Since she’d written many successful proposals herself, I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t know this then, but this tweep happens to be friends with a literary agent: Rachelle Gardner. During a conversation with Rachelle, she mentioned my book, which, of course, she knew a lot about since she’d read my proposal. And whatdoyaknow, Rachelle was interested. I’m now her client!

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Every connection helps, even — or perhaps especially — connections we make for fun. If you’re not on Twitter, do yourself a favor. Join.

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