Social media for authors is one of the most effective ways to reach readers and amplify your message at the same time. In this advanced salon, Orna and Joanna cover how to use social media creatively and mindfully, including broadcasting versus engagement, tools and tech, and how to measure success.
- The difference between broadcasting and engagement and how both are necessary;
- What not to do;
- How multi-genre authors are stratifying their social media;
- How to generate great content in video, audio, and text that enables you to sell books without getting caught in time-sucking distractions.
The Advanced Self-Publishing salon is brought to you by Specialist Sponsor Ingram Spark. IngramSpark is the award-winning indie publishing platform that offers authors like you a way to publish your book and share it with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide.
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our self-publishing advice center, https://selfpublishingadvice.org. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
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About the Hosts
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporations across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011. For more information about Joanna, visit her website: http://thecreativepenn.com
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcripts: Social Media for Authors
Joanna Penn: Hello everyone.
Welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors, Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.
Orna Ross: Hi Jo, how are you? Hello everyone.
Joanna Penn: Hello everyone. We are here, another weird month, I suppose, but today we are going to talk about advanced use of social media for authors, or basically how we use social media for authors and how we’ve learned over the decades, it’s been so long. I should say-
Orna Ross: Steady on. This coronavirus lockdown has been getting to you. It hasn’t been decades. A decade.
Joanna Penn: A decade, but also, you know, just to say, you and I met on Twitter back in 2011-ish and then met in person later. So, you and I are an example of a friendship born from social media, which is a testimony.
Orna Ross: Absolutely, it is, and that happens more often than people realize. I’m also always surprised with social media, well get into it all in a minute, but just on that, how much you can really get to know someone on social media and how, when you meet them, you feel like you’ve known them forever, because you kind of have.
What’s happened over the last month?
Joanna Penn: Yeah, exactly. Okay, so we’re going to get into that in a minute, but first of all, as ever, we are authors and we are busy doing things. We don’t just talk about it. We actually do it. So, Orna give us an update from ALLi.
Orna Ross: Yeah, so busy, busy month for ALLi. We have a new title coming, which I’ve mentioned on the show before, which is Michael’s fabulous book, where he has taken our members’ questions.
So, once a month, I mean, obviously we have the AskALLi campaign, just to answer any self-publishing question any author might have, and that operates at lots of different levels, and we’ve got our member care by email and we’ve got various things like this that we do. But one of the things we do for our members, as well, is that they can, if they would like to, on the live session like this, bring their question and have it answered.
It also helps lots of other people as well. So, over the years, Michael and I have been doing that, as you and I have been doing this one and he has compiled 150 of the most frequently asked questions, most popular questions, most pressing questions, into one very handy guide. And that’s going to be launched on the 27th of July.
And he’s also done our first audiobook. So, that’s exciting. He’s got an amazing voice and he’s narrated it himself, so thrilled with that. The wonderful Roz Morris has joined the team as an editor of our magazine and directory publications, essentially, which is fantastic as well. Roz has been a long-time member and great to have her on board.
So, she’s kind of settling in and, one other thing I think that might be interesting to people, we did a big piece today on piracy and next week, we’re going to be talking about plagiarism, but we are talking to the Publisher’s Association about, for those people who liked to use Blasty to cope with piracy, Blasty, as many of you will know, no longer exists, but the Publishers Association have a copyright infringement portal where they issue take down notices and everything.
So, they’re going to do a special arrangement for ALLi members at a discount on their portal at various levels, you can do it manually or you can pay for a premium service, where they’ll actually go after the bad guys for you, if that’s what you want to do. You may not and it’s a big topic and we’re not going to get into that today, but yes, all go as ever at ALLi.
What are you up to?
Joanna Penn: I was saying to you beforehand, I do have a problem, a workaholic problem, where I’m so used to getting out of the house and going away. So, I normally work on this project basis where I work really hard, and then I go away on a trip or go speak, or, you know, there’s not normally a month would go by without me going away somewhere else.
And now it’s been what, four months, without getting out of the house or, you know, just these few square miles, and I seem to be incapable of not working. It’s so weird, everyone’s having a very different experience of the pandemic, but my experience is a workaholic ridiculous amount of work thing, which is interesting, and I need to address this myself.
However, I am getting loads of work done. So, Map of the Impossible is basically done and all the preorder files of art for the print, and the large print, and the hard back, and the eBooks and everything. And I’m working with Findaway Voices on the trilogy audio.
So, I was kind of waiting until I had three bucks to do the trilogy, and just today, I’ve been recording and editing tutorials. So, I’ve got these three tutorials, one for building a website, one for the theme, and one for setting up your email list, and I re-record those every couple of years. So, I’ve just been doing that.
And, you know, for anyone who does tutorial work and technical recording, you know how hard it is. It might take eight hours of recording to make a 30-minute video. So, I’m feeling a little crazy because I finished that about three hours ago and I’m so happy and it’s very useful, but it needs to be done quite often when you do these tutorials.
But why I wanted to mention it was because, we often talk about multiple streams of income, and tutorials with software and the tools that we use as authors is a really good way to make affiliate income. Like doing tutorials is probably up there, my top three recommendations for affiliate income.
So, I’ve done those for The Creative Penn.
Orna Ross: Fantastic. Fantastic resource. I mean, they’ll be brilliant. It’s wonderful.
Joanna Penn: Thank you. Yeah. Busy. So, if anyone’s interested, there at thecreativepenn.com/authorwebsite. They are up. So, that’s good, and I’m going to take a couple of days off. I promise.
Orna Ross: Yes, she’s under orders people. Creative rest, Jo, creative play. Remember those.
Joanna Penn: Oh yeah, play? What is that? What about you, Orna?
Orna Ross: Yeah, well, nobody will ever accuse me of workaholism, I’m afraid. But I’ve been doing something kind of interesting, which is a new experiment for me. So, my very first novel, which I wrote a hundred years ago now, the events that happened in that novel are coming up to a hundred years ago. And in Ireland, where half of the novel is based, partly in Ireland and partly in San Francisco, in Ireland, these centenaries are forming a sort of 10-year thing. It began with the first world war, in 2014 the centenary of that, and will go on to 2024, and it’s coming up to, in 2021/22, are the centenary years for the events in the novel. So, I’m going to bring out a centenary addition with a foreword and stuff about it and retire the old ones and kind of give it a new lease of life, done new covers. And I’m actually going to just put it into KU for the first time ever to use KU, but just for three months only, just to see it and have the experience and, you know, just to do that.
And in a sense, a bit like if you were a first time author starting out again, you know, because the book is really quite old now, to give it a whoosh and then, obviously, going wide again. So, yeah, I’ll be reporting on that little experiment over the next while. So, I’ve been refreshing all my covers.
I mean, well talk about social media thing in a minute, and my great tidy up as I was calling it. And I was telling you before we came on that my husband is insisting on calling it now, the great leap forward, instead of the great tidy up. So, social media, my covers, my website; everything is getting a makeover.
And I have a new poetry book coming at the end of the month as well. So yeah, busy times, nice slow pace though.
Joanna Penn: It is busy times and I hope, everyone listening, that you’re still surviving. I guess we’re not technically in lockdown anymore here in the UK, but we’re kind of emerging very slowly and carefully into the world.
And it’s just a weird, weird time right now. So, you know, continuing to write is always a good place to be.
Be mindful of what you put out on social media
Joanna Penn: So, let’s get into our topic for today, which is advanced social media. So, I wanted to just say, before we get into it, this is not your personal page, this is not sharing pictures of your cats, unless it’s for a reason. We are talking about how you use social media for your author business, and particularly around selling books, reaching readers, and using it more strategically, rather than the personal site. So, shall I just talk about this stuff up front?
Orna Ross: Yes, definitely because it’s important that we address this.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. So, I wanted to say upfront that both of us totally acknowledge that right now in the world is a very strange time, and social media is being used in lots of ways that are not very positive. We’ve had a lot of racial issues, there are political issues and things that you will have personal opinions on, there is some negativity in personal use. There’s also a boycott by some advertisers of companies like Facebook. There is, you know, overload, we’re all getting overload from too much doom scrolling, they call it, where you look at all the COVID news every morning and it’s like, ah, and then also there’s, I read this week, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple will be facing the US Congress at the end of July around antitrust.
So, there may well be changes coming. So, we wanted to say that upfront because clearly it’s a time of flux in the world, but what we’re going to talk about is how we use social media and how we’re always thinking about how to potentially change that, but also just to be aware upfront and to say, when you put anything on social media, it is going out into the world.
People can take screenshots; things do not disappear. So, you have to very much curate what you put out there. So, for example, you might have a political opinion that doesn’t fit your author profile. So, you might not want to share that, or you might have a political opinion that you want to use your profile to share.
You just have to actively choose. So, we’re advising you to be mindful about your social media use. So, anything you want to add there, Orna?
The first rule of social media for authors: you need to enjoy it
Orna Ross: Yeah, I think, for me, just to talk a little bit about my personal experience of social media, because I’m right actively engaging very much with it now at the moment, you can do social media in a halfhearted way and the tools are there, which allow us to do that.
And I have to say that that’s the way I really, apart from a few small pockets, I really have been kind of using it for a very long time. And then at the beginning of this year, I decided that I wanted to actually make social media something that I really enjoyed as much as I enjoy writing a book.
I wanted to actually enjoy doing my social to that sort of degree while still, of course, retaining its use and value as something that is, as you say, it’s not just a personal thing, it’s not just personal enjoyment and we’re always riding these two kinds of things. This, I think is the most significant and deepest challenge about being in creative businesses, is that you have this intent, really, to get people to buy your books or your service or whatever it is that you’re offering. But you’re not a conventional business where it’s kind of profit before people, or profit at all costs, or whatever. We’re creatives, if we just wanted profits, we would have chosen a different kind of business.
So, you’re balancing these two things, and if you fall over too much into what I want them to do, something goes out of it, the soul goes out of it and it’s not as creative as it can be and should be. So, re-doing the great tidy up, the great leap forward, redoing all of that has been a very, very interesting experience. I’m almost finished. I think I’ve about another three or four weeks to go, because when you pull at social media, actually everything comes, if you’re set-up properly, everything comes in there. You have to start thinking about everything. And so, I would say to people, if you’re not enjoying your social media, make that your first intention, you know, a co-intention with, if this is targeted strategic use of social media, yes. Because we’ve got books at the end of it and we want to share our message as well, not just get people to buy books, but also to amplify whatever it is that made us write those books in the first place. So, you’ve got that going on, but it’s not all about you and what you want. It’s very much an engagement. It’s very much real people at the other side of that and I think that’s what we can forget, and what perhaps we forgot, you know, as we try out new tools. And the tools that we have to reach large numbers of people are fantastic, but when you’re broadcasting, if you like, in that way, it can be very useful, don’t get me wrong, and there’s a place for it. But, if that’s all you’re doing, if it’s all about you and what do you want to get out there, then you’re not getting the depth and the resonance and the creativity in it that you can and should. So, that’s where I started.
How Joanna uses social media for fiction and nonfiction
Joanna Penn: Shall I talk about how I use it now? And then you come back with how you’re using it now. Yeah, so basically, I really cut down a lot on social media and I do primarily use it for broadcasting. So, I’ve used Twitter since 2008. So, @thecreativepenn on Twitter is my primary nonfiction platform. And it’s gone very well for me over the years because I was on it early. I’ve literally, and we’ll talk about tools in a bit, but I schedule. So, there’s always stuff going out on Twitter @thecreativepenn.
I’ve built up sort of over 82,000 followers in an organic manner. I’ve never paid for followers or anything, but that’s over a decade of consistently tweeting.
So, that for me is my nonfiction, and then I also have two Facebook pages. So, The Creative Penn Facebook page and JF Penn Author Facebook page.
So, The Creative Penn, I’m just putting my content on there. I am doing some videos now, but mainly I’m reposting from my website. And then for my fiction side, I have the Facebook page and then I have Instagram @JFPennauthor, which I just really use to put photos, and then I have a Pinterest thing for JF Penn, which is just, I do one board per book. So that’s very minor usage, really. I don’t really use anything else to be honest, and I don’t really want to, the main reason I’m still on Facebook is because of the advertising. So, I do use paid advertising for Facebook and that’s about it.
I don’t use paid ads on any other social media. I don’t count YouTube as social media. I think YouTube is a video platform. It’s not social media to me. And yeah, I think that’s about it. Orna, what about you?
How Orna uses social media for her author business and for ALLi
Orna Ross: Yeah, just on YouTube, it can be, I guess, it depends very much on how you use it, in that some people do, but yeah, for most people it is a broadcasting platform, isn’t it?. It’s a video platform.
Yeah. So, for me, I think the most important thing that I’ve kind of come to in the last while is about having different goals for different platforms. So, I kind of had everything all together and, like you, I’ve used Twitter since the start. I’m actually thinking of closing down my personal Twitter now, because I do think that Twitter, it really works very well for ALLi. But it is the medium that works best for broadcasting links, so just a good headline, a link to something more interesting and people click through. And that’s a very effective use of Twitter for nonfiction, but people who use it for fiction tend to get into sort of big conversations, you know, Twitter type conversations about, very often, political stuff. And, you know, it gets very kind of heated and debate-y and controversial and really, outside of those two ways of using Twitter, I think Twitter’s value to authors has fallen. There was a time when tweeting was an effective strategy for authors.
Now, having said that as a blanket statement, there are lots of people, every single one of these platforms has enough people on them and can be used in an effective way for you, it’s really very much about you finding your own way, and that is true for everybody.
So, there is no platform that’s good for authors or bad for authors, you know, they all work. It’s all in how you actually engage with them and how you use them. So, as poetry became more important to me, Instagram became more important to me. So, Instagram is now kind of where I start with my social media, which is a complete turnaround from where I was a year ago and, growing slowly and I’m really happy with it and I really enjoy it, and really, really works well for poetry.
And it is slightly broadcast-y, because you just broadcast it if it’s from your poems or your quotes or things like that. But, the engagement there is very good in the sense that people really come over from Instagram in a way, I found, that they don’t so much from the other platforms organically, and that has been really good.
Facebook, I use largely for groups. So, the ALLi member forums, both of them, the Advanced Business Forum and the Author Member Forum are both run on Facebook. I also have a creative business planning group on Facebook as well, and I find them really good for people who are extra interested in what you do and who want to be part of a membership situation.
A Facebook group is a really good supplement to whatever it is you’re offering on an ongoing basis, then it is the conversation that kind of backs it up. So, I do a monthly creative planning workshop, but the Facebook group, on a weekly basis, we set our intentions for the week and then at the end of the week, we log the accomplishments that we’ve managed to achieve that week. So, love it for that.
Then this kind of thing, these live videos. Okay, they’re not strictly social, but they are part of a conversation. People have turned up to talk to us today and there’ll be a lot of comments and chats, there already are, people saying hello from all over the world and you know, so they are also part of that.
And the way I use those is I use StreamYard, and it goes out here on Facebook live in some of those member groups, but also, more generally, on the ALLi Facebook page and on to ALLi’s YouTube as well. So, that’s essentially it, I think, on the nonfiction and the fiction side.
The importance of Twitter lists and your bio link
Joanna Penn: And I think really importantly there, there’s a couple of things I wanted to add.
First up are the lists on Twitter. So, I always get questions around Twitter. Well, how can you filter out your feed? And this can be true on any of the platforms, but for Twitter, it’s creating lists. And for Facebook, you can say who you want to hear from.
I think this is a really important part of curating. So, as your platforms get bigger, you have to curate the information that goes in your brain or the conversations you want to have and having lists and a process. So, like you’re saying, you have a process that can really help.
And the other thing I wanted to say is about the bio. So, with every one of these platforms, you need to make sure your bio is pointing back to your website, your email list, and ,the important point with social media, all of these platforms, however we’re using them, we don’t own them and they could disappear at any point, or Facebook might say one day, right, you actually have to pay to use it, it’s not free anymore. I mean, we do pay because they use our data and we can do advertising, nothing is free. But, you know, in terms of it could suddenly cost x amount of money to use. So, that’s why we want to make sure our bios on all of our sites are done and I will get into tools in a minute, but I wanted to mention Linktree, linktr.ee, which is really useful for Instagram because you can only put one link, and Twitter as well. So, you can put multiple links under one link with Linktree. And so, I wanted to mention that, but yeah, your goals per social media are really important.
I do think that you have to have something, you have to have some way that readers and influencers and other people can almost verify that you’re real. I feel like if you have no social media profile at all, that looks like you’re not serious in some way, but it doesn’t need to be massive. Do you think that, Orna?
Orna Ross: Yes, I do. I agree. I mean, I think there’s business research that shows not having a social media presence of some kind is an instant turn off and affects conversions completely. And people go and have a look, definitely. And it’s so effective. I mean, we can take these things for granted and see a lot of their downsides.
Without a doubt, social media has downsides, and we’ll get to that in a few minutes, but it’s really important to remember that, you know, not that long ago, we didn’t have these tools. So, here you are with your book and as an author now, how do I actually let people know that I exist? You know, social media is very powerful if it is used well, and it is a real asset for us, again, if it’s used properly, as you said, to bring people back to where you operate.
So, I do feel that, okay, if you absolutely hate it, if you just hate it and you just can’t get on with it whatsoever, okay, you don’t have to do anything you hate in this business.
And there are no rules, and there are ways, but you have to have a really deep think about what you are going to put in its place. And then if you do go there, you have to have a really deep think about how you’re using it, who you want to attract how you get across what you want them to do.
So, what you want them to do might vary from platform to platform. And so that would affect the bio that you would put. You might not necessarily have the same bio across all your platforms. You have to think very strategically about their journey from meeting that first update, if they’ve never heard of you before, something that’s just wandered across their screen, you know, because the algorithm put it there, and then their journey from there to where you want them to go? Have you made that easy? Is it clear?
Another thing that’s very obvious from the research, if you click on an updated link or something like that, and then you end up somewhere else, you know, which I think was what was happening to a lot of my people. They would click on something for self-publishing advice and ended up in a poetry page or something, you know, not quite, but, you know, the message wasn’t clear enough.
It’s all that what we’ve talked about so often before, that kind of micro-niching down, you know, you can’t almost become too granular. It really is the secret on the trick. And I think what happened was that the tools were so good that authors started to kind of go a bit mass media with social media. Because you could reach lots of people it seemed quite promising, but actually it doesn’t really convert. Sure, you’ll have conversations. Yes, you’ll get likes. You get those and there’s the danger of being a bit addicted to getting the likes or the following or the yeses or the, you know, whatever it might be. But if you know that the goal is ultimately to sell a book, then you’ve kind of got to begin there and make sure that the pathway that you’re bringing them on is something that has the potential to end in that.
Which social media platform should I use?
Joanna Penn: And I guess we should just mention, obviously, there are loads of social media sites now. I did want to give a shout out to LinkedIn, which is an incredible platform, particularly for nonfiction. I think if you write nonfiction business, that can be a fantastic social network. And then I want to mention TikTok, which is obviously the viral social media of the moment, and the reason I mention it is just because it is massive with a certain demographic, and this is the reality. Each network is big with a different demographic. So, you need to identify who your audience are and also who you are and how you like to engage. There’s some TikTok stars who are Gen X, but I’m Gen X and I haven’t even got the app.
Orna Ross: I haven’t either. So, I don’t know if there are any boomers on it.
Joanna Penn: I think there probably are. But the point is, you can pick a different social network from us, pick the ones that you enjoy, but also that your audience find useful. So, let’s talk about social media strategy, sorry, content strategy.
How to stick to your author-brand on social media
Joanna Penn: You’ve talked a bit about that, Orna, but I think one of the most important things to me is being on-brand with your media. And I don’t mean that in a really fake way. I mean that in a real way, but in a curated fashion. So, for example, on Twitter @thecreativepenn, my Joanna Penn brand is positive, upbeat.
I have political opinions, but I don’t share them on Twitter or in general social media, unless it’s something I super care about, in which case, I will talk about it on the podcast or whatever. But I am very careful to avoid things that, I just don’t want to muddy that bit of the brand.
Now that doesn’t mean I care less; it just means that’s how I’m curating that part of the business and my life. I also really hate conflict and I don’t believe I can convert anyone over to my point of view on Twitter. So, I just avoid those whole things. But Orna, what do you think about curation and niches?
Orna Ross: Yes. Just, following in on that, just briefly before I touch on that, is that Hailey asks the question, can you both speak to getting pulled off your usual commercial message, so your, you know, what you want them to do; promoting books, coaching, join your list, etc, by world events?
And I think that plays directly into what you’re just talking about there. And I would say my short answer to that is, I just don’t go there. I just don’t, unless it’s part of what I’m trying to say. And I think this is a discipline that have to learn if you want to use this media effectively, you have to realize that it’s not the place for it.
If you’re going to go on social media as yourself, that’s a different thing entirely, off you go, you have full freedom to be who you are. But if you’re going to use social media, there’s a whole issue of respect for your readers and their opinions, which might be very different from yours.
And, you know, the power of the pen, you know, what you choose to say, and keeping it narrow and staying niche on that, it’s really challenging sometimes, especially when, you know, this crazy year that we’re having is a very good example of that. The other thing is that it becomes a real time suck.
If you can be pulled in any direction on the world events, there are always world events. There are always terrible things happening to us and to other people. There is always something else you could be thinking and focusing on. So, it can actually be a sophisticated kind of resistance to the job that needs to be done today to get pulled in at that level.
So, I really think unless you’ve got a very good reason to go there, don’t go there. Not unless writing about world events is what you do as an author. Yeah, that’s all. I forget now what we were going to talk about next.
How often should I advertise my books?
Joanna Penn: So, your strategy, so that’s kind of curation and Carol says here, what do you think about 15 non-sales postings per one sales pitch? What do you say to that?
So, there is a sort of 80/20 rule, which has been around a long time in the social media marketing space which is, 80% of the time you are not tweeting or sharing, buy my stuff, and then the 20% of the time is you can post your ask. And Gary Vaynerchuk, who has been big in the social space, who certainly influenced me early in the day has a book called, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, which is very aggressive, but it’s still give, give, give, give, and then ask.
So, it really is a sort of, be useful, be entertaining, be interesting. You know, so with Orna’s poetry, it’s here’s a poem, here’s a poem, here’s a poem, oh, here’s my poetry book. And with me, it’s here’s a podcast, here’s a tutorial, here’s a thing, and here’s my book. Or the actual ask is within the thing. So, in my tutorials, it’s here’s a really useful tutorial, and then within it, I also say, here’s my affiliate link.
So, what you need to do with your give, give, give, ask, is have a plan for this and just make sure that you have that kind of balance. So, I look through Feedly, which is feeds of various sites, or I might tweak the ALLi blog. Most posts I will tweet are from ALLi and I have my list of people that I will share their content. And then I share my podcasts and everything. And then I’ll occasionally put, you know, I’m doing a webinar or here’s this other thing, so yes, you definitely need a balance. What do you think, Orna?
Orna Ross: Yeah. I definitely agree with that. But I think of it also as being part of deciding how you’re going to share your message beyond your books. Social can be a really useful way to amplify. Most of us have a reason for writing the books that we’ve written. We may not have worked that out but working that out it is actually a very big part of using social media effectively. So that then when you’re actually sharing something. So, if you’re, you know, if you’re a comic novelist or whatever, amusing people on your social stream is going to be part of what you do.
And then they wander over. It’s a much more organic sort of thing. And you trust the process. You’re not the data market person who says, okay, we get them in here, then we think this is the point of conversion, then they turn, then….that data-driven kind of way of doing things.
I can’t do that. And I think a lot of authors can’t. You see, I can’t even describe it. I think you can do that, absolutely, and have it there as something, but not in terms of your communication. So, not in terms of the content of what you’re putting out. Of course use every advantage you have, and there’s no doubt that data-driven ads and organic posts perform better, testing, seeing what works, keeping what works, dropping what doesn’t, all of that makes total sense.
I’m not knocking that in any way, but what I’m saying is, when it comes to the actual content, go deeper, probably. Be more creative, probably. Be more interesting, definitely. Be more adventurous, maybe. Think of it as a fun, creative project in and of itself and how much you can integrate it with what made you write your books in the first place.
How to use hashtags for discovery
Joanna Penn: And then let’s talk about discovery. We’ve got someone, I can’t remember where it is, here we go, Richard says, how do I find history social media sites?
So, we did want to talk about discovery. So, on Twitter, for example, and Instagram, it’s hashtags. So, just to understand that a hashtag, the hash, or they call it the pound sign in America, right, and then a word or multiple words in a string. So #bookmarketing. If you put that into Twitter or Instagram, whatever, you’re going to get loads of posts about that topic, or, you know, #CockerSpaniels is one of my favorite ones on Instagram or #catsofinstagram, you know, nice pictures, these types of things.
So, use your hashtags to find different things. So, the history one, you might do #medievalhistory. So, get granular, don’t just do #history because that could be anything, but get really granular with how you search. And then, of course, you can follow people, you can retweet things, you can get into the sort of ecosystem that way.
Orna Ross: And look at who they’re following and who’s following them, and you begin to. So, it’s a process and it takes a bit of time and it’s well worth devoting one session a week to actually doing that, getting stuck into the niche that you’re in, and finding out who else is in there and what’s going on. You may well tumble across things that you really didn’t know were happening. And look at the authors who are at the top of your own niche and actually go and search them out, find them, follow them and see how they’re posting, see how they’re using social media effectively. The best model you can get for social media is if somebody in your genre and micro niche is actually doing it well, following what they do, getting to know them, popping in, having charts, getting to know their followers, becoming a presence, not in a real sort of, you know, smarmy way. All of this has to be done mindfully, has to be done in the proper sort of way, but you can, in a very, very short time, actually get to know some very key people in terms of readers and writers in your niche, even if you’re a complete outsider and you’re writing your first book.
There’s nothing to stop you actually. And you will find that, joining that conversation, as long as you’re not talking about yourself, it’s just like a big cocktail party, you know? So, it’s like being in a room full of history writers, in your niche and just being there and enjoying their company and getting involved in that way.
So, again, there are no rules. There’s no sort of, here’s how you do it. You just need to kind of be pretty organic and creative about it. Trust the process. It’s about putting in the time. I think, very often, we want the result without putting in the time. We want it to be easy. We want it to be a matter of just setting up and click, it will happen, or set up a schedule or do something that you can set and forget. But it’s not easy. If it ever was, it probably was at the beginning, but it’s not easy now in that sense, in the sense that you have to put in a bit of time, which is fair enough.
How long should I spend on social media?
Joanna Penn: And on time, Sasha says, how much time do we spend per week on social media?
I would say what you mean by time is a time elapsed over a longer period. So, I don’t actually spend that much time on social at all. I use Twitter on my phone, I would say maybe half an hour a day. And then when I’m setting up ads, I might spend a bit longer, but that’s different, that’s more paid marketing. So, I’d say half an hour a day. Like, I really don’t do much. I mean, maybe even less than that some days, like some days I don’t even go on social media anymore. But in terms of timing, like we mentioned up front, Orna, and I met on Twitter, I was living in Australia, Orna was in London, we met, I don’t know how, we must have been on a hashtag or I must’ve just seen something on self-publishing and started following you. And then we met in person in London, in the London library, and because we’d met on Twitter, it was very easy to say, oh, how about we have a coffee together, like a coffee date, and then we had a coffee. And then I said, which is my thing, come on my podcast. And so, Orna came on the podcast and then we’ve become good friends. But in terms of time elapsed, that took a number of years, probably, in terms of sharing each other’s stuff, and I bought your meditation recordings and stuff like that.
So, that’s the organic side and you can’t shortcut that. But us meeting on social media is, you know, an incredible thing. Okay, so let’s talk about tools before I get too emotional about our friendship.
Orna Ross: It is incredible though. I mean this whole thing wouldn’t be there without it. So, you know-
Joanna Penn: Thank you, Orna.
Orna Ross: Thank you, Jo.
Social media tools and tech
Joanna Penn: Okay, let’s talk about tech. So, what tech do you use, Orna?
Orna Ross: So, quick question from Lawrence about the one that you mentioned there, Linktree.
It’s not a book link, Lawrence. If you go and have a look at it, it’s not like Booklinker, it’s a bit different.
So, I use lots of different things now. And again, this has taken time to get to this, but it works very well. I know exactly how much time I spend on social media because I limit it strictly, and it is half an hour a day, and then it’s an hour and a half, once a week, which is completely just floating around, enjoying myself, going where the thing takes me. Half an hour a day, very kind of strategic and get as much done as I can in that kind of half an hour a day. But, as I said, 90 minutes a week then just, you know, having a good time, basically.
Okay. So, I use Nelio for our blogs. So Nelio’s a really good tool which sets up all sorts of things and it sets up the social attached to it, and it also puts the blog out and you can pre-schedule everything, and it’s a really great tool, which has changed things a lot for me.
I use SmarterQueue for scheduling in advance. I use TweetDeck for managing Twitter. And I’m just getting into now looking at Headliner for doing audio stuff for putting out, you know, little, what do you call them?
Joanna Penn: Oh, the audiograms?
Orna Ross: Like the audiograms, exactly. Taking snippets out of the podcasts and things. So, that’s it really in terms of tools, I’ve tried them all. I’ve been all over the place. SmarterQueue is complex, but now that I’ve kind of got my head around it, I really love it. So, yeah.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. And the links will be in the show notes when it goes up on the ALLi blog.
I use TweetDeck for Twitter, I use BufferApp for my scheduling. I’ve used BufferApp for like a decade, they still are really good. I have tried, someone asked about MeetEdgar, I did use MeetEdgar for a bit, but then it got expensive and also Twitter changed the rules. So, you had to change the text, you couldn’t repost the same thing over and over.
With Linktree, if you just go to @JFPennauthor on Instagram, you’ll see an example of the Linktree. It’s just basically lots of links within one link for your profile. What else do I use?
Orna Ross: In fact, you can’t use Instagram without it, almost, because Instagram only gives you that one link in the bio. So, it’s almost specifically for Instagram, I think, Linktree, it certainly works best.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, it was originally, and now I’ve just seen people using it all over the place, because actually, you can put podcast links and book links. In fact, I’ve got on my to do list, go and change Linktree to put Map of the Impossible in. And then you can say on your Instagram, link in the bio, or whatever, and then people can go and have a look. Because it’s quite different, a different way of using it. What else? So then yeah, you need some kind of social plugin on your website if you do blogging or podcasting.
I use Simple Social plugin and also Social Warfare plugin. I’ve used different plugins over the years for my WordPress site, but the reality is there are a lot of tools, and we’ll tell you this now, and if we did this again next year, we probably would have changed tools again, because a lot of them change, the social media things change. This StreamYard, we weren’t using this even a few months ago to go live on things. So, what you have to remember with the tools is to be flexible, to try something, and, I would say I learned this the hard way, don’t buy the annual plans on anything.
You know, buy the monthly, even though things are potentially a little bit more expensive, because you will probably change your mind or you’ll meet someone who will tell you that this is a better tool. And I think there’s almost some personality involved in many of these tools, they can really work for some people and not for others.
So, be flexible, do your research and also, if you’re Googling like best tools for Instagram, make sure you put in the date or limit it to just kind of six months so you get the best stuff.
Should authors measure social media metrics?
Orna Ross: Yeah. And a lot of people asking about the links to these tools, they will all be in the show notes for the podcast on the ALLi blog on Friday.
So, just stay tuned to the ALLi blog and you’ll get all of those then. But yeah, try your own.
So, yeah, I think metrics then is the other thing that we need to talk about. You know, we talked about knowing what you want them to do, and what your definition of success is on each of the different platforms that you use.
So, how are you going to monitor and evaluate the results, I think, is a really important thing as well. You can get a general, organic, good feeling and you can get a sense of what’s working, but do you specifically have anything that monitors the results? How do you know whether it’s kind of doing what you want it to do?
Joanna Penn: I think, and this is where you were saying earlier, we’re not very data-y people. You and I are like the least data-y people and people should go listen to other people who do data. But for me, I know on my website that I do get traffic from these various sites. But partly it is just that communication. That people can reach me. Like, with the podcast, I say to people, tweet me and people tweet me and send me pictures and stuff. So, I treat them more as personal interactions and the success is, has anyone responded to this in any way, and am I still getting a certain number of retweets or shares or whatever?
So, I don’t really measure. You have to choose where you spend your time and I’m not good at that. As I said before, though, I have never spent any money in growing my platform. So, I don’t spend money to grow my Facebook page or my Twitter or Instagram or anything. So, it’s all organic. It all links back to my email list.
So, I figure like just this small amount of time I use it, it’s social proof in terms of me existing as a creative. The only thing I do pay for is Facebook advertising. But for that, it really is affiliate stuff, webinars, and also book launches where I will do like a two-week campaign. And then I do measure the sales from those links, but I don’t tend to do it with general social media. What about you?
Orna Ross: Yeah. And Carla’s asking about Facebook ads and, it’s too big Carla, it’s kind of a whole separate thing and we have talked about advertising before, and I’ve no doubt we will, again.
Yeah, you won’t be surprised to know that I’m not pouring over the data all the time, but I do have a sense of kind of what I want them to do.
And I think that’s the most important thing that you measure. You’re not measuring just follows and likes, but you’re actually measuring the action you want. So. If you want them to come across to your website, then you have Google Analytics or some equivalent installed and you know whether they did actually in fact wander over and how many came over roughly, and whether that’s increasing or decreasing or what works and what doesn’t. A bit of AB testing, which sounds awfully mathematical and everything, but really isn’t at all, in the sense of just testing what kinds of things. And I went through this a lot with Instagram and I’ve settled now, but I definitely was trying different ways of saying the same thing in quotes or different kinds of backgrounds and things and themes, colors, all that kind of thing, and seeing what was getting the best responses.
So, it can be, you know, pretty organic, and not terribly data-driven, but I think the important thing, as I said, is to keep in mind that you are measuring the thing you actually want to measure.
You know, sometimes especially on Instagram, is somebody likes a poem and they put it up on their page, you can suddenly get a whole flush of followers, but that in itself is not necessarily what’s wanted, or you mightn’t even want those followers. They might be following you because they saw something in a poem that you never intended to put out there, and you know those people won’t stay with you.
So, lots of followers in and of itself is rarely the thing that you’re looking at. It’s the action that you want them to take, measure that.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, and I was just going to say on that as well that, the reason I talked about buying followers and stuff is I get emails from people that say, I’m a brand new author, should I pay for 5,000 followers on Instagram? And I’m like, no, no, no, don’t do that.
They are fake followers. So, what is the point? And this is the vanity metrics. So, they call it vanity metrics. It doesn’t matter if you have 50,000 followers, if nobody clicks through. And I think the publishing industry is responsible for a little bit of this, because for a while there they were obsessed with how many followers you had on this, that and the other. But I think now, they’re getting the idea that it’s not necessarily the vanity number, it is the engagement and the people who are actually going to click to buy something. So, yeah, don’t buy followers or any of that kind of thing. If you’re going to do paid advertising than it should be to grow your email list or to actually sell books.
But I don’t believe growing your social media presence actually is that effective anymore. Especially as most of the time you have to pay to reach people anyway, because organic reach is pretty much over. So, Orna, I think we’re done. Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Orna Ross: No, I think that’s about it in terms of main messaging around it. Just to say, keep exploring, keep experimenting, get really good at one. Don’t try to be everywhere, have a hub, you know, having one that is kind of most important. So, for me, it used to be Twitter, it is now Instagram, it’s changed, you know, and let that be your hub.
And then you can repost out from there if you want, you know, if you just do one thing, which is highly recommended and you have a consistent message that can go out everywhere, and you’re not like me, then that could be really useful. So, you concentrate on the hub and then you kind of put out.
But they’re all different and they all require a different sort of approach. So, something that works perfectly for Instagram is not going to come up that well, actually, on your Facebook page, and it’s going to look a bit odd on Twitter. So, you don’t need to be everywhere. Just do one really, really well, really mindfully as Jo said, go deep. And yeah, that would be the only thing I would like to say at the end.
ALLi’s Summer Podcast Break
Joanna Penn: There we go. Fantastic. So, we are actually taking a little break, so we will not be here on the first Monday in August. Orna is very organizing, organized break. I am kind of going to have to force myself to take a break. I’ll be like, I’m here, ready to do the show. But we will be back in September, and what we’re going to talk about is a really fascinating topic.
The meaning of 1000 True Fans for authors and 1000 True Fans is an article that Kevin Kelly did back in 2008, all about the importance of growing an audience who care about you and buy your stuff. And we’re going to talk about how you can cultivate that, how you can communicate, which we think will go far beyond the stuff we’ve talked about today. So, Orna, anything else you want to share before we head off?
Orna Ross: No, just looking forward to that. And Kelly’s thesis was that a thousand true fans is all you need to make a living as a creative of any kind and authors, and it’s been tested, tried and tested.
And I think, in these days of Patreon, we’ve even more tools now than when that was mooted in the first place. And, you know, today’s talk feeds into, everything feeds into it. So, looking forward to sharing that with you and yeah, just to say to everybody, have a great summer, if you’re in the Northern hemisphere.
Joanna Penn: Or winter if you’re in the Southern.
Orna Ross: And yeah, we’ll see you back here in September. One more podcast next week before we take our August break.
Joanna Penn: Okay, everyone. Thanks for joining us live, and also on the podcast feed. Happy writing.
Orna Ross: Happy publishing. Bye-bye.