Jargon designed to confuse you or an evolution in how people create and interact with content and each other on the internet? Well, as with most new technologies, it’s a little of both.
Web 2.0 describes the change in internet user behaviour and the technology developed to facilitate this behaviour, and social media is the websites and online services where this behaviour takes place.
Still a mystery? Rest assured, if you’ve used the internet in the past couple of years you've already encountered it, it's even likely you have participated in it.
Have you watched a video on a website? Read a news article and noticed some comments below? Found a service using search and read reviews about the business? All of these activities can be classified as Web 2.0. Blogging, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are all social media platforms. Confusing as these tools might be, however, they are invaluable for authors who want to reach out to their existing readers and find new ones.
The internet has made it possible for everyone with a connection to publish content (text, images, video and audio) and share it with the world. But how does the content you put up on the internet reach a global audience? It’s not just as simple as putting it on a website and hoping people will find it.
Social media networks are like the circulatory system of the internet. Ideas are formulated and spread interactively between users with genuine personal connections with each other.
The newest generation of internet users are very savvy. There’s a cartoon from the early days of the internet depicting a dog behind a computer terminal with the subtitle, ‘On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.’ This concept is not valid for Web 2.0. The internet has grown beyond the anonymity of its early days, and so have its users. People who use social media are generally skeptical, they don’t like to be patronised or sold to, and they can spot an ulterior motive a mile away. To be successful on social media platforms you need lots of connections with other users. To make these connections you need to be honest and be willing to contribute generously to the community.
The internet has already become the way people find information about almost everything. Traditional printed forms of media (newspapers, magazines and books) are still very popular, but are increasingly converting some or all of their business to an online model. People expect their content for free, and if they don’t get it for free they want something value-added. The cheapest and most effective way to do this is to look online.
Books in particular will face challenges over the next few years. Time- and attention-poor people are less likely to spend their time reading. In order not to get left behind in this brave new world, authors need to put themselves out there and start interacting, not just as a marketing exercise, but to provide valuable content between books and create a personal connection between themselves and their readers.
Due to the nature of social media it is no longer possible for your publisher to handle this type of publicity. Pan Macmillan can set up an area of their website, but this form of online marketing will never be as successful as an author interacting with their readers by themselves through social media networks.
Fortunately, it has never been easier to use the internet to get connected with like-minded people and to use these networks to promote your work. Modern social media platforms are designed to be easy to use and to help you find existing and potential connections with readers, friends and family. You can use these networks to build reputation, connections and trust and extend your network even further.
Building and maintaining a social media profile allows you to promote your work and yourself without the traditional methods of selling and barriers to direct reader communication. If you focus on caring for your community through regular contact and contributions your word (and works) will spread throughout online networks.
Your audience expects transparency, honesty and engagement. Your approach and contribution needs to be one of relationship building, not hard selling. If you use it just for promotion and marketing people will know and not respond. If you use it to benefit others and foster a sense of community people will know and love you for it. Your readers want to know more about you, so give them a sense of who you are. Anything can be potentially interesting to readers – your habits/thoughts/readings/writings/experiences/likes/dislikes.
Like anything worth doing well, seeing the results of your interaction with social media can take time but if you embrace it, you can build a following of loyal friends who will act as advocates of you and your books – and in this word-of-mouth environment where advertising is not trusted, that's priceless.
In the following articles we will explore five platforms suitable for authors to start using right away. You may already be using one or all of these networks, if so, keep reading. There are lots of ways to raise your profile and make it more accessible for your readers.
The networks covered here are:
As with the rest of the internet, these tools are not distinct, separate entities unto themselves. Each profile can be used to promote the others and you should feel free to use one service to direct users to find you elsewhere.
Blogs are the ultimate self publishing social media tool. You can publish text, video, audio, links and images on your blog quickly and easily.
The word “blog” comes from web and log – combing the two words gives you blog.
Think of your blog as your home on the internet – it should give people a sense of who you are as a person. You can invite people that you meet through social media to visit your blog, and in turn you can introduce them to your work if they are interested.
Blogs can be a very effective marketing tool for building your reputation. They help people feel as though they know you and can give you another channel to engage with your readers.
Active blogs are successful blogs. Regularly add new content to help build a sense of community and to keep people coming back. Allow comments and interact with your readers by replying with your own comment individually addressing each contributor.
Again it is not a place for hard sell or marketing copy, it is a platform for demonstrating your expertise, introducing your personality and work and building a community through adding valuable content only you can provide. If you haven’t got a website yet you can establish a web presence quickly, easily and for no cost using Blogger – a popular blogging platform.
Click on “Create a Blog” button
Create a Google Account by filling in your information here. Click “Continue”
Name your blog – choose a title and blog address that reflects your personal name or the type of work you create (keep it short and easy to remember).Click “Continue”
Choose a design template for your blog
That’s it! Your blog has been created
It’s time to write your first post. (A post describes the content that you publish. Your blog is made up of individual posts)
Now that you’ve set up your blog it’s time to start writing.
The most successful blogs are those that are written by people who speak from the heart. Write about things you are passionate about and you will attract an audience.
People who visit your blog want to know more about you – they want to get to know you personally, hear what you have to say or be inspired.
Use your blog to publish essays, creative writings, your thoughts or observations on a subject, photos of your work environment, write interesting content that will useful to your audience and provide an insight behind the scenes of a published author.
Your audience is the most important part of any blog – appreciate them, write with them in mind and they will reward you by commenting and sharing your content. But first they have to find you.
Participating in other forms of social media is a good way to drive visitors to your blog. Add a link to your blog in your profiles, if you have a website – add a link to your blog. Add a link to your blog on your email signature. If you use Twitter of Facebook you can post a link to let your network know about a new blog post.
There are thousands of blogs related to the topics that you will discuss. Network by finding related blogs (using Google or the search at Blogger) and comment on what others have posted to build relationships and attract more traffic to your blog. Interacting with other bloggers is a key way of getting people to read your own blog.
Blog content also attracts search traffic – allowing you to reach new readers who are looking for what you are talking about.
Blog posts can be as short or long as you would like them to be. Keep in mind that reading from a screen is different to print and organise your information using lots of headings and one sentence paragraphs.
Use pictures throughout longer pieces of writing where possible. Go to http://www.sxc.hu for free stock photography.
Blog posts must be regular – at least twice a week to gain a following and foster an active community of readers.
Remember – it can take a while to make an impact, make the commitment to keep publishing and you will see the return.
Twitter is a micro blogging/social networking tool.
Twitter is comprised of two parts – the micro blogging part and the social networking part.
It’s a free to use platform that allows you to publish short text messages of fewer than 140 characters (that’s why it’s called “micro” blogging).
You also create your own unique network of followers – this is the social networking part. They may be existing readers, members of the media or someone you have connected to through another common interest.
You use the update box to update your status, reply to other Twitter users and post links to other websites.
You create you own network of people. When you add someone to your network this is called “Following” – when you have added them you will be able to see what they have written in their updates.
When someone adds you to their network by “Following” you – they will be able to see what you have written in your updates.
If your blog is your home on the internet, then Twitter is the place you go to socialise.
Twitter is a great way to get your personality across online. It’s important in social networks to come across as authentic, rather than just focusing on promoting a book – your followers will be receptive to you as a personality as well as an author.
When people are reading what you do everyday and what’s going on with your life they will start to care. That’s the number one factor in increasing your profile and maximising the chances of social media having an impact on your sales.
As is the case with any platform in this space, if you are genuine, interact and add value to your network without expecting anything in return you will be rewarded.
Go to http://twitter.com and enter your details, then click the "Sign up" button.
Enter your details, choose your username then click “Create my account”. I recommend using your full name, with no spaces and no capital letters
You can check to see if anyone you know has an account or click “Skip this step”
A list of people on Twitter will appear to help get your network started. Select who you would like to follow or click “Skip this step”
Success! You’ve created your account. Now you want to add a photo of yourself, fill out your profile then add 10 updates before you start building your network
Use your 140 character or less updates to give snapshots into every day life behind the scenes of your work or post links to interesting articles or videos that you’ve seen.
If you’re working on a new book you could give your network updates about its progress and relate stories about its development; this will draw them into your story and help your pre-launch marketing.
Do you have travel plans? A special working environment? Write about points of interest that are unique to you. Keep your tone casual as though you are speaking to someone.
It’s also important to use your updates to interact with people in your network.You can do this by replying or commenting on something they have posted or by sending them a private direct message.
Go to search.twitter.com and search for your name or the titles of your books – find out if people have mentioned you in a conversation. If they have, connect with them to start building a relationship.
It’s easy to see Twitter as a bit silly, particularly when you read the individual ‘tweets’ that people post. Singularly, tweets are not going to be deeply fascinating – but for the people who follow you, those tiny snapshots give them an insight into your life and help them empathise with you. You might think those little details are boring, but it’s amazing how the information begins to have an impact as a whole!
The network you build is just as important as what you write. Care for it and build it slowly. It’s not about the numbers – it’s about the quality of the connections you make.
Ask around your family and friends to see if they have an account and add them. Remember, though, the value is in creating a new network – take advantage of being able to reach a new audience and don’t just communicate with people you already know.
Start by using search.twitter.com to find people by topics or location. Click the “follow” button under their profile picture. This will add them to your network and allow you to see their updates.
Observe who people in your network are linked to and connect with them also to build your network.
If you’ve got a blog or website you can add a link from there to your Twitter account and invite visitors to “follow” you on Twitter to become part of your network.
@ Reply – For public conversation
Use the @symbol followed by the Twitter username you want to start a conversation with, or reply to a tweet they have posted.
For example to get my attention or reply to a tweet of mine you would type: @clarelancaster I’m learning to reply using Twitter.
Direct Message (DM) – For private conversation
Use the Direct Message function to send private messages to people that you are connected to. DMs are also limited to 140 characters or less.
RT – Re-tweet
If someone in you follow has posted something you think would be interesting to the rest of your network you can forward, or ‘re-tweet’ their update.
It is Twitter etiquette to place RT before the user name to signifying that the tweet originated through them. Make sure that you leave a space between RT and their @username. This is another way to receive new followers, or get the attention of the person you have just quoted.
E.g. RT @clarelancaster Please stick with Twitter, you won’t regret it.
Don’t just broadcast, using Twitter is a two way conversation – interact with other users for best results Build your network slowly and make real connections one on one.
Use search.twitter.com to search for conversations in your niche and to find out if your name or your book/s has been mentioned in a conversation. You might want to send them an @ Reply to make contact.
When you sign up, jump in – speak with your voice and show your personality so that people can relate and interact with trust.
You don’t have to follow everyone that follows you back but it’s a good idea to in the early days.
Facebook is a social networking platform.
Users are grouped into networks and groups based on common interests, geographical location, shared history, schooling and for many other reasons.
Facebook contains individual users, fan pages, groups and applications.
When you sign up you will get a profile. Your profile is your home base for your Facebook experienceand it gives people a sense of who you are.
You can update your profile with status updates, add photos and communicate with people. People who are connected with you will be able to see what you add to your profile.
When you are connected to them by becoming a “friend” you will be able to see their profile.
Facebook offers structure, detailed profiles and an extraordinary access to new and existing audiences. The last time figures were announced there were 750 million active users on Facebook. Through connections between shared friends, each user is ultimately connected to each other.
You can use this network for book promotion and to interact and connect with your community through groups and fan pages that you can create for your books.
As is the case with any platform in this space you must remember – it’s not about you, it’s about the community. Be sociable, keep your contribution consistent and don’t give up.
Go to http://www.facebook.com and enter your details under “Sign Up” then click the “Sign Up” button
You will be asked to enter both words represented in an image for verification. Do this then click the “Sign Up” button
You can check to see if anyone you know has an account or click “Skip this step”
Now you can start to fill in your profile – add the details you would like to then click “Save & Continue”
Select people you know to add to your network – if you don’t know any of them click “Save & Continue”
Success! You’ve created your account
You will also have to confirm your account – check the email address that you used during sign up and follow the instructions
What next? See below
You can find people to add as friends, upload photographs and communicate with people by commenting on their status or writing on their “wall” (a public noticeboard attached to your profile).
Setup your profile
This is the first thing you should do – set up your profile by adding more information about yourself.
Click on “View and edit your profile”
You don’t have to share every detail but do spend time filling in your profile andadd an image of yourself.
Update your status by clicking on “Your Name” on the blue bar up the top of the page. Updates are written in the third person and describe what you are doing. E.g. “Just joined Facebook.” It is important to keep your status updated regularly. If you decide to sign up to both Twitter and Facebook, you may like to have your Twitter updates sent to Facebook. To do this, just add the ‘Twitter’ application on Facebook, and select the option to update your status automatically.
Add some friends to build your network
Now that you’ve set up your profile it’s time to start building your network. On Facebook people in your network are called “Friends”.
Search for people you know by using the Search box in the top right corner of the blue bar.
Click on “Add as Friend” to add someone to your network
Click “Send Request”. This will send them a notification that you want to add them to your network
You will be asked to enter both words represented in an image for verification. Do this then click the “Send Request” button
Repeat the process to find more people
Create a Facebook page
When you create a Facebook page your readers can 'like' you and/or your books. A Page is separate to your (personal) Profile - it's a good way to keep one to yourself and people you know, while anyone can access the Page.
You can post videos, text, messages, pictures and links on your Page and create conversation through a message board (Discussions). People that "like" your Page can also post content to it. Pages are a great way to build your Facebook community and give your readers a common area to interact.
Choose “Artist, Band or Public Figure” and select “Writer”
Enter your name
Click “I agree to Facebook Pages terms”
Click “Get started”
Facebook can be daunting the first time you see it. The best way to lean how to use Facebook is to jump right in and have a play. You won’t break it.
Once you’ve got your head around the basics you can add more elements to your profile. Post photos, video, add events (like launches or book signings) and answer people who write on your wall.
You will receive email updates from people requesting to be your friend. You can add these by following the instructions on the email.
Unlike other social network platforms, LinkedIn is a social networking platform dedicated to business and professional development.
First you create a profile and then look for colleagues and associates that you already know to start building your network.
It is a closed network –you must know a person or be linked to them through an existing relationship before you can be introduced or connected.
Use it to exchange information, stay informed about your contact and associated opportunities within your industry.
Contributing to LinkedIn can help build your personal brand within a professional space. Remember, it’s not who you know, but who knows you.
Go to http://www.linkedin.com and enter your details under “Join LinkedIn Today” then click the “Join Now” button
Your account has been created
Now you need to start to fill in your profile – choose your country, post code and employment details then click “Enter LinkedIn”
Check your inbox for a confirmation email. Follow the instructions to confirm you email address
Now choose a password and login
Success! You’ve created your account
Fill out your profile
It is a good idea to fill out your profile before you begin networking – it will give people an idea of who you are and they will be more likely to connect with you.
LinkedIn profiles are also popular with search engines – this is important for the management of your online reputation. When someone enters your name into Google it is beneficial to have a complete LinkedIn profile appear.
In the main menu to the left click on “Profile”
Look to the right hand side for the text “Profile Completion Tips” and follow the instruction starting with “Add a position”
Work your way through this list to complete your profile
Just like Facebook – you can also publish updates to answer the question “What are you working on?”
Build your Network
Once you’ve filled out your profile you can start building your network. LinkedIn allows you to search for contacts and add them to your network.
You can build your network to find service providers, resources, industry colleagues and to promote your work, knowledge and yourself as an expert in your field.
In the main menu to the left click on “Home”
Here you can check your web email accounts for contacts on LinkedIn OR
Check your Address book contacts OR
Search for current & past colleagues
Choose your selection and click the “Login” or “Find” buttons
Aternatively you can search for colleagues or classmates by clicking on the respective tab in the blue section at the top of the page
Join a group and contribute to the discussion
LinkedIn groups are a way for people with a common interest to interact through discussion within the LinkedIn platform.
After you have added people to your network you may notice that they are displaying groups in their profile that they are members of. You can click on these links to join the group also.
Groups will have subjects open for discussion, read through any interesting conversations and add your contribution if you have one.
Use LinkedIn as a way to connect with marketing experts - for example to help with book promotion - and to speak to other authors about marketing and promotion methods.
Contributing to discussions within your industry can also be a way of raising your profile.
Wikipedia strongly discourages people from creating an article about themselves, but you can make changes or suggestions if there is already an article there about you.
While writing an autobiography on Wikipedia is discouraged, they do want any information they have about you to be accurate, fair, balanced and neutral. They note that a lot of autobiographies can be biased, usually positively, about the subject, and also that they can contain 'original research'. Original research is not permitted on Wikipedia - it is material taken from other sources. When the only source you have for a particular subject is yourself, this is unverifiable (for example, you may want to write about your hopes and dreams, but there is no way for readers to verify what you think). Only verifiable facts should be included on a Wikipedia entry.
If there is an inaccuracy in an article about you, and the problem is clear-cut (like a date of birth issue, or a title you've written is missing, etc), you can edit the page yourself. If you're worried about doing that, you can explain your edits on the article's discussion page. People will be more likely to accept your edits if they are well-sourced.
To edit a page, look for the tab at the top that says 'Edit this page'. This will bring up an editor where you can add/delete information. You must then make a brief summary of the changes you've made, then save the page. Please make sure this information is correct, though, because any changes that have been made can be viewed in the History section of the page, and if you have made the page inaccurate, you may be questioned as a reliable source in future. Also, other Wikipedia editors can simply revert to the page made before your changes. Generally, though, particularly with easily-verifiable facts, your changes will stand.
If there are legal problems with material in an article about you, email email@example.com promptly with full details.
For more information, visit the Wikipedia autobiography help site.
John Birmingham was an early adapter of social media, andstarted his personal blog Cheeseburger Gothic (http://www.cheeseburgergothic.com)over six years ago.
The blog plays an active role in fostering Birmingham’s online community with posts regularly receiving comments from his readers.
More recently, he has been using Twitter to connect with his audience and through this interaction has found many benefits.
Here Birmingham tells us about his experience with blogging, Twitter, Facebook and the benefits that participating in social media can bring to an author.
JB) I've been blogging since I started writing genre fiction. Maybe six or seven years ago now. Originally it started just as a way to get a little non-professional writing done. Something I didn't have to obsess over. But of course, now I obsess. My blogging has gone pro and earns as much if not more than my book writing and feature writing.
It has also put me in touch with a small army of readers and fans, many of whom have become friends. They're also a great resource. Coming from so many backgrounds and different countries there's always an expert on tap for when I have a research question. And when I tour, they're waiting for me. With beer.
Q) When and why did you start using Twitter?
JB) I've been on Twitter for about two months. Originally I signed up on the advice my web maven friend Anthony Dever, who said I had to lock up my Twitter name before somebody else got it. He was right.
Q) Your approach to Twitter has been transparent – you haven’t got a locked profile and you follow lots of people. How has Twitter benefited you as an author?
JB) LOL! It's been give and take. If you don’t watch out it can take all of your work time. So I have set periods each day when I'll log on. It's very addictive and I’d strongly advise against keeping a live feed up.
But getting onto Twitter has also coincided with a hell deadline for me and it's been surprisingly useful for that. I'd often tweet my intentions for the days work (say 4000 words) and then update as I went. My tweetenvolk would then cheer me on. A couple of students with assignments and some would-be authors even challenged me to word length races. I owned them, of course.
Professionally it's been very useful for putting and keeping me in contact with a lot of people in the media, who are Twitting fiends. From that has come lots of freelance work.
As for following people, I consider that to be good manners.
Q) I know you’ve got a blog and your Twitter account. Do you use any other social media platforms? If you do – what has your experience been with them and have you found them beneficial?
I have a Facebook page, and I once posted a short video of myself having a whiskey while writing. To my great surprise, people began watching!
Facebook I joined initially simply to channel traffic to my pro blogs, but it has become a more informal, relaxed sort of gig for me too, and recently proved invaluable when I had to source information for a cover story at short notice.
A couple of Facebook writers have recently set up an online mag which will be interesting to watch. I think we're calling it The Group.
Q) What’s your number one piece of advice for authors using social media?
I would like to emphasize that if you do get into social media, you have to give as well as take.
Your 'followers', to use Twitter terminology, will not be impressed by boilerplate PR statements and marketing.
If you do it, you need to do it for real.
I would suggest choosing two platforms to focus on first. For simplicity of use and immediate response I would advise signing up for a blog and setting up a Twitter account or Facebook Account.
Start with two platforms and commit to regularly contributing to them through content creation on your blog and networking through Twitter or Facebook.
Don’t over extend yourself and most importantly, stick with it; the results may not be immediate but they will benefit your personal brand and promote your work in ways that you can’t imagine until you try it.
Keep these final thoughts in mind throughout all of your social media interactions.
Care about the people you connect with
Do these things first and you will see rewards in raising your profile, fostering an active community and opportunities that come from making real connections.
Pan Macmillan Australia has published over 500 Australian titles digitally and has more than 1850 Australian ebooks available in a range of formats, with more coming all the time from our Australian in-print catalogue.
You can also promote your digital book on your own website or blog, using what's known as a widget.
To add a widget to your site or blog, just follow these steps.
STEP 1: Go to http://www.macmillandigital.com.au and search for your book.
STEP 2: Once you're within the main page for that book, click on the 'Add to your website' link on the far left.
STEP 3: Then simply follow the instructions to add the code to your own site (further help and instructions are on the MacmillanDigital.com.au site)
You can also use Google's own Preview to promote your book on your blog or site.
To add the Google Preview widget to your site, follow these steps:
STEP 1: Go to http://code.google.com/apis/books/docs/preview-wizard.html and search for your book via ISBN.
STEP 2: Choose how you want the preview to be presented. You can either have a book viewer, or a button that can either: open a little window with your book in it; open a link to the book on Google's Book Search; or open a page on your own site with a custom preview page. For this example, we'll use the book viewer example.
STEP 3: Select the language (default is English), then press the 'Generate Code' button. The code that appears then needs to be pasted into your own site or blog to make the viewer or button come up in your site.
Here's some examples that Google provides:
Here is an outline of the most popular platforms and terms used.
Blogger: Free blog publishing tool.
Blogging: The action of creating content for your blog.
Blogs: A type of website with built in technology to publish all types of rich media (text, images, video and audio). They often allow a facility for readers to comment on the content that you publish.
Facebook: A social networking platform.
Flickr: A platform for publishing photos and social networking.
LinkedIn: A social networking platform with a focus on professional development.
Links: Links are the highlighted text or images that, when clicked on - jump you from one web page or item of content to another.
Micro Blogging: Blog posts that are restricted to a set number of characters.
MySpace: A social networking platform with ability to publish rich media.
Platform: Used to describe a specific framework and tools (usually a particular website).
Post: A blog is made up of posts. A post can contain text, images, video and audio. Also often contains links to other websites.
Social Networking: Connecting with people through relationships and conversations to add value to both participants using a common platform. Social networking is the process of developing and strengthening those relationships. Users who are networked share trust, recommendations and content.
Traffic: General term to describe visitors to your website/blog.
Tweet: Like a “Post” – used to describe publishing of an update of 140 characters or less in Twitter.
Twitter: A social networking and micro blogging platform.
YouTube: A platform for publishing video and social networking.