Building an Author Platform: Social Media
Earlier, we saw that, in order to build a comprehensive, attractive and effective ‘shell’ around the kernel of a work of fiction, an author needs to minimally have a website - and that website needs to be set up so that it has something to offer for the casual visitor (a 'lead magnet', a free gift which will be of value to that visitor), as well as something for the more interested visitor and especially a booksales point for the ‘hot prospect’, the visitor who is actively looking and is willing to buy.
But the ‘shell’ doesn’t stop with a website. In fact, if you only have a website, you are probably much like millions of wannabe authors out there who are wondering why hardly anyone visits it. Perhaps you check the metrics every day and try to calculate if one of the two people who visited it yesterday was actually you, checking the metrics of your site.
A website is a market stall. Even if you have it set up along the lines described above, and it is packed with interesting and attractive things for a variety of visitors, you still need to somehow get the visitors to actually visit. And the internet is like a vast market square. Yes, billions of people are filing through that giant square every minute, but will they drift over to your stall of their own accord? It’s unlikely.
You have to attract them.
The interesting thing about this is that just as your story hopefully has the mechanisms built into it to grab, glue and guide reader attention, so also does your author platform as a whole need to be able to reach out and grab, then glue, then guide visitor attention. Setting up a website along the basic lines given above is part of that, but there is much more to the whole platform.
If your book is the central core of the thing, and the website is the shell around that core, then there are other layers around that shell - ‘outer shells’, if you like - which must be designed in certain ways if they are to function properly for you.
The first of these outer shells is the traffic that you manage to capture from social media; the second and outermost shell is what might be called your ‘social media presence’.
Here’s how it works:
1. You join a few key social media groups. Don’t just join and then disappear, or become nothing more than an observer - participate, comment, support.
Engage in conversations. Remain polite at all times. Make friends.
This is your ‘outermost shell’. It’s very important that you do not try to post links or sell your stuff to people in this shell. The entire purpose of this shell is to make you known and familiar to as wide a group of others as possible, without going crazy about it or appearing to be some kind of unnatural ‘friend harvester’. The mistake you will most often see (and perhaps be guilty of yourself) is people using casual social media to try to get 'likes' and sales.
How do you do this properly?
Just be natural. Engage in conversations which interest you; make a joke; share a few anecdotes that are relevant. Basically, this is the part of the author platform which serves as your ‘lounge’. This is where you ‘hang out’ with people online, without serious intentions to do anything to them or with them other than to enjoy their company and be as enjoyable to them as you can.
2. Then you form your own group. Over a period of time, you will find a few people in the wider sphere with whom you get on slightly better than others. You find more common interests, things that you both enjoy, and so on.
Form your own group and invite them in. Then keep that group alive with regular appropriate postings.
This is where your blog comes into play, if you have one (and it’s a good idea to have one). A regular blog, sitting somewhere on a website, can be a lonely thing. But a blog which is posted to an active group suddenly becomes a real activity: people read it and comment on it.
What’s the difference between the group you form and the general ‘lounge’ groups that you are part of?
In the lounge groups, you only need to Be. You just need to make your presence felt occasionally, lightly.
In your own group, you need to be more omni-present. People join the group because they like you and want more of you. You have to provide them with that distinctive ‘Youness’ on a daily basis, or they will drift away and lose interest. You have to make yourself known.
Part of that is that you will now be able to talk more about your work. Occasionally you will be able to post links for the members to buy your stuff. Only occasionally, though. The purpose of your own group is the distribution of Youness, not getting sales.
This is also where you find out what people need and want from you.
3. Then you direct your innermost group members to your website. Yes, your website finally comes into play: it will probably be the home of your blog, and it will be where you can put links enabling people to buy things.
This is where people get the things that they need and want.
You see how this fits together?
In the wider internet communities, you appear, unforcefully, naturally, just like everyone else, chatting, sharing, joking, supporting, being.
In your own internet community you are similarly unforceful and natural, but the whole point of your own group is that here you are able to be more distinctively yourself and to talk about You, because that’s partly why people joined the group. Also, in exploring You, you find out what others need from you.
Then you can direct traffic to the shop on your website.
The more casual visitor will acquire your lead magnet (and you will obtain his or her email address for further communication); the warmer prospect will become more involved through whatever you have prepared for them; the hot prospect will buy your books.
Here’s a key point, though. This model at first glance seems to be based on getting people to buy your book. While that’s important and a necessary step, it is a misconception. The very heart of the whole thing, the thing which makes this work and which makes it all worthwhile, is not the buying bit: it’s vital that people buy your stuff, obviously, but the purchasing of something is only really a step on the way to the appreciation of that thing.
The pulsating heart of this whole endeavour is that you get readers who appreciate you and your work.
Let’s simplify this even further:
Prospect comes across your name in a social media group of some kind. You seem a nice person, relaxed, friendly, supportive.
Prospect grows to like you enough to join your own group.
Prospect’s affinity for you grows more through exposure to you in your own group.
Prospect buys your stuff and is no longer a prospect but a customer.