How long has it been since you looked at your social media? I don’t mean checking your tweets or looking at your Facebook feed, I mean stepping back and taking a look at how your media looks to readers. As authors, we frequently hear how important social media is to our marketing, but we often forget to step back and think about how others will see our media presence.
The beginning of the year is a good time to step back and assess your online presence. Remove your out-of-date material and put a fresh face on for the new year. The time surrounding any major change, such as a book release, is another point when a cleanup and facelift would make sense.
Online presence is the business card, advertisement and marketing hub of today’s author. Poorly planned online elements can hold an author’s marketing back, but a well-organized, unified presences that spans multiple social media outlets can go far in promoting author brand.
So what goes into a strong web presence?
The first building block in an author’s social media toolbox should always be a branded website. It is the one place you have that focuses a reader’s attention completely on you and your books. You don’t have to share it with anybody else or fit in to someone else’s style. It’s all about you.
Ideally, authors should make an effort to own their own dot-com name because it would be the most logical place for a reader to find them. If your name isn’t available, try to look for something closely related that will include your name. the more visitors see your name written out, the more it will be imprinted. If you can’t get a dot-com, a free blogging site that has the ability to create a static pages can provide the same presence. Web design should be up-to-date and reflect your genre. Make sure books that are out aren’t listed as ‘coming soon’ and that you have all of your available works listed.
Low-end graphics, animation and gifs can cheapen the overall look of a website. Small fonts or difficult color combinations can render a site unreadable. You might like that neon green 12 pt. on a black background, but it will be hard to read. A basic black on a white background in a larger font will be much easier and keep a visitor on your site longer.
Music is not only repellant for visitors, it can slow down their computers. heavy flash components can also he hard on slower machines.
While website design can be expensive, this is one place where it’s wise to spend some cash. A bad website can be worse than no website at all.
You should also make sure your site is mobile-device friendly. More and more, people are using their mobile devices to access the web. If your site can’t be viewed on those devices, you’ve lost opportunity
A good website should also include these basics:
A home page that highlights your most recent news.
Your website is your main hub, and as such it needs to be refreshed frequently. Visitors don’t want to see the same information every time they log in. Changing your home page images, swapping out highlighted books or shuffling page elements gives visitors a different experience and encourages repeat visits.
A Bookshelf Page
Your books are your career. This is what readers want, what they cone to your site to find. Have a clearly-marked bookshelf link in your menu and make sure your bookshelf is organized and easy to navigate. As you release more books, you may want to have sub-pages which can be organized by series, publisher, genre, or other defining factors.
Your main bookshelf page should have links to your author pages or name search results on major distributors and publisher pages. individual book pages should link to product pages. Make sure you offer all the major third party sellers. The more convenient you make it, the more likely the read is to buy. As an added tip, many third party sale sites have affiliate programs. Take advantage of these programs and you can earn extra money on ever sale coming through your site. Amanda Brice has a wonderful post on the advantages of affiliate programs on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog.
A Contact Page
One of the most frequent complaints I see from editors and agents on twitter is the lack of contact information on author websites. many authors are loathe to include them out of fear of spam and viruses being sent via email. But agents, editors, reviewers and readers visit your website looking for you, and if you don’t have a way to contact you, you’ve lost a chance to connect with the people who make your career.
Using a contact form can offer protection against malicious email attachments. Spam and questionable links can be discarded. don’t give up the opportunity to connect with industry professionals and readers over fear.
Social Media Links
Social media links give your visitors the opportunity to click and instantly follow you. Many authors have custom graphics made which match their websites and reflect branding. You may also consider a page listing the links, and possibly a calender listing where to find you both online and for personal appearances.
Your Agent’s Name
If you are represented, mention your agent. This will make it clear to any agent looking for new talent that you are taken.
Email is an integral part of any business today. It is the primary form of communication used both in the industry and by readers. Having a dedicated business email is a must. It’s best of the name on the email matches your author name and/or your website name. Like your website, it should have a professional appearance, so avoid non-standard fonts and text colors.
Most email programs have a signature feature. This is something that can work for you or against you. To make it work for you, it’s important to think about how the human brain works. By the time a reader has reached the end of the email, they are done reading.You’ve got their attention for one quick glance. Don’t give them more information than that one glance can process.
My personal recommendation is a simple website banner which links to your site. If you don’t have a banner, do a very simple text link, possibly with a tagline. Always link to your website. It is your hub, and you should always link there.
If you want to mention your books, stick to the most recent. The sight of a long list can make a reader skip it entirely and they won’t read a single title on the list.
Authors love blogs. It’s one of those things that’s touted as a must-have. Blogs are places an author can talk about whatever is on her mind and interesting content can bring readers back again and again. Blogs are usually integrated into the author site, so they carry all the same features of the website.
To keep your blog busy, post on a regular schedule, keep the mood positive and bring in guests.
Social Networking Sites
Social Media is a generic term that incorporates a mass of networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and G+. it’s very important to note that the key to social media is being social. Only posting promotion and never interacting make you easy to ignore, rendering your time on these sites useless. There are tools available to help manage these sites, but if it’s all too overwhelming for you, don’t be afraid to cut media which doesn’t work for you.
The sites you keep need to be accessible to readers. Facebook allows subscriptions without a reciprocal friendship. Check your settings and make sure that you are allowing this. Don’t mark your Twitter feed private or require people to validate their follow. Like email, spam and malicious activity is easy to control with some common sense, and making yourself easy to follow will bring more followers.
Make sure your bios and personal information are up-to-date. If someone looks at your bio and sees your first book listed as coming soon in the fall of 2008, it will leave the impression your feed isn’t active and they will be less likely to follow you. Being able to set it and forget it is a wonderful thing for your accounts, so make sure these bios don’t have dated material in them.
Avatars should be up-to-date, using either a professional head shot, a recent book cover, or an icon that reflects your webpage.
Also remember to link back to your website. You never want your site more than one click away.
If you are member on a forum, take the time to refresh your signature using the same general rules as you would for email. Avatar should also be updated, again with a professional head shot, a book cover or something reflecting your website. Make sure you know the forum rules and stick to them when constructing your signature line.
If you have automatic feeds, make sure those are dumping into feeds you still actively use. Take a few minutes to check your permissions and get rid of sites and services you don’t use. Fewer permissions means more protection against multi-site hacking , so monitor those carefully.
Whatever social media you use, make sure you keep it updated. Keep your look and content fresh to keep visitors coming back.