As the morning show co-host and social media coordinator for the radio station I work for (Family Friendly WBGL), I'm familiar with the challenges many authors face when trying to build an online platform. But now, as a new author myself, I'm facing those same difficulties personally. The main question seems to be: How do I create a social media presence that is compelling enough to draw people in, yet not so self-promoting as to push them out?
My new book is called Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture, and it looks at how to share our faith in ways that resonate with those around us. In a nutshell the book's theme is: "Relationship spreads ideas." As it turns out, relationship sells books too. Here are two principles I try to keep in mind when talking about Branded on my Facebook page and Twitter account:
1. Social networking should be an accurate reflection of my total person. Yes, my job as an author is a significant portion of who I am, but so is my family, my faith, and even the pseudo-mundane things in between. No one is going to want to be around me in person if I talk exclusively about one thing...so why in the world would they want to be around me if I do it on Facebook or Twitter? People are multidimensional and our online personas should be as well.
2. Social networking isn't about me, it's about them. People don't follow me because of me, they follow me because of what they get from me. Everything I post needs to run through the how-does-this-benefit-the-reader filter. Is it interesting, helpful, funny? Does it make my follower or fan want to do something or share something? If a potential post or blog or tweet doesn't evoke a feeling of some sort, it's probably not worth posting.
So how have I done this with Branded?
From the very beginning of the publishing process, I tried to involve my online friends and fans. With the permission of my publisher, I let people vote on the title and sub-title of the book, give their opinions and comments on the cover art, and even read short excerpts of the book on my blog. This gave my followers a unique sense of ownership in a project that was still many months from hitting shelves.
In the weeks leading up to publication, I began periodically posting short quotes from Branded on Facebook and Twitter along with a link to the pre-sale page on Amazon. This was designed to "soft sell" the ideas in the book, without a specific "ask" to buy a copy. I also announced a handful of book signings during this period. Again, this allowed me to "talk about the book without talking about the book."
Now that Branded has been out for a few weeks, I'm trying to be extra-creative. My entire fan base already knows that the book is available, so it's now my job to remind them in helpful ways that don't feel like reminders. Posting links to interviews or online reviews is one way. Re-tweeting or sharing other people's comments about the book is another. Since I am a non-fiction author, I have decided to offer a 30-minute Skype session to any small group who decides to study the book. I've encouraged people (with free gift cards and books) to tweet or share or like or "+1" various links and blogs.
Will all of this work? I have no idea. Branded has been out for almost exactly a month. But I think these are steps in the right direction. What do you think?