Saturday, October 5, 2013

Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, Marketing and Time Management for the Writer

I find myself reading with interest all the "must haves" the "experts" say every author should have. They "must" write a blog at least three times a week. (Yeah, it's been three weeks or more since I posted here. Failed there.) They "must" have a Facebook page and post to it at least five times a day. They must do the same on Twitter. They "must" have a website and update it frequently. They "must".... They "must".... They "must"....

And many of us gleefully go along with all this because, well, it means I can feel
Photo by Moyan Brenn
like I'm doing something for my writing career when I'm not actually writing. This type of writing is simple. It's easy. It doesn't involve editing, tweaking the language or really putting yourself out for rejection or bad reviews.

However, there is, as I have said before, only one absolute rule for writers. They must write.

But, you say, what about the "experts" and what they say. Shouldn't we be doing those things?

Maybe, and I will discuss some time management approaches to that a bit later, but remember, those "experts" are usually full time in the publishing industry. They don't have a day job which they juggle with home responsibilities, church, social obligations and the like. They have a full 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day to work on their writing careers. And, if they ever were, juggling the day job and the writing career, that has been a long time ago.

Currently, I'm fortunate to be retired with a decent income, so I can write "full-time." However, health issues mean that I have only about five really healthy productive hours a day in which to take care of business, do marketing, teach my online classes, answer email and, yes, write.  So, I understand a bit about having a  limited amount of time to work.

So, how do we handle the demands of marketing and those of writing? The same way we handle any other time management issue - prioritizing.

Is your first priority writing your blog entry or working on your novel? Okay, some days, it will be the blog or the website. Today, I'm revamping my author's website that I've been putting off (ironically, because I've been doing websites for others). So, that will take precedence today. But the question applies to your overall time usage. I have to admit that recently, I've probably spent more time promoting than writing. Like a pastor of mine once said, "God always preaches the sermon to me before I preach it to you." I'm getting this message now and will be revising my priorities over the next several weeks so that writing and my classes will always be number one.

But we do have to consider marketing or we won't get our books in front of readers. What do we do? Again, prioritize. In order to do this well, you will need to do a bit of analysis. First, determine the numbers.

How many followers do you have on your blog? What are the average number of views of each blog post. Right now, I have about 20 followers, and I get about three times that seeing each blog post.

How many Facebook friends do you have on your friend feed? How many likes do you have on your Author page? How many followers do you have on Twitter? How many followers on Pinterest, Google Plus, Linked In, Goodreads, etc.

Start by placing them in order of number of followers. If you are like most of us, Facebook will have the highest number followed by either Twitter or Google Plus and the blog will be at the bottom of the list. Your results, though, may be different.

There are some changes to Facebook, you should also take into account. Unlike Twitter, which has always allowed searching of all public tweets, Facebook search was limited to the names of people, pages and groups. Now, all posts marked as public can be searched. (Not posts set to friends only, but those designated public) That means that you can actually optimize your posts like you can a webpage making it searchable by the 1.15 Billion monthly Facebook users.

So, between Twitter and Facebook, you have a potential pool of people searching for your topics of close to one and a half billion people. Let's say you have a topic that is only of interest to say one percent of the population, that's still 10 million potential readers. Even if only one percent of those actively searched for that topic that's 100,000 potential searchers.

What does all this number crunching do for us? It's part of the process of determining priorities. I have a blog with maybe 100 monthly readers and a Facebook page with 1000 friends (and the search potential of 1000 times that). On the basis of the numbers alone, I have a longer reach on Facebook than I do on my blog.

Of course, numbers aren't the only criteria for prioritizing. We also need to think about the quality of those numbers. I have fewer readers of this blog than I do my Facebook friend page, but they are nearly all writers. So, I am building up relationships with other writers here that can help me in networking as well as promoting online writing classes and books on writing.

So, leading up to the release of a book on writing or a new course launch, spending more time blogging makes sense. However, leading up to the release of a fiction book, time spent on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads may be more worthwhile.

Know both the numbers and the type of people in each of your venues so you can "work smarter and not harder."

Don't try to do everything. Find out what works best for you an focus on that. Don't let the pronouncements of "experts" override what you see that works for you, and what does not work for you. Many very successful authors do not have facebook pages, blogs or twitter accounts. Others do. Some lose visibility by not having them others do not. You have to figure things out for yourself. But don't try to do it all. Identify 2-3 venues you consider your best choices.

Next, budget your time according to the priorities. This blog post will take me about an hour to write, edit, post and promote. It will reach maybe 100 people at the most. In that same time, I could post an interesting link to an article about space exploration (I write science fiction), a comment about working on my new website, post a Facebook update about a new class and a link to one of my Bible studies available on Kindle and reach a primary audience of 1000 people with at least a few of them sharing my links with others expanding that to about 5000 people.

So, I'm writing this for reasons other than promotion. I'm writing it because first, I enjoy writing things like this. Secondly, it's my way of giving back. I have my own little class of writing students who follow these posts and maybe they learn something. That makes me feel good. But I don't add blogging into my marketing mix or time.

Now, someone else might have 1000 blog followers but only a few hundred Facebook friends. Their priorities would be different. Go where the people are.

Finally, set a limit on your marketing effort. If you get to the end of the day and have done three hours of marketing and now find you don't have any time left for writing, you are doing it wrong. Aim for at least 50-50 but preferable 3-1 with the three being writing and the one being marketing.

No, I'm not there yet. But I'm getting there. As another pastor of mine once said: Always keep the Main Thing The Main Thing. And for the writer, the Main Thing, is writing.


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