by Frances Caballo (@CaballoFrancis)
Frances is the author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books, and also serves as the social media coordinator for the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) where we are both members. Her last article here was How Twitter Hashtags Help Authors Find Readers. In today’s article, Frances brings us some much needed relief from the sheer amount of time it takes to keep up your social media presence. Read on.
What is time suck? It’s the hours of time you can unintentionally spend in front of your computer reviewing Facebook posts, retweeting your Tweeps, and uploading photos while your writing and maybe even your family await your undivided attention.
We’ve all lost time while using Facebook. Perhaps our only intention was to post an update and an image, but then … look what happens instead? You see a post from a friend who is feeling down so you stop to write an encouraging note.
Then you notice that a colleague posted a great article about self-publishing and you can’t resist the temptation to read it. You navigate to the website with the article and you find a book for sale there. You’ve got to have it. So you go to Amazon, read the reviews, and decide whether you want a new or used version or an eBook.
You eventually return to Facebook, upload your image, and write the update. How much time have you lost? Thirty minutes? Maybe an hour?
Who has the time for that?
Getting lost in the vortex of time suck is easy and it’s the greatest fear among writers who are new to social media. But there are remedies.
There are four basic principles to social media that you can follow:
- Curation—Set a timer and spend five to 10 minutes each morning scouring the Internet, websites such as Alltop for the best information to share in your niche. Or use a curation application such as Scoop.it, Paper.li or Google Trends.
- Schedule—No one has the time to spend all day – or long chunks of time – at their computers posting content to their social media profiles. Use an application such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck (for Twitter only), or Buffer to schedule your posts, tweets and updates throughout the day. With Buffer and Hootsuite, you can schedule your Facebook posts; however, Facebook has its own scheduling feature right within the status update box on your Facebook author page.
- Socialize—Use your mobile device in the evening while you relax to check your social media accounts. Spend 15 minutes commenting, sharing posts, retweeting and re-pinning on Pinterest. Consciously schedule this time into your day and enjoy it—virtually. If you’re concerned about the clock, set your timer again so that you don’t lose track of time.
- ROI—Once a week, schedule some time to review your statistics to analyze your return on investment (ROI). Indicators will include statistics on engagement, influence, and demographics, and enumerate the number of new likes you received on your Facebook page, retweets, new followers and other measurements. Use this information to gauge your success and understand which messages work best with your audience.
Social Media vs. Broadcast Media
Television and radio programs are considered broadcast media. They tell us what their messages are. In the case of TV, with few exceptions, there isn’t any room for viewer feedback or conversation unless you consider what happens on the Maury Povich Show conversation. Talk radio includes listener views but the environment is still controlled by a producer and the host.
Social media is the first form of media that emphasizes and rewards conversations. You now have an opportunity to talk with your readers, learn about them, and empathize with them. Writers who don’t schedule time to be social on Facebook or Twitter are turning a social platform into broadcast media.
If you simply broadcast your messages—“Buy my book!”—you won’t be rewarded in website visits or book purchases. However, if you allot time for talking with your readers via a social media network, you will gain loyal followers who, in many cases, will help to market your books.
You can schedule 15 minutes at the end of your day for thanking your retweeters (Twitter followers who repost your messages), commenting on your friends and fans’ posts, and interacting with your growing body of contacts. Use this time to engage with other writers, colleagues, editors, agents, readers and friends.
Thank people for finding and posting a great blog you enjoyed reading. Share a stunning image of a dahlia that a reader pinned on Pinterest. If you interact with your contacts, your following will grow.
Measure Your Return on Investment (ROI)
Social media platforms are free but our time isn’t. In this 24/7 culture that we live in, there never seems to be sufficient time to check all of our email, read our Facebook friends’ posts, and finish all the books we hope to write. So we want to be certain that our time on social media is well spent.
We also want to analyze what works and what doesn’t. Do more of your friends and fans on Facebook comment when you include an image with your post? If you’re testing blog post titles, was there a certain title that your Tweeps retweeted more often? Are you losing followers on Twitter as fast as you’re gaining them? Do you know why your Facebook page likes soared by 300 last month?
You need to know the answers to these questions so that you will know what to post in the future. Discovering the messages that resonate with your audience is critical to your marketing efforts. To know what these metrics are, subscribe to an application that will analyze your performance and help you to learn from the data that it culls. Here are a few:
All you need to do is type in the web address to your Facebook author page (not your personal profile) and this free program will analyze your engagement. Your score will be somewhere between 1 and 100. The higher your score the better you are doing. It will rate your growth in likes, rank your score against similar pages, measure your response time to comments left by fans, determine whether you are asking questions often enough, and remind you to denote more milestones. Basically, it provides an at-a-glance look at the areas you excel in and the areas that need improvement. Everyone with a Facebook tool should take advantage of this free analytics program.
For $39/month, SproutSocial will analyze your Facebook and Twitter accounts. The analytics are comprehensive and in addition to a PDF report, you can download an Excel spreadsheet that examines your click-through-rates on a day-by-day basis. It provides in-depth demographics and measures tweets, retweets, follows, mentions, replies and direct messages. It will also measure how social you are and determine your influence. You can also use this application to schedule your posts, unfollow users, and at the premium level, it will determine your best posting times.
For $49/month, this application will analyze your data every week, build your reports, and send them to you. Measureful automatically distills your Google Analytics data into weekly insights and reports. You can connect your accounts in five minutes or less and wait for the reports to arrive.
Curalate bills itself as the only analytics program for Instagram and Pinterest. It will analyze social media conversations and provide insights into your Pinterest and Instagram profiles. Use it to measure, monitor and grow your influence. In today’s increasingly visual world of applications, Curalate can combine sophisticated image recognition algorithms with technologies to provide you with an analysis of your images. If you’re a writer and photographer, this is the analytic tool you’ll likely need.
Social media needn’t force you to spend hours at your computer everyday, sucking the hours out of your day when you have other pressing needs, responsibilities and desires to write. By spending fifteen minutes every morning curating and scheduling and fifteen minutes every evening socializing online, you will benefit from the power of social media in today’s world and find readers who will be happy to find you and read your books.
Frances Caballo is a social media strategist, trainer and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books. This post is an excerpt from her new book Social Media Time Suck: A blueprint for writers who want to create online buzz for their books and still have time to write, which will be available in January 2014.
Photo by indraw