Mari Smith on How Writers Can Use Social Networking Effectively

Many aspiring and published authors balk at the idea of getting involved in social networks. My clients continually tell me they don’t want to have to “sell” themselves and their writing via social media nor do they want to “waste” their precious writing time on this endeavor. So, when I found myself at BlogWorld and New Media Expo 2011 in Los Angeles, CA, this past November with Mari Smith, THE Facebook and relationship marketing expert, I asked her to sit down with me for an interview. She happily agreed. (You know how I got her attention? With a comment on her Facebook page…)

Mari is a passionate social media leader who specializes in relationship marketing and Facebook mastery. The author of The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web,  and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, Dun and Bradstreet named her one of the Top Ten Most Influential Small Business People on Twitter. With her popular blog at MariSmith.com and her large, loyal following on Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+, Mari is considered one of the top resources and thought leaders in the world of new media marketing.

Mari and I discussed her thoughts on the fears authors have about getting involved in social networking and how to use social networks effectively. She offered a variety of tips and tools. Additionally, we discussed relationship marketing and its use for authors; you can read that in my next post. You’ll find our conversation below.

A lot of the aspiring and publishing authors I speak with don’t want to get involved in social networking or social media. They are afraid it will take up too much of their time and call it a “time sink.” They just want to write. They also may think it’s not in line with their overall writing and publishing goals—or maybe even with their personal goals. With that in mind, what would you tell them?

I really see social networking as the total opposite. We have the unprecedented opportunity now for anyone on the planet with internet access, the biggest percentage of whom use a mobile device versus a computer in some parts of the world, to access Twitter, Facebook, Google+, et cetera, and to create one or more social profiles and carve out a piece of real estate in the world. You can carve out your platform and bring your message out to the world—whatever you want that message to be.

As regards to the fear piece, my book [The New Relationship Marketing] is divided into two sections. In Part One: Relationship Marketing Basics, the very first chapter is “How To Get Started In Relationship Marketing and Overcome Your (Perfectly Normal) Fears.” Among the fears that I list are fear of this taking up too much time and fear of exposure. Although the time issue is a big one, privacy is huge for people.

In online social networks there’s this big myth that we have to live in a glass house and share every nuance of our life. Especially now with Facebook’s timeline, it’s absolutely amazing to me how much the new design makes it feels compelling to the average user  to go back in time and click the little timeline. They have all these lists of life events that you can add from your first word to your first kiss to your first roommate. Got a license, got a degree, et cetera, from birth on up. The fear of exposure is actually increasing because there’s more and more and more pressure to share everything about our personal lives. I address that right up front in the book. If you’re not comfortable with anything being online or in public, you’re in control. You don’t have to get mad at Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg.

I’m not going to share anything even under tight, locked-down privacy settings. Even if I wanted to have my timeline as my own personal record of everything I’ve ever done on this planet, I don’t want it then sold to advertisers. I’ll keep it on my own computer or something. As for the fear of exposure, I just think caveat emptor. You’re in control.

As for the fear of the time sink, a lot of people have that. They think social media is  going to take up a huge amount of time. “What if I were to get thousands of followers, thousands of fans,” they say, “and then I have to manage all these people that want to talk to me.” Guy Kawasaki wrote the foreword for my book, and he does an amazing amount of social networking. The size of his platform is huge. He manages to be very engaging, and he responds to as many comments as he can. I do the same. There’s not enough hours in the day to personally get back to everyone, but when you’re seen to at least do your best on a regular basis to respond to as many people as you can in any given day, that’s enough.

How do you manage to do that—get back to so many people each day?

I use my mobile device—my iPhone. I suggest that during your day while waiting for appointments, when you have a minute here, a minute there, you respond to comments, and by the end of the day, you might’ve replied to sixty people, or sent or re-tweeted  a tweet here or favorited there, with all your systems.

One of the antidotes to the fears actually is to have systems in place to bring that peace of mind. I’ve got my sources for where I’m going to get my content—Google+ circles, let’s say. Different sources to gather up the content. You may be using Hootsuite to schedule your updates. And you’re using your mobile device periodically—minutes here and there throughout the day to do your engaging. As you do grow in scale, you can always bring in other people to help. For me, personally, I never use anyone to speak as me; I just do not delegate my voice ever. If you see something written in first person, it was me that wrote it. Nonetheless, you can bring other people in to a fan page, for example, to speak as themselves.

I have what I call superfans, and they’re the ones that just love me. They’re on my fan page several times a day, and I incentivized them to help themselves and respond to any questions other people ask. That’s another way to get help.

If you’re using Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and Google+, what’s the best thing to help organize all the social networks and use them effectively? What do you suggest using, or what do you use?

I have never been a fan of TweetDeck, and for some reason, I don’t know if you can change the color scheme, but I don’t like black in terms of looking at a screen. I like it to be light and white. Also, I don’t like to look at lots of columns. I like to keep things just to one column.

In terms of managing the different accounts, I use Hootsuite. The number one reason I use Hootsuite is to pre-schedule on Twitter. I do my best not to schedule through Facebook because you actually get less visibility in the News Feed by using any third party app. You’re going to get more visibility and more “likes” and comments and shares if you post manually. I appreciate that that’s not always practical. You might pre-schedule one in the morning, and then later in the day put another post up manually. You don’t need a lot of posts on Facebook; two to three a day is plenty.

Also, it’s important to have an editorial calendar or a content calendar, which you can easily do in an Excel spreadsheet. Plan out what you’re going to say when on your fan page. Then track the results. A lot of people forget to track and look at their insights and their metrics, and see, “Oh wow, my fans are responding the best at 8:30 in the morning to posts with an image and only 250 characters versus 500 characters.” That’s going to be your own personal sweet spot. There are a lot of different studies out there that say, “Okay, you should be tweeting this many times a day, or this is the best time and day to post on Facebook, and you want this many posts,” but that’s going to vary from business to business, industry to industry, page to page.

What other tips can you give writers so  their social media time doesn’t end up becoming a time sink?

This really depends on, first of all, their objectives.  I would get really clear on what your objective are. Is it to be really deliberate about building relationships with, let’s say, key influencers, media contacts, peers? Is it to establish yourself as the authority on a subject? Is it to grow a large following so you can get a publishing contract? Whatever your objective is, that’s where you would want to dedicate your time.

The social networks work when you share a good cross-section of quality content—a mixture of your own and other people’s. I call it OPC for short (Other People’s Content). On social networks you absolutely want to do roughly fifty-fifty, but you could do more. I probably do maybe thirty-seventy. I’m always re-tweeting other people and sharing other people’s links, but I have an opinion on it.  I’ll add a comment, and I’ll elaborate on whatever I share, which is important, too.

The second part is connecting and engaging. You don’t ever want to use the social media platform as one-way broadcast channels. You’ll just come off like a news site. The time management is going to be that fine balance between sharing quality pieces of content and stepping in periodically throughout the day and the week to respond to comments.

The other piece really is deliberately, proactively finding new people to follow. You also need to get the word out, so you’re not just doing the content and the connection and hoping the growth will happen by itself. You have to be proactively getting the word out and following new peeps.

When it comes to Facebook or to Twitter, would you share your most effective strategies?

For Facebook, less is more; you don’t have to be really prolific with sharing lots and lots of content, but make sure you are consistent. Let’s just say you pick eight in the morning and one in the afternoon, and that’s twice a day you’re going to share content on Facebook. Then make time to go back and respond to comments.

Not everybody necessarily has a fan page. I’m going to tell you something really exciting that happened recently; Facebook made a change where they allowed the personal profile to have a subscribe button. It’s like the Twitter “follow” button; it does the same thing. You have to enable it. Here’s the link for that: facebook.com/about/subscribe. All that does is it allows anybody on Facebook to receive your public updates in their new feed. In other words, it’s a place for you to create more visibility. Why would you do that? I’m a writer and an author, but I’m also a marketer. I look at these online social networks not as a place necessarily to create warm, fuzzy feelings with my close, personal friends and family—if I want to do that I can pick the phone up or meet them in person or e-mail them. So, I turned my subscribe button on, and within three weeks I had 30,000 subscribers. It is the fastest growing social channel I have ever seen. That would be a hot tip. If someone doesn’t necessarily have the desire or inclination to set up a fan page and have a whole other place to manage, just turn on your subscribe button, lock down your privacy settings, make sure you’re comfortable with who can see what’s on your profile, and your pictures, and things like that. Then you can choose every time you make a post on your profile whether this is going to public, this is just going to friends, this is going to family. I call it the “Audience Selector.” Post by post, you literally can have this diverse and varied experience for you and for your whole community all under one nice, neat profile, which is soon going to be the timeline. I would imagine a lot of people that don’t have a fan page feeling like, “Oh God, I can barely keep up with my profile. I don’t want a fan page.” That’s fine. Just turn your subscribe button on.

For Twitter, my favorite site is Twellow. It’s like the yellow pages for Twitter, and they’ve approximately forty million accounts they’ve indexed. First, go set up an account; it’s totally free. Log in through Twitter credentials, and put your standard bio in there. Then anyone searching for you and your topics will find you because of the bio info. That’s also where you’re going to look to find new people to follow. Think of any keywords that might be in the bio of your prospective follower. Who would make an ideal follower? The vast majority of people you follow will follow you back, so it’s a really cool tool, I’ve been using it for a long time.

Take a look at Mari’s new book, The New Relationship Marketing. It offers great advice you can adapt with a focus toward building an author’s platform. In it she tell you how to overcome your normal fears of relationship marketing, why everyone needs the new business skills required of social networkers and how to stay connected while not giving up all your precious writing time. Plus, she outlines nine steps for putting relationship marketing to use, all of which will help you build an author’s platform. In other words, using the advice in Mari’s book will help you create a readership—buyers—for your book as well as a find a publisher.

I know I’ll be putting some of Mari’s tips to use so my social networking efforts become less time consuming and more effective. Do you have tips you use? If so, leave a comment. I’d love to hear about them and I’m sure Mari would, too. And stop by on Wednesday for part 2 of my interview with Mari.

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