For our first Guest Blog, I’d like to feature the very talented Emma Lombard. Emma is a historical fiction author living in Australia. She was born in England but grew up in Africa before settling in Australia 20 years ago. Before becoming a fulltime writer, Emma was an editor in various industries in the corporate world including aviation, aquatic ecology, education and the world of academia. Her first novel, Discerning Grace, is in the querying trenches at the moment. Emma is an active member of Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, focusing on welcoming new writers to the platform and helping them find their voices.
Turning Social Media Followers into a Reader Fan Base
by Emma Lombard
I’ll preface this article by saying that there are plenty of publishing and marketing gurus out there who have written expert articles on this matter. I am in the pre-published phase of my novel-writing career but I’ve been following the advice of some greats out there and I’m reaping the rewards of a growing author platform. This blog is my personal journey about what I’ve found has worked and not worked for me to turn my followers into fans.
What is an Author Platform?
Publishing expert, Jane Friedman, describes this as an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach in her blog: A Definition of Author Platform. Also check out this YouTube video: Jane Friedman Interview: The Business of Being a Writer with editor and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel.
I wrote a blog earlier this year about how I was going about building my own author platform. In addition to the strategies I mention in my blog, I now am also on Facebook and I have a monthly newsletter. This has been a slow learning curve for me so that I can test out what works and what doesn’t work—or more importantly, what I’m able to pluck up the courage to try as my confidence grows!
My Ventures into Facebook Land
I branched out to having an author Facebook page to reach a whole different audience than my followers on Twitter. Twitter for me encapsulates connecting with other writers and publishing professionals in the #WritingCommunity. My Facebook page is for my readers.
My top 2 Facebook successes so far:
- Using my super Twitter following to kick-start my Facebook numbers. Like any social media platform, you need numbers and interaction for the algorithms to start spotting you and pushing you out there. Letting folks on Twitter know that I was launching a Facebook author page for readers connected me to 600 followers in my first couple of months. Yes, many of those folks are also authors, but we authors are readers too!
- Taking the terrifying leap of letting my Facebook friends (most of whom are part of my everyday community) know that I was creating an author Facebook page and inviting them to join. I had been keeping my writing journey under wraps until that point. While this news surprised many, I also received floods of encouragement, which is always a great boost.
My one Facebook flop so far:
I had researched about how successful Facebook advertising is so I decided to run an Amazon gift card giveaway and pay for an advertising boost on my post. Well my numbers certainly exploded—I got 250 new followers in 10 days! However, when I dug deeper into people’s profiles I realised that there is a whole community of folks out there who have social media accounts solely for entering giveaways and competitions—who knew? This means that there is no engagement on their posts and the only reason they connect with you is to win your prize.
I have no issue with folks doing this but it taught me that this was not the best approach to gain genuine followers who are readers. Though on the up side, of those 250 followers, about 100 are real people who do engage! At an investment of AUD180, this equated to a cost of $1.80 per new follower. Not too much of a financial risk for a good lesson learned!
This has not put me off paying for Facebook advertising but it has taught me about what content I should not boost. I believe this will be great for when I actually have a book to promote and sell.
I really pushed back on producing a newsletter at first. I did not want the extra time or commitment. But I did have a mailing list pop-up window on my website that gathered the email details of half a dozen kind souls who expressed interest in wanting to know more about my upcoming book. If you want to know whether you should bother with a mailing list, check out literary agent, Janet Reid’s blog, Yes, you need a mailing list, even if you’re not pubbed.
This is where the rubber actually meets the road for turning your social media followers into fans. Anyone can click a follow button on social media but folks need to genuinely connect with you and trust you to hand over their email details.
As I write, today is actually the launch of my inaugural monthly newsletter, By the Book. It has been a super exciting couple of weeks preparing my first newsletter and promoting it on Twitter and Facebook.
That natural scepticism, which has plagued me before any new leap in my authoring journey, is always there and I did not expect more than a handful of subscribers in my first month. Needless to say, I am THRILLED to have over 50 subscribers already! That’s more than 50 folks who WANT to hear from me! Pinch me now! To be honest, I’m the one who has done the happy dance a couple of times when folks who I’m particularly fond of on social media have signed up to By the Book—it’s quite a humbling experience.
These may seem like laughable numbers right now but when I relaunched my Twitter account as my author profile less than a year ago, I had 36 followers. I now have nearly 20k. I know from experience that consistent effort, helpfulness and kindness attracts folks like bees to a field full of flowers!
I subscribe to Wix as my website platform and they have a great inbuilt system for email marketing that takes you through it step-by-step. Claire Bradshaw’s Ultimate Guide: Establishing an Author Newsletter shows all the first steps you need to take to launch your first newsletter.
Author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel, also shares these 20 Email Tips & Tricks for Author Newsletters.
Just be mindful if you’re going down the traditional publishing route to take care not to ‘publish’ any of your upcoming book on any platforms just yet—even enticing snippets.
Evolve from Building a Platform to Building a Community
It’s great to have all your platforms set up and your follower numbers growing but if you don’t keep yourself visible and engaged with folks, none of this will matter. You want to build a loyal fan base and turn it into a super fan community as shown in Laurence Court’s guide.
Turning Followers into Fans
With the world being so closely interconnected through social media, I have realised over the past few months as I’ve grown my author platform that fans come in different forms.
- I have folks who follow me because I welcomed them warmly on their first day on Twitter (a totally terrifying experience for me, which is why I do this).
- I have folks, some who are writers and some who are not, who have said that my Twitter Tips for Newbies were invaluable for helping them learn the platform-in-easy to understand steps and they stick around for other tips and helpful hints.
- I have folks who are historical writers and readers who are dead keen to read my book after I pitched my book on Twitter’s #PitMad and shared my character illustrations. They’ve read my blurb on my author website and have contacted me already to say they’re excited follow my journey. To be seen, you need to put yourself out there. GULP!
- I have folks who found me on Twitter but who much prefer Facebook and prefer to interact with me over there showing me that having a variety of platforms is definitely worth it.
- I have folks who have willingly taken that next step by entrusting me with their email for my newsletter.
The key factor in all these instances has always been kindness and connection. I personally stay away from any hot topic buttons. My goal isn’t to be at loggerheads with folks. I want to connect with and uplift and support others. This strategy has successfully grown my social media follows, multiplied my blog viewers, increased the number of requests for me to do author interviews and guest blogs, and most recently attracted folks to subscribe to my newsletter.
To me this is not hard work. Yes, it takes time, commitment and consistency, but I enjoy connecting with folks and I believe they sense my genuine enjoyment, which is hopefully some of the appeal of following me and subscribing to my services—and ultimately reading my book when it’s published.
My Techno-dinosaur Blunder
If it sounds like I’ve got it all together and I know what I’m doing, let me just share one final little story that will show you I’m still just stumbling along this road.
I set up my website six months ago. It was an exciting though rather overwhelming process! But I eventually hit the PUBLISH button and things have ticked along quite nicely ever since. Then only a couple of weeks ago, a pop-up on my Wix dashboard informed me that I had not completed the SEO for my website. Now, I’d seen this little message before and not understanding the first thing about the technicalities of it, clicked it closed. I knew my website was live. I was happy my blog was being read. So, all was good—right? Wrong!
I’m not even going to begin to try and explain the technicalities of Search Engine Optimisation—have a read for yourself. But the short of it is that I had not completed my website set-up and pressed the ON button that let my website be searchable by Google! Doh!
So, all those months I had my website and blog, I could have had hundreds if not thousands more hits to my website rather than me just plugging it away on my social media sites.
When my four teenage sons found out what I’d done, they almost laughed me out of my own house for being such a techno-dinosaur!
Needless to say, my author website is now fully optimised and searchable, so pop on over and say, “Hi!”