Facebook Timeline Mashup

Timeline got you down? Don’t have time to learn all the new tips and tricks? I can’t beam the info into your brain, but since I appreciate you all so much I’m sharing my research. I’m sure there a few more articles published in the last couple of days, but this is a good start regarding Facebook’s Timeline for pages.

Don’t let Facebook Timeline leave you bloodied and defeated – rise up!

Timeline Brand Guide from Mashable – Quick overview. Did you know you can only fill out your page’s milestones until 1800?

Have a social media plan for Facebook. Excellent idea, Mashable. Great resource.

Hats off to Mashable, they were all over this! Read why you need to pay attention to the newsfeed!!

If you don’t know what Edgerank is – read this. Learn about Edgerank – it’s important! This wasn’t changed by Timeline – but it’s a foundational kind of building block you should know about Facebook.

Mashable again – I’m beginning to think I should be getting paid for this (I’m so NOT getting paid to do this – I wish) Learn about Timeline’s real-time analytics. Yes, your Facebook page has built-in analytics that give you fan demographics, interaction graphs, etc. Important tool. (Only the analytics still haven’t hit the real-time part they promised…but that’s another post.)

Here we go – Hubspot jumps into the ring with this fabulous post about getting started on Timeline. Lots of great practical tips here – if you only read one of these – make it this one.

Techcrunch weighs in on the death of the custom landing tab. This may be for more advance Facebook page users – good stuff though. Jump in.

Another great post about how the newsfeed works from Techcrunch. Did you know on average you’re only reaching 16% of your page’s fans? That’s not great. Read this to find out how to do better at reaching more of your fans – and their friends.

A great post from Author Media about 10 ways to increase the number of Facebook Fans you have – the right way (which is not the quick and easy way – be warned). This is a less technical look at the topic from the article linked directly above.

Author Media rounds out this mashup with a great post on what these changes mean to authors, and how authors can best make use of them.

So what? I can read all these posts – doesn’t help me. I want to see this in action. I thought you might say that. There are a number of authors using Facebook to reach large audiences, and have active Facebook communities. I’ve listed a few here. Lurk their page (you don’t have to like what they write) and see how they’re connecting with fans. I’ve tried to have a number of different genres reflected in the list.

Paulo Coelho – 7.7m fans

Neil Gaiman – 477k fans

Frank Delaney 1,187 fans

Karin Slaughter 27k fans

Ted Dekker 157k fans

Laurell K Hamilton 238k fans

Kelley Armstrong 15k fans

Finally…

A behind the scenes interview with author and Snowflake method creator Randy Ingermanson about his new book Oxygen

The Most Underestimated Key to Success from The Matrix – “There Is No Spoon”

Ever wished for a do-over? What moments in life would you really want to live again?

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Have a question about Timeline? Leave it in the comments, or start a discussion on our Facebook page. Still  hating Timeline – tell us why. 🙂

Lisa

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6 Reasons Authors Should Love Timeline

I’ll admit, Facebook’s changes are hard to keep up with, but I’m excited about Timeline and have 6 reasons why authors should be happy about some of the new changes.

We have a BIG announcement to make regarding GWP. It’s at the bottom – make sure you read (or skip) to the bottom to get all the details.

I spent the weekend tweaking 3 of the Facebook pages I’m responsible for, and there are some cool new features writers and authors should be embracing not cursing. Yes, it’s an investment of time, but an overhaul this big is only going to happen…once a year? lol Not my point – this change is worth the effort.

Plus – here’s the kicker. Reportedly, Timeline will be offloaded on your page whether you want it or not March 30 so you’re better to learn about the changes and take advantage of them.

A screenshot of a few of the new Timeline features

1. When creating a new Facebook page, you no longer have to bow down to the 25. Previously, I had to beg family and friends to please Like this new page for me so I could hit that magic 25 fans number to get a custom url. Don’t have to anymore. You can get a custom url with only one follower – you! Yay!! (Don’t know if this is due to Timeline or not – but still awesome)

2. The custom landing tabs game has changed. Previously, you could go to a site like Wildfire, Lujure, Tabsite or others, and drag and drop a free or paid upgrade custom landing page – you know, that page you first land on before you like a page that says “Like” with a giant arrow or offers a free download of a song or ebook for ‘Liking’ our page. Gone! Sort of.

Timeline makes the wall the default landing page. Boo. That’s disappointing because landing tabs were said to exponentially increase the number of likes on a page. Tabs are still there, but you can’t make anyone look at them anymore. We changed our custom welcome tab into a Meet Marcy and Lisa tab that’s more of a visual bio page. Experiment to see what works for you. Timeline now allows you to change the thumbnail for the landing page – so those of you with Mailchimp subscription forms no longer have to stare at the chimp (eep eep – I don’t want your monkey face on my Facebook page!).

The new design makes your photos and fan counter the top two tabs by default – you can’t change those. There is room for 2 more on that first line. Users now have an extra click to access any additional tabs so think through which ones you want front and center.

3. Facebook is apparently the largest photo sharing site on the web. Everyone posts photos of all sorts on Facebook. Timeline taps into all that photo sharing goodness by making everything more visual.

Utilize this visual nature. People love to share photos and funny pics. If you want to post a quote – make a quick jpeg of it with a non-copyrighted photo (there’s a variety of programs that will let you do this – you don’t need expensive Photoshop software – Paint, Powerpoint, etc.). Consider telling your author story in pictures. Post a photo often because a huge majority of fans never visit your page – they interact with your posts as they appear on their newsfeeds. Make use of the extra real-estate photos are given to get noticed.

4. The cover photo. There are rules for cover photos for pages – learn them. I don’t always understand Facebook’s rules, but if you want a turn on their playground you have to play their way.

Cover photos may NOT include:

  • Price or purchase info (no discount offers or buy this here or there stuff)
  • No contact info like websites, email addy, mailing info, etc. Put it in your About section
  • No ‘Like’, ‘Share’, ‘Get It Now’, or ‘Tell Your Friends’ call to action stuff – OR an arrow pointing to any of those features.
  • Cover photos can’t be false, misleading, or infringe on 3rd party rights (duh)

The best cover photos employ powerful images that pull people in. Use a portion of your book cover, a shot of you at a book signing or speaking, a promotional photo. But follow the rules.

5. Milestones. Timeline is a lurker’s dream – indulge your fans and give them some fun milestones to nose through using compelling or interesting photos. On your personal profile this is called a life event. This isn’t required, but seems to me like a valuable tool. Some companies have documented their entire history – like Manchester United. I found out Coca Cola first became known as Coke in 1941. It was fun browsing the classic Coke ads, and learning a bit about the company history.

I’m pretty annoyed that you have to publish your Timeline before it lets you add your Milestones – but there it is. Tell your fans about your publishing or writing journey in a visual way with photos.

Customized content from personal profile now appears on pages you visit

6. I didn’t post that on my page! Moment of panic – where did that post in the right-hand column come from? Well, Facebook put it there. Timeline will now pull statuses you or your friends have posted about whatever page you’re visiting and place it on pages so it appears like a built-in recommendation. At a glance, you can see how you or your friends have interacted or commented about this page. Cool – right? I think this is great.

7. This is a bonus afterthought. Timeline for pages allows fans to message you, like a friend would message you on your personal profile. The default setting for this is ON. It’s a simple box to uncheck in the admin panel (now found above the cover photo), but think through whether you want fans to be able to send you personal messages on Facebook or not. For companies, this could be a great way to deal with customer complaints or other issues they don’t want to plaster on the wall – but authors generally don’t have an HR department so I’m on the fence about the functionality of this feature for writers right now.

What do you think about Timeline? Do you think any of these features will be helpful on your author page? What other features are you excited about?

Lisa

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Marcy and Lisa

Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with Debora Geary

Marcy and Lisa are hosting a self-publishing week with 4 fabulous guest posters each with their own unique journey of success in self-publishing to share. Come back every day this week for a new story of how a writer found success through self-pubbing.

Debora Geary writes paranormal fiction and has her books available online well… everywhere. I as told that if I only interviewed one self-pubbed author, Deborah had to be the one. Enjoy!

debora gearyWhat’s involved in being a successful self-published author? What advice would you give new writers thinking self-publishing may be the way to go?

Those are the questions Lisa put to me when she asked me to do this guest blog post.  To those, I’ll add one more:  why the heck should you listen to me?

Let me start with that last one.  I’m a very new author – this time last year, I had yet to write a page of fiction. Ever. I was a reader – and much of my perspective on being an author comes from that lifelong reader hat.

I’ve had some success. My first novel, A Modern Witch, published mid-March of this year, has sold over 15,000 copies so far. Selling at $3.99, it’s provided enough income to quit the day job. I have two more novels out now, with more on the way.  I may have come to writing late, but I fully expect this to be the work of the rest of my life.

So of my short and non-typical journey, what advice do I have to give?

1)     Figure out your strengths. 

As a writer, as a marketer, as a businessperson. Use them. They might be very different than the person currently giving you advice.

My day job was data analysis. I’m an analytics geek. I’ve spent a lot of time watching what happens on Amazon in particular, and learned as much as I can about the algorithms driving sales on their site. It’s been a huge benefit – more on that below.

You might not be a data geek. What are your strengths?

2)     Find your readers.

I had no audience when I started. I read a lot of ideas about marketing and advertising, and a lot of conventional wisdom that says you have to get your book cover in front of readers a lot. Be out there.  Learn to love social media.

My data analyst background (and my inner terror of social media) said “hooey”. I could spend $100 on an ad to get 1,000 eyeballs on my cover. Or, I could gift 80 copies of my $3.99 book through Amazon, to people who expressed an interest in reading my book. (You only end up out of pocket for 30% of that – 70% of that comes back in royalties). 1,000 sets of eyeballs, or 80 readers? I vote for readers, every time. And the goal is to turn as many of those 80 readers as possible into fans. See #3.

3)    Keep your readers.

I reach the end of countless books (indie and trad-published) where there’s nothing. No way to contact the author. No email address, no website. No links to other books.

If your book has done its job, lots of readers will want to find you. They want to know what else you wrote. And that’s the start of converting a reader to a fan – one of those amazing people who wait for the next book you’re writing, tell people all about it, vault you into visibility on Amazon the instant you hit publish.

You want them to be able to find you – and you want to be able to reach out to them. Remember #1 – figure out your strengths.  I’m no blogger, and I dropped out of Twitter. But I have a new releases email list, and a Facebook hangout where I chat about really important stuff like how many times you can throw a brownie before it crumbles. (Book research.  Really).

So figure out where you want to hang out with your readers. Build those relationships. Why? A) You’ll never have to “market” again. B) It’s awesome fun. Readers rock. Knowing your readers rocks even more.

4)   Love the Amazon algorithms.

Okay, I know I’m a geek. Not everyone will be as fond of watching what goes on at Amazon as I am. But here’s what I’ve learned. You need to launch quickly – Amazon gives you 30 days on something called the “hot new releases” list in your genre. It’s a lot easier to get onto than the bestseller list, and in most genres, it gives you nice visibility – avid readers like the hot new releases list. They troll it for new books.

How do you launch quickly? It’s hard with book one. But if you find your readers and keep them, it will happen with book two, or three, or four.

And once you get visible at Amazon, magic happens. Books start to sell to readers you didn’t find. Amazon puts your cover in front of readers who like books like yours. Be smart, collect as many of those readers as you can as they finish reading (see #3), and soon you will have a real audience – one you didn’t have to work grinding hours to find.

Second thing I’ve learned – you need to launch often. Amazon has made changes in the last six months to make books less sticky. They appear to want turnover in the bestselling books, maybe to increase variety offered up to readers. Whatever the reason, new books get a lot of advantages. And readers like lots of new books 🙂

5)     Start with a “core” offering. 

Quick – in five words or less, what kind of books do you write?

Me? Happy books about witches.

Why does that matter? Because as you build your audience, you want as many of them as possible to traverse from the first book you publish, to the second. And the third. And the fifteenth.

I see some authors with three books in three totally different genres. It’s easy to do – I have so many ideas for books. Ask me whether my little chick-lit, non-witch novella is my bestseller… I wrote it right after A Modern Witch. I didn’t know yet that I was the author that writes “happy books about witches.”

Is that all I’ll ever write? Heck, no. But I intend to focus on my witches for at least a couple of years. I want to collect an awesome group of loyal readers, some of whom will try out my sci fi trilogy, or my artsy chick lit book, or… You know. The stuff without witches. The stuff I can write once I’ve got myself firmly established as a writer.

You can build an audience lots of ways, but I think the most efficient way is to write a “core” of books first. A trilogy or series – something for readers to fall in love with. Something where you can discover the awesome power of releasing book two or three, and seeing your book fly off the virtual shelf simply because you put it up there.

6)   Brand the hell out of your core offering. 

A modern witchCheck out my A Modern Witch series covers (www.deborageary.com). Individually, they’re not the kind of covers you want to touch and hold and sleep with under your pillow.  (Alas.)  But they’ve got awesome drive-by recognition.  The cover for A Hidden Witch, book two in the series, does a great job of catching people’s attention as they browse Amazon.

A hidden witchBecause here’s the deal. 0.5% (totally making these numbers up, but you get my drift) of your readers will become true fans. 5% will volunteer to be on an email list or give you some other way to reach out to them. That leaves 94.5% of the people who read your first book out there, with no idea you wrote book two.

Some of those people are lost forever. Some didn’t like book one. But the rest? You want them to notice you. How? Use the reader base you can reach (mine’s my email list) to get visible in the Amazon algorithms. Then offer a book highly related to your first, with a well-branded cover (the visual equivalent of “yo – I wrote another one!”).

7)  Filter advice carefully.

There’s lots of advice on self publishing. Some of it’s awful. (Okay, a lot of it’s awful). Some of it’s good – for last year. Some of it’s good – for a different kind of book. Some of it’s good – for a different kind of author.

Be smart. If something I’ve said above makes sense, think about it, and try to make it your own. If it doesn’t – go find someone else to listen to. Nobody else can lay it out for you. They can only offer hints.

Or an obnoxiously long list of opinions 🙂

Thanks Debora, great advice. You can find A Modern Witch (A Modern Witch Series: Book 1) on Amazon, or a variety of other outlets through Debora’s website. Are you thinking of self-publishing? What’s stopping you? Have a question for Debora – post it below. We’re hoping she’ll drop by at least once and respond.

Keep writing!

Lisa

Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here:

Day 1 – Debora Geary paranormal author
Day 2 – LT Kodzo – YA author – Christian market
Day 3 – KC May – sci-fi/fantasy author
Day 4 – Jenny Lee Sulpizio – children’s author – Christian market

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Writers: Are you building platform or chaos?

How much social media is enough? Can we do too much? What’s the magic number of platforms to manage to successfully build an audience for your writing? And how do you still find time to write? The honest truth is that some days, between social media and my work, I don’t find time to write my fiction. I have to schedule time for my fiction just like all my other writing.

I’m on the following social media platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • WordPress
  • 2 different Yahoo forums
  • I also have accounts on photobucket, flickr, and a couple others I’ve forgotten about.

Anyone else on Goodreads? That one just looks like fun… And Smashwords…

Then there’s the blogs I follow and try to comment on regularly.

woman balancing on one legThe Balancing Act

Facebook is where my family and close friends are, so I’m there anyway. Marcy and I have also been networking there. I quit Twitter – twice. It was too chaotic for me. LinkedIn has it’s purposes but that’s not where my audience is so it’s not a priority. I’ve had three invites to BranchOut on Facebook now, but reconnecting with people I’m already connected with seems redundant. I’m resisting…

How many is enough? How many is too much? The obvious answer is to do one really well. For Marcy and I, our primary priority has been this blog, Twitter for her, Facebook for me, and we both dabble with G+. We just don’t have time to be active on any more than that.

Monitoring vs. Being Active

First, for me there’s a difference between monitoring my presence on a social media platform and being active on a social media platform. I use Google Alerts, email notifications, Google Reader, and iGoogle to keep track of everything. I have a sorting system on my email so notifications land in the appropriate folder instead of my general inbox where I field work emails all day (less distracting that way).

The Balancing Act

I’m not a morning person, so I use social media to slowly wake up. I spend about an hour and sift through my personal Facebook notifications and post there. Then I check here at GWP. Then I’m on to gmail where I check my email and G+. Then I switch to Google Reader and see who’s posted that day. I glance through the blurbs for the two or three most interesting posts, and pick one to read. I’ll also trawl G+ for good posts to share. I post on the GWP Facebook Page and maybe G+.

As I eat breakfast, I prioritize my day, and get down to doing some paid work. I do the social media rounds again at noon, and typically spend my lunch hour reading the other blogs that interest me that day and leave comments here and there. I try to leave a comment on at least one blog every day (and not the same blog as the day before). At the end of my work day, I make the rounds again – if I’ve participated in a particularly lively discussion I may check back there and see how that’s shaping up. Usually I check again before bed.

Throughout the rest of the day I have my iGoogle page set up so at a click I can see if something’s come up that needs my immediate attention, but otherwise I stick to my designated 15 minutes stints. It can become a real time-suck if I’m not careful so I discipline myself to that one hour in the morning, my lunch hour (which ends up getting lost during school vacations because I’m also mom and have to make lunches, etc) and no more than 15 minutes each time I check later in the day.

Building a platform through social media is hard work and it takes time. This is not something you can automate on Hootsuite, networked blogs, friendfeed, or any other tool and expect to grow an interactive community. You have to be there, be present, be authentic – often. And it takes time. Unless you’re already a known author, your Facebook or blog community won’t spring up instantly after one month or a few blog posts. You have to build up trust and credibility. Pick one or two platforms that you really enjoy and do them well.

Marcy – now she’s a different kettle of fish. She’s a morning person, so she’s most active first thing in the day. First, she’s on TweetDeck and plans all her tweets for the day. She’s already written her posts for GWP about a month in advance, but when it’s her week to post she regularly monitors the blog comments and responds. If she’s going to respond to a blog, it’s usually first thing in the morning too. But for the rest of her day, she uses social media like a reward system – finish this assignment – check TweetDeck and respond there. Finish another assignment and check GWP. (I know she watches her email almost constantly).

How many social networks are you on? If the point of doing all the social media is to create or build a platform – what’s the point if you don’t have time to write? How do you manage to balance your time there so you can get other things accomplished?

Lisa

Promotion Tips for Co-Writers

Cowriting can be a great boon to your career – think Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins – or the anchor that beaches your writing career. Marcy and Lisa have been writing together for almost 3 years. We started out as good friends with similar interests before launching into freelancing together, and we work well together – but we thought we’d share a few promotion tips for cowriters.

women holding sign 'mutual benefit'The Key To Success

If you write together long enough, one challenge you’ll encounter is how to juggle joint and individual networking and promotion. The lynchpin for us has been mutual benefit. Any of our joint platforms also promote our individual freelance work and vice versa. We’ve reaped many benefits from this, including saving time.

Visibility

If you want a career as a professional writer, you need a web presence through a website, a blog, and social networking sites. As part of maintaining our independent careers, we both have our own websites. This allows us to display our individual work in our portfolio sections (though we also both display co-written articles there as well). It also allows us to have something to show to clients who will only be working with one of us, and to highlight our unique areas of expertise.

To save time and to promote our partnership, we share this blog. Marcy made Lisa sit down and make a plan for the blog, and to humor Lisa, Marcy lets Lisa decide spur of the moment when it’s her week what to post about inside stated guidelines. If Marcy is out of town, Lisa covers, and vice versa. By splitting the work, we’re able to do three posts a week, something neither of us had time to do on our own.

Regardless of who posts, we both promote the latest blog post on networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and G+, doubling the exposure that we’d otherwise have individually. Even if you don’t plan to write together regularly, if you know a writer who you trust and who has a similar vision to yours, sharing a blog can be a huge time saver as long as each participant has high visibility.

Conferences

Another area where our divide-and-conquer strategy has served us well is at writer’s conferences. We bring our own business cards, one-sheets, and presentation binders, but our presentation binders often contain pieces we’ve co-written. We attend different sessions and exchange notes afterward. This broadens our investment at each conference and our network of contacts.

On occasion we’ve gotten a reputation for being inseparable. (David Koop from Multnomah, who we met at Mt. Hermon, will probably always remember us as the quirky Canadian girls who finished each other’s sentences.) The lines can be fuzzy, and you need to be prepared for some people to remember you only for your co-written work and to not want to work with you independently.

This doesn’t bother us, but if sharing the limelight bothers you, you might want to hold off on entering a co-writing relationship.

It’s not all about you

The most important thing to remember when you’re networking and promoting together is that you’re going to be more successful if you support and build up the other person. When we hear about a good opportunity, whether it be an editor looking for new writers, a job, or an idea that we’re not going to pursue but that the other might enjoy, we pass it along.

We’ve even entered the same contests and critiqued each other’s work – never had a problem because we’re friends underneath everything else, and want the other one to see her dreams come true whether we ever see our own happen.

When it comes to managing the distance, as well as networking and promotion, flexibility is the key. Be willing to bend a little, be patient with the other person, and if they’re doing the same for you, you might just form a partnership (and a friendship) that lasts a lifetime.

So – your turn. How do you juggle your writing, your family, and other outside commitments?

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

How to Get Started on Google+ As A Writer

writers on G+Last week Lisa talked about why writers should be on Google+, and yesterday I covered how to get the most from Google+, but there’s still one important thing we haven’t talked about. How do you make sure that other writers, and eventually your fans, will be able to find you?

Make the Most of Your Profile

You need to fill your profile out immediately. As in, if it’s not filled out, open it in another tab right now and go through it with me.

Picture — Use the same picture that you use across the rest of your social media networks. This should be a professional-looking headshot of you. Not a graphic. Not a goofy cartoon. You. People who search for you need to know from looking at it that they’ve found the right person. Don’t allow Google+ to pull in the picture from your GMail profile. It will come out grainy.

Links — Although Google+ intends to be the one social media site to rule them all, it’s polite enough to let you prominently display links to other places you can be found. Be sure to link to your blog, website, Twitter profile, and Facebook page at the very least. You can change the order of these links as well, so arrange them with your blog first and follow it with the other social media sites in order from most used to least used. I’d recommend not listing more than six sites. More options are not always better.

Tagline — Underneath your name, you’ll see a “tagline.” If you don’t put anything in this field, it defaults to your geographic location, school, or profession. You don’t want this. You want to control what’s there because that’s all most people see before deciding whether to add you to a circle or not. (And they use it to figure out what circle to put you in.)

When Lisa had “Lisa Wilson Communications” as her tagline, hardly anyone added her. I also found the going was slow when I had “self-employed.” The problem with both of those was they weren’t clear enough about who we were and what we did. I could have been a self-employed writer or a self-employed cookie baker. A communications firm can do any number of things, including spam you with information you don’t care to know.

The key is to place “writer” or “editor” or both in your tagline space (“author” or “novelist” also work). Do this even if you’re unpublished and even if you work a different job as well: for example, “Writer and Lawyer” or “Lawyer by day, writer by night.”

Try to keep this under 30 characters including spaces because if it’s much longer than that, it won’t all show up when people hover over your picture or name.

About — Under the About tab on your profile page, you’ll be able to fill in a lot of different information including an Introduction and Bragging Rights. The trick here is to balance telling people what you do to make money (the “day job”) and what you write, while infusing some of your personality. You also want to include terms that people might search for (e.g., your book title, your pseudonym, your company name, your genre).

Try to keep your Introduction under 100 words. Here’s mine . . .

By day I’m a misfit crusader fighting to make our world a better place by working as a writer and editor for non-profits and writing articles on hot button issues like anorexia, AIDS, and addictions. (my day job) By night I’m a speculative fiction writer working on a co-written historical novel with fantasy elements. (what I write)

Sadly, I’m also addicted to coffee and jelly beans. (a bit about me)

You can find me hanging out with the #MyWANA crowd on Twitter. (included so that anyone I know from Twitter who searches for #MyWANA people can find me)

Bragging Rights should be much shorter (under 20 words). Incomplete sentences are fine. Try to include one writing related “brag” and one non-writing related “brag” for fun. Here’s mine . . .

Winner of two Writer’s Digest Contests. Survived four consecutive Great Dane puppies.

One of my favorite entries under Bragging Rights comes from Rebecca Enzor. Hers says, “I can write 335 words on a single sticky note.”

For your Occupation, be sure to include both your day job and “writer.” You are one, aren’t you?

Get a Custom URL

The standard URL for your profile page will look something like this:

https://plus.google.com/114541171450707334622?tab=mh#114541171450707334622/posts

If you don’t want to memorize that or open your Google+ profile every time you want to include a link someplace, you’ll want to get a custom URL. Unlike Facebook, you don’t need to wait until you have a certain number of “likes.”

Go to http://www.gplus.to and enter the part of your profile URL that I’ve bolded above, choose what you want as your username (it’ll appear in the part of the new URL bolded below), and you’re done. If possible, get YourName or YourNameAuthor as your username.

My original URL above is now shortened to http://www.glpus.to/MarcyKennedy.

Be Proactive About Adding People to Circles

Like any other social network, Google+ requires you to be active to get anything out of it.

  • Check out who Lisa and I have in our circles and steal them
  • Go through the list of Google+ writers compiled by FictionAll
  • Search for the terms “writer” and “author”
  • Contribute to conversations started by other writers

Do you have any other “musts” for Google+? We love it if you’d share your opinions and this post.

Marcy

Join Marcy on Google+

Join Lisa on Google+

Why Writers Should Be On Google+

What is Google+? Is it a valuable networking tool, or just another social media platform? Marcy and I received invites to the semi-exclusive network more than a week ago, and we’re ready to share the pro’s and con’s – all the down and dirty details of this new network, and why we think writers should jump on the band wagon.

Google Plus IconWhat is Google+?

Google+ (G+) is Google’s newest outlet to grab a share of the social media pie. G+ is a little like Facebook, and a little like Twitter. What G+ has done is capitalized on Facebook’s most criticized but intentional weakness – privacy. Only share the information you want to share with specific groups of people – and fully delete your profile any time.

Pro’s

What we love about G+:
Wider audience of like-minded individuals

One week after joining G+, Marcy and I have each garnered a network of over 250 writers of all genres who are looking to network, self-promote, and learn the craft. The range of expertise is wide, and professionals are willing to help out those just starting out. After only a week, a real community has developed with writers groups popping up, writing prompts, and mutual sharing.

No inane texted posts with horrible spelling and grammar
One of our biggest pet peeves with Facebook are the inane statuses and photo posts. I actually had a friend post a photo of his son’s first successful potty experience – no joking. Eww. On G+ very few people are sharing with their entire network about what they had for breakfast or how drunk they got the night before. And, perhaps because we are largely networking with other writers and grown-up techies, the atrocious spelling and grammatical errors that we find physically painful on Facebook, are missing. (Yes, I’ve actually been ‘un-friended’ for correcting spelling on Facebook.)

Intelligent and interesting posts
People are sharing intelligent and interesting posts that are relevant to writing, and some just funny. People are mutually sharing and liking blogs and other networking opportunities. Our Girls With Pens blog actually receives more referrals from G+ now than from either Facebook or Twitter – where we’ve been networking for months.

Complete Integration of Google tools
Youtube, Google Maps, Google Reader, Google Calendar, Gmail, Chrome – it’s all built into G+. So, because I have my Gmail open all day while I’m working, I can immediately see that someone’s commented on a post or put me in their circle, check the notification all without leaving Gmail. Awesome! No more having 4 windows open to keep track of everything.

Drawbacks to Google+

Complete Integration of Google Tools
I love working in Firefox, but to download any special apps – like the app that works like Tweetdeck for Twitter, you have to use Chrome. Google is rewarding you for using more of their tools. Sneaky. Not sure if I like that or not, but am sure that I’ll eventually succumb just to have access to the useful tools they’re offering for integration.

No direct private messages
Facebook and Twitter both use private messages and G+ doesn’t. You can direct a message at only one person, but anyone viewing their profile can access that message. We really miss this feature, and hope that since G+ is still pre-beta that they’ll implement something like this eventually.

No business pages — yet
If you’re a non-profit or business hoping to get into G+ you’re outta luck – for now. I expect this will change. G+ is said to be verifying public personalities – so that is neat if it’s true. So – if I add Alyssa Milano to my circle – is it the real Alyssa Milano? hmm…

Only real names
If you prefer to use a pen name, you’re out of luck (real names only) 😦 Even if your name is so common that there’s a thousand of you in every North American city – too bad. Guess how many Lisa Wilson’s there are in the world?

Personal Experiences

So, what do we really think?

Lisa: I find myself spending more time on G+ than on Facebook. I started out on Facebook to connect with personal friends, and networking is something I’ve begun to do. On G+, I began looking to network and build platform and have formed social circles with a wide variety of people I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise. The people on G+ are immensely friendly and eager to help spread the word about the work you’re doing – as long as you reciprocate. I love that you can edit your statuses and that there’s no limit to how long they can be. The long and short – If I could convince all my family and friends to join me on G+, I’d quit Facebook altogether.

Marcy: I love that on G+ I don’t need to have a separate private profile and public business/author page (more about circles and how they make that possible in my post next Monday). It simplifies my world to be able to handle my private life and public life in one place. If G+ added a private message feature–which I really miss–and all my friends, family, and professional contacts moved to G+, I wouldn’t mourn for Facebook either. But here’s my hesitation. How will G+ change once it goes public? How much of what we like about it is because the pool of users is currently limited? I’m interested to see how it plays out. 

With over 10million users flocking to the platform for the field trial, it’s popularity speaks for itself. The integration of the full set of Google tools is inevitable – and in my opinion welcome. G+ is going public on July 31st, you’ll need an invite to join before that. Experts expect a huge influx as all the techies who got in early blog/tweet/Facebook/Digg/StumbleUpon, etc. about the platform and spread the good news and everyone heads there on July 31st.

So – will you be joining G+ when it opens to the public? Marcy’s posting about the in’s and out’s of navigating G+ next Monday – any questions for her?

Lisa

Join Lisa on G+

Join Marcy on Google+

Carpooling With Fans On The Facebook Freeway

The next post in our Facebook series is about how to interact and build community on your Facebook Page. As with all social media, building a community takes time and effort, and a good deal of transparency.

What Fans Wantpeople on city bus

Why do you join a Facebook Fan Page? Usually it’s for insider tips, coupons, exclusive promotions, free giveaways. Authors and writers can only give so much away, we’re not a business with several product lines – and most of us can’t afford to finance big ticket giveaways with iPads and the like. Fans join author and writer pages because they are fans looking for a behind the curtains peek at the writer’s life, or they’re writers who are looking for tips and advice on the craft of writing – generally.

Ted Dekker – A Case Study

I am a big Ted Dekker fan and have been following him on Facebook when he was still using his personal profile as a fan page. His Facebook journey is one worth studying. He began using his personal profile as a gathering place for fans, and I lurked through his family photos, his daughter’s wedding, etc. (Because this is what Facebook is about.) But one of the big problems with doing this is that personal profiles have a 5000 friend limit. He reached that fairly quickly and had to switch to a Fan Page.

What Dekker does really well is connecting with fans. He posts fun videos, inside scoops about his next book or WIP. He asks for fan input on selecting book covers, character names, even feedback on moral dilemmas, exclusive details and advance tickets to various events and book signings. Fascinating stuff. And he posts personally. Obviously he pays someone to manage his Facebook page, but he takes the time to personally connect with fans. When his Facebook admin posts, each status makes that clear “Kevin here”.Transparency is important!

Invite Conversation

Ask questions, ask for input, invite sharing, be genuine, be transparent, be friendly. These are the ingredients that build community on Facebook. Try to ask fans questions that avoid yes/no responses. Did you find an interesting link your fans would be interested in? Post it – ask for feedback. Invite fans to share from their own experiences, to post their website or blog address as a way of mutual sharing – there’s limitless possibilities here. When fans post on your Facebook page with questions, answer them promptly. That doesn’t mean hovering over Facebook 24/7. Just make a point of checking at lunch and before bed – whatever works for you. Invite them to share photos and videos that relate to the community you’re building. Remember, your Facebook Page isn’t about you – it’s about your fans. This is why editors and agents are constantly chanting: who’s your audience? Knowing your audience is just as important with Facebook – don’t neglect the fans!

Facebook Insights

When you reach the magic 25 fans mark, Facebook gives you insights to your page. These are measured results of demographics and interactions. Use this as a tool to judge what kinds of posts fans interact with the most, and tailor your posting to those tastes. One page I managed, I learned that fans loved the Bible verses I posted from people helped by the non-profit. I began doing that twice a week, and our community doubled.

How Often Do I Post?

It depends. Generally, you want to post twice a week. Big businesses who employ people to manage their Pages 24/7 can post more often. Non-profits can post more often because there’s a virtually limitless supply of content. Fans aren’t concerned with what you ate for breakfast, unless it’s remarkable (photo caption: the bistro I found on my first morning in Paris). Be sure to use video links (Youtube is probably the best) because fans want to see you, know who you are.

Remember Your Social Media House

My post on building your social media house is important here. Remember, Facebook is the back door, but you want people in the living room. If Facebook is not the main place you want people to land, be sure to find ways to point them to the living room. Use the Networked Blogs or RSS apps to point people to blogs or websites where you want the main body of your traffic to land.

For other posts in our Facebook for Authors/Writers series, check out Pimp Out Your Facebook Page, 5 Top Reasons Authors Should Be On Facebook.

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Pimp Out Your Facebook Page

Businesses and personalities of varying popularity and exposure are jumping on the Facebook Freeway to create communities, build a customer base, and sell products. Here are 8 tips to Pimp Out Your Facebook ride.

A Moment Of Truth

I’m going to bare it all here for a moment – our Facebook page is awful. I take full and complete responsibility for that. It’s not that I don’t know how to manage or create a great Facebook Page or content, I get paid by non-profits to do that – I just never seem to have time to work with ours. (And managing a successful page takes time and effort – a lot of it.)

But writing this series has given me a good kick in the pants. So, have a look at our ‘before makeover’ Facebook Page because by the end of June I hope to transform it into something…less embarrassing. I’ll be posting quick Facebook Friday tips on Facebook on transforming a blah/boring/embarrassing Author/Writer Facebook Page into one people want to engage with (hopefully). 🙂

Tip #1 Start A Fan Page

Fan pages (recently renamed Facebook Pages) are a gathering place for people who like what you’re selling whether you’re a non-profit helping children in Africa, or Nike selling shoes. Even Playboy has a Facebook Page – what do you think they sell with the caption: Think You Can Hang With Hef? Alright, sarcasm noted – I’m not a fan of Playboy, but this is the point of a Facebook page: to get Fans (now called Likes).

Groups are gathering places for people who share a common interest whether it’s bird watching or historical re-enactment. The problem is that you’ll eventually realize that a Page is set up for marketing and groups aren’t and you’ll want to switch. Problem. Now you’ve got followers in two different places splitting your exposure.

Tip #2 Custom Landing Page

A custom landing page is the first page you land on, often called a Welcome Page. Some great examples are BMW, World Vision Canada, Ted Dekker.  The main goal of your welcome page is turn visitors into fans. You want them to ‘like’ you. Offer something free as incentive – download a free app, a chapter from your book, your newsletter, coupons, inside info. Create mystery or intrigue like the Playboy welcome page offers. You get the idea. Using video on your welcome page can increase conversions up to 80%. It’s important to have good design to compete. Here are some great options for building pages yourself (because we’re all about marketing on the cheap): IWIPI, Wildfire, Hubze, or Lujure.

New! Here is a great review of free apps for Facebook to create custom landing tabs. Thanks to Social Media Examiner for putting this list together.

Tip #3 Use iFrames

Facebook had all these great apps that allowed the average user to create fun content and customize the tabs at the top of their pages using FBML. Now, Facebook has gone to iframes which is more complicated and harder to learn – though it offers designers an open canvas. This means that the days of the average user creating custom tabs is virtually over unless you’re tech savvy or work from a template. So, however you come up with a designed welcome page, be sure the code is compatible in iframes.

Tip #4 About Me/Info

Complete the about/info section of your Facebook Page. Tell people who you are, what you’re about, etc. They want to know more about you, so don’t hide! Share your contact info, your blog and website address, all the good stuff. You WANT to be found. The Info Page lets you embed links in specific places, be sure to take advantage of that.

Tip #5 Profile Photo

Facebook has moved things around on the Pages a bit this winter. Pages are allowed to have profile pics, but keep it under 200px in height. If you have access to photo editing software, create a jpeg file and include your website or blog in text in the profile pic. You can’t include hyperlinks in the jpeg, but it’s a high traffic place to have that address. When creating a profile pic, keep in mind the thumbnails – the small square images shown when you post anything. You can edit the thumbnails, but keep in mind what that thumbnail will look like when creating your profile pic.

Tip #6 Vanity Urls

A url is the address used to find you on the web – www.girlswithpens.wordpress.com. A vanity url is usually shorter and easier to remember – www.girlswithpens.com. Both will lead you to our blog. You can do this with a Facebook Page if you have 25 fans. So, to find us on Facebook you can type in www.facebook.com/girlswithpens and you’ll find us. Easy. You can do this by going into the Edit Page feature and selecting Basic Information. It’s second from the top. This is so much easier than before when you had to verify your account with a mobile phone number, yah de yah da. Yay Facebook!

Tip #7 Image Rolls

Another recent change to the Pages, is the appearance of a row of photos across the top of the page. These photos will be the 5 most recent photos posted on your page. You can edit which photos appear there by rolling your mouse over each photo, a small x will appear in the top corner. Click the X. Gone. Easy. Some companies are turning this space into banners. There are outside apps that will let you upload custom banners if you want. Businesses are encouraging fans to post their own photos in a constantly changing montage of fans and product shots. What great advertisement. One pizza store has a mascot – a giant pizza slice. They ran a Facebook promotion where you would receive a free coupon if you found ‘the slice’ at an event and snapped a photo with ‘the slice’ and posted it on Facebook. Neat.

Tip #8 Posting As Your Page

Before, you were never allowed to post elsewhere on Facebook as your page, your personal profile would be used. Now you can toggle between the two. You can navigate Facebook as your Page’s persona and comment and like other pages, which helps to further promote your page.

As you Pimp Out Your Facebook Page, post the link on the Girls With Pens Facebook Page, or here in the comments, so we can all see your progess.

Lisa

Other posts in this series: 5Reasons Authors Should Be On Facebook, Building Your Social Media House

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Top 5 Reasons For Authors to Join Facebook

If jumping into the Twitter Ocean isn’t your thing, or even if it is, try the Facebook Freeway with me. This is the first in our Facebook series for writers and authors.

road at night
Reason #1 – People (Readers) Hang Out On Facebook

  • If Facebook was a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world by population.
  • There are over 600 million people on Facebook (that’s about 1 in every 13 people in the world).
  • Over a million links are shared on Facebook every 20 minutes.
  • Over 70% of the total USA web audience is on Facebook.

The average Facebook user spends an hour a day on the social media site. Teens don’t Twitter – they Facebook. And if you think only young people are on Facebook, you’re wrong. One of the fastest growing segments of Facebook users are adults 45+. Who’s your audience? More Facebook statistics.

Reason #2 -Facebook Is Set Up For Marketing
Facebook has jumped on the marketing bandwagon with gusto. Authors and writers should have a Facebook Page (not a group). Pages allow you to upload large custom profile photos, create a customized landing page (welcome tab) to point people to a website, blog, etc. You can integrate your blog into the Notes tab on your Facebook page. Some interesting giveaways are happening – free download of debut singles for becoming a fan that allow you to collect email addresses.

Facebook ads appear on the profiles of any demographic you like – single moms, in London, Ontario who like reading. These targeted ads pop up on the right margin of your Facebook profile. These are ppc ads (pay per click) so you get charged only when people click on the ads, and you can set a maximum amount to spend on the ad. Create events that people can share with friends.

Reason #3 – Connect With Readers
Facebook is all about sharing and connecting. With a Facebook page, people become fans because they are looking for something from you. (What’s in it for me?) Fans leave reviews, comments, support your work through Facebook – and hope to get the author to interact with them. Businesses like Starbucks give away coupons and other promotional deals through Facebook. Authors answer questions from fans and try to relate on a more personal level. A great example of this is Ted Dekker who calls his fans The Underground. Michael Bublé takes a photo of the crowd from the stage at his concerts and you ‘tag’ yourself if you were there. However superficial critics call this connection, this is what it’s about.

Reason #4 – Six Degrees Of Separation
Here’s where the power of Facebook comes in. I have roughly 250 friends on my personal Facebook account. When I post a link, theoretically 250 people see that status on their newsfeed. When one of my friends shares my link, it’s rebroadcast to all their friends – say they have 250 friends – and so on. This is called ‘going viral’ when enough people spread the same link or news in a short period of time. The ‘goal’ of all this sharing is to land on people’s Top News section of their home page. You need to post links, statuses, photos, that people want to interact with and share. Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine this.

Facebook selects from your friends the statuses and links they think you’d be most interested in seeing. It’s a quick, easy, cheap way to rise to the top of all the chatter.

And when you have a Facebook Page, you can like and comment on other pages without using your personal profile, further spreading the exposure of your page. Every time you post a status it appears in your fan’s newsfeed. Lots of great exposure.

Reason #5 – It’s Easy
Facebook isn’t only about keeping in touch with your friends and family. Facebook is a place to nurture relationships because it’s about conversations. Facebook is set up to share yourself with other people with photo albums, ‘likes’, and a instant messenger feature. Facebook is a point and click world. Developers have created apps (applications) that allow you to do so many different things, connect and share in a variety of ways, that there’s something for every skill set and level of comfort.

So what’s stopping you?

My next few blogs will be about navigating the Facebook. Other posts in this series: Building Your Social Media House, Pimp Out Your Facebook Page – Learn how to set up, customize and optimize your Facebook page. Get Liked – Facebook Marketing Tips For Authors, Carpooling With Book Fans on the Facebook Freeway.

If you missed Marcy’s Twitter survival tips blitz, find all those links here:
how to avoid being fed to the sharks by your fellow tweeters,” “how to make people want to share the lifeboat with you,” and “how to swim so the time-sucking current doesn’t sweep you away.”

Have a question about Facebook, post it in the comments section. I’ll do my best to answer it in the upcoming posts.

Lisa

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.