Guest Blog by Thomas Umstattd
We are thrilled to have Thomas Umstattd as our guest today. His company built our web site and we unabashedly recommend their services. Thomas built his first website at the age of 13 and taught his first web design class at only 16 years old. He has been helping authors and small businesses use the web ever since. Thomas currently serves as the CEO of Castle Media Group LLC, a company that builds websites for world changers.
He runs AuthorMedia.com a resource for authors who need help with technology and need to develop an effective social media strategy. As an award winning speaker, Thomas teaches all over the world where his friendly speaking style blends multimedia and audience participation. His combination of experience and youth give him a unique perspective that can help you use the web in a whole new way.
If you have a chance to take his classes at a future writers conference don’t hesitate. Sign up!
In the old days all you had to do was tell an agent or publisher “I’m on Facebook, Twitter and I have a blog” and they would be impressed with your online presence. Now publishers are getting more sophisticated in measuring your online presence. They are realizing that not all blogs are the same and that the size of your Twitter following does not directly correlate to influence.
This post goes over 7 ways agents and publishers will measure your social platform in 2012. You may also want to check out 7 Things Agents & Publishers Look for in Author Websites (2012 Edition).
1. Number of Facebook Likes
What is it?
The number of Facebook likes indicates how popular your author page is on Facebook. Notice I am not saying “Facebook friends.” There are only an handful of ways to advertise your book to your friends effectively without sounding like a shill. Fan pages offer much more effective tools for selling books.
Why are fan pages important?
Facebook Fan Pages are better for authors for 3 very important reasons:
- Facebook Ads – You can’t buy Facebook ads targeting your friends. You can buy ads targeting just your fans. These targeted ads are some of the most effective advertising you can do for your book. You also can also use ads to get more fans.
- Unlimited Fans – Your personal page is limited to 5000 friends which limits your growth somewhat. Agents and editors really want to see Facebook pages with 10,000+ fans.
- Landing Pages – Fan pages have the ability to have landing pages that can call visitors to take a specific action such as sign up for your newsletter or buy your book.
How do you boost your fan count?
- Answer the question for your readers: “What is in it for me? What do I get out of liking your page?”
- Add the Facebook icon to your website
Read: 10 Ways to Boost Your Facebook Fans
2. Facebook Engagement
What is it?
Facebook engagement is the degree to which people are reacting and responding to you on Facebook. It also is an indication of how many people see your status updates on their Facebook streams.
Why is it important?
Having a lot of Facebook fans is of little value if those people ignore everything you post. The higher your engagement the more fans you will be able to convert into readers.
How do you measure it?
The easiest way to measure Facebook engagement is to look at the “# of people talking about this” on the left-hand side of your Facebook page.
How do you improve engagement?
- Ask questions
- Put fill-in-the-blanks
- Share positive news (people don’t like complaining or bragging)
- Post interesting images.
- Care about your fans.
3. Number of Twitter Followers
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a micro-blogging social network that has become popular in the author community. It is a way of posting short messages to your followers or to specific Twitter users. The number of people who follow you on Twitter is an indication of how popular you are on Twitter.
How do you improve your Twitter following?
There are two ways of growing your following on Twitter. The effective way and the easy way. The easy way is to follow other people. There are even some automated tools that will do this for you. The problem with this method is that this sort of follower uses Tweet Deck to ignore your tweets. It is not uncommon to see someone with 10,000 followers on Twitter and none of them retweet tweets or click links. Following strangers on Twitter gives you phantom followers.
The effective way to gain a following on Twitter is to post Tweets that are so interesting/helpful/funny that people are compelled to retweet them. A retweet is a forward of your message to someone else’s followers, many of whom may have never heard of you before. The more of your retweets they see the more likely they are to check you out and follow you on Twitter. This is what we do on @AuthorMedia and we have been growing at around 50-100 followers a week and we don’t auto-follow. These are folks who actually want to hear what we have to say and don’t just want to inflate their following.
Read: 12 Ways to Get More Twitter Followers
4. Twitter Engagement
What is it?
Twitter engagement is the degree to which your Twitter followers pay attention to what you have to say on Twitter.
How do you measure Twitter engagement?
There are four primary ways to measure engagement.
- Retweets – What percentage of your followers forward your messages on to their followers?
- Bit.ly+ clicks – What percentage of your followers click the links you share on Twitter? You can check this by adding a “+” to the end of any bit.ly link to see how many clicks it has received.
- Follower Ratio – How many people do you follow back? An author who is following 20,000 people and has 18,000 followers is not nearly as attractive to publishers as an author who is followed by 7,000 people and only follows 150 people.
- @replies – Some authors’ Twitter profiles are full of a lot of one-way communication. They post and post about themselves and their writing. Other authors spend a lot of time answering reader questions and engaging readers 1 on 1 using Twitter’s @reply feature. A lot of back and forth @replies is the sign of a healthy Twitter page, particularly when those @replies are to a lot of different folks.
- Listings – How many times have people added you to a Twitter list? This is an indication that they 1) read your tweets, and 2) find them helpful. Publishers are impressed to see you listed in a lot of Twitter lists.
How do you improve Twitter engagement?
There are no shortcuts here. Excellence in Twitter, as in all things, takes hard work and is not for every author. The majority of authors waste their time on Twitter talking to other authors. They key is to connect with readers and join the conversations they are already having on Twitter. Don’t be that guy at the party who charges into a conversation and starts shoving business cards at everyone.
Read: 7 Steps to Becoming a Twitter Ninja
5. Number of Blog Comments
What is it?
Comments are responses to your blog posts and they generally come in the form of questions or reactions.
Why are comments important?
Responses indicate visitor engagement. Some websites get visitors who come for a few seconds and then bounce away. This counts as a “visit” in your analytics but these sorts of visitors don’t buy books. The kind of visitors who would take the time to leave a comment are the same kind of folks who would buy your book. The number of comments indicates how passionate readers are about you and your writing.
Why would someone pay to read your book if they won’t read your blog for free?
3 Quick Ways to Increase Your Comments
- Make commenting easier. Avoid making people type in squiggly letters or doing math.
- Ask questions in your posts
- Be controversial.
6. Followers on Third Party Social Networks
What is it?
A third party social network is a social network other than Facebook & Twitter. They include, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, GoodReads, StumbleUpon, Foursquare, Gowalla and dozens of others.
Why are they important?
They may not be. The key is to convince agents and publishers that your following on xyz social network is both significant and likely to buy your book. It is unlikely your Foursquare friends are going to buy your next romance book. But the folks who follow your romance book reviews on GoodReads very well may buy your book.
How do you grow your following on third party social networks?
First, don’t get on every social network. Pick the ones your readers (or ideal readers if you are unpublished) are already using. Go to where the party is already happening. Second, provide some sort of value to those folks that is related to your writing. If you write about parenting, give parenting tips and answer parenting questions. If you write about cooking, share recipes. If you write fiction, talk about other fiction and stop spending as much time with social media and go work on your novel.
Read: How To Get More Followers On Google Plus
7. Klout Score
What is Klout?
Your Klout Score is a single number that tries to capture both the size of your following and your degree of influence over that following. In a sense it is a one number summary of the other 6 metrics in this post.
Why is Klout important?
Klout is the easiest thing for publishers and agents to check, which means it will probably be the first thing they check.
5 Ways to Boost your Klout Score
- Add all your social profiles to your Klout profile.
- Invite your followers to connect with you over Klout and give you +K
- Give +K unto others as you would have them give +K unto you.
- Unfollow people you don’t care to listen to.
- Pick a theme for providing value around the web and stick with that theme.
Read: 7 Surefire Ways to Increase Your Klout Score
Amy Boucher Pye
What a helpful post; thanks so much. Thomas, do you ever come to the UK? We could use your expertise over here…
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
I haven’t been to the UK in a while but I would love to come sometime.
Interesting and very helpful. Thanks so much. There are things here I have never used and/or heard of.
Thanks for the advice. I found it very helpful.
Great round-up! I’m off to check out the linked articles. Thanks!
Sharon A Lavy
This is a post I will have to study. Thanks for posting it.
Great check list to social media! I see I’m doing some things right, but there’s lots of room for improvement.
I’ve heard that the importance of social media applies much more to nonfiction authors than to fiction authors. I wonder if Thomas agrees?
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
I agree that non fiction authors can get much more out of social media than fiction authors, particularly at the beginning. But that doesn’t mean fiction authors can ignore social media. The more known you are as an author the more your readers want to connect with you via Facebook and Twitter.
What a wealth of knowledge here! Thanks so much.
Providential timing!! I just gave a webinar and introduced Klout to our MT Pages ACFW chapter.
This is the perfect follow up.
Good stuff! Someone just asked me the other day about some of this (specifically about twitter follower ratio). Good to get an educated opinion on this.
Keep it up Thomas, you’re the man!
You only mention FB fan pages and not the new subscriber option. I know several personalities and authors who don’t have fan pages but have high numbers of subscribers. Subscribers don’t affect your friend count (limit). I read that if you don’t have an actual book to sell (yet) or a ‘product’ to actually market, you’re better off to just open up to subscribers
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
I don’t recommend that authors use the personal profile/subscriber option for two reasons:
1. You can’t advertise to subscribers.
2. You can’t create a landing page for those subscribers.
So of the three effective Facebook tools (Status Updates, Landing Pages, Advertisements) you can only reach subscribers with Status Updates. So authors who depend on subscribers are walking up to the plate with two strikes against them.
Also, Facebook changes personal profiles two to three times a year while they only change Fan Pages once every couple of years. So pages become a much more stable, reliable and effective means of selling books on Facebook.
Good points about differences between pages and subscribers.
Pages also sound “friendlier” for some reason. “Subscribe” always reminds me of a magazine or newspaper. IMO authors/writers want to develop a tribe/community, not “subscribers.”
Thanks for a great article!
Lana H. Jackson
Thanks for the helpful information.
“Agents and editors really want to see Facebook pages with 10,000+ fans.”
Are you serious? Or is this hyperbole? How many unpublished authors have FB author pages with more than 10,000 followers?
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
Unpublished authors with big speaking platforms easily have more than 10k fans. Platform is the number of non friends who are ready to buy your book as soon as it comes out.
Extraordinarily helpful. Thank you. As far as the conversation about social media being more of a priority for non-fiction authors, I’m curious on your take – I’ve been operating on the assumption that just as the lines of publishing are blurring, so too will the requirements for platform and social media presence / metrics – on both sides of the bookstore (so to speak…). Your thoughts? Thanks again for the ideas, tips, and links.
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
The reason publishers look for writers with a platform is because it reduces their risk of loosing money on the book. The more fans you have the more books you are likely to sell on launch day. Publishers want to earn back their money spent printing the book as soon as possible.
The lines a blurring because in the economic downturn causes the publishers to minimize risk. This causes them to make platform a more important component of what they look for even for fiction authors
Jean | Delightful Repast
Oh, dear, it seems I am limiting my success by limiting my social networking. I post to my blog (a food blog) once a week and tweet several times a day, and I can’t imagine how I would ever have time for my paid freelance writing or book if I also joined Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. I’m hoping there is an agent out there who would take on a client who would rather do four more hours of writing per day than four more hours (I say four hours, but I know people who are spending more time than that!) of social networking.
The days of a publisher handling the marketing for a book from A – Z without an author’s heavy lifting themselves, are over. Authors must assume the role of CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) for their book. No one knows the heartbeat of the message and the unique compelling nature of a book, more than the author. An author that knows how to get this message out to an audience in order for a publisher to maximize that author’s effort in doing so – has a bright future.
Thanks for the tips. Very helpful! Plan to implement some of this into my social media strategy. To add, I also noticed the more blogs I read and follow the more followers I get. Leaving comments on others blogs is also helpful (Yes, I can see the irony. Haha.)
Wow, 10k subscribers? I think…I’ll bow out of the writing game graciously now! LOL! I don’t even know 10k people. How do pages get to 10k fans? There’s your next column on here 🙂
D.C., don’t give up! It takes time to grow, but the key to that growth is 1) good content, and 2) sharing it generously. Be creative, try new things, and engage every person who engages with you. Listen to your audience and provide them the value they want. It takes time, but this is exactly the skill that gets authors published.
“An author who is following 20,000 people and has 18,000 followers is not nearly as attractive to publishers as an author who is followed by 7,000 people and only follows 150 people.”
Are you kidding me? That’s saying that publishers prefer authors who don’t engage with their followers. I would never advise anyone to auto-follow back (I check out every single follower before I decide whether to follow them back) but no matter how famous the author or how much I like their books, if they can’t be bothered to follow me back they’re deleted from my follow list.
One of my favorite authors followed ME when I mentioned her books. A new author I reviewed followed me on Twitter and commented on my blog. They turned me into more than a fan – I’m a booster for their work.
Whoever came up with that “rule” is also perhaps not aware that Twitter-savvy people are less likely to follow you if you have way more followers than follows, because it suggests that you’re broadcasting rather than engaging. Twit Cleaner, one of the better apps for checking out how spammy your followers’–and your own–Twitter behavior is, lists “hardly following anyone” as poor Twitter practice. So what you’re telling me is that publishers’ thinking is directly opposed to that of the real world?
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
Jane, there are automated tools that can auto follow auto unfollow to inflate your follower numbers into the tens of thousands. A 20k/18k ratio is a dead giveaway that someone is using an automated tool like this.
Engagement is key to using Twitter but how many people can you meaningfully engage? Most Twitter users who follow 1000+ people use Tweetdeck to ignore the vast majority of those people.
Publishers are looking for authors who have a large following of people who listen to them. They measure engagement based on Bit.ly clicks and retweets. They measure engagement based on how your audience responds to you. They want the Justin Biebers of the publishing world.
Publishers are not looking for authors to sell books to the Twitter elite. They are looking to sell as many books as possible.
Following up on the value of social networking to fiction authors (realize you’ve said it matters more to non-fiction)…read a survey of fiction readers re social networking. Wish I’d kept the link, but it said only about 5% of fiction readers follow authors they like on Twitter, about 15-20% on Facebook and author blogs, but over 45% have checked out author websites.
The intent of the info was to help fiction authors not to neglect their websites. Writers are spending so much time on Twitter and FB, which seems to reach some, and certainly matters some, but doesn’t appear to matter as much as having effective author websites. At least to readers.
Also, as far as how much it matters to agents and editors, I’m curious about this. SO much more emphasis for the fiction author, to me, needs to be placed on the quality of the writing itself vs building that “platform.” I signed with a top agent a few years ago who was able to get me a very decent, multi-book contract with a major publisher when my social networking footprint was nearly non-existent.
My sales have grown with each book (thankfully). Last month, my 4th novel made ECPA’s bestseller list and ranked between #1 and #5 on Amazon in 3 categories for over 5 weeks. Meanwhile, I only have a couple hundred followers on Twitter, and only 2,350 likes on my FB author page. Anemic by the numbers I read in your post. No agent or editor should give me the time of day, based on my current level of “followers.”
My point? I’m a little concerned with fiction authors shifting their energies, in a lopsided way, to marketing themselves and building their platforms in an effort to attract agents and editors vs really refining their craft so that the writing itself causes the book to stand out from the pack.
It would seem that if readers themselves care far more about the quality and impact of a book, than fiction writers should place the largest emphasis on how well they craft their first book, not on building a huge social networking presence.
Your thoughts Thomas? I’d be curious to hear what Steve think of this, too.
Eva Marie Everson
As a fiction author, I agree. My primary writing is Southern Fiction, so what blogging, Twittering, and Facebooking I do, I try to stick to that concept. On Facebook, my Southern life is exposed (I try to keep that positive), so it’s not unusual to see me posing with a gun, or hiking, or talking about barbecue. It’s also not unusual to hear me talk about teas and fancy dinners, and linen tablecloths. I’m less active on Twitter. I tend to Twitter more when I am away from home, in a plane, at a conference, etc. I just haven’t really been able to tap into my Twitter lifestyle that much. I recently created a new website, making sure it focused as much on my fiction as anything else. I spent WEEKS working on this website and I’m very excited about it, quite honestly. But, like Dan, I think if–with all this Facebooking and Twittering and website building, if I am not sharpening my skills as a fiction writer, then I’m wasting my time. There are, after all, only so many hours in a day.
“It would seem that if readers themselves care far more about the quality and impact of a book, then fiction writers should place the largest emphasis on how well they craft their first book, not on building a huge social networking presence.”
Good points about a writer needing to do what a writer does best: write. As a prepublished writer, I’m glad to hear this. After all, what’s to market if there’s no product? No book! No agent! No publisher! Just a bunch of MSS and WIPs! What is there to announce on social media?
Don’t get me wrong. I agree that a new writer should get the basic social media infrastructure in place — website, Facebook, Twitter, and optionally Pinterest — for name branding reasons. I’m all for that.
However, from an IT viewpoint, I would caution worrying too much about social media statistics prematurely. Social media management takes a lot of time (away from writing!!!) especially if a new author is wandering around in circles — no pun intended. Best to pay experts like AuthorMedia to do it on the writer’s behalf. But first, there needs to be a publisher-ready book to market at all.
I’ve been writing in the closet for 16 years. However, it wasn’t until two months ago that I finally created my author website (I’ve had the domain name for years), started blogging, got myself a Facebook author page, and started tweeting. I’m not trying to get noticed yet; I’m just preparing for my future. For now, I’m holding back marketing until I polish my MSS, and find that elusive uber-agent. All these things take a LOT of time since I’m only writing part time!
While I agree that social media platforms should be “ready to go” for prepublished authors, I do remind myself not to get pixilated by a lack of follows or likes or number of visitors or other metrics, but I tell myself to focus on my word count goals in my MSS instead…
But once an author is published, I think that social media is very important! Twitter, for example. Not all my favorite authors are on Twitter, sad to say. I bemoaned this on my recent blog post LOL. I think once an author is published, he/she needs to be on top of social media. That’s how we readers connect with the authors of our favorite books.
Thank you for your balanced view, Mr. Walsh.
I’m in the same boat. I think you have to use whatever social media you like the best and dedicate a set amount of time each day. There are plenty of authors who do none at all and are very successful.
The website (in your name) is the most important piece of real estate. It can be static or a blog, but I find a blog takes too much time. I respond to other people’s posts and do guest articles. My static website has my info and social media connections.
I like Twitter the best because it leads me to websites for info that I would never find otherwise.
I do Goodreads, I have a FB page. The other ones, I simply don’t have time for.
These tips are very helpful to become popular on the web world with social media sites and social networking sites, but I would like to ask a question is controversial manner is good for a commenter.
Social Media Expert
Great article. I was completely unaware of Klout Score which you told in this article. By reading this, I will also consider this thing as it has increased my knowledge.
I’m fairly new to social media. So thank you for helpful advice I can use.