Self-published authors work hard building a personal platform. The journey to stand out, find your readers, and sell your own books is a lot of work. Your “brand” is how your readers see you and remember you. One of the most important branding strategies for authors is to build and protect your name. And that is why every author needs an account on every social media channel.
In a recent podcast interview with Jim Kukral, founder of The Author Marketing Club, Jim called the process “claiming your digital land.” I call it having an outpost strategy. Setting up an account on a social media platform and choosing to be active there are two entirely different processes.
It used to be that marketers encouraged people not to set up a social media account where they had no intention of interacting. We were worried about someone searching a name and then seeing an abandoned account with no posts, tweets, pins, or engagement. Now, that philosophy has changed. With the proliferation of people on social media and the powerful search engines being developed on those channels, it is important that people claim their branded username on all the important social media channels to insure their brand is protected.
Set Up an Outpost
I liken this strategy to the “fort” system in the old west. Before the U.S. settled the west, the military maintained an outpost system designed to protect the property and people that were settling in the area. That outpost was attached to a main regional fort or central headquarters:
“A military outpost is a detachment of troops stationed at a distance from the main force or formation, usually at a station in a remote or sparsely populated location, positioned to stand guard against unauthorized intrusions and surprise attacks; and the station occupied by such troops, usually a small military base or settlement in an outlying frontier, limit, political boundary or in another country.” –Wikipedia
Your purpose will be to claim your brand name and set up a “holding message” that will direct people to places where you are active. That way, if potential readers search your name, they will be directed to your main locations. This is fairly easy to do with cover photos and pinned tweets and posts, and bio information that directs them to your main social media channel and website.
But Isn’t Social Media About Connecting?
Yes, it certainly is. But with people spread out over so many channels, it’s important to grab people where they are and send them to places where you are active. Don’t worry about not engaging on every channel. Choose the top one or two where your readers are and concentrate on building personal connections with your fans there. An outpost strategy is strictly aimed at people who are searching for you. It’s about discovery.
Start With a Consistent Username
Before you start setting up accounts on social media channels, think through your branded username. First, always use your real name on social media, not something like “hotwritingbabe.” You want people to recognize you from your name. If you can’t grab your real name because it is taken, put author, writer, or books behind it and see if that is taken. Or, include a middle initial. Make sure you use this name on every digital property from your website to Twitter to Pinterest to LinkedIn and beyond. Think about consistent branding starting with your real (or pen) name. If you write under more than one name, you’ll have to choose a main presence or follow the strategy you have used with your website domain.
Identify Your Main Social Media Channel
After you set up your initial account, make sure you fill out your bio pages, about pages, and other information consistently as well. Put together a short bio (100 characters), a medium bio (160 characters) and a longer one (100 words) before you start. Every channel has different character limitations. Identify the main social media channel where you are the most active and grab the URL for that home page. Also, grab the URLs from your Amazon Author Page and your website. If you are a nonfiction writer with services to sell, you might want to use that URL for your “landing page”—the place you are going to direct people in your outposts. Have this all on a working document so you can copy and paste as you go through setting up channels.
Some channels will allow you to put live URLs in your bios and others will not. If you can only include one, make it your strongest social media channel—people are looking to connect when they search for you on social media. Then, you can have your website redirect on your main channel. Some channels have an extensive “About” area where you can also list URLs and places you connect but they may not be live. Go ahead and list a maximum of two “non-live” URLs. People will copy and paste if they know where you are.
Put Up Your Billboard
You can use your cover photos as a place to begin your outpost holding message. Make sure your cover photos showcase your latest book or series. Use a professional headshot for your avatar (profile picture). You can change your billboards out from time to time to showcase a launch, a sale, or an email list sign-up. Don’t forget about these important patches of real estate. Change them at least every other month. Here’s an example of my Twitter cover photo that is showcasing a new online class and directing people to look at a pinned tweet (a tweet that always stays at the top of your Twitter feed). Those pinned posts and tweets should be changed when you change your cover photo. Maintain the same colors, fonts, book covers and backgrounds on your cover photos, if possible. Consistency is the key to branding.
In the red box below where my information resides, I have a live URL to my website services page and have listed my blog URL as my website. Those are the two most important places I want people to go that search me on Twitter. Also notice the instructions in the cover photo to check out the pinned tweet for information on the class (where this is a link for more information). I put my cover photos together on Canva because they have all the pre-made templates and it is a fairly easy application to learn…plus free is good.
The Holding Message
Take advantage of your pinned tweet, pinned Facebook posts and visible profile information on each channel to put links to your mothership location. Make sure that people clearly know where you are engaging with fans and invite them to go there. Make your invitation personable and positive. Include a URL. You can pin a tweet or a Facebook post by clicking on the optional pull-down menus on individual posts. Every time you pin a post, it will replace the other pinned post already there. That post will then pop back to your timeline on the posted date.
Do the Work
Yes it does take time, but marketing your own books is hard work. And marketing your books successfully starts with a consistent brand presence on the internet that potential readers can recognize and find. I have accounts on channels like Snapchat, Periscope, Meerkat, Tumblr, and others that I will probably never use. But my branded name is there. My territory is claimed. My outpost is set up. If people search me and find me there, they will know exactly where to go to connect. I am only active on the social media channels where my ideal readers and follows are. I chose the best ones for me and maintain an active presence there. You can start with just one active engagement channel. The goal of the outpost system is to get found in search first, and then redirect people to an active channel second.
According to Statista, the top social media channels (all ages) currently are: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. Start there. I would also add Instagram, Snapchat, Meerkat, Periscope, about.me, Vine, Flickr, and Google+ to begin with. Make sure each channel has a redirect URL and a good professional head shot. Start your outpost strategy by claiming your social media profiles today. Branding and consistency are key in getting your books discovered by new readers.