The Blog/Social Continuum: Boosting Readership

imgres.jpgWhat does a blogger need to keep in mind when attempting to maintain a successful and gainful career as a blogger? What does it take these days to gain visibility as a new author, in this age when the market is flooded with content and there are so many ways to deliver it? These are just some of the questions we’ve taken a look at during the course of this Spring semester’s #IS6621.

We’ve explored the perspective of the modern digital writer, whether blogger, journalist, novelist, or some combination thereof, from quite a few different angles. Now, I am going to draw upon some personal experience as well as my education in this and other classes to attempt to do something a little ambitious this week: I’m going to explore the interplay between one’s blog and maintaining content across a number of social media channels, and specifically take a look at tactics for using all of the above simultaneously in order to win in the game of marketing one’s digital brand as an author. I might even tweet about this post later. ;)

Before we continue, I have a confession to make… (wait for it)

My dog has more Likes on Facebook than I have Friends on Facebook.

Yes, that’s right: as of the time of my writing this blog, my dog, Gilligan has 1,040 Likes on his Page. And I was able to achieve this in pretty short order as well (Gilligan is a dachshund so we score a pun point there).

How was I able to quickly build that following? Well, it involved a combination of tactics all designed to drive engagement and traffic between my digital brand and its audience across numerous channels.

SONY DSC

Yes, that’s Gilligan from when we got into doing book reviews. This was when we did a review of Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics from the point of view of a dog. He talks about animal rights a lot. Yeah, weird stuff.

Those of you dreading a whole meta blog post about my dog’s blog can rest assured that I will not be proceeding into a detailed history of all of the tactics implemented in his rise to noteworthiness, nor will I be sharing the links to all his pages here. Those of you disappointed by this news are welcome to DM me for more info.

Remember, my main point of curiosity in all this is to understand the impact of social media on the publishing process, and from the perspective of an author. Ironically, doing a recurring book review post on your dog’s blog can lead to being approached by an author asking you to review theirs, which is something that happened to me and that opened my eyes to the fact that authors are seeking reviews for visibility.

And there’s the main idea here: that modern writing is heavily about leveraging the current communications infrastructures to get people quickly talking about your content by ensuring it appears everywhere, but in a meaningful and interactive way.

There are 3 essential groups of content channels in the digital space, each comprising any number of channels, and each group serving a critical role in building and sustaining readership. Each of the below, incidentally, is trackable with its own set of metrics, and so while we will not delve into any discussion of specific metrics below, it is worth noting here that one could conceivably set targets around the metrics available on each platform.


imgres-1.jpg1. THE MAIN EVENT We’ll use the example of a novelist looking to get their work off the ground and develop brand recognition, but really the “main event” can describe the work of virtually any creative talent, and is what can be described as the “core content” forming the heart of the brand, in its purest form. In the example of a novelist, this would entail:

Website

A site that archives all written works, and provides a primary, official platform for new content releases. This would also accommodate interaction through contact information, including all forms of social media, email, phone, etc. (basically everything you see below). Site analytics are important for seeing which of the other channels is responsible for driving traffic onto the site.

Blog

The blog will be the main mechanism for delivering new content. A regular schedule for posts is critical to drive subscriber loyalty and a sense of wanting to tune in regularly. Interaction is available here as well if the author wants to accept comments on blog posts. This would be essential if content is released in a chapter-at-a-time manner as with the case of Andy Weir that we looked at last time.

One can also network with other genre-friendly blogs and, depending on the audience, can collaborate on special events such as a “blog hop” where a group of blogs all agree to post at the same time and embed a code that links to all the other blogs on the “hop.” This allows for a natural way to network with other bloggers and get and give high-level feedback. The “blog hop” could be thought of as a peer review process that also lets the authors benefit from exposure to each other’s audiences.

Amazon.com

Platforms such as Amazon.com can offer a main marketplace for selling self-published work, allowing for a low barrier to entry for a new author on the scene. There is some interaction here as well in terms of reviews.


imgres-2.jpg2. THE CONVERSATION Here’s where things become more playful, more interactive, more immediate, and perhaps a little less serious than the main event. Your basic social media platforms allow for a conversation with the consumer/audience. For an author, this can provide a channel for discussion that can enlighten the author as to what questions are on the mind of the reader, and even guide future creative writing.

Facebook

Facebook is truly great as a forum for an author to extend their brand, because Facebook offers flexibility to share text of many varying lengths, and also provides a wide range of types of reaction one can receive from followers, ranging from passive traffic and views, to Likes, to Like and alternative reactions to individual posts, to actual substantive commentary and discussion that may help improve writing in progress.

Twitter

Twitter is an interesting tool for authors. I can see that many aspiring authors use Twitter as essentially a brand extension, using it to drive traffic to their blog or website where full content is, and utilizing DM welcome messaging as a sales opportunity.

Others

For an author, Facebook and twitter allow for the exchange of the written medium rather readily, while other popular social media forms tend to be a bit more photo-based. Instagram, SnapChat and the like could easily be part of an artist’s social media strategy, but a written author is likely to get the most hard utility out of those mentioned above.


images.jpg3. THE SUBSCRIPTION Getting subscribers to your regularly-released content is an excellent step for a developing brand. Nothing screams “loyal reader base” more than having a high number of subscribers to your YouTube channel, for example. It means you have genuine fans who are eager to receive that next release.

YouTube

Now, for some the YouTube content could be the Main Event, but remember we are talking about a novelist in this example. For the novelist, the best we might hope to include for video on YouTube might be clips of the author reading a passage or two from an upcoming or recent release, or otherwise doing digitally what the in-person book signing used to do for authors.

Email

Seems mundane, but we explored the fact that email is still ubiquitous and quite the viable social media channel these days. Creating a regular enewsletter can be a great way to keep the audience engaged.

Blog

The blog itself can be subscribed to. And so it all comes full circle. There are in fact many combinations and possibilities for which mix to use of social media, blog, and other forms of digital presence. Using them in some reinforcing combination at least seems necessary in order to keep up these days.

6 comments

  1. I thought this post was a very interesting way to look at authors and how, in modern day, they generate excitement around their work. I like how you broke up the process into the three main groups of content channels, particularly the one around conversation. These platforms, like you mentioned with Amazon.com, have low barriers to entry and can be utilized by everyone. The challenge I see with that is if everyone has access, then an author’s promotion of his or her work just becomes part of the noise. The next question, once an author has identified the platforms that are right for him or her, is how to make the work stand out against all the others. That maybe a question for another blog post. I also loved your personal story in the beginning of this post about your dog’s Facebook page. Having done my presentation on animal influencers, it is always interesting to see new ways people are leveraging their pet accounts for business opportunities. You may even be able to generate a sponsored post or two!

    1. Thanks, Molly! I indeed was able to score a couple of sponsored posts here and there. If you haven’t, you should check out BlogPaws.com. It’s a pet blog site aggregator where you can create an account, and also register as a “Pet Influencer” where you’ll receive calls from brands to apply to write for sponsored posts. The brands are usually pet foods, my big one I landed was with Hill’s Pet Food, marketing their Science Diet product as part of “perfect weight” campaign. If you want to scroll through Gilligan’s blog it’s over at wagsahoy.com. Obviously I loved your presentation, btw! :)

  2. Wow, what a great and insightful post. I tweeted it out to hopefully get it some more attention.

  3. I thought this was a really nice post. I never really took any of these channels into consideration for unknown authors to catch a big break. I don’t know much about the book/writing industry but I feel like it can be related to young artists in the music industry. Usually musicians that are just starting out are using platforms like YouTube, SoundCloud, a Facebook page, and MySpace Music used to be huge. There’s no “The Voice” or “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent” for authors. I think musicians that take part in these competitions have the conversation driven for them by outsiders. Authors, as you mentioned, have to stimulate the conversation themselves and drive people to visit their websites/blogs. When I first read your point about Amazon, I actually assumed it was just about the ability to write back and converse with readers and stuff like that. I had no idea that Amazon had a marketplace for those trying to sell self-published work and I think that’s really cool. Amazon is the backbone of so many industries and this small idea could lead to a long standing impact in the book business.

    1. That is a very interesting idea, Terence! You have me wanting to look into whether folks are attempting to offer something like the equivalent of an “American Idol” for authors. I find myself wondering what that looks like given that books are not something one would watch televised; is it an online bestsellers highlight space, or perhaps a series of broadcasted “fireside chats” with the authors? Inspiring idea, my friend. Thank you!

  4. Excellent post! I hope it stands out, which was one of the things I found myself considering while reading. There are so many platforms, authors, and such a variety of content that it must be incredibly difficult to succeed, especially as a new author. I think the opportunity to engage and interact will be key to drawing interest going forward.

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