Connecting with influentials is a simple concept, yet may prove to be the most productive of your social-media efforts.
Why? Let’s face it. You’re probably not the most popular or influential person on the Internet.
How many followers do you have? How many will you have a year from now? If you’re starting from scratch (let’s say with 100–200 followers), you might hope to grow your fan base to 500–1,000 people in a 6–12 month span. Well worth doing.
But for the first years, your greatest impact can come from working with influential people and organizations that already have a big fan base.
Identify Influential Organizations & People
The first step is to find them. Who are the movers and shakers in your field?
Organizations are the easiest to locate. Look for national, regional, and local writer organizations. Check out regional associations of librarians, teachers, or other professionals in your particular field.
Influential individuals are the celebrities of social media. These might be well-known authors in your genre, or active literary agents, or well-connected people active in social causes, literacy, education, journalistm, etc. They may be ordinary people like you or me who have been active for years on social media and have built a real following due to the quality of their conversations.
The point is that, while you may have 500 fans, an influential person has thousands. On Twitter, such a person might have 10,000 to 50,000 followers.
It shouldn’t take long to find well-connected people who are active blogging, reviewing, and sharing about books like yours (or on topics that your book is about). Then, extend your search, using the “friends of friends” principle that drives social media. For instance, for Facebook, I look first for people I know to have influence: journalists or book reviewers, for instance, or hosts of radio programs. Then, if I connect with them, I can look at their list of friends, and start to connect with that next-level sphere of influence.
Likewise for Twitter. I can start to search for people who are actively posting on key topics. For instance, if you’re writing multicultural stories, Twitter makes it easy to search for a hashtag like #WeNeedDiverseBooks. There, on that topical page, you can see who is active tweeting with that hashtag.
Visit profiles; you can see how many followers an account has. Also check their profiles to see if they are actively sharing worthwhile content from others. Are they happy to share good posts from others? If so, this is your best doorway. a potential for you to amplify your message.
Join Key Organizations; Court Individuals
The organizations are the easiest to join and engage. You pay a fee, and get a chance to participate. Pick a few groups and join them. It’s an inexpensive way to build your network. Wait a bit before you start to get active in their online conversations. Listen first to what they are interested in. What sort of posts draw the most engagement?
Influential individuals are a little more tricky to “join.” When I say “court” them, I don’t mean in a weird way! Just try to be friendly and helpful. Like and follow them. Share their good-news posts & interesting tweets. Find an occasional way to comment on what they post. Praise things they say that you agree with. If you have a different point of view, make your case but do it politely. You’re a guest at their party.
In my experience, influential people appreciate being listened to; they like to hear commentary on their comments. That’s what motivates them to be active online: to be heard and to engage others. So be genuinely appreciative, thank them for their thoughts. They may remember your name; they may begin to respond and converse with you.
Develop Content of Value to Them & Their Networks
This is a key step: begin to develop appropriate content to share with influential people and organizations online.
On some social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, you can post material and “tag” a person; they then get a notice that they were tagged. They may check out what you posted mentioning them. If it’s well-written and of use to them and their audiences, they might well share it on their accounts.
Here’s an example:
I was looking for exposure for a book from my indie-press, a great title about a kid active in rescuing baby monkeys in the Amazon region of Peru. I’d posted plenty of tweets in my own. But then I posted a one more tweet on my account, but included a tag for an artist / environmentalist, Irina Tikhomirova. I didn’t know her, but had seen her activity on Twitter, and saw that she had an amazing number of followers, well over 100,000 – a good sign that people were interested in her views. And I checked her tweets and saw that she did indeed share stuff from others – if they were positive, animal-friendly messages. So I created this tweet, with a good message, and a photo, and a link to the book. (The book stuff was there but in the background; my focus was on a sharable message and photo.)
And I added the key element: the @IrinaGreenVoice tag. So she got a note that she was tagged – sort of an indirect message, implicitly asking her to share it.
The result was a retweet by Ms. Tikhomirova. She liked the post enough to graciously do that. That then set loose a wave of 93 retweets in turn from her followers, which meant that tweet of mine (message, link, photo, and my Crickhollow Books’ Twitter account name) appeared again, each time, on the Twitter feeds of those accounts.
So while Crickhollow Books has only about 500 followers on Twitter (being relatively new there), this tweet was reposted to an audience I estimate to be at least a quarter million folks. (Thanks, Irina!)
This points to a powerful way to reach out and connect with the world through social media . . . even before you yourself are directly influential.
The key is to not be overly self-promotional. You won’t get retweeted or reposted if you run around saying: Buy My Book!
But if you share a worthwhile message (“No animal is too small . . . “), with your name associated with it, and include a modest link for more info, you might get a lot of visibility to networks of folks who share those values.
In this case, the link was to a website for that book. Other times, I’ll share a link to a blog post. An example is a post I did a few years ago (mentioned in the previous post in this social-media strategy series), titled Six Writing Tips from J.R.R. Tolkien . It gets shared often, as it offers something that other writers want: writing tips. Of course, at the end of that post is a mention of my books on fantasy lit. But the main purpose of that post is to position me as a noteworthy commentator on the subject, and to attract in particular writers most interested in the fantasy genre.
In the same way, the “No animal is too small . . .” tweet is intended to engage people interested in animal rescue and animal rights.
Here are two more examples, one based on a photo and one based on a quote:
The first one (the T.S. Eliot quote) isn’t original content from the posting account (“Literary Interest”). The value is what’s called “curating” – the person behind the account is bringing a good (and sharable) thought to the social-media channel in a way that others want to endorse it, by sharing it themselves. This is something any writer can do.
43 retweets. If each of those accounts has 500 to 1,000 followers. or more . . . you can do that math.
The second one (the photo of the urban tree with its social-action message to help save rainforests) is a simple but brilliant image, posted here by environmental activist Shaun Frankson. It got an astounding number of retweets (1,500), which means pretty much everyone in the Twitter world saw the image.
The power of these messages is in the way they are crafted to encourage others to easily endorse them and want to share them. The multiplying effect is impressive. Frankson himself has a quarter million followers. But he took the time to craft something others would not just want to read but would want to share. And he focused the tweet not on himself or his work, but on an image and its message.
How can you hitch a ride on that magic carpet – to cruise on the social-media coattails of others? Create messages that aren’t about you, but are about things your (potential) audience already cares about. (And that not you or your book. Not yet. )
But something drove you to write your book. Those issues and concerns and delights are what others will share. And so, you will gain influence through them and their existing networks. You can use this to build followers, and to share modest links to your writing efforts.
Send Directly & Ask Everyone to Share It
There are several ways to share what you post directly with others. You can tag them in the post itself. Sometimes they will notice a post on their own, seeing it in their social-media feeds. Sometimes, I’ll send the link with a note (“Just posted this. Thought you’d enjoy it.”) in an email to a few friends who I honestly think would enjoy a given post. And I ask them to share it if they like it.
In a post on Twitter or Facebook, you can ask outright: “Please Retweet!” or “Please Share!”
Note: studies show that asking others to “please share” or “please retweet” increases the likelihood of that happening . . . greatly. Perhaps as much as 3–4 times!
Similarly, using a photo increases engagement, as does adding a hint of excitement (!). A hashtag is good, but limit yourself to just one or two at most; more will seem spammy.
The focus of this post is to consider ways to work with others on social media . . . especially those already most popular and active. The goal is to have the most visibility for your posts. Learn to watch and notice the kind of posts that are actually shared most often. What kind of content creates the most positive engagement?
Launch your social-media strategy by building friendly engagement with others, on their terms, following their interests, sharing their posts. This will develop goodwill – and followers for you; a good number of those involved in those conversations will also start to follow you.
Learn to craft good messages that are sharable and relate to your book, although perhaps indirectly. You’re building an invitation, a pathway, a welcoming place for good conversation. If your writing is worthy, people will be drawn to you in far greater numbers by this engaging, civil, sharing conversation, oriented on the real needs and interests of your audience.
This is how you can reach a million people. It’s not through your social-media account, but through the accounts of others.