Monday, January 30, 2012

A Social Media Toolkit with Laura Barnes

Today we have Laura Barnes, a MG writer and marketing consultant who specializes in social media tips for writers, answering some questions about how writers can effectively use social media to get their books out there.  You know, without spamming the twitterverse with pleas to buy books!  You can check out her website here, and even sign up to have your blog critiqued for its effectiveness!


What do you think is happening with newer social media tools like Google Plus and Klout, should writers be jumping on board? Or should they wait and see?
Um, so you had to ask the hard questions first, did ya?

Well, first let me say that I am so honored to be here. Thank you so much for having me!

Now have we all forgotten that silly first question? Okay, okay, I’ll answer. My approach is wait and see on Google +. I feel that writers should be writing, but many of these social media tools simply become time sucks. In a brilliant interview, John Mayer talked about how “pouring creativity into smaller, less important outlets like Twitter” is distracting. While networking is important, dedication to your art must come first. This is a long way to me saying that Google+ has not earned enough media impact for me to dedicate time to it yet. I stick with the social media that reaches the most people and has been proven effective because my time is valuable.

Klout doesn’t really take any time so go ahead and sign up for it if you are curious. It measures your “social influence” by tracking all your social media and seeing how many people you impact with your activities. It’s interesting, but can be somewhat deceiving because it compares joe shmoe to big corporate media moguls. If you use Klout, use it to measure your own growth, not to compare.

What is the most undervalued social media tool? Why?

Oh, goodness, there are a few. But if I had to pick one I would say Google Analytics. Mostly it’s undervalued because people don’t know how to use it to their benefit. But it is an excellent statistics tool that monitors the traffic on your blog and website. Using blogger’s built in statistics is not the same thing. Google Analytics can help you see not only what posts people read but how long they stay on your site, how deep into your site they go and where they exited your site at. It’s a really awesome tool. Even if it is essentially another Google version of big brother. ;)

A close second for favorite tools is Hootsuite. And if I think about it long enough I’ll say it’s my favorite. Hootsuite is awesome because it lets you manage many sites from one place. This means I can post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time – multiple Facebook pages, even. Yes, many RSS feeds allow you to be able to sync this info, but usually they are in real time. Hootsuite lets you schedule ahead. So if you are about to debut a new book and you are going to be busy at your launch party, you can schedule your shout out about your plans weeks in advance. Okay, now that I’m talking about it, I put Hootsuite as number one and Google Analytics as the close second. I can do that, right?

What is the one social media outlet writers should be on top of?

Well, Kristen Lamb would say Twitter. But I’m going to say Facebook. And it’s not just because I’m not that into Twitter, but it makes more sense. Tweets are sent into the universe and become old within minutes. Facebook holds your posts in a much less “noisy” newsfeed. Plus, statistically, 73% of internet users are on Facebook. 19% of internet users are on Twitter. That’s probably a little higher in the literary field because all of us writers have SO MUCH TO SAY, but Twitter still is not reaching the audience that Facebook can. Here’s some graphs if you want to see what I’m talking about.

What's your favorite way to build an online presence?

Making connections. Whatever medium you choose to devote your time to, making connections is really the only serious way you can build a presence. You could choose to participate in blogfests, comment on other people’s blogs, actively follow on Twitter, join groups and author pages on Facebook – whatever you choose to be involved in, really get involved. Meet people and get them talking about you.

It seems like more and more marketing campaigns are moving online (i.e. The Hunger Games movie campaign). Why is that and what can we learn from these campaigns?

Marketing in general has moved online, and, actually, expect to see more and more campaigns targeted for cell phone use. The web is where everyone is these days. We carry our smart phones around and are addicted to our iPads. If you want to reach people you have to go where they are. 79% of adults in the U.S. are on the internet. So that’s where you should market.

What we need to learn, though, is not to expect people to come to our websites and blogs just out of the blue. We need to pull people to our sites such as the Hunger Games campaign is doing. How did you first find out about the Hunger Games website? You likely heard about it via Twitter or Facebook. That’s because the website required you to use one of those logins to sign up. Then your action became an advertisement to all of your friends. That’s effective advertising.

What are some of the more effective social media campaigns you've seen?
The Hunger Games campaign has been good. The Muppets Movie also was excellent. They really hit all the social media. You can like Kermit on Facebook or follow Statler and Waldorf on Twitter. That got people excited about the movie. Of course, the Muppets had nostalgia on their side, but that could have backfired if the campaign hadn’t been set out to capture those of us who grew up with the puppets.

Another great campaign came from Diesel stores. They placed QR codes everywhere in their stores so that whenever a customer liked an item of clothing, they could scan it and it would post to their Facebook account. Again, the customer’s became the advertisers. Word of mouth is by far the biggest seller of anything. Why do you think Yelp is so successful?

Which social media sites are effective and which are dinosaurs?

This is tricky for me to answer. There are a ton of social media sites and many of them are effective for different people. I tell people to stick to the big four: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google +. And, seriously, I wouldn’t bother with Google+. I may not say the same thing if you were one of my marketing clients, but it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Writers – get yourself on Facebook and Youtube. If you can tweet too, then great. But make sure you are spending more time actually writing than social media-ing or it’s just not worth it. As for dinosaurs, I say MySpace.

Websites are homebase for most writers. What are three elements that are essential to having an
effective website or blog?

1. Have your name in your title. Even better, have it in your address. Next best would be to have it in your subtitle.
2. Include your contact information. You’d be surprised how many people have blogs with no means of contacting the owner.
3. Have a message or a mission statement. I don’t mean to post this for people to see, but know what you’re blog is about. Are you giving authors writing advice? Are you sharing your love of books through interviews and reviews? Are you rambling your way through life? All of those are okay as long as you are consistent. This can be a confusing concept to grasp because it doesn’t mean that your writer advice blog can’t contain an anecdote about your Thanksgiving Dinner. It just means that a new visitor should be able to read one or two posts and be able to get what you are about.

From Marissa Meyer: I believe in being as many places as make sense, but when time is
limited, what should we focus on? (Twitter, blog, FB...?)

The answer is it depends. Truly evaluate your time and your goals. Then pick the social mediums that can fit your lifestyle. If you can be available a lot of the time for only a few seconds, choose Twitter. If you want to casually post, choose FB. If you can dedicate thoughtful, consistent time to it, then blog. Blogging is my number one choice for writers because writers should write and because other writers like to read writer blogs. But if you can’t dedicate the time to consistently post, then you won’t get anything out of blogging.

Gen, thanks again for having me. I am thrilled to be connected to such a talented, successful, young mother. Writing Moms rule!!

Thanks Laura!  Lots of things to think about!  If you have questions for Laura, you can leave them below and I will strong-arm, um, ask her to answer them.


  1. Excellent advice, Laura! I probably miss out on Facebook, but it's never interested me. I stick to blogging and Twitter. Goodreads and Google+ are just extra.

  2. I just stumbled on this thanks to twitter. My good! Thanks so much. very helpful. I'd love some feedback on my blog. And a bit more info on using Youtube...thanks again.

  3. Alex - Thanks! And I think you do just fine without Facebook. You know how to make blogging work for you. The most important part of social media is deciding what you can do WELL and then doing it consistently. You got that down!

    Ka - just send an email with the subject FAMP to and I'll get you on the calendar for a blog critique. Also let me know exactly what you want to know about using Youtube and I'll see if I can answer. Oh, FAMP stand for From a Marketing Perspective, btw. :)

  4. What a great interview! I think you touched on just about everything to get started in social media. It's overwhelming at first so I'm glad you clarified which sites to pay attention to.

    I think Facebook is defnitely important like you said, but it's important to pay attention to the trends; heavy social media users migrated from facebook to twitter, which at the very least, means you should have a dual presence. For me, facebook is the people I (mostly) know, and twitter is everyone else I have the potential to reach.

    I would suggest also investing in an internet community; Goodreads for example has a lot of groups to join where you can focus more intimately on a genre and if it's a good group, you might be able to interact with "regulars." There's a website and a comment forum for practically anything you can think of. I've been a part of several online communities for 10+ years, and while smaller in scale, I know these people fairly well (some I've met and I ended up marrying one - although we met in person first, then talked online). This clearly takes time, but say if you're invested in a writing community for your specific genre, you gain a ton from those connections.

  5. Stephanie - Great comments! Watching social trends is very important. And you are a great example of you get what you put into it. I know of many people who divide Twitter and Facebook the way you have. That makes it easy for authors who want to keep their personal friends separate from their internet friends. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Great post! Thanks so much Gen and Laura! I am a long-time fan of Laura's but it was great to read this summation of information all in one interview and refresh my memory of it. And Gen, your book sounds terrific! Good luck with it :)

  7. I would also like to know more about YouTube. I have an account and have posted a few videos, but I would like to know more about how I can reach out to others with it.

  8. Susanna - thanks for following me over and I'm glad to introduce you to Gen :)

    Brooke - Your Youtube question depends on what your goal is and what you are posting. Are you trying to go viral? Are you posting book trailers? What do you want your videos to do? Or, a better question, what do you want people to do when they view your videos? Do you want them to buy your books? Visit your blog? I have to know more of these answers before I can give anymore advice. You have my email, right? Feel free to send me your questions.

  9. Melissa Brady KingFebruary 1, 2012 at 4:01 AM

    Hi Laura and Gen! AMAZING post. I've seen a lot of posts about marketing for writers but this one is by far the best. I hope you do another one on writers and YouTube! I'm so glad you emphasized writing over marketing while you're still getting started. You're the first person I'll contact once I have an author website! :)

  10. Awesome post! I never heard of Hootsuite! It sounds so convenient. Definitely checking it out!

  11. Excellent interview! Loved reading Laura's insights, especially on social networking. Thanks so much!

  12. EXCELLENT! There were some sites in there I hadn't heard of yet (like Hootsuite).My preference is blogging. To me it is more interesting.

  13. Ugh! I didn't know about Google Analytics and I don't like the sound of it! And I've been ignoring Google+. I have plenty of distractions with Facebook, Twitter, and blogging! Interesting point about FB versus Twitter!! Thanks for the great and informative interview, ladies. :)

  14. Super tips Laura. Thanks. I have become more fond of FB recently because when its your birthday or you have great news to share you get so much support on FB even from strangers but on Twitter you get lost in the crowd.

  15. Thanks, Melissa!! I'll have to think on a post about writers and YouTube. It sounds like it's really in demand!

  16. Thank you! One of my favorite parts of Hootsuite is the little Hootlet tool you can install. It's on the top of my internet browser so no matter what blog or site I'm visiting, I can easily give a shout out about it to any of my networks. It also has a mobile version. It's awesome and I can't praise it enough.

  17. Good, you can ignore Google+ with me! And thanks for the comments :)

  18. You're good at blogging and it seems to fit you, Southpaw. Thanks for following me over here. :)

  19. Yes, Twitter is like being at a party with a bunch of people you don't know - it's fun and wild but also fast paced and gone in the morning.

  20. [...] check out this interview with Laura Barnes, MG writer and marketing consultant. Some of Laura’s tips for effective [...]

  21. As someone who doesn't social network, this was an interesting post. I know a lot of writers have Twitter/Facebook accounts and I always wonder what the benefits (and the drawbacks) are to SN.

    I've heard of Klout before and meant to check it out, but I never got around to it. It sounds like a handy site!

  22. Can I tell you a secret? I haven't checked out Klout myself. I'm a bit frightened of my score so instead I pretend its not that cool :) If you try it, let me know how it goes!