It’s the buzzword in author marketing. Agents and publishers want new authors (especially non-fiction authors) to have an established platform: a network of contacts in real life and in social media that can be leveraged to purchase the book and influence others to purchase the book.
The foundation of any good author platform is a website. Have a custom website address (not a wordpress or blogspot address) so you own both the content and access to it. However, search engines such as Google don’t like static websites: they like to see sites where the information is updated regularly, which is why so many author websites incorporate a blog.
The trick to developing a solid platform is having something your target market wants. For example, I’ve gained over 1,000 Twitter followers tweeting information that will be useful to writers. My daughter has gained over 2,500 followers on Tumblr posting references to a popular young adult books series and TV show. That pales into insignificance compared to Jamie Curry, the New Zealand teen who currently has over 200,000 Twitter followers, and 7.5 million Likes on Facebook (yes, you read that right. More people follow Jamie Curry than actually live in New Zealand).
That’s a platform …
So what are the major social networks?
Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg as a way for Harvard students to contact each other. It now has over one billion registered users (although it’s estimated that 8.7% of them are fake accounts), and most major brands are represented on Facebook.
Twitter started in 2006, a a microblogging social and information network that allows users to send messages of up to 140 characters. Tweets can include links to other sites and #hashtags, words or phrases used to group posts (e.g. #christian, #fiction, #writing, #editing or #socialmediatips).
Pinterest has been operating since 2010, and at the third-largest social network in the US, it’s probably the fastest-growing. It centres around illustrations—‘pins’—which users can pin to themed boards. A majority of users are women (which is makes it an important site for authors, as most readers and authors of Christian fiction are women).
Google+ launched by Google in 2011 and claims to be the second-largest social networking site after Facebook (with 500m users). However, this could be because they automatically assigned accounts to all gmail users … The average Google+ user spends less than 5 minutes on the site each month, compared with 7.5 hours on Facebook.
LinkedIn is usually described as Facebook for professionals, even though it predates Facebook (LinkedIn was founded in 2002). The site encourages networking through groups, and providing personal recommendations and endorsements, but it is a professional site: it’s probably not useful for writers unless writing is their major source of income.
There are dozens (probably hundreds) of other social networking sites with various degrees of popularity. Major sites include YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram, but these are seen as being of less interest to writers—although research shows Tumblr and Instagram are more popular with teens and those in their twenties.
In all cases, the point of social networking for authors is to build relationships so your contacts will influence and advocate your brand (book) and enhance discoverability.
I’ll be going into more detail about each of the major networks in a series of posts later this year. Which social networks are you a member of? Which do you prefer? Why?
More importantly, which social networks do your target readers use?
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