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Do You Have A Social Media Plan?

by Jeannie Ruesch 26 February 2010 2 Comments

With the plethora of social media options out there for authors, it can be daunting and overwhelming to decide what will work for you, how to get started and what to focus on.  And with reports stating that social networks have overtaken email in popularity (and this was in early 2009), can you not be involved in social media as an author today?

But before you jump into the fray, you need a plan.  I’m not talking about how many minutes per day you spend (which is important, as well), but more on creating a business strategy for social media.  So to get more in-depth, I took this topic to the expert, PR guru Deirdre Breakenridge.

President and Executive Director of Communications at Mango!, Deirdre has been in the PR industry for years, as teacher, public speaker, PR goddess… She also recently published her 4th book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR, co-authored with Brian Solis. (Other books include PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences, The New PR Toolkit: Strategies for Successful Media Relations, Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy.)  Deirdre leads the pack in discussing how communication efforts are changing in today’s world of social media, and there couldn’t be a better person to talk about the best (and worst) ways to jump into the social media fray.

I want to thank Deirdre for being so generous with her time.  As we spoke, I furiously took down all the notes I could and did my best to put her excellent answers into a Q&A, so any errors (grammatical, typo or other) are mine.

What is a good way to get started in social media?

DB: Listen. Observe.  Identify.  As an author, it’s imperative to gain a connection with your audiences.  You have to look at what role social media could take in achieving that.  Go and listen in to a variety of communities – different social networking sites, niche communities like NING sites.  Find places where people may be talking and listen hard; listen for a significant period of time.

These are communities with a culture.  You really need to observe people and their behaviors and the sociology of the group, how they interact, the information they are sharing and what makes them excited.  As you watch and observe, discover where you fit in into their community and what you can contribute that would be relevant. As an author, I did a lot of listening and observing in different communities and I had my favorite bloggers that I knew I wanted to interact with.

Identify – tear it apart and process what you can actually add to the discussion that makes it more meaningful for the people in the community.  That’s your opportunity to engage.

How do you choose the direction to take or where to focus your efforts?

DB:  You should have a plan in place: here are my goals, these are the channels I’m pursuing, this is my strategy and how I’m sharing.

What are you trying to achieve?  Who do you want to connect with?  Who are the important folks in your niche or genre and where are they involved in communities?  For writers of fiction, you’re doing searches on subject matters and really getting into the consumer realm.  If you think your books are being read by stay at home moms, maybe you’re focusing on mom bloggers who might even be talking about the books.  You’d be listening for something completely different. Focus on keywords; really observe how these folks are communicating.

Look for conversations about authors in your genre.  If your genre is romantic suspense, see which competitors’ books are being talked about, where they are being talked about, and who is chatting about them.  Those are topics communities are built around.

What are some of the mistakes you see made when people jump into social media?

DB: There are so many – jumping in too quickly, not listening and spamming everyone along the way. They will immediately ignore who you are.

I’m a big advocate of “be who you are.” If you see my commentary somewhere, it has to be ME.  I don’t have a ghost blogger.  You know you’re talking to a human.  Be who you say you are.

Another important element:  If you make a mistake, be accountable. You’re human.   If an apology is necessary, make that apology.  That could stop a blog storm of negative comments.

Can you explain what a social media release (SMR) is?  I saw that you utilized it on your latest book release, co-authored with Brian Sollis.  Would this be something fiction authors could incorporate into their marketing practices?

DB: A Social Media Release is a great way to build community around whatever your story is, whatever you’re trying to tell. This particular release is not sent over the wire, although there are newswire services that have releases with social media capabilities.  SMRs are usually housed on a blog platform, with trackbacks, comments, and the ability to share the release.

The beauty is the fact that you’re able to tell your story and you can customize it. People can pull parts and share video or audio, if there is any. It becomes viral. It’s more of a pull message rather than a traditional release, which is pushed over the wire.  People who are genuinely interested take pieces of it and share what they want to share.

As an author, use an SMR to share elements of your book, or excerpts, or video where you’re talking about the book or at a conference.  Different things you can actually share, or information about wherever you’re going to be.  An SMR provides more information about you, the audience will learn more about you than a traditional release that just announces the book.  The more you’re able to share, the better the SMR is.

Jeannie’s Note:  Visit www.pitchengine.com for an example of how a SMR works.

Social media versus blogging versus newsletters…it’s a question I hear from authors and writers all the time.  How does an author decide which course to take?

DB: It depends on who you are trying to reach and their mindset. It’s all about media.  When you’re working with bankers and lawyers, you absolutely want to send them that newsletter. It’s what they like; it’s in their comfort zone.  At the same time, you have bankers and lawyers who are starting in social networking.  The whole hybrid approach really works.

We believe that if something is tried and true, you’re getting a good return on it, and you know it’s appreciated, you wouldn’t abandon that.  You would still share the newsletter, which also could link you over to the blog or to another community.  Capture a screenshot from your YouTube video and have a link on your newsletter or blog page.  Cross-pollinate your channels.

THANK YOU, Deirdre!

There was so much information in our conversation, and what I (Jeannie) took most from it is that social media is not about the author pushing their agenda outward.  It’s far less a “what can this do for me” environment than it is a “what can I offer to the community” mindset.  Before you leap into your social media ventures, step back for a minute.  Watch what others do.   See where you can not only participate in the conversations, but provide insight, information or something of value to those already involved.

And absolutely, before you engage in the communities, create a plan for your business aspects, one that works with the other elements you’ve chosen for marketing and PR. In the hours I spent perusing and reading on Deirdre’s websites, I discovered this PR 2.0 Checklist that I thought would be helpful to writers and authors as well.  It’s obviously geared toward business, but easily adapted to your needs.

PR 2.0 Checklist

  • Ask the question, “Why social media and what are we expecting to get out of engaging in the social sphere.”
  • Develop a social media policy
  • Which executives will participate in the program and determine the their time commitment
  • Share the policy with members of your organizations (build internal brand champions by establishing a participatory culture)
  • Set up monitoring and tracking of your brand, products and any trends that relate to your market (via free tools and paid software)
  • Listen to conversations in various social networks to see if your customers or other stakeholders are active in those communities and to pinpoint conversations relevant to your brand
  • Continue to observe communities for culture and interaction between community members
  • Identify who are the important influencers you would like to reach (from A-list bloggers to trendsetters and the magic middle) and what issues concern them
  • Decide who in the organization is going to manage information and direct continuous conversations and relationships (a community manager or social media manager)
  • Dissect information gathered in communities and share with other members/departments in your organization
  • Process the information within your organization and use it to provide insight and feedback in communities (and to also develop your communication strategy and content to share) or to place back into your product development cycle to enhance your offering for customers.
  • Determine a measurement strategy for engagement (participation could include leads/sales, conversations, registration, membership, education, authority, etc.)
  • Think about your budget and resources before you start your social media program.

See the checklist here.

Remember, with anything you do in the social media space, you are the author and the PR agent all wrapped into one.  Make the most of the experience and take the time to get it right.

And now I’m off to check my twitter lists… See you around the community! (I can be found on facebook or twitter, usually at random times of the day.)

About Deirdre

Deirdre K. Breakenridge is President and Director of Communications at Mango! , a bold new agency that provides the best of both traditional and social media marketing. A veteran in the PR industry, Deirdre leads a creative team of PR and marketing executives strategizing to gain brand awareness for their clients through creative and strategic PR campaigns. She counsels senior level executives at companies including ASCO, Hersheys, JVC, KRAFT, and Michael C. Fina.

Deirdre is an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, where she teaches courses on Public Relations and Interactive Marketing for the Global Business Management program. She is the author of four Financial Times/Prentice Hall business books: Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences, The New PR Toolkit, Cyber Branding

Deirdre has spoken publicly on the topics of PR, social media communications, digital marketing, and brand building for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Strategic ResearchInstitute (SRI), Women’s Presidents Organization (WPO), Tier1Research, and at a number of colleges and universities. Deirdre is a member of the PRSA and has served on the Board of NJ/PRSA and the New Jersey Advertising Club.

Learn more about Deirdre at http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/ or Deirdre’s company with Jay Miletsky, Mango! at http://www.marketmango.com.   Mango! has been fifteen years in the making and  focuses on capturing the best of traditional that your brand needs and how to engage in this social media universe.

Follow Deirdre: http://twitter.com/dBreakenridgehttp://www.facebook.com/breakenridge

2 Comments »

  • Laurie Ryan said:

    Great advice. Especially the overall concept to make it about what you have to offer, not about yourself. Thanks for the blog!

  • Lavada Dee said:

    Great blog with a lot of information. It’s so hard to keep time for writing and keep up with all that’s out there in PR. For me I’m finding I really manage promotion time.

    Thanks, I’ll watch the comments on this one.

    By the way, I hate to say it but what are NING sites?

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