Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Building A Platform; Klout, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook...What Does It All Mean? I AM MY BRAND.


Building an author platform.

Branding.

Networking.

What does it all mean?  If you're a writer today, are thinking about being a writer, or are trying to be a writer, or - like myself - have some small stuff out there and are hoping to move forward, you can't escape it: "branding" or building a brand or an author platform or networking via social media is no longer the fresh, new, innovative way to reach out to potential readers and consumers and fans...

It's apparently one of the main ways, now.  Pretty central.  If you don't have a website, blog, Twitter, Facebook...that's almost as bad as not having something written, depending on whom you talk to, these days.

As always, I'm blogging from the perspective of someone who's in the middle of grappling with all this.  I'm no expert. And, I'm going to be honest: with my schedule, I've got time for reading and writing.  That's it.  Television doesn't even fit in there.  So I'm certainly not going to spend lots of time researching social media, reading blogs about social media, books about social media.   Best I can do is throw myself out there amongst the digital rabble, and hope something "sticks", so to speak.

And also, I've yet to come across (granted, I haven't looked very hard) specific research or data that links blogging and networking frequency with sales numbers.  I can tell you I don't think that way about the fiction I purchase (although, I could be considered old, easily). 

For example, I don't care whether or not Ron Malfi or Norman Partridge or Rio Youers ever write another blog.  Or in Ron's case, a blog ever. I'll always buy their work, because they.... well...they're fantastic writers. I'd rather them be writing than blogging, any day.

But it's pointless to argue or push against the digital tide.  And for me, I seem to be a very slow writer, and recently I've accepted that.  Or, maybe it's just the phase of life I'm in: with two kids under the age of eight.  So,  because I'm a slow writer, I'm bound to suffer gaps between publications.  If nothing else, blogging and reviewing and Twitter and Facebooking fills in the gaps.  Sort of a like a "Hey! I'm still alive over here!"

But, an author's social media CAN'T be all about writing and being an author and pimping their work 24-7.   Author Gary Braunbeck - one of my favorites - wrote a blog about that, recently.  One of my favorite snippets: 

In short:  don’t be an obnoxious, in-your-face ass-hat when it comes to choosing where and how to pimp your new book.  Don’t graft the subject into discussions where it does not belong.  And don’t make sure to mention it in every conversation on-line and off, or you’ll become a slashing bore in a hurry. 

BUT, in today's digital world, authors/writers need a digital, Internet presence.  In some ways - and maybe this says something about the voyeuristic society we live in - potential readers want to know authors before they buy into their work, more than ever before.

So.  My brilliant internet marketing strategy - while hopefully not being an obnoxious, in-your-face-ass hat?

Just be me.

And that's about it.

On Facebook, I try just to be me.  For just about everyone to see.  My page is set to 'public', so even if you aren't a friend, you can see my stuff.  And I've got a WILD mix of friends. And family. And former students. And colleagues.  And fellow alumni from all three colleges I attended. And heck, even my Pastor.  Luckily, "me" is a pretty low-key kinda guy.  But, at the same time, I try not to worry about what the "horror folks" think about a post I throw up, or what some of the more conservative folks think about it.  I'm just me, and that's all there is too it.

Here on the blog - which of course, is tied into Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Triberr, and my Amazon Profile - I blog about whatever is on the top of my head at that moment. Stuff I like. About reading. About parenting. About teaching.  About something that's bothering me.  About my worries, fears, and dreams.  I try to blog whenever I have a thought.  But I also resist "planning" my blogs. Obviously, if something good happens on the writing front: a review, a new publication, whatever, I blog about that.

But this blog is just me.  Some folks advocate planning out your blog in advance.  Me, I'm not into that. I guess it just feels false.  I try to blog regularly, and that's all.  It helps that I'm a pretty random guy.  That's what Twitter and Facebook are fun for.  The ultimate in "randomness".  And I love being random.  It's a good thing I DON'T have an Iphone I could just post stuff from. I'd Tweet every single random moment on my day, and you don't need that.  Seriously. 

Pinterest and Goodreads are turning into really good platforms for blabbing about stuff I really like.  Granted, both of them have specific uses for a writer.  Goodreads imports my blog, and has a bunch of promotional tools for writers, and I use them. But I'm two things in addition to being a writer: an addicted reader and bibliophile.  So Goodreads brings me intrinsic satisfaction for that alone, because I get to share my interests when it comes to reading.  Also, I'm a Goodreads Librarian. FEEL THE POWER!

And Pinterest allows me to collect images I like. Again, ironically enough, these images are book covers - and yes, some book covers of things related to my writing - but mostly book covers I've really liked over the years, or books I've read, or am reading. I also copy my blog over there, too.  But there are TONS of other reasons I use Pinterest.

And then comes this new mysterious thing called Klout.  Klout is, according to them:

Klout measures influence online: Our friendships and professional connections have moved online, making influence measurable for the first time in history. When you recommend, share, and create content you impact others. Your Klout Score measures that influence on a scale of 1 to 100.  

So basically, Klout is supposed to rate how effective a "influence" I am. Determine what I blog most about, and how that influences folks in my "network".  In some mysterious way, they calculate the number of likes, comments, reposts, shares, retweets, blog comments and hits, to determine what subjects I'm "influential" in, and how much I "influence" people.

 According to Klout, I'm influential in the following areas: 

- writing: STRONG 
-  horror: STRONG 
-  authors: MEDIUM 
- Amazon: LOW 
- Books: LOW 
- Magazine: LOW 
- Autism: LOW

Now. How much stock do I put into all this? What has Klout done for me? For the most part, the only benefit Klout has shown is basically free stuff.  Apparently, I'm considered to be influential in "writing, horror, and authors", so I get free  stuff related to those areas. To date, three free Stephen King novels, including his newest, before anyone else. And hey, free stuff? I'll take that.

But my Klout "score" of 60?  I look at it like this: as a writer in the new digital age who must build a platform - whether I want to or not - I need to be active on my various social media hangouts.  Klout simply reflects that, and if the score dips, I don't freak out, just see that as a reminder that I'm slacking off a bit, and need to get more active again.  As for how I'm active on all these things...

I just be me.  Really, what point is there in being anything else?  Success in a writing career depends on so many intangible variables, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to build an overnight brand, impossible to calculate the EXACT right social media approach. I be me. I blog about what I like and dislike, what's on my mind, and usually what I like and dislike and what I'm thinking about ranges from horror to books to reading and writing and literature in general, maybe movies, but can veer over into parenting, teaching, education, and other random topics.

So my brand?

Is me.  I am my brand.  And if you like it, follow me. Hopefully, I won't be a an obnoxious, in-your-face ass-hat along the way....;)