Friday, April 8, 2011

The Long Term Approach to Author Platform

In three years of creating an author platform, I know one thing. I don't have the same amount of time every day for social networking. I'm sure you don't either. Maybe some of you started out fast and hard, finding and following new blogs regularly and getting involved on Facebook or Twitter. You may have been exhilirated, scared, or both.

Six months later, a year later, two years later...are you social networking with the same intensity as when you started?

I can only speak for myself, but in some ways yes, in others no.

Last year, I cut back on my social networking. I read fewer blog posts. My blog readership went down and I added few new followers. But I sensed a deep need to focus solely on my writing, and I don't regret it. Also, I found myself often feeling sad when I went to blogs, Facebook and Twitter. All of the wonderful success stories depressed me. Not that I didn't share in my friends' joy--I did--but it didn't change the fact I felt stuck in one place, like a child trying to climb up a "down" escalator.

Sometimes letting your platform stagnate is the best thing you can do for yourself.

The extra time spent on my writing helped it flourish, and, as months passed, I longed to grow my platform again. Since I never disappeared from my networks, I found it fun and easy to increase my web-presence.

Here are my tips for successful, long-term social networking.

1. Acknowledge there will be periods of time when you will have less time to interact online.

2. Come up with a plan on how you will stay connected with your various networks during your busy months.

   In hectic phases:
   - I read fewer, if any, blog posts.
   - I check in every weekday on Twitter and Facebook, but I spend less time socializing and I share fewer links.
   - I don't actively find new blogs.
   - I DO continue my blogging schedule.
   - I try to respond to each comment on my blog, but I give myself permission to pop-in with a quick comment if I'm too busy.
   - I keep in touch with my closest online friends either through e-mail, direct messages, or leaving a comment on their blogs.

3. Recognize the less time you spend on social networking, the less benefits you will receive.

   - I get less blog hits, less new followers, less Twitter interaction, less new friends on Facebook, etc...
   - I do not panic over this. I know that when my life settles down, I will spend more time networking and will reconnect with everyone.

4. Realize the drop in your "popularity" does not reflect on you personally. Your blogging friends still like and support you, they're just busy too. We all respond to people who reach out to us the most. When your life settles down, go back to their blogs and leave comments. You'll be back in the loop before you know it.

5. Maintain visibility on your networks. Dropping out is not good for your platform. You can drastically cut back, but by no means should you disappear completely. You've worked hard to build your platform. Support it.

   - If you have a blog, find a way to post regularly. Maybe your posts will be shorter, but make sure they're there.
   - Find five minutes to check in with Facebook and "like" the comments your friends leave. You know the Friend Suggestions in the sidebar? Send a friend request to two of these each day to continue growing your Facebook presence.
   - Find five minutes to check in with Twitter and respond to mentions or say hello to your friends. Chances are your friends share #WW (writer Wednesday) or #FF (Follow Friday) lists. Add two or three new people they suggest and your Twitter presence will continue to grow.

6. When the busy time ends, double or triple the amount of time you spend on social networking to increase your online presence. This might last a week or two, whatever you can afford, but every minute will be time well-spent.

7. Published authors: Ramp up your social networking at least two months before your next release. Try not to wait to reconnect with your networks until a few weeks before a release because you will be heavily promoting your book. Social networking is a conversation, so take extra care to chat with your networks before heavily promoting your book. Remember, people buy books from people they like!
Anyone working on an author platform will have to adjust to the commitments it brings. Try not to feel guilty at not being able to keep up with everyone equally and at all times. Building an author platform means we're going to follow many more people's blogs, Facebook updates, and Twitter feeds than we could ever keep track of. Let go of that burden. Do your best to interact with your closer online friends and new contacts.

Do you have long-term strategies to nurture your author platform? Care to share them?

Have a fabulous Friday!


  1. Great tips. I've found keeping up with social media to be really difficult when I'm working on a new book or in the middle of edits.

  2. I don't find it hard to keep up so much when I'm writing, it usually is when family events happen. My daughter is visiting for two weeks soon and I know I will be out of circulation during that time.

  3. I needed to read this.

    I am facing some serious challenges in my near future and as a result I have been pondering whether I should shut down my blogs. But I really don't want to let go of the relationships online. Not completely!

    Judy Hedlund recently wrote in one of her posts that writing posts does become easier and quicker -- the more experienced we are, the less time it takes.

    I think having a formula can really help with posting. Guest posting can help a lot, too. So can limiting our words to 300 or less.

  4. Great post. Some days I have more time than others to find new blogs. I always appreciate #FF and #WW by bloggers I respect. It saves me time from "hunting" so thanks! :) I do check FB and Twitter everyday. I probably spend more time on FB. Have a great weekend.

  5. My biggest goal is to be consistent. And yes, some days I might not have any time to comment but I usually get to everyone at least twice a week!

  6. Lots of good tips here, thank you. I must admit to spending more time posting on my own blog than paying my visitors the courtesy of visiting theirs in return but, as you say, life is hectic. I've had over 40 invitations to sign, talk, appear at literary festivals, etc, so far this year. Apart from writing, book promotion is very time consuming once your books are published and time for blogging, facebook, twitter, etc, is squeezed. Thanks again for sharing your tips here.

  7. Hi Jill- I love this post because I think as authors we're often so focused on the now now now of social networking that we forget our long-term goals and to have a long-term plan. Thank you so much for the great reminder!

  8. Good morning!

    Julie J: I hear you. I find it most difficult when I'm revising or when I have a busy month outside the home with other commitments.

    Terri: Family events, vacations--they put a huge crimp in networking. I agree!

    Cassandra: Have you considered only having one blog? It's not as difficult to post and keep up with just one. I'd hate to see all your hard work disappear if you shut them all down.

    Jessica P: Funny, I used to spend more time on FB, but now I spend more time on Twitter--but I struggle to find time for it all!

    Laura: Consistency is key. I used to be able to get to everyone's blogs weekly, but I took on more volunteer opportunities this year, and my blog reading suffers. I'll have to reevaluate my commitments this summer.

    Leigh: I believe you have the right strategy. We have to prioritize our networking strategies and our blogs should come first. And congrats on all of the opportunities--but wow! It must be hard to decide where to devote your time. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Erin: Definitely. And it can be frustrating when we realize building our platform is taking too many hours in our day. It's hard to step back and reclaim our time, but sometimes we have to. Everyone has different commitments, and right now I have an active family. In ten years, my commitments will be very different.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. As a new blogger, I've found it difficult to write, promote a platform and socialize online. It's quite trying at times.

  10. Great post Jill, useful and true... I have been blogging for ages, post only once or twice a week. Being consistent is the key and being kind :)

  11. There's a time for building and a time for maintenance, and I'm definitely in the latter currently for blogging. But I think I've kept the grass green but do need to fertilize in the twitter/fb zone. I have ideas for long term but have not set a plan. Great tips again Jill.

  12. Jill, I need to study this post. Great insights here, and after taking a year off, I need to really work on this again, but you know what, I'm just so engrossed in getting my series ready that I'm not that committed to social networking. I want back in to reconnect with old online friends and gain new ones but I'm not looking at it as building my platform. That would stress me too much, so I guess I hope what I do offer in this area organically grows that author platform even if at a snail's pace.

  13. I try to set aside time each day to touch base with my online friends. When I miss a few days, I go into withdrawal.

  14. "Acknowledge there will be periods of time when you will have less time to interact online."

    I think I'm going to have to acknowledge this soon - like next month.

    This was great advice Jill.

  15. I'm trying every day to be less of a disagreeable curmudgeon. :)

  16. Such excellent advice. So wise to have realistic thoughts about when you aren't putting yourself out there how others will be less likely to reach out at times.

    I've certainly cut back during certain seasons.

    Great thoughts, Jill!
    ~ Wendy

  17. Great post Jill. Yeah it can get tiring or even depressing watching your numbers slowly trickle in and working so hard to garner those. I find the best thing is to establish a social media strategy at the outset. (I do a lot of these for clients). It's all so very simple. Establish a schedule for posting on blog and Facebook. Twitter just find the core people you want to talk with everyday (about 20 give or take) keep up with those friends, Re-tweet and message as you go and finish with anything new you really want to say that day. Also respond to any new mentions with a quick 'Hey' This routine will get you at least 2-3 new followers a day. You don't neglect the platforms but you're also only spending maybe an hour on updates(blogs aside).

  18. Thanks,Jill.
    You wrote this post for me. (hee hee)

    At times I feel overloaded with blogging AND social networking. It tends to choke out my writing time. The socializations are fun, but time consuming. I need to find a happy medium. Thank you for the fabulous tips.

  19. This is excellent advice, Jill. Thank you so much for giving us permission to breathe!

    Happy Weekend,

  20. Loree: I know. Anyone building a platform knows. It DOES take time, but it can be manageable. My approach to platform has always been slower and I don't regret it.

    Marja: That sums it up--consistency and kindness! Thanks!

    Lynn: Good analogy about keeping it fertilized. I love that!

    Eileen: You're so friendly and genuine, your platform will grow regardless. I'm thrilled to have you back and excited for you with this series!

    Keli: Same here!

    Katie: March was maintenance mode for me. I'll have more time in April to connect. *hugs* for your busy month ahead!

    Jill: As if you ever were! I'm not buying it!

    Wendy: Yeah, I know very few, if any, social networkers who continue to get the same results when they cut back their efforts. As long as we understand that, it's fine!

    P.W.: Your strategy and mine are similar. I agree that we can squeeze in time throughout the day to keep up with our networks. Great tips!

    C.E.: Of course I wrote it just for you! :) Yeah, I understand. I wish I had a magic bean for it, but we just do the best we can!

    Jen: We need to breathe. I don't want to feel frazzled because I didn't read 275 blog posts in Google Reader that day. Some things we just have to let go!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  21. Fantastic post. I'm struggling right now to find the balance so thank you for the tips and advice!

  22. Jill, found your blog today and I feel like I've been searching for this advice since the end of 2009 when I started blogging. It's difficult to find the balance but these tips make it seem much more manageable and achievable. Thanks!

  23. I really enjoyed this post. I feel like I'm forever trying to find a balance between networking, learning from others, and creating. (Oh yeah, and also feeding the children. There were a few nights recently when my kids reminded me we didn't have dinner. Thank God for cereal.)

  24. Sondrae: I think I'll always be trying to find the balance. It's really hard. "Letting go," is not easy for me, especially since I enjoy social networking very much!

    Alanna: Welcome! I'm so glad you popped in. You're not alone. It was easy keeping up with new contacts when my network was small, but now it's much more difficult. I feel guilty about it at times but remind myself not to.

    Tara: Welcome! I know. My kids are elementary school-aged and extremely busy. I struggle to keep up with it all! We had frozen french fries and chicken nuggets last night--don't feel bad!!

    Thank you so much for stopping by!

  25. This is such a timely post for me, jill!! Thank you!!

  26. Great suggestions for cutting back. You truly have a knack for details. This is an amazing list of ideas.

  27. Heather: I'm sure you're looking forward to a much less hectic period!!

    Nancy: Thank you. It's hard deciding what to spend time on, and I think each person will find a balance that works for them.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  28. A very reassuring post. Platforming can be very enriching as you make connections, and also very draining. I was surprised when I took a month off of blogging, how easy it was to jump right back in and reconnect. But that's wise advice to keep posting regularly, even if they are short.

  29. Hi Jill -

    Thanks for this excellent post.

    I spend a lot of time online, but I just got a job. My schedule is about to be thrown into chaos. Your points made me breathe a bit easier.

    Susan :)


I love to hear from you!