Understanding Influence–Making the Most of Our Time on Social Media

Photo thanks to Jason Bacues of Bacues Billiards 

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, chock full of tips to rock your social media experience and based off my best selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. One of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is that writers believe they have no time. I am going to share a little secret. We have plenty of time if we do it properly. The problem is that too many writers are approaching social media like traditional marketing instead of social marketing. When we try to apply traditional marketing tactics, we will be spread too thinly to be effective and, truthfully, can do more harm than good. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading my books for a clear understanding of the key differences between traditional marketing and social marketing.

Social marketing capitalizes on networking. Embrace the great news. We don’t have to do everything alone!!! Traditional marketing will tempt you to be on every last social media site and make a bazillion “friends,” yet all those “friends” will likely not be too vested in your success. So please trust me. A smaller network of effective influencers is far more powerful than a thousand followers who add little social media value.

What is social media value?

Well, these are the members of your social grid who participate actively and add good content to the Internet community. We are going to talk about the different kinds of influencers in a moment. Find these key individuals, and there are no limits to your digital reach. These influencers are platform-building GOLD and your most valuable asset.

So how do you find the key influencers?

There are a number of ways to pinpoint our major influencers, but it is tricky. Why? Because unlike direct marketing or old-fashioned PR, the goal of social media is to influence entire groups of people. We aren’t just targeting one individual, but rather the individual and his/her surrounding community. That is one of the reasons that, unlike direct marketing, the overall effectiveness of social media is not as easy to measure. There are some SIM (Social Influence Marketing) metrics that one can run, and companies that can help you locate your referent influencers, but I don’t know that they are all that helpful for authors wanting to build a platform.

Yeah, you are going to have to do some work. Sorry. But I help you make it fun.

Writers are different than companies doing social media. That was the impetus behind me writing  social media books specifically for authors. Not all tools that work well in the corporate world cross over.

Unlike General Motors or Sealy, most of us are a one-man operation. We don’t have a marketing department to do all this stuff for us, and we also have a different kind of product. The CEO of John Deere is not responsible for making every tractor that comes off the assembly line. Yet, most authors are required to write their own books. We cannot outsource our social media content (blogs, articles, excerpts, commentary, group activity, etc.) like, say, All State or Heineken.

The plain fact of the matter is that the more we participate in social media, the better the results. And when I say participate, that means strategized participation (mixed with fun) with clear end goals. This has become far easier to do since I launched the #MyWANA group on Twitter. I liken #MyWANA to the writer’s water cooler. Yes, there is time to chit chat, network, share links and encourage one another, but trust me, you spend too long on there and one of your digital colleagues is guaranteed to threaten to use #thepantsofshame if you don’t get back to your word goals.

But basically, when it comes to building an author platform, we all need to have a plan. In order to have a plan, we must understand the players if we hope to identify those who can maximize our influence, thereby minimizing the time we spend on social media. Not all users are created equally. They are divided into categories that correspond with the influence they exact of their surrounding networks.

Expert Influencer—is just what it says. These are the authorities in a certain subject, and people look to these experts for information, advice, and guidance. The experts are heavyweights when it comes to influencing the decisions of those in their networks. Expert influencers usually have a picture of themselves as their icon. They also generally have huge following that number in the thousands or tens of thousands, depending on the platform. Also, a quick glance to their website (which is usually denoted in the bio) will give you a clear picture that this person is an expert in her field. Oprah. Enough said.

#MyWANA has been very blessed to have a wealth of experts who participate regularly. We have quite a few agents and even NY Times best-selling authors. We also have quie a few people who have been very successful at indie publishing and self-publishing. There is a wealth of expert knowledge out there if we are willing to pay attention. The other benefit of the experts who gather at #MyWANA is these people are actually participating and interacting. The downside of following most experts is the content is often automated. We might get the benefit of their knowledge, but it will be next to impossible to actually network with these folks. Ah, but on #MyWANA @jamesrollins, @bobmayer, and @allisonbrennan are regularly there to share their awesomeness with the rest of us.

Referent Influencer—is in the person’s social network and exercises influence. Referent influencers are a little trickier to figure out. They generally have a fairly large following, but not always. Quality and quantity are not the same thing.

So how do we figure out the referent influencers? We have to participate so we can pay attention. For the most part the referent influencers are highly active on social media and thus usually have a larger following than the casual user, but maybe not as large as the expert. Yet, it is their level of meaningful activity that makes them essential to have in our network. They post a lot of times a day and are well-known, liked, and respected for good content. People around them trust them for good stuff. These are the people you miss when they take a day off.

In my opinion, the referent influencer is the most valuable. Why? First, it is easier to get close to them and befriend them and gain their support. If you write a blog about overcoming substance abuse (as part of your NF book platform), what are the odds of becoming part of Dr. Phil’s inner circle? Referent influencers are far more approachable and, frankly, there are more of them. Also, they are more likely to have followers who are active on social media.

For instance, when I first started helping James Rollins, it seemed almost ridiculous. I had 4,000 followers and he had almost 15,000. What did little me have to offer? Well, many of my followers were very active and had regular blogs and their own platforms. My followers are on Twitter to influence. That is our goal. But what about Jim’s followers? Maybe some of them have influence, but a lot of his followers are on Twitter to chit-chat with family and keep tabs on their favorite author. So in ways, the playing field isn’t as disparate as one might initially think.

Positional Influencer—is often in the person’s inner circle. Friends, family, spouses are all examples of positional influencers. Yes, whether most of us admit it or not, our mothers’ opinions still influence us.

Virtually everyone on social media is a positional influencer to someone else. Positional influencers can be very valuable to a writer, especially in certain genres. For instance, I imagine that most 4-year-olds don’t drive down to Barnes & Noble, slap down a credit card and buy a stack of kid’s books. But moms do. If you happen to write for children, middle grade, teens, or any group that typically would not be the purchaser of the book, then you must target the positional influencers or risk losing a huge percentage of your potential consumers.

What this means is that everyone on social media holds some value. They may not have large social networks (yet), but they hold a lot of influence when it comes to their friends, family and peers. I know last year when Jody Hedlund’s The Preacher’s Bride was released, it quickly rose to the top 20 on the best-seller list and a lot of that had to do with 1) it was a really excellent book and 2) a lot of us couldn’t quit talking about how awesome Jody is and that she had a new book. I think at least 5 of my family members bought copies of Jody’s book just because I wouldn’t shut up about it :D.

At the end of the day, be good to anyone who is being good to you. Networks are hard to build, and we need as much help as we can get from our social community. So if others help “raise your barn,” (repost your posts) make sure you pitch in with theirs. It is just good manners. Yet, it really can help maximize your time and influence if you will be mindful to befriend thos who exercise greater impact on social media. If you get a chance, come join us at #MyWANA. Our sole mission is to support, encourage and promote one another.

So what are your thoughts? Do you find social media overwhelming? For those of you who’ve been on #MyWANA, has it helped?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements and Mash-Up of Awesomeness Below

I am teaching TWO workshops at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. There is a Becoming a Brand class for $20, but if you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Kicking out a Fast First Draft by Anne Greenwood Brown over at Writer Unboxed

Should Writers Use Excel by Jenny Hansen

7 Deadly Sins of Writing over at The Bookshelf Muse

25 Things You Should Know About Revisions by the HILARIOUS Chuck Wendig (And, yes, I am a total fan girl of Chuck which is why I always mention him. His blogs are THAT great.

Adventures in Children’s Publishing is a WONDERFUL resource for all writers, so I highly, highly recommend this treasure trove of awesomeness.

6 Benefits of Having an Agent in Today’s Publishing World by the talented and brilliant Jody Hedlund (yes, I am a fan of hers, too :P)

Chuck, Jody and then there is Tawna Fenske. If you want a place for a guaranteed good time, seriously gop check out her blog. Tawna is amazing.

Also, check out Camp Cheerful over at Piper Bayard’s blog. Can you tell I love funny blogs? Life is short! Laugh and laugh often.


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  1. Ah, great, great stuff, thank you!

  2. Great blog, Kristen! “At the end of the day, be good to anyone who is being good to you.” Yes. When people are only good to those who have large followings, they are missing the point. Also, when people are only there to pump themselves and never support others, they become the fourth category, the Negative Influencer. Not only to I not want to know them and hate seeing them in my twitter stream, I don’t want to follow any of their . . . Oh, wait. They never give recommendations. Negative Influencers just make us feel icky and tired with their constant haranguing for our attention.

    Thanks for the shout out! It’s wonderful folks like you who make social media a joy. I promise I will never buy you a ticket to Camp Cheerful. 🙂

    1. LOL, Piper. I agree on the Negative Influencers who go “me, me, my blog, I, I, my book, me, my, I-I-I”….isn’t that so tiring?

      I know Kristen doesn’t get a ticket to Camp Cheerful, but maybe she and I can be counselors?? With Tiffany White and Amy Shojai! It will be so Cheerful. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this, its very helpful. So far, I haven’t been too overwhelmed by social media especially because there are so many tools/apps to integrate them all or make it less work…

  4. I liked the way you categorized the people who are influential with regard to our social media. It’s a daunting job trying to make friends in the virtual world of Twitter and Blogging, but you make it fun.

  5. Twitter should have been around in Oscar Wilde’s day. He was much more amusing in his social talk than in his works. Ah, if only all his tweets could have been preserved!

  6. Great post. I think the key is to be nice to everyone and try to interact with as many as possible. That’s what I love about Tweetdeck. You can’t easily see how many followers they have (unless you make the effort to click) and so you’re replying because of their post and nothing else. It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful people there are on Twitter who want to see their online friends succeed just as much as themselves. That’s a rare thing in today’s world.

    Happy #mywana Wednesday!

    1. Here, here! And happy #MyWANA wednesday from me too 🙂

  7. I’m glad you gave a reality check and talked about time spent on social media. It’s been a recent theme in blogs like yours and Clay did one last week too. I was inspired to get a planner and start mapping out my day. Like you’ve suggested, and I’m finally following *eep*, I used things like twitter #mywana and blog surfing as a reward and am getting my posts done ahead and digging into WWBC critiques to learn and prep more for my own pages. It’s not always easy (feeling lie, as you say), but I do feel like I’m using my time more wisely and making progress, which is the big picture! Thanks Kristen!

  8. Informative and inspiring post, as usual! Can I just download your brain into mine? No? Fine. Guess I’ll just have to finish reading WANA. 🙂 I’ve been approaching this social media thing all wrong. Thankfully I found your book and blog and am starting to make changes. This post gave me much more food for though. Thanks!

  9. I’m enjoying these posts so much! As the last author not on Twitter, my focus is my blog and Facebook account. A lot of what you’ve said here reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, a book I loved so much I chatted it up to friends and family (using that positional influence of mine). 😉

  10. Great post! I do feel like becoming part of different groups and networking on social media has helped me tremendously. I am reaching out to people and other authors that I never would have before. Thanks to you and your books, I’m able to do social media properly instead of wandering around lost.

  11. I’m a bit frustrated by Twitter recently because seems I can’t get there the same time each day…and most of my Sweet Tweets show up at a certain time. Tweetdeck really helps keep track of what I’ve missed and to catch up, though.

    Love the #MyWANA community because everyone is so supportive of each other!

  12. Thanks for the shout-out on the Excel blog! It makes my day to be included in the Mash-up of Awesomeness. 🙂

    Now I’m off to finally post round 2 of what is turning into a series on Excel. Then I’ll reward myself by going through your mash-up links. 🙂

    1. I just noticed that I’m quite smiley up there!! Could it be that I finally got some sleep after weeks of Teething Hell????

    • Kerry Meacham on June 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm
    • Reply

    I’m #6 on “The Preacher’s Bride” list of people you influenced regarding sales for that book. I also recommended it to three other people that I know bought copies. Awesome book.

    Great post as always Kristen.

  13. I remember reading this in We Are Not Alone but that was two weeks ago. I sure needed the reminder. I’ve loved “meeting” new folks to follow and visiting new blogs that I’ve found while creeping around #mywana. Thanks so much for setting that up!

  14. #MyWana is wonderful and I can’t recommend it to other writers fast enough! Can I call you the Jeti Master Influencer? 🙂

    1. Anything with the “Jedi” in the title is awesome :D.

    • EllieAnn on June 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm
    • Reply

    Quality doesn’t equal quantity on twitter, fo’ sho’ #TEAMFOLLOWBACK may have 10,000 followers but they won’t exactly be helpful in a pinch. I’ve met tons of amazing people who I’ve learned from, laughed with, shared with, and who I know would help me in a pinch and vice-versa (many of them from #mywana) and it’s awesome to see that number of close influencers growing! TY, Ms. Lamb for your advice on putting the social into social media!

  15. This is the kind of talk that’s been going around the marketing departments of the tech industry as well. The hard part for them? They’re corporations and often don’t or can’t make individual connections with influencers, especially when the marketing department insists that all external communications go through ‘proper channels’, lest they become irrelevant.

    I hope and dream for the day that I become a referent influencer. Not just because I’d have multitudes…well…some people who care about my opinions, but also because I get to make friends with authoritative influencers. They often become authoritative as they’ve tons of experience, and developing relationships with them may lead to a passing on of that experience in very meaningful ways. I like to learn.

    Not to mention, making interesting friends is cool.

  16. This is SO relevant for me this week as I’ve been super short on time! Thank you so much for another wonderful blog post!

  17. I’ve just been on Twitter a month and I’m working on building a network, so this was really helpful. I also participate in a group blog (TheAuthorChronicles.wordpress.com), and this post will be included in our Top Picks Thursday next week as a recommended post.

  18. Great post. And it has me thinking (this is sometimes a good thing…)

    Social media has been more helpful for me than a time suck, even if I think beyond the great relationships I’ve developed. It’s become my research assistant. Tweet a question and listen to the world reply instantly. I love that.

  19. I’m new to your place, Kristen, and I can’t believe how much good information and resources are highlighted in this post alone. Thank you…and lovely to meet you!

  20. This post couldn’t have hit me at a more perfect time. I have about a gazillion unread posts on my google reader. I thought I had them under control, but one bad week with little reading and they exploded on me.

    I was starting to feel like I was drowning and that all of this is pointless. Your explanation of influential contacts was very helpful. I think I need to lower my reading expectations and start interacting more and better on twitter.

    Gosh. Sometimes I feel way too old for this.

    But thanks.

  21. Great article! I’m pretty new to the world of social media (though I hopped over from Jody’s twitter link to read this) and am soaking up these tips. Thanks!

  22. Another useful post thank you. Ive only recently jumped into the waters of twittr etc and am still learning how to NOT waste too much time on diff media. Its tough though when everyone RT’s so many awesome blog posts everywhere that i really enjoy reading! (you hear that everyone – STOP telling us about funny/witty/interesting blogs!)

    I have – and continue to – ‘meet’ so many interesting writers via the MyWANA hashtag. Im very grateful for the day i heard about it.

    1. The best solution I’ve found to that problem is to turn TweetDeck on but leave your browser off (some of the time, anyway…). I have way too many tabs set to open in my browser, which means it takes ages to load, so it’s a deterrent to clicking casually on all those tempting links. 🙂

      Now, controlling my time on TweetDeck, that’s a whole ‘nother problem!

  23. Great Blog Kristen. I’m just getting involved with Twitter and your posts have been very helpful.


  24. Thanks so much for the mention, Kristen! Glad you liked the 7 Deadly Sins of Writing 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  25. I’m with Christine Grote, so much of this can be overwhelming. Thank to you, Kristen, for your helpful advice and tips.

    1. Frankly it is overwhelming and that is why I stress the importance of being part of a team. Makes life way easier :D. Hope to see you on #MyWANA

  26. Great post! And as Stacy mentioned above, the point isn’t just to interact with those who have big follower numbers. Like you said, it’s to be nice to those who are nice to you.

    I’ve been on Twitter long enough that I’ve seen some of the tricks to get huge follower numbers. Spammers can have 20K followers – really. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the quality of interaction. 🙂

  27. This is such a helpful post for authors trying to get comfortable with social media. Even the comments were helpful!

  28. Your posts are so helpful, Kristin. Yes, I find it all overwhelming, but lucky me heard about #MyWANA before I started tweeting. It’s really nice when someone answers a tweet, and so many twibe members have been helpful and supportive and very patient with this slow social media learner!

  29. I have been neglecting my twitter and haven’t done anything with the # yet- adding it to my todo list.

  30. In other words, we shouldn’t apply traditional marketing. Traditional marketing just means sell, sell, sell. It had no regards to welfare of other people. However, if we get the referent influencers to believe in our products, our sphere of influence would multiply exponentially.

  31. #MyWANA has been great for keeping up with other writers, and some of those people are fabulously supportive! I’m trying to keep up better and send out content that I have enjoyed or benefitted from as well. Thanks for hosting it!

  32. “Making the Most of Our Time on Social Media”
    How many people can say they truly use social media to actually accomplish something worthwhile?

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