Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I devote to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. These blogs are 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. As part of the job description, I read a lot of blogs. I also play with paper clips and scream at my printer, but that’s beside the point. I read a lot of writer blogs, so today I am going to give some pointers to help maximize your author blog.
I am not a social media expert. I am a social media expert for writers. Big difference. I focus on teaching you guys how make the most of every second you spend on-line. Every effort must serve building an author brand. This leaves more time for the important things, like writing books.
Often I hear social media being demonized. Oh, heavens! Writers are spending too much time on Twitter and not writing. They are missing deadlines because they are too focused on blogs. Down with evil Facebook!
This lack of focus is not social media’s fault. Too much time on social media (aside from a lack in self-discipline) is very often the result of a writer not taking a time-efficient approach to social media. This is why I am here. We don’t have to choose between writing great books and having a solid platform. We can have both. Here are some general tips for author blog housekeeping. If our social media platform is a tidy, neat, efficient machine, then that leaves us more time to write amazing books.
1) Make backgrounds easy on the eyes.
If your background is dark, change it to a lighter background. Dark backgrounds with light lettering look cool, but they are really hard on the reader’s eyes and they will do terrible loading on a PDA. If you look at this blog’s background, it’s boring. Here’s the thing. People aren’t coming to your blog to look at your snazzy background; they are there to read your brilliant writing. When we have a light, simple background free of clutter, this encourages people to subscribe, to hang around and read earlier posts, and to even read posts on the go.
2) Break up large chunks of text.
If you have blogs with large blocks of text, break them up. Most readers, if they go to a blog and see huge chunks of text, they move on. I read at a computer all day long and that is hard on my eyes. Guarantee you our readers will feel the same way. Try to put no more than three to six sentences in a paragraph. Readers will forgive a long blog if it’s a) interesting and b) easy to absorb/read.
3) Insert bolded bullet points to break up text.
This makes blogs easy to scan. Remember a lot of people read blogs on the go. They are often reading from a PDA. Make life easy and they will love you for it.
4) Remove unnecessary clutter.
This is a problem with a lot of web pages. There is too much stuff so the reader moves on. Less is more.
5) If possible, pick blog titles in a way that will engage and spark debate.
One of my most popular blogs to date was titled: What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? I gave my two cents worth and then asked others what they thought. I have 150 comments! But the title just posits a question that BEGS to be answered.
The best blogs are not information, they are conversation. Notice there really isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it sparks some fun discussion. Also, if this title was posted on Twitter, people would want to know the “answer.” Titles can be key when it comes to driving up stats and creating a loyal following.
Additionally, this type of approach takes our blog from talking “at” people and inserts us right into the heart of a healthy discussion. Now we are speaking “with” others. When we create enough discussions, we form friendships which create community. This activates people’s innate sense of loyalty.
6) Make sure your NAME is the blog title.
Few things are more frustrating than when I try to do a mash-up and I have to hunt down a name. There is simply no sense in blogging if it isn’t building our author brand, which is our NAME. This is working smarter, not harder. If I am contributing 2000 words a week to the Rainbow Fluffy Kitten Dreams Blog, that means nothing unless I want to change my name to Rainbow Fluffy Kitten Dreams. Our blog is a powerful tool to build our author brand, which is: NAME + GOOD CONTENT + HAPPY EMOTIONS= AUTHOR BRAND
Name recognition alone will not compel people to part with cash to buy our books. They must recognize our names AND feel good about the images and content that bubbles to mind. People buy from who they know, and more importantly, who they LIKE. This is why spamming people on Facebook and Twitter is a BAD idea. Yes, we recognize this dude’s name…but the emotions are negative because I recognize him as the dude that kept crapping up my In Box with form letters.
7) Insert widgets for others to follow you on all your other platforms.
A blog is all about customer service. If you are also on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, LinkedIn, Technorati, and Goodreads….I will first tell you that you are doing too much social media. Get back to writing before I take away your G+. Ah, but after that , I would advise that you insert widgets so others can hang out with you on their platform of choice. Hey, we need to take advantage of the warm happy feelings our readers have after reading our nuggets of brilliance.
8) Make sure you embed widgets to help others SHARE your content on other platforms.
Even if you don’t tweet, make sure your readers can. Embed a widget to help readers share your content with their networks. Information needs to be portable to go viral. This is one of the few times, the word “viral” is good. We want out genius wordsmithery to infect the planet and make them our
zombie slaves fans.
9) Make sure you embed a widget to SUBSCRIBE to your blog and also to get the RSS Feed.
RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and it delivers your blog to a web feed for your reader. This is all about serving the customer—the reader. It’s like pizza delivery. We dig yummy awesomeness magically appearing in our news feed. Also, make sure that readers don’t have to go hunting for the subscribe button. Make life easy. We dig easy.
10) Go through your posts and look for personal pronoun infestations.
If we use a lot of “I, I, I, I,” “me, me, me,” “you, you, you” it turns people off. We sound at best like we are lecturing and at worst like we are full of ourselves.
11) Yes, okay ELEVEN tips. I lied :P. Make sure you have questions at the end of each post designed to spark discussion and encourage sharing.
When we get good at enticing conversation, then our blog becomes the cool place to hang out and chat. Blogging is less about great writing and more about being a good host/hostess. I see some really wonderful writers who have crappy blogs. Hey, I was once one of them. I am here to help you guys take the short-cut to success. I did all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to ;).
Speaking of questions at the end, I love hearing from you! What are some other tips you would like to add? Did I miss something? What do you guys like to see in a blog? What turns you off?
I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of July, 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.
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 ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both 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.
Again, very helpful! I can already see a few places for improving my blog. Oh my poor, poor blog.
Ha! I’ve failed on virtually EVERY point. Oh well, not too late to course correct.
All awesome advice! Great breakdown.
More great tips, Kristen, thanks! I love blog posts that make me laugh. I hate rants. I will forgive a rant if it is short and funny. But a long snarky rant? I’m not going back to that blog.
I have a question regarding putting your name on your blog: should your name also show up when you’re commenting on other blogs?
YES!!!! I will not rest until all writer cutesy monikers DIE *cough*…um, yes that is an excellent idea. The more times people see our names the better, especially when it is tethered to content. For instance, this is a pretty popular blog (thanks everyone), and if people see your name over and over, they get to KNOW you and feel as if you are a friend, because you hung out with them like a friend. In real life we don’t make our friends call us texaswriterchik or dragongirl, so why do we do this to our on-line friends? The biggest psrt of becoming an author brand is connecting to others in a way that makes them feel as if they know you. The first and morst crusicl part of knowing anyone is having their name :D.
All very helpful and useful tips. I’ve been trying to make my blog appealing to others and gain readers, so I’m hoping this will help me out. 🙂 And too, I need the extra time for writing!
SO SO SO agree!!
The most difficult thing on this list is creating interesting post titles. I am absolutely terrible at coming up with titles, whether it’s for a blog post or a novel. I’m just not creative in that regard, and I have no idea how to fix it! most of my titles are blatantly obvious, and quite boring. :/
I am happy to say that since following your blog and making changes to mine as you explain why they are necessary, my blog feels more professional and conversational. When I started out, it felt like I was tooting my own horn and no one was really listening. Now I get steady comments either on the blog itself or through Twitter. 😉 Thanks, Kristen.
Kristen we must be on the same wave length because two of my blog posts about your social media guruness have been perfectly timed with yours.
Two weeks I posted about your book WANA and the same day you mentioned not bothering with MySpace and today I posted about how I use social media as an author platform based on MyWANA.
Thanks always for some great reading!
Great insights on what a writer should do. I’m so glad to hear I’m not expected to do it all. You always motivate me to get organized. Yes, I can do it!
Thank you for the great info Kristen!!
Thanks for repeating all the stuff I’ve been hammering my readers about for the past seven months. Especially the dark-background/light font thing. I’m amazed at how many bloggers do it. Even grown ups. If you’re going for emo angst, there are other ways to be gloomy.
Also, if your platform allows it, do install a “subscribe by email” widget as well as an RSS feed.
I’d also like to add #12: unless you have personally experienced problems with spambots, please ELIMINATE THE WORD VERIFICATION. It does nothing to eliminate 90% of spam, but it does eliminate 50% of commenters. I have had no word verification for 2 years and never met a spambot.
Ooooh good one. I HATE word verification and never use it. Aksimet gets most of the spam. Great recommendation!
YES! Please beg people to get rid of that!
I’m with you. I read tons of blogs and post and most of them. Word verification, repeatedly is a hassle. Once, okay, I’ll live with it, but every time? Really?
Akismet with first time approval has never let me down.
Today is the first day that I forgot to put a question at the end of my post. Omigosh! All I got were a lot of “Nuce posts” –Ack! I went back in and added a question (as per usual) and, hopefully, will soon receive more interesting comments. It cannot be overstated: we want to draw our readers into the dialogue. I swear, I wanted to unsubscribe to myself today! Thanks for the great advice, Kristin.
The one thing I can’t figure out is how to get bigger buttons for twitter and Facebook and my RSS. Some people have them. You have them. Do you just find an icon you love and link with the code? Some people appear to have a neat, horizontal trio of buttons. Where do people get that?
If you run your cursor over my buttons, it will give you the link where you get them. There are all kinds of widget services. You just have to do some hunting. I think I gave some recommendations in WANA if you have a copy.
Excellent, excellent information. Also if this were a test, I failed.
Back to the blog drawing board…
Great round-up of tips, Kristen! I loved your Star Wars prequel blog post. I’m not surprised it was so popular–who doesn’t have an opinion on it?
Great blog post! This is really easy, excellent blogging advice that you’ve spoon fed to us in baby size portions. I’m definitely sharing this link with the life list club to help them establish their blogs! Thanks for answering so many of our questions, mine is the same as Renee’s. I can get to the twitter follow me buttons link, but then I can’t figure out where I paste that code and I’m PARANOID I’ll ruin something if I start playing with the CSS. Did you take a class that taught you how to use these programs, or just a book on WordPress? What do you think is the most helpful?
In WANA there is a walk-thru of where to put the widgets. And no. I just screwed up…a LOT. Made notes, LOL.
Thanks for the tips…a few suggestions:
I’m amazed (being an old-school dead-tree journo/author) that bloggers fail to understand the need for visuals as well…Include some great images, art, something that isn’t just a huge, ugly chunk of words. I’m frequently as enticed into a random post by a great photo than by a headline. Your favorite magazines have art and photo directors whose job it is to ensure that all those words have something fun and sexy around them to entice readers in and keep them there; as bloggers, we’re curating a space with many possibilities for creativity.
Copy-edit and spell-check! I’m sick to death of people who can’t distinguish between incite and insight, to name only one common error.
How about making sure you include some links!? I consider my posts crappy if they don’t include one or more (sometimes a dozen) links to other blogs, news, images, videos, whatever….Isn’t the whole point of blogging NOT to be an ego-fest but to entertain, amuse and provoke? Very few of us are that interesting all on our own.
I agree about the personal pronoun thing. Try to remember that you are writing for MOI, your reader — your blog is not just your super-personal daily journal of itty-bitty details about people we’ve never heard of.
Every post that starts with: “I don’t know what to blog about” needs to be deleted within seconds. Sadly, I see this a lot.
Awesome post! Thank you!
Wonderful advice as always. Thanks for a great breakdown of what we need to do to keep things moving.
I love the advice you give us, Kristen. You’re so right about the dark background with white text. I had that at first and then was advised to change it. It does look snazzy, but it’s hard on the eyes. I’m leaving for an eye exam in a few minutes. I’m afraid to find out how much worse my sight is than it was over a year ago. Now that I’m blogging, all the extra reading I’m doing leaves my eyeballs aching. I agree that interesting photos enhance a post. Photos also help break up big chunks of text. And small text is something I have to skip, even with my reading glasses, so normal size or large text works for me. Thanks!
Hi Kristen, I would just like to say it feels good to be riding my “big girl bike.” This is the first time I can sit tall reading your advice about putting your name in the blog title. And it’s nice. People know I’m Leanne. And that’s nice. So, um, thanks, eh?
I remember when I first came to Twitter and there was this crazy cool and eclectic person named Ironic Mom. I would talk with my wife about some of the great lines she would have. Always gave us a wonderful laugh. Then one day, “Hey, how do I change my Twitter name to my own?” and *poof* there was Leanne. Still crazy cool. Still eclectic. Ironic 🙂
Gene. You just made my day. This is going in my pick-me-up file, for those days when I’m anything but funny. 😀
Glad I could make your day Leanne. Can’t tell you how many times your wit has salvaged one of mine. Many is a good estimation. Peace 🙂
Excellent post as usual. Every time I read your blog I learn some juicy goodness.
Great tips! Thank you!
Great advice, Kristen. I know my first attempt at blogging a couple years ago was a horrible journey in self-idiocy. I deleted that experiment after finding and reading this blog and have never looked back. I know that without the great advice you offer both here on your site and in your books that I never would have been able to piece together a productive blog. Seems like I’m always thanking you, but hey, you deserve it!
I like the point about breaking up large chunks of text. I make paragraph breaks in more places online than I do in my WIP. Also add bullet point and numbered lists when possible. Keep those distracted eyeballs moving down the page.
This is one of my favorite WANA Wednesday posts so far!!
I’m so glad you added 11 great blogging tips and gave a little shmeckle (a little brain echo from your Jewish grnadmother post) of advice to go along with each.
Have a great evening:)
Thanks for the tips, Kristen. I would like your opinion as to what the right blogging frequency should be. I have read all sorts of advice. On one extreme are the people that say you have to blog daily to keep up reader interest, and on the other extreme are authors like John Locke that blog 12-15 times a year. I guess it varies depending on the writer and the content, what do you think (there you go, point #11, include a question at the end)!
Thanks Kristen – useful and helpful tips – as always!
Kristen, I love these tips! I just finished reading both of your social media books, and I’m amazed at how confident I now feel about starting my blog. I’ve gone from almost being afraid to say the word “blog” to really believing “I can do this!” For the most part, I only read and write nonfiction, and I don’t plan to write books. However, what I am very excited about doing is creating a blog that focuses on offering motivation and encouragement to help people achieve their dreams. I see my future blog as being service-oriented. Now I’m in the process of developing the blog content, followed by the next big step of creating the blog. Thank you so much for all your valuable information. By the way, I love your sense of humor!
This is the first time I’ve visited your blog, and this post was extremely timely and helpful. I’m the opposite of tech-savvy and often worry that my words are lost in the world of fancy widgets and constant Twitter feeds. These tips were helpful, but more than that, I have found your blog and can follow you on Twitter for future tips 😉
Thank you so much for this. Great stuff!
Sigh…I have a dark background. Thought it would be easier on the eyes somehow. Guess I’ll have to rethink that. 😀
Great info, as always!
Great points and so glad you mention killing the dark background. I always skip over those blogs for the pain they cause my eyes. I’ll implement your tips on my next blog post. Thanks for sharing.
Loved your blog. Totally new to blogging and promoting my brand and books via social media/online so will be following and checking out your books. Not even sure how to link back or do those other things your mentioned to get into your drawings!
Loved your blog. Totally new to blogging and promoting my brand and books via social media/online so will be following and checking out your books. Not even sure how to link back or do those other things your mentioned to get into your drawings! Which file would you recommend for a nook? Def. going to get the books!
I’m so new, I’m posting this from the womb. I’m launching my blog on Monday & I love you. Thank you! Please don’t die until I’m too old to blog anymore!
Wait! I have a question: you say in #5 “The best blogs are not information, they are conversation.”
But your blog is all about info & I think it’s one of the best blogs out there. Can’t we do maybe just one or two days that are info??
This is a wonderful post and I’ve forwarded it to a couple of friends. Here’s a number 12 for you: While I love music, I hate blogs that have music.
Great points. I have already modified my blog to include some of these (eg my name is now on my blog!) But I I think I have to go and learn more about widgets!!
Thanks for the great advice! It’s always good to learn from someone who’s been there and very timely because I’m about to set up my own blog. I shall keep this article by my side as I’m going along!
Useful points…so nice of you to share them. This is something that keep people going on, making their blogs better and better…
I’m afraid to look at my blog. You have drummed this into me for the past year. If I’ve still got it wrong, you’re gonna have my guts for garters.
Great post, Kristen – my guru 🙂
Oh gosh, I love big blocks of text! I’m getting better, but… *sigh* I’m a work in progress 🙂
Thanks for the awesome post. So helpful, as always!
I think this is my favorite blog of yours. What excellent advice. I hope every blogger out there will follow it. Especially the dark background and the personal pronoun infestation parts. 🙂
Thanks for this, Kristin. At first glance, do I pass the test?
I hadn’t thought about having your name in the name of the blog. That makes so much sense. I guess I will have to think about how my really long name can still make a fun title to a blog. I recently blogged about the same thing.
Thank you for the wonderful tips.
Thanks for the tips. I’m heading over to my blog to see if I’m guilty of personal pronoun infestation. Yikes! I’m almost afraid to look.
I’ve just recently discovered your blog, but will be diving deep soon! Thanks for sharing!
Just wanted to thank you for your advice. I went back to my blog (which looked awesome) and changed it back to a lighter sceme. And you know what? Not only is it easier to read, but looks even better. Another piece I have learned from you. Less is more :^) I also removed the Twitter widget because anything I post on Twitter is pretty much going to be on my blog. So I use the Twitter widget for Myspace since I am rarely on there. And my blog loads better without it.
I just wanted to let you know thanks for the advice. I did have a dark blog, though it did look nice, it looks even better with the lighter verions. So again you have helped me out. I also downgraded i widgets so the page loads better. Since I didn’t need the Twitter widget I scrapped it. Less is more :^)
The title, name and widget advice was really useful. Um, not sure how to link your blog to my blog ~ am total newbie, but it is nice to know We Are Not Alone! 🙂
If you have a copy of WANA, I show you how in there with pictures :D. Thanks! And no, we are not alone and that is …awesome.
Great tips. Thanks for the post.
Seeing some of the mistakes in my blog now. Now, the issue is how to turn it around and somehow set the right tone. Thanks, Kristen.
Ok, now these are some practical, non-hurtful blogging tips that I wouldn’t feel like a pimp performing. I recently stumbled across a rather disturbing conversation (this happens to me frequently) that caused me to experienced blogging indigestion. In fact, I began to question the entire social media deal. I’m leaving you the link only because I think you, if anybody, would know if this type of activity was the norm.
Thanks for your tasteful post
Thank you for the extra tip, lots of great info here. I’m always trying to find a balance between social media and writing time.
Easy commenting is a big one for me when I’m reading blogs. Sometimes, I have to hunt down the COMMENT button or provide word verification, my body measurements, and my social security number to leave a comment. Bloggers who want to approve comments first are fine, but jumping through hoops to participate in the discussion feels like they really don’t want me there after all.
Great advice again, Kristen!
I linked to this post on my blog today and ala your advice, I’ve updated my slogan. Way quippier (if that’s a word). http://sarenastraus.blogspot.com/2011/07/sarena-straus-blog-gets-and-new-slogan.html
And, BTW, got some CRAZY SCARY page come up when I tried to go to your website that it was hacked with all kinds of Arabic. I hit the ex really fast.
Yeah. My web people are working on it right now. Apparently WP went through some system upgrades and there was an opening and some hackers went to town. Yay. They said it should be fixed here very shortly. I hope. That page just pisses me off.
I had already realized that I needed to do some cleaning up after studying some of the blogs I like (including yours of course). I am glad that I’m on the right track.
By the way, I finally got and am still reading your first book:)
Thanks for this post. There are some really helpful ideas Making Blog Post Titles a question is brilliant!
Thank you for the extra tip, lots of great info here.