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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: influence

Okay, yesterday Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner had a blog post that promptly scared the bejeezus out of a lot of writers. I’m here to help you guys understand that Rachelle is actually on our side, and the idea of numbers should not scare you. Numbers can be a writer’s best friend. They can keep us accountable and can let us know where we are doing well and how we can improve. This is the purpose behind metrics in any business.

My husband works in the defense industry. His business uses metrics to look for waste, redundancy or errors. What changes are working? Which changes should be scrapped?

Writers can take a lesson from this.

One of the biggest challenges many writers face is the mental transition from artist-hobbyist to artist-entrepreneur. Many of us gravitated to writing because spreadsheets gave us hives and sales goals made our eyes roll back in our heads. I feel your pain. I came from a background of industrial sales. I wanted to throw myself in traffic every day I went to work. Writing was my lifeline, my salvation…but it wasn’t a free pass to get out of being a savvy businessperson.

So grab a paper bag. Breathe. That’s it. Place your head between your knees and your laptop at your feet so you can keep reading. I am here to help.

Not All Numbers Count Equally

Social media changes so quickly that even us “experts” have a full-time job simply keeping up with innovations. Yet, one innovation I have seen that makes me feel better is a site called Klout. Klout measures our ACTUAL influence. We now can gain a clearer picture of the impact we have (or don’t have) because there is context.

Yesterday, I guest-posted for Jane Friedman, contributing editor to Writer’s Digest Magazine (Jane has, by far, one of THE best blogs for writers out there, btw). My post addressed three social media blunders that can KILL an author platform. One of the blunders I listed was focusing too much on the numbers.

At first this seems like I am giving contradicting advice from Ms. Gardner. On the contrary!

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. ~Mark Twain

I see too many writers spinning their wheels joining ten different social sites and then just friending/following thousands of people. Having a Twitter following of 30,000 doesn’t necessarily mean much. To use my example from yesterday, I could theoretically hold up the White Pages I just tossed in my recycle bin and claim that I have 30,000 “friends.” Yet, how many of those “friends” can I count on to spread the message of my new book? How many of those “friends” can I count on for a sale? A recommendation? A referral? Help expanding my platform? Only a very small percentage–folks I know personally and a handful of weird, lonely people.

One of the cool things I have liked about Klout is that Klout measures our ACTUAL influence. It runs algorithms to see how many people our message is affecting. What is our amplification? Translated: How many people repost what we are posting? Are people listening? Are they responding? Are they sharing?

Real Friends DO Matter

See, I can go have 20,000 followers. I can even download an app to tweet witty comments every hour so I can “fool” people that I am really on Twitter. There are all kinds of machines that will blast out links to my blog. I never even have to physically BE on Twitter. On the surface, my huge following looks pretty awesome. Oh, and for a fee, I can purchase peeps to make that following even MORE impressive.

Ah, but the real numbers don’t lie.

Klout will tattle on us if we cheat. Most people don’t feel vested in bots. We are unlikely to repost for them and far more likely to just ignore and move on to people who don’t treat us like morons who can’t tell the difference between a person and a bot. Since others aren’t vested in us, our Klout score will reflect this.

When we focus on authentic relationships instead of super high “numbers” we actually will raise the number that counts—the Klout score. This is one of the reasons that writers are better off narrowing their focus and not “participating” on ten different sites. It spreads us too thinly, and, in the end it will negatively impact our Klout.

An Example

I blog, am on Facebook (no fan page yet) and I tweet. That’s it. I have less than 5,000 twitter followers and less than 2,000 Facebook peeps….but, I regularly have a Klout score of 72, which is pretty darn great. Due to a death in the family, I haven’t been on social media as much and my Klout score is a tad lower, but it generally is pretty strong at 71-73. I have a very high rate of amplification. This means people listen, they like and they share. This proves what I have been saying all along.

No one is successful on social media alone.

What I love about Klout is that Klout is not so much about me as it is about others. The better I serve others, the higher the score. See, if get on G+ and friend a half a zillion people, that serves ME. That is no measure of how I have served others. A “large number” alone can’t tell me if those in my following listen, whether they care, or are if they are even engaged. Klout is a far better measure of our social media impact, and we don’t need the mega-high followings to have a Klout score that will gain an agent’s attention.

Blog Statistics

Last week there were all kinds of blogs about whether it was a waste of time for writers to have a blog. One agent said that they would not be impressed unless a writer could show 15,000 unique visits a month. Many writers nearly passed out with a panic attack. FIFTEEN THOUSAND A MONTH!!!!

What I find interesting is that so many of the agents feel blogging is a waste of time. How about BAD blogging is a waste of time?

Why do we all assume that because writers can write novels, we automatically have the skills to blog in ways that will connect to tens of thousands of followers? Blogging is a skill, like anything else. Instead of blaming the blog, let’s see this as a separate skill that needs to be learned. It is also a skill, that, with lots of practice, can be MASTERED.

I will grant there is a lot of GREAT writing out there, but the blogs are not geared to gain those large amounts of visits or even connect with readers (who aren’t writers). Why? Writers are blogging about the wrong things and targeting the wrong people (exclusively).

Expand the Blog and Improve the Klout Score

I can be a world-renowned expert on the mating rituals of the African Tse Tse fly and it not be worth publishing a book. Not enough people care about the Tse Tse fly getting lucky for me to sell a lot of copies.

Granted, the subject of writing is not as limited as the Tse Tse fly. A lot of people care about writing and the craft of writing, but when viewed as a slice of the larger whole global population? Um…there are better things to blog about.

Storytellers have been making the mundane magical for over 100,000 years. We have the power to create new worlds, breathe life into imaginary people. Yet, we get a blog and we all blog about….writing. We become the All-Writing-All-the-Time-Channel. This will limit our influence and lower the Klout score.

Why?

Because only a small percentage of the overall literate population in need of entertaining or informing cares to read about narrative structure, POV, character arc, or trends in indie publishing. Also, too many writers are all blogging on the same thing targeting the same worn-out demographic. There are only so many writing blogs we writers can follow and be loyal to. Yet, when I mention getting out of the comfort zone, writers promptly want to defend the writing blog. Feel free to blog about writing, but likely your blog numbers will never get high enough to matter in a proposal.

Before anyone gets huffy, I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. We will look at me.  I blogged about writing once a week, religiously for over a YEAR, and, after a year I had less than 600 views a month. After a year of banging my head against a wall, I set out to figure out what made blogs popular and how we could tool our blogs to connect with writers AND non-writers.

Since I am all about authenticity, here is a look at my stats from May of 2009 into December of 2010. That top number is 25,000 for those who can’t see.

Count over roughly 11 pathetic columns. The wimpy little column in May 2010 was after a YEAR of blogging about writing. 594 visits a MONTH. The next jump was when I started blogging twice a week, once about social media. A little better, but not that wonderful. Had another little bump. Nice, but room for improvement. That fourth jump? That HUGE leap? THAT was when I started blogging in ways that connect to readers beyond writers. I would tell you more, but I save that secret information for my workshops.

One would think my information blogs would have made the huge difference, but actually they didn’t. I had to get out of the comfort zone. When I say don’t do a writing blog, it isn’t because I sit up all night thinking of ways to make you guys miserable (I only stay up until ten doing that). I tell you these things because I have had all the same “bright ideas” that turned into digital tar babies. So when I give advice, it really is because I want to help you guys. Writers are wonderful, but our support base can only do so much.

Remember earlier I said metrics were helpful for figuring out inefficiencies? Well, contributing thousands of words a week to a blog that was reaching less than 600 people a month I think qualifies as an inefficiency. I had to rework my strategy.

Tip: If the horse is dead, DISMOUNT!

As you can see from that image, numbers helped me see when I started connecting and what content made the difference. If I hadn’t had the analytics, I would never have been able to get an idea of what worked and what was a waste of time. Numbers help us improve. They help us adjust and make a new plan if the old one isn’t working. Numbers help agents land us sweeter deals.

This applies to speaking engagements, Internet radio followings and vlog views (also mentioned in Rachelle’s blog). Maybe your numbers aren’t huge, but if you can show a 1000% growth in six months, agents can use this in your favor. Quantifiable metrics can help you grow, expand and innovate. Numbers keep us accountable and focused. Numbers help us try new things and see tangibly if they are working. Numbers help us work smarter, not harder.

What to take away:

  • Authentic relationships DO matter.
  • Klout score is more important than surface numbers.
  • Large blog followings are possible with consistency and a solid plan. Content matters.
  • Some topics, by their very nature, will experience limited growth.
  • Focusing on community and being part of a team will translate into a higher Klout. This is one of the reasons I HIGHLY encourage participating on #MyWANA.
  • ABOVE ALL…People matter the most. If we serve people with authentic interaction and great content, the numbers will eventually reflect all our hard work.

Okay, so do you guys feel better? Need a digital daquiri? Any heart attacks out there? Hey, we are not alone! Better, we are in this TOGETHER!

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, 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 October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also 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.

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Every Wednesday I dedicate this blog to help improve your social marketing skills. For the past month we have been talking about blogging. Everyone seems to be telling writers they need to blog (um…you do), but few people are telling writers what to blog about or how to get started. Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson, so I recommend that, if you are new, go back and read the other posts. My tactics will save you a ton of time and wasted effort.

Blogging Part I—Meet the Bright Idea Fairy then Shoot Her teaches how to know the difference between a really good idea, versus a total time-waster in disguise. This blog teaches you how to focus on blog topics that will build your platform. Gain maximum effect in minimum time. You still need time left over to write more books, remember?

Blogging Part II—Don’t Feed the Trolls is an exploration into how to find good blog topics that will connect you to future READERS and also help you avoid burnout and keep you inspired to keep on blogging.

Blogging Part III—Tearing Up the SEO in 2011 explains how to use search engines to your advantage. What good is a rocking blog if no one can FIND it?

Blogging Part IV—The Future is Now discussed the shifts in the publishing paradigm and why blogging will give you a distinctive edge ahead of the non-blogging or half-ass blogging competition.

In the future we will discuss how to set up a winning blog. Today, down is up and up is down. I am going to discuss the counterintuitive nature of social media. There are many habits that traditional marketing has ingrained in us over the years, but those tactics don’t work on social media. Yet, too many people still try to use old methods in a new business model, and that is like using parts for a 1990 Ford Tempo in a 2011 Audi. All you are going to end up with is a clunky disaster. A lot of smoke and grinding but little to no forward momentum.

First, we are going to discuss whether or not a blog can reach and influence fiction readers. Jody Hedlund’s blog raised a lot of food for thought and highlighted, for me, how hard it is for us to wrap our mind around the real way social media influences. Then, we are going to talk about some ways to increase traffic to your blog, and they may be very different than what you might imagine.

There are a lot of people who believe that there is no way to market fiction. There are others, still, who feel that blogging is the realm of the non-fiction author. It is easy to see why people would feel this way. Social media is an odd duck and behaves very differently than traditional marketing we’ve been exposed to since childhood.

The top agents in New York will tell you that there are only two ways to market fiction (and even books in general). 1) We need to write a darn good book and 2) We need to generate word of mouth. That’s it. That is all that can be done.

Traditional marketing doesn’t work well for any kind of book. It never has. It is just the nature of the product. This isn’t just my opinion, it is a known industry fact (refer to mega-agent Donald Maass’s Fire in the Fiction). Many of you might find this shocking. All those shiny bookmarks, flashy ads, book-signing tours and fancy book trailers actually have minimal effect on sales numbers. I was at a conference and a big editor from one of the major houses told us that they had a NF author with a book on personal finance. The publishing house paid big bucks to take out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal to push this book…and nothing. This author’s sales numbers didn’t show so much as a tiny blip.

Even before social media, publishing houses would encourage authors to get in the mix–speak, teach, visit community organizations, do radio or television interviews (all still good ideas). An author had to connect with people and hope it would spark some good buzz. It is easy to see how this made it tough for the fiction authors. Most talk shows and speaker opportunities are going to naturally be inclined to favor non-fiction.

But back to good writing and word of mouth. I actually believe that the two principles work in tandem. Writing an excellent book is what gets people talking and generating buzz (word of mouth). In the past, fiction writers had no great way to influence readers or even future readers. Why? Because we were still dealing with traditional marketing. Most beginning writers don’t have the money to go launch a flashy ad campaign to push their book and, even if they did, they could still expect a depressing ROI (return on investment).

But now everything has changed, and it is good news for writers of all kinds—traditionally pubbed, indie pubbed and especially self-pubbed. Social media gives an author the power to build a platform before she ever finishes the book. In fact, if done properly, a writer could have a following in the thousands before the book makes it off the press.

Social media works where traditional marketing fails. How? Social media is, by definition, criteria #2….word of mouth.  

Social media isn’t like traditional marketing. It is almost impossible to generate metrics capable of accurately measuring influence. Why? We aren’t in control. Social networking is a way of approaching outsiders, getting them to trust and like us and our content, and then repackage our content to others. We are hoping that as we reach out to others, not only will we absorb their loyalty, but that their network will become OUR network. It’s what I call The Law of the Playground.

I don’t know you, but my friend likes you. If she likes you then I like you.

The other thing that we have to remember is that social media and blogging in particular is meeting criteria #2…generating word of mouth. You often will reach readers…just not directly. Your followers become the champions of your cause.

Jody Hedlund has one of THE best blogs on writing, and I highly recommend that you check it out. Can her blog directly reach readers who don’t happen to be writers? Maybe. Maybe not. BUT, she is being very successful at connecting with a lot of writers who like her, trust her and support her. Guess what? We have family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and random people we chat with in the bookstore. Who’s book do you think we will recommend?

Psst—that’s the whole word of mouth thing.

Also, many writers have large social network followings and they tweet or post what books they are reading, liking, hating, or papering the bird cage with :D. I know that when Jody’s book came out, half my family bought a copy simply because I like Jody and her blog (and liked her book). My family trusted me for a good recommendation. So, did Jody’s blog influence my family? Yes, just not directly. Her blog hooked me and I grew to like her and trust her for good content. Thus, eventually I felt confident and even excited to promote her book to others.

Did social media/blogging work for Jody? Yes. She hit the best-seller list on her debut novel. Is it possible to accurately measure what worked where? No. But it still works, and that’s all that matters. It is counterintuitive to trust that a loyal following of fellow writers is also reaching readers, but it is. Just keep plugging. Serve others and they will love to serve you.

Okay, I hope you guys feel more confident that your blogging efforts WILL pay off eventually, even if you cannot observe it directly. Now I am going to give you 3 tips to generate more traffic to your blog.

1. Post Regularly

This seems like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of writers out there blogging only when they feel inspired. This makes it tough to gain a following. We need to be able to trust you to post regular content that is interesting, entertaining, or informative.

2. Post More than Once a Week

I know this is going to make some of you groan, but I will tell you from experience that 3 times a week is WAY easier than once a week. Seems counterintuitive, but it is easier. Your following will grow faster, which will encourage you and energize you to do more.

Why post more often? You remain top of mind. We readers have a bazillion things clamoring for our attention, so if you take a break off the radar, you are easy for us to forget. Do you have to post more than one time a week? NO. No one will take you to writer jail if you only blog once a week. This is a list of ways to increase traffic.

If you have been blogging once a week for a year and your hits aren’t increasing as fast as you would like? Post more often. It will improve your following dramatically. The larger the following, the greater the critical mass and better chance you have of hitting that tipping point that takes your numbers to a whole new level. When I posted once a week, I had maybe 2700 hits a month. Now I am regularly 20,000+ and still climbing thanks to all of you (and the methods I am teaching to you guys 😉 ).

3. Pay It Forward–Edify/Promote Others at EVERY Opportunity

Include lots of trackbacks (links to other blogs/web pages) in your posts and do a weekly mash-up. The best way to do well on social media is to edify others. Kristen’s Rule of Social Media Success–Promote the hard work and effort of others more than you promote yourself. This is counterintuitive to traditional marketing. Nike is not out there raving about how great Asics are. Guess what? In the land of blogs and books? We do better teaming up and understanding that love is best shared, and there is more than enough love to go around. Books are not so cost-prohibitive that people cannot afford more than one.

It is safe to assume that people will buy more than one book a year. In fiction, it doesn’t hurt you to promote a fellow writer’s book. Likely readers will read more than one novel a year. If they don’t read more than one novel a year, it is still safe to assume they BUY more than one a year. Also, more often than not, that writer you promoted will return the favor. Though we should always promote others freely and should never expect reciprocation, people are usually pretty cool and will feel inclined to help us in turn.

In non-fiction? Again, readers will buy more than one book. If I were a betting woman, I would wager most of you own more than one diet book ;). I know around here, the diet books have their own shelf, LOL.

I am not worried about promoting another author of a social media book. This other author may say something slightly different from me and it will click with a reader. I am here to serve others, and I have confidence in the quality of my book and the effectiveness of my methods. I also happen to believe that people are genuinely good and that it will all even out in the end.

My social media book doesn’t cover certain topics that people might want to know about. I hope they buy my book, but if a reader wants to know about DiggIt or Squidoo or building a web site, I forward them on to other social media people. But guess what? I have other social media people who recommend me as well…and when we work as a team, we are something to behold. It is awesome.

Blogs are the same. Promote other bloggers, either by putting links to their blog in the body, or by doing a mash-up. Mash-ups are a fantastic way to spread influence. How? First, readers will come to trust you for good recommendations. Face it. We are drowning in a sea of crap and we love people who point us to good material. This will build your following because you have established yourself as a gatekeeper of valuable information.

Also, since you are sharing your network with other bloggers by forwarding your people to them, it is natural that they will appreciate you. This is a great way to gain loyalty of other bloggers and, as a result, expand your network exponentially.

This is my opinion, so take it for what it is worth. I believe that writers confident enough to promote others are confident in their own content. Writers who rarely endorse other writers and who, instead, spam their social network with non-stop self-promotion, generally are much more insecure about their product. I personally, feel more optimistic about writers secure enough to edify others, and I am MUCH more likely to purchase their books.

Promoting others in your blogs also has another benefit that might not be as obvious. It’s one of those ways that blogs indirectly influence. We’ll use me as an example.

You guys benefit from the work I put into this blog (hopefully :D). You reward my effort by subscribing or following. Many of you even go so far as to post this link on your FB, Twitter or blogs or even tell all your writing friends at critique (THANK YOU!). This not only benefits me, but it benefits every writer I have edified in my blog. When you post my link, you not only expose your network to my blog, but to all the writers I have taken time to praise. By edifying others, I get to pay it forward. Other authors are able to be blessed by my good content, just as I was blessed by theirs.

Aside from providing great content that is reliably posted, actively promoting others is the best way to expand influence on social media.

Next week we are going to talk more about blogging, and I will continue to give ways to generate more traffic and grow your platforms.

Any thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? What are some ways you might know of to help increase blog traffic? I certainly don’t know them all so chime in! I would love to hear from you! Are you guys feeling better about blogging? Are there topics you would like me to discuss in future posts?

Happy writing!

Until next time…..

Give yourself the gift of success so you can ROCK 2011. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books. Put that gift card you got for Christmas to good use.

Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home. It is not too late to sign up for the workshop Selling Your Book taught by USA Today Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer. This workshop is for all authors, but any self-pubbed writers would stand to gain amazing benefit.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

AWESOME BLOG OF THE WEEK!!!! (It is really good) Chuck Wendig’s Drop the Pen, Grab a Hammer: Building the Writer’s Platform This is one of the best explanations of what constitutes a writer’s platform that I have ever heard. Had to come back and add to the Mash-Up of Awesomeness.

Jody Hedlund’s post Do Fiction Readers Really Read Author’s Blogs?

@KidLit’s A Writer’s Plot Board–Getting Organized

Creating an Author Brand–Why It’s Really Not About the Book by Roni Loren

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner’s How to Avoid Getting an Agent

How Do You Decide on Author Brand–Part One by Paranormal Author Jami Gold

Feed Your Geek:

The Greek Myths–Zeus King of the Gods by Terrell Mims

Jim Jones and the People’s Temple III by Peter St. Clair

Dissassociative Identity Disorder in Popular Culture by Manon Eileen

Fun Stuff:

Tawna Fenske’s Happily Ever After … or Something Like That

Piper Bayard’s Reverse Psychology Resolutions

Author Chuck Wendig’s Buckle Up Authors: You Are Now Entering the Month of “What Now?”