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    The First 7 Steps to a Successful Social Media Plan for Writers

    Are you using social media to get readers?

    Do you love engaging with social media or begrudge every minute? Are you engaging with social media strictly to support and grow your business or do you use it as a vital lifeline that makes you feel part of a community?

    Whether you like social networking or not, it is now a required part of overall marketing for your business. You need to be focused and use the correct tools to ensure you are getting the most out of your time.

    In this article we are going to look at how to set up a social media plan. We’ll take a look at the following topics:

    • Your reasons for spending more time with social media.
    • How to choose your social networks.
    • What should be included in your profiles.
    • How to engage your audience.
    • How and when to promote your business.
    • How to stay organized and not waste time.
    • Introduction to tools and resources that can help you.

    Let’s get started.

    Step 1: Create your Social Networking Objectives

    It is essential to understand and clarify exactly what you are hoping to accomplish by becoming more interactive on one or more Social Media websites. It is very easy to spend many hours online, without accomplishing anything constructive.

    Why are you using social media?

        • To build your business profile and visibility
        • To network with other businesspeople
        • To reach new clients/customers
        • To stay connected with existing clients/customers
        • To gather feedback and provide customer service
        • To launch new services or products

    If you are new to social media, I would recommend that you first focus on building your profile and visibility. Creating a consistent brand across networks is very important. After you have done that, you can pick any of the other tasks.

    I highly recommend focusing on one task at a time; you will create a greater impact and use your time more efficiently.

    Step 2: Choosing your Social Networks

    There are dozens of social networking sites. It can get very confusing, but it can easily be simplified. Ask yourself two questions:

        1. What are my online preferences?
        2. What are my audience’s preferences?

    You might be new to social media sites, but which ones are you most drawn to? Is it Facebook or Pinterest? How easy is it to use? Are your peers or competitors there?

    You will need to spend some time doing research. You need to determine if your potential clients/customers are spending time on social media, and if yes, on which sites. You can ask them! It’s so simple, right? You can also look at the groups on each networking site.

    This is going to take some time, but it will ultimately save time because you will know exactly where you should be spending your time.

    I recommend that you start with one of the “big three”. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are considered the biggest online social media sites today. Google + and Pinterest are quickly increasing in popularity, and it would be worth looking into them when you are more comfortable. Include other sites, as appropriate for your specific audience.

    Again, focus on one network at a time to ensure it is set up correctly and is representing a consistent brand.

    Step 3: Profile Must Haves

    What essential elements are you missing from your profile? All these sites have a few aspects that are the same, so you should be using a consistent theme. This will increase your visibility, strengthen your brand and give you an SEO boost.

    The most important areas of the profile:

        • Your Name
        • Description or About section
        • Your picture
        • Your website

    Let’s start with your name. You would think this would be easy, but a lot of people struggle with it. And it really does depend on your name. Take my name: Lori Smith. I am sure there are thousands of us out there, so it would be hard to create visibility. I could choose to add a middle initial (Lori L. Smith) or I could choose to include the full middle name, Lori Lynn Smith. I went with Lori Lynn Smith. If you are lucky enough to have a unique name, you could also just use your first name, like Madonna. Do you even know what her last name is?

    Your About or Description section is really a quick bio. This should be similar on all sites and what you would include in your “resource box” when you are guest posting on other websites. This will definitely change over time as you become more comfortable or as your business evolves. You just need to ensure you go back and make the changes on your social media profiles.

    Now on to your picture. There are two different aspects with this one and it all depends on your brand, your audience and the network. I believe it is important to have a selection of professional pictures to use in your profiles. You would definitely want to have a professional picture for Linked In. But it is also important to let your more casual side show. This allows your audience to connect with you personally. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all cater to uploading and sharing pictures. My recommendation is to use a professional picture for the profile pictures and then use other sharing features to include your more casual personality pictures.

    Last but not least, your website. There are a lot of different options here as well. If you are new to social media, I recommend using your website “About” page; this allows people to easily learn more about you. You can go so far as to create a special/custom About page that is specific to the social network. The page would start with something like “Welcome Facebook Friends”. It would go on to have an extended Bio, and you could even include a special gift. Once you are more comfortable you can put together an entire marketing plan around the links from one or more networking sites.

    The most important aspect to remember regardless of the network is “consistency” across the networks.

     

    Step 4: Audience Engagement

    Are you engaging your audience? What do I mean by “engagement” and how do you “do” it?

    I believe engagement is really a conversation. Think about it this way: you are out having a cup of coffee with a friend. It doesn’t really matter if you have a few dozen, a few hundred or a few thousand friends. You need to engage them the same way, just as if you were sitting across the table from them while having coffee. Can I get you another cup? 🙂

    The easiest ways to engage:

        • Facebook Interactions / Comments
        • Twitter Retweets and @Mentions
        • YouTube Interactions/Comments
        • Blog Comments

    The most popular ways to start a conversation with your audience:

        • Contests
        • Photos
        • Wall Topics
        • Apps
        • Video
        • Links
        • Questions

    Do a bit of research. Look at topics you love. See what they others are doing to engage with their audience. Also look at what your competitors are doing, how they are engaging their audience. You will know what works and what doesn’t. Take a look at what some of the big names as well; Coca Cola and Nike have a huge social media presence. What can you do on a smaller scale?

    The bottom line of engagement is “Do it”. Start the conversation!

     

    Step 5: Business Promotion Strategy

    You need a plan. Remember in Step 1, we looked at what the objectives were? Now we need to create the plan that matches with your objectives. Every time you sit down at the computer to spend time at social networking sites, read or think about your goal so you focus on the task at hand without distractions.

    Overall Strategies

        • Be selective with your comments and interaction, say what you mean and mean what you say
        • Be selective with what you share, ensure your audience would gain value from the information (entertain, inform, help, share)
        • Be professional and respectful of your audience
        • Listen to your audience and focus on their needs
        • Find the right balance of professional and personal information

    When you are new and first starting out, you want to make sure that you are “getting it”. Each networking site has its own etiquette. Take the time to learn it. Do let your personality shine through, share tidbits from your life, ask and answer questions, share pictures. Let people feel your joy and passion for life. It will be much easier for them to get to know you.

    Ultimately, you want to build your own personal social network; you want to attract friends, followers and connections. The first step is to be there, be active, engage and add value. This will give you the most natural growth.

    Step 6: Time Management

    It is very, very easy to spend too much time on social media activities. There is a lot of great information out there and you can easily be distracted. I know from experience! Creating a few simple personal guidelines and taking advantage of technical solutions will put you ahead of the game.

    First, prioritize the networks that you are going to engage with. If your audience is on Facebook and Twitter, then ONLY spend your time there.

    Second, set a schedule. An example would be spending 15 minutes in the mid-morning and 15 minutes at the end of the day. Set up the schedule that works best for you; it doesn’t have to be hours each day. Use your time wisely. I am definitely against social media first thing in the morning. This is NOT your most important task for the day, and it is not your money-maker.

    Third, keep focus on your objectives. You have a plan for what you want as a result of your engagement. Always keep that in mind. Resist the urge to jump across the internet.

    Fourth, automate. There are many great tools that can help you by completing redundant tasks. Just make sure you are not wasting time trying out a lot of new tools. Find a few that work for you and then use them effectively.

    Step 7: Automated Tools

    There are dozens of tools out there and more are being developed every day. Here are three that I have used for several years. They have freed up a huge amount of my time. These apps focus on the “big three” networks.


     

    Hootsuite

    HootSuite is the Social Media Dashboard. It allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. HootSuite has a few great features: it allows you to connect multiple networks, it allows for team collaboration, it allows for scheduling of updates and it has extensive tracking. There is a free version and a paid version, I can easily do all my tasks with the free version.

    The features that I use most are updating multiple networks as well as scheduling. This allows for organizing my market tasks weeks ahead of time. This is very easy to set up:

        • Go to HootSuite and sign up.
        • Add your social networks, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
        • Add Tabs and Streams
        • Create a message and send it!

     

    TwitterFeed

    Twitterfeed is a utility that allows you to feed your content to Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms. It enables publishers to bring content to a wider audience and track their performance through real-time stats. You can add as many feeds as you like. Start out with your blog posts and then add in your favorites or partners you are marketing with.

    This is a little more complicated to set up, but worth the time. If you are not comfortable doing it, you can easily have a VA or Social Media manager do it for you.

        • Go to Twitterfeed and sign up.
        • Create a feed and set the options for all the networks
        • Twitterfeed will now do all the work for you.

     

     

    Social Oomph

    Social Oomph is the Social Media Dashboard. It allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. It does have several of the features of HootSuite, and many people choose to use this application for everything. It has some features that are unique, like auto-follow, auto-unfollow and auto-message. It also has a free and paid version.

    These unique features are why I use Social Oomph. You set them up once and you can forget about them for the most part. If you are using Auto-message it is good to change this every few months.

        • Go to Social Oomph and sign up.
        • Add your social networks and set the options
        • Social Oomph will now do all the work for you.

    These are just a few tools that will automate tasks so that you can focus on your personal engagement and other important tasks.

    You now know how to plan, organize and simplify your social media efforts by looking at your objectives, creating a strategic plan and using tools that make the most of the time you spend on social media tasks. Now is the time to get started on social media engagement!

     

    About the author:

    Lori Lynn Smith is a passionate and authentic teacher who shares her  real life experiences and strategies for creating a holistic lifestyle and business.  At her blog Sacred Earth Partners you will find a wide range of topics relating to Lifestyle  Design and  Lifestyle Businesses.  Get her FREE digital magazines Inspired Balance and Inspired Actions.
    Image: Social Media courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

    About the author

      Lori Lynn Smith

    • I am late too the party but I am thrilled to have this for reference. Once again, you amaze me with your comprehensive subjects. I use Hootesuite and Google Calendar but I will definitely add the tips provided. Thank you for yet another great article.

    • Joe Lee says:

      A very good piece of information. Thank you for sharing with me this brilliant article. True enough, sometimes I hanged around facebook but achieve nothing. Spending too much time just browsing.

    • I have had this post sitting in my inbox for quite a while. I finally just read it, and the tips are great! Thank you so much for posting this.

      Andrea

    • Patti says:

      Thank you! This is a great reference. I’m still expanding my social media use and this will really help. I’m definitely bookmarking this article.

      The social media sites can be such a time bandit, especially when your connections are interesting, so you make a good point about time management. The automated tools sound interesting, especially if there is a way to use them while still keeping the personal touch.

      • Thanks Patti, there definitely is a balance, with the time you spend and with the tasks that you do.

    • You have listed out good steps to take and not just for writers but for people and even organisations to take as they delve into the world of social media.

      • Thanks Gerri, totally I think a lot of different types of people and businesses can use theses strategies

    • Phyllis says:

      This is a great post Lori. I will be sharing, Pinning, Posting, RTing and whatever else there is out there! I work with authors and writers in my work, so I’ll be sharing this with them, too.

      I advise people to use Google Calendar to block out social tasks. Social Media marketing can be a huge time suck.

    • Ann Druce says:

      Hi Lori, Of course automation tools make life simpler, but I’m still a little dubious about them. Manual updates allow for interaction as apposed to simply posting an update. How do you handle that? Do you use the automation system for updates but schedule time to interact, re-tweet and answer?

      • Great point, yes you definitely use your 15 minutes to interact with your peeps. Schedule that your repetitive items.

    • I’m using Postcron to schedule my Facebook future posts. This web based service is really good and easy to use. Better than HootSuite I think.

      • Thanks, I have never heard of Postcron, I am going to put it on my list to check out. Does it only do Facebook?

    • Lauren Smith says:

      Thank you, Lori, for such a thorough assessment! I am saving this article and passing it along :}. I use SocialOomph quite a bit and also Hootsuite. I also just began a newer free service called Buffer, which has worked pretty seamlessly for me. Another resource I strongly recommend is Lisa Anderson’s book, Leverage Social Networks to Drive Business Results, which is especially great for any marketing leader who wants to leverage social networks successfully. You can find the author’s website here: http://www.lma-consultinggroup.com/

      • Thanks for stopping by Lauren! Some additional resources for everyone is excellent.

    • I’ve been using Hootsuite for quite a while, it’s good to schedule your tweets and stuff, but I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t allow you to add G+ profile until you have a G+ Page – I, being a writer/blogger, only use G+ and Twitter.

      • It is true that all sites have their pros and cons…. just need to pick the one that covers as many aspects as possible. Several people I know have said they do all of their scheduling in Social Oomph and they like it.

    • Hello Lori,

      I like your advise. I Especially liked `focus on one network at a time`. Otherwise it will become overwhelming. That is how it felt for me, anyway.

      I am starting with one network at a time, which takes a long time but, it feels so much more manageable. J

      • Sometimes it is long, sometimes it is short, each person learns and becomes familiar with the networks at different rates, but definitely you have got the main idea “focus on your goals”

    • Paul says:

      I am not sure about Time management Lori, How you gonna do that correctly you should have elaborated little more on this subject but anyway I must say overall it is a nice brief on social media plans. I liked it.

      • Hi Paul,

        I am not sure there is a best way for time management, it is a personal choice. I describe 30 minutes a day broken into two times. But really you can pick the time frame that works for you.

        The key is to stay focused on your tasks and your strategic plans so that you are not distracted and spend too much time.

        I do recommend for fun that you plan a time slot, where you can just have fun, surf around and enjoy your time, there is so much interesting material out there to read.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Your comprehensive round-up for social media has helped clarify a couple of key points for me, Lori.

      I’ve been hesitant to try any of the post-automation software, mostly because I’ve seen far too many of my peers use one or another program at a highly Spammy level. Thanks for providing clear recommendations for these systems. They’re next on my list.

      I’ve read other advice along the lines of what you’ve presented here, but you’ve done a great job condensing and clarifying the important components. No question in the end — “time suck” and “time wasted without goals” are the first things we all need to overcome!

      Bookmarked your post for future reference, thanks.

    • Now THAT was a comprehensive article on social media! You covered some serious ground Lori and in a way that wasn’t overwhelming.

      I do have a question about Step 2 though. You said to “focus on one network at a time to ensure it is set up correctly and is representing a consistent brand.” Did you mean someone new to social media should focus exclusively on one network at a time or should they dabble in many but concentrate in one?

      That was the only question that came to mind when reading this. The rest was just action-oriented “get out there and do this thing!” stuff.

      • Thanks Joel. For step 2, I do mean focus on just one network at a time. Starting with the one where you potential readers are going to be.

        Yes, I think we should hit the big 3, but I believe that when you are new to Social Media you need to get comfortable and gain self confidence in working with one at a time.

    • Wow, Lori, so much information here.

      I’ve bookmarked the post to go through again later, but wanted to say that I liked your thoughts on time management as part a Social Media plan.

      My biggest problem with SM is its potential to be a time suck, and so I have to be careful there!

      Your 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon seems great way to be present regularly and also to not get overwhelmed.

      Thanks for the useful information,

      cheers!

      • 🙂 I hear you 100% some time it is okay to have some fun and spend a few hours. Most of the time though we are trying to do a long list of things, so anything that we can automate gives us more time to write!

    • Bobbi Emel says:

      Lori, thanks for putting together all these great tips in one place! Social media can be really overwhelming, but you’ve broken it down here into bite-size pieces.

    • Hi Kim, You have made great progress, deciding which platform works for you is great. The next step is to make sure your potential readers are there as well. There definitely is a fine balance.

    • This social media is much more difficult than it seems at first. Where I have the most difficulty is deciding WHAT to post to these sites. I share my blog posts and share others’ (related) posts, but beyond that I always seem to get tongue-tied (word tied? finger tied? lol).

      That said, I have found that I love G+. So, for now, that’s where I’m putting the majority of my focus (then twitter, then facebook if I have time/desire).

      Great post, Lori!

    • Jevon says:

      I am not a fan of social networks, but I know they have great marketing potential, especially for a new author like myself.

      While I have linked my blog to facebook, twitter, and linkedin to create automatic comments for my posts, I still want to try one of the automated tools. It would have been nice if you gave the pros and cons of those tools and which one serves best for different purposes,

      • Sounds like a Great idea for another article or series of articles 🙂

        everyone would have their own lists of pros and cons, might pro might be your con

    • Amit Amin says:

      I’m probably too lazy about social media for a blogger. Step 1, for me? Stop being so lazy 🙂

      Actually, it’s more of an 80/20 sort of thing. I’ve decided my strength is research and writing, so I’m hoping I can worry less about social media, and focus more on what I like. The verdict is still out on whether this is a viable strategy.

      • But you have made a decision and you have a strategy. Down the road you can re-evaluate and if needed change your mind or maybe not.

    • Lori, I am definitely bookmarking this article. I really appreciate how you covered everything in such detail. Perhaps the biggest thing that stood out to me is to remember to have a strategy. When you heard the words “social media” as a small business owner or as a writer, you freeze up and feel overwhelmed! But, if you are focusing on accomplishing a specific goal, it’s much more manageable and you can actually get excited about your social media adventure.

      • Thanks Stephanie. Definitely, a goal and a plan keeps everything under control and really in the long run you will get more done and be more effective.

        System= Save your self time energy and money

        🙂


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