PUBLISHED AUGUST 2015
by Lee Foster, author
After I had 16 books published the traditional way, I recently switched to self-publishing for four books. I use social media to promote all my books. Bearing in mind that the best strategies will continue to evolve, some quite rapidly, I have devised a system for posting on my blog and major social media sites that seems to work well; it is outlined below.
Of course, before you can implement any system for posting, you have to confront the basic question: Which social media should I put my energy into? The ground rules for each social media structure will continue to change, so you must cultivate a resilient attitude and be alert to change if you wish to succeed. I currently recommend and participate in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. Fans of other social media, perhaps especially Pinterest and Instagram, will say that I ignore their opportunities at my peril. But I don’t have time for more than my weekly blog and these initial four. My choices may change as conditions alter.
Some people feel they have perfected an efficient system by making a single social media post go automatically to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. I don’t think that works well. Each of those four sites has its own requirements, which differ as to content, length, approach, hashtags, and in other ways. I recommend posting to them individually. It takes me about an hour to put a completed post on my website blog and on the social media sites I use.
Social media sets up ongoing encounters with people who follow my work. I follow people, too, of course, especially on Facebook, and I send a few likes each day to the best posts on my “personal” news service, keeping me informed of the activities of like-minded friends.
My “cheat sheet” for weekly posts appears below, with a concrete example from the day I was celebrating the release of Chapter 19 in the audiobook version of my book Travels in an American Imagination
You can see examples of my system in action at:
Don’t be frustrated if the weekly pattern I am recommending seems a little complicated. It will all become clearer as you get engaged.
The Steps in the System
- Write and polish an article for the blog post.
- Write a short description of the article, roughly 40 to 70 words.
- Get a photo if possible, and size it to 350 pixels wide at 72 dpi (dots per inch).
- Also create a smaller version of the photo, 150 pixels wide, to use for a WordPress website thumbnail image.
Photos are an engaging aspect of social media. More people will likely follow your posts if you have a photo. I always use my own photos since half of my work in the last 45 years has been making and selling photographs, which means that I am not the best person to inform you about how you can get free photos. Others may point you to Flickr and recommend that you search for Creative Commons free photos or almost free photos at micro-stock image sites.
I prefer to encourage photographers to sell their photos, even for small amounts, because I think making photos or words free sets a bad precedent about content. The strategy of “free” ultimately harms authors as well as photographers. If photographers are giving away their pictures, why aren’t authors giving away their words? Why should anyone pay an author for words? Should not all content be free? You can see where this is going.
For all my blog posts, I have to upload both the 350- and 150-pixel graphics into my Media Library on my WordPress website admin area, and for audiobooks I have to upload audio files there as well.
Put the article up on the blog along with the large version of the photo. Then put up the social media efforts.
To make it all easy for my social media posts, I create a page in a Word doc and gather there all my posting materials.
- Copy the blog URL—that long and ugly http:// etc. unique record locator—on this page.
- Make a “bitly” of this URL and copy it on this page. (A bitly, as you may know, is a shortened URL that can be made free from a long and ugly URL. Short allows an efficient use of space, which is especially important on Twitter, where you have only 144 characters. Go to bitly.com and sign up, establish a presence, and make your short bitly URLs as needed. Bitly will recognize you when you return.)
- Copy the short description of the blog post on this page.
- Make a list of a few hashtags that could serve as trending and organizing words for this post, attracting people who are likely to be interested in it. For example, the post that I am using for illustration here happens to be about my audiobook. Since some people follow posts on what is happening in the world of audiobooks, I put in the hashtag #audiobook.
I recommend using three hashtags per post. Note that the hashtags work on three of the four social media sites I use, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. They don’t work on LinkedIn, where a hashtag will reference people who are associated with that hashtag rather than the content the hashtag reflects. Also note that the way hashtags work on those other three sites may be different. Possibly, there will be no one following a certain hashtag on one and thousands following it on another. It’s important, therefore, to test your hashtags on each site and use the ones followed by the most people.
Supply assembled content to the four social media sites.
- For Facebook, I first put up the 350-pixel-wide photo. Then I add the short description with the bitly and the hashtags.
- For LinkedIn, I put up the short description with the bitly, but no hashtags. Then I use the option to x out (eliminate) the reference generated from the Internet. LinkedIn will allow a user to recreate this from your bitly. Finally, I use the option for adding the 350-pixel-wide photo, so that my content is the short description, the bitly, and the photo.
- For Twitter, mindful of the 140-character limit on space, I fashion a very short description of a few words to use with the bitly and the hashtags. After I put those up, I check on how many characters I have left. Then I add my 350-pixel-wide photo, which requires some “character” space. If necessary, I scale back the text or drop a hashtag. But I don’t ever drop the bitly, because that’s what will take people to my blog post and my website.
- For Google+, I put up the 350-pixel-wide photo and then add the short description, the bitly, and the hashtags.
For my post on the release of the chapter on “Egypt: The Accomplishments of Man” from the audiobook version of Travels in an American Imagination, the URL on my site is:
The bitly of this post is http://bit.ly/1CM6tle.
The short description text is:
With ISIS now sledgehammering the great cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq into rubble, it is worth noting that Egypt offers a satisfying historical experience for the modern traveler interested in what early mankind achieved in the region. Listen as William Dougan narrates Chapter 19, “Egypt: The Accomplishments of Man,” from the audiobook release of my travel literary book Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time.
The version I posted on Facebook and Google+ has http://bit.ly/1CM6tle #ISIS #Egypt #audiobook after the book title.
The version I posted on LinkedIn has http://bit.ly/1CM6tle after the title.
The version I posted on Twitter is:
ISIS destroys and Egypt shows mid-east culture
http://bit.ly/1CM6tle #ISIS #Egypt #audiobook
Each of my social media posts has beneficial long-term results in terms of selling books, promoting the discoverability of all my content on my website, and earning income from Google and private ads as well as from sales of my books and apps.
Lee Foster recently summarized his first decade in independent publishing in An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option. Information about his 4 self-published books and his 16 traditionally published books is available via amzn.to/1jl9Lnz. Information about all his writing and photography appears on the Foster Travel Publishing website, fostertravel.com.