In my new series on answering YOUR questions, Morgan Dragonwillow asks: If you could be only on one, Facebook or Twitter, which would you choose and why?
Well, it all depends on what your goal is. Want to build relationships AND improve your overall SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? Twitter. Want to build relationships but are not all that concerned about SEO? Facebook.
Just to make your head explode, I’ll throw in a teeny tiny bit about Google+ and why it still matters. And to really frustrate you, I’ll tell you that you can’t be on only one social media channel, because guess what? Your reader base isn’t in only one place. So unfortunately, the question (though great! So thank you for asking, Morgan), is inherently flawed, but I’ll do my best to answer it from my perspective. I won’t even go into Instagram and Pinterest (both of which I love), but you can read more about Instagram here, and Pinterest here and here, specifically for authors.
Think you can’t do it all? I say you can! I’ll explain how and give you tips, too.
Twitter matters because Google is now indexing tweets. This is a bold move by Twitter to be more accessible (they do have investors to answer to now), and to continue their growth from that silly thing your teenagers used to natter on about (and believe me, they’ve already abandoned it for Instagram which they’ve now abandoned for Snapchat and have moved onto Meerkat or Periscope just to freak you out even more), to the social media superpower they are truly capable of becoming.
I spoke with a grandfatherly type the other day who still calls Twitter ‘that new-fangled thing’ even though it’s been live for a decade. Jump on the bus, folks. Twitter isn’t hard to use. If you can text, you can tweet. Sure, it takes a little while to understand how to click on all the buttons, but it’s pretty user-friendly now (they continually upgrade it to make it more intuitive), and their Help section is second to none.
I started on Twitter in 2009 and haven’t looked back. I’ve written extensively about it here on my blog about utilizing Twitter (and other social media) in a relationship marketing way — click on Search to find more information on tips and tricks (this isn’t a ‘how-to’ article — okay, a few tips below, I can’t help myself), and I train authors, publishing houses, and small businesses daily how to use Twitter to build relationships. Notice I didn’t say ‘how to sell your stuff,’ because I don’t find that Twitter itself is an effective selling model. It’s great for connecting, networking, chatting, sharing, visibility, exposure, discourse…selling, though? Meh, not so much (hint: that’s what your bio and header are for).
The main reason I love Twitter? Twitter drives a huge amount of traffic to my sites (both author and business), especially on Mondays, since I created #MondayBlogs.
If you’re new to Twitter, don’t make these mistakes because a) they’re obviously newbie errors and b) Google indexes all your tweets (even if you delete them, Google keeps them. Forever.):
- Don’t spam your ‘buy my book!’ tweet to every single person on Twitter. They will (rightly) report you for spam and Twitter will suspend your account. Besides, is everyone on Twitter your demographic? No.
- If you can write a book, you can write a tweet. (which of course, begs the question, why do writers end up spamming the same message to hundreds? but don’t get me started…again). Share your advocacy, interests, articles, poems, quotes, pictures, whatever! Be yourself.
- Hashtags are these things: #. Use them, don’t overuse them. Google LOVES hashtags, too.
- Links are great, in moderation. Blog posts, others’ posts, occasional promotions, videos, cool stuff. Google LOVES links, too. Again, don’t have a link in every single tweet — if you read Twitter’s spam guidelines, a link in every tweet is also against their guidelines.
- Don’t just follow authors. Follow readers, book clubs, book bloggers, book reviewers, other influencers as well as other authors. Authors are great, but they want to sell, too. Don’t get stuck in the trap.
- Don’t be an entitled tool. Many of us have spent years and years building our following through daily, focused, branded efforts. Too many folks come on and say, ‘whoa, she has a kabillion followers. I want me some of those!’ and leave messages like this: “I will literally slice my arm off if you will retweet my book link to all your followers!” I get at least four or five or those ridiculous tweets every week. Or, “It’s your job to help authors coming up. Share my book about horror geek erotic gnats who knit.” I swear to lollipops, an author cursed me out for not being her volunteer PR person — and I didn’t even know her!
Point is, build relationships by being helpful, grateful, funny, and supportive before your book comes out so when you do release your book, those people you’ve connected with will be more inclined to tweet your book link or promotion for you without you even having to ask. They’ll ask you to guest post on their blog, which will also show up in Google. You’ll do a virtual book tour which will (hopefully, if the blog tour hosts have read this article haha) also show up in Google. And on, and on.
Personally, I think Twitter is the great equalizer. I’ve spoken to all manner of artists, authors, and musicians I never would have been able to interact with anywhere else. There are a lot of trolls, too, but I find the quick banter and opportunity for community is amazing and balances that out. The 140 character limit, I believe, makes us better writers, too. If you can’t say it within that limit, you edit until you can.
As for SEO:
In an interesting study by Stone Temple Consulting, they found that using hashtags and links in your tweets (but not too many, because it had the opposite effect) resulted in higher Google indexing. Here are their tips for higher engagement and better indexing:
- Invest more time in Twitter to build your presence. There is one obvious place to start…
- Make your tweets more engaging, as illustrated in our above-linked study on engagement: Create link-worthy content within your tweets. This will not be every tweet you do! The next tips will give some advice on how to do this:
- Use high impact images for your most important tweets (but not every tweet)
- Leverage hashtags for greater visibility and engagement
- Note that longer tweets tend to generate more engagement on average
- Include links and mentions wherever appropriate, but recognize that these generally do not directly drive higher engagement
- Consider using Twitter Ads to jump start visibility on the platform
- What we learned is that Google appears to value the same things that drive Twitter engagement. This should be no surprise to us, because Google wants to value the same things that people do. So the big lesson may be a simple one: focus on driving higher engagement on Twitter, and Google is more likely to reward you with higher indexations rates for your tweets. Think of it as holistic content marketing at the micro level.
Great advice! I’d add that if you haven’t initiated using Twitter cards, you should do so. Most people think it’s some kind of Texas Hold’em, or that it costs money, but it’s totally free. Twitter cards allow you to “attach rich photos, videos and media experience to Tweets that drive traffic to your website. Simply add a few lines of HTML to your webpage, and users who Tweet links to your content will have a “Card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers.” (Source: Twitter Help Section. Click for more help.) Read this Forbes article for a complete how-to.
Facebook is a two-fold way to build relationships: via your personal ‘friends’ account and via an author page, where people Like stuff — no ‘friending’ required. I’m constantly surprised at the amount of authors who either don’t have an author page at all or don’t even know they need to have one.
According to Facebook’s legal terms (which we all agree to when we open our account), Section 4, point 4:
You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.
Authors do promote their books constantly on their personal walls, right? But that doesn’t make it okay, and Facebook is cracking down on that practice by suspending and closing down accounts. They announced they would be enforcing this rule and they are. This isn’t a surprise.
Five author friends have lost their accounts in the last two weeks alone for this activity. Is it worth losing all those years of work to you? It’s not to me. So, I don’t do it. People complain it’s more work to have a personal account and a page however, if you schedule in your promotional content using Hootsuite or Buffer, I don’t see the issue. I do that daily for myself and my many clients and it’s quite easy.
Not only that, but Facebook gives you multiple free options to promote your content on your page — a call to action button, tabs, apps, and yes, paid options (ads and boosts) which will allow you to customize your posts for higher visibility to your demographic. What you need to ask yourself is: is it worth it?
For relationship building, maybe. For SEO, not so much (more specifics below). See, here’s the thing: how does promoting your work (the ‘Buy my book!’ post) help you to build relationships and connections with people? It doesn’t. Your personal account is for your to connect with friends and family, and to garner interest in you, the person.
Personally, I’ve formed lifelong friendships on Facebook (mostly via groups) and even met people in real life that I’ve connected with there — and received many client gigs as well. From both an author and business standpoint, I find it helpful. It’s also somewhat of a time suck, however, and I often shut it off during the day. I also find the novels people write in response to posts (often about politics or religion) somewhat irksome — that’s probably why I find Twitter and the 140 character limit appealing! Short and sweet works for me.
As for SEO:
Looking at Stone Temple Consulting data again, they came to this conclusion:
Google doesn’t use Facebook as a discovery, indexing, or ranking factor (Source: Does Facebook Activity Impact SEO?).
Matt Cutts (director of Google’s Webspam Team) noted in 2014 that ‘social signals are not part of the search engine’s ranking algorithm’ (Source: RavenTools, January, 2015), which obviously has changed since Google is now indexing tweets! Indeed, with over 13 major updates to Google in 2014, much remains to be seen as to the effects of social signals on ranking. Is it click-through, engagement, quantity or quality?
The best bet, for now, is to have a Facebook personal account AND page, but not to count on it to help your ranking much, er, at all.
I’m not an SEO expert, and you probably think that G+ is stupid. It’s not. It’s got one key thing going for it: it’s owned by Google. Yes, Google Authorship has come and gone. Yes, changes are afoot. Yes, it’s kind of confusing. That’s okay. You’re smart. You can figure stuff out.
Google+ works similarly to Facebook: you need a personal account and a page. You ‘circle’ people for your personal account, and you +1 things for your page. The most important reason you need to be on G+? Your page posts show up in Google!
MANAGING IT ALL
Before you freak out and say, “OMGosh, she’s crazy! I can’t do all that,” take a deep breath and look over these posts on how to manage it all. There are plenty of social media scheduling tools out that are super easy to understand and use. I like Hootsuite, my author assistant, Kate Tilton, loves Buffer. There are desktop and mobile versions for iPhone and Android, too. These tools enable you to both schedule and live interact, which makes it so easy to balance all the different social media channels and still find time to write and ya know, live our lives.
(It’s worth noting that most of these scheduling tools only allow G+ Pages, not the personal ‘circles’ account (it’s an API thingy), so be sure to set up your Page if you haven’t.)
Ultimately, social media is just one part of your author platform. Think of your platform as something you stand on, comprised of a group of boards. The center of your board, your foundation, is your amazing, fabulous, beautifully written, professionally edited, formatted, and designed book. From there, you have:
- Social Media
- A fully optimized website
- An active blog
- Street Team (or other support)
- Giveaways (bookmarks, prizes, etc)
- Blog tour/book signings
- And more I can’t think of now because this article is getting too long and I’m tired.
This is the flaw in the original question. You can’t just be in one place and expect to sell books, unless your goal is certain failure (“Don’t buy my book!” Now that I’d like to see. Ha.), and that’s because your readers aren’t all in one place! Marketing and selling are two different animals that work together to create book sales.
Focus on relationships. You have to work hard and you have to work smart. You also need to connect with people at a real, human level.
But IF I have to answer…I’d go with Twitter.
Agree? Disagree? Have at it.