1803, 2016

Finding an Audience – A View from the Data

In previous posts, we’ve considered various aspects of book marketing from the point of view of the author or marketer. In this post, we’re going to shift gears slightly and talk about social media from a different perspective, that of the underlying data.

So before we proceed any further, consider this a Nerd Alert! We’re going to get a bit technical here. If talk of databases and search engines don’t excite you, now might be a good time to bail out.

For those of you still here (Hey, it’s everyone! Cool!), here’s a very high-level description of how we approach the challenges of Big Data as it pertains to the publishing world. Our goal is to match books to the social conversation occurring around those books as well as related books and topics. In order to do this, we keep our eye on the social web on an on-going basis, identifying people, places, and conversations where those books and topics are being discussed. We search across multiple channels, including Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, and the blogosphere (not all of these channels are currently active in our application) and apply our homegrown algorithms to distinguish the most relevant matches from the least relevant.

What constitutes relevant social activity varies from channel to channel. For example, a conversation might be defined by a Twitter hashtag or a discussion thread on a blog. A place might be a Goodreads group or a Facebook author page – on-line sites where interested readers congregate, indicating their likes and (sometimes) dislikes.

Our mechanism for searching also varies from channel to channel. Our custom-developed tools access social data through a combination of traditional search engine technologies, public and private APIs, and licensed data sources.

Once we identify relevant social conversation, we store that information and perform an initial series of analytics to index it to help us retrieve it when we need it – that is, when we want to display that content to a user in one of our applications. (For the database geeks out there, we use a hybrid, cloud-based relational and graph database tier to optimize our storage and local queries.)

The process of searching, indexing, and storing data occurs at different frequencies, as appropriate for each channel. Twitter data changes quite rapidly – second by second, in fact! – so we keep an eye on the “firehose” of Tweets on a real-time basis. (It’s possible for a user to see a Tweet in the FMA application that was posted less than 10 seconds before.) For other social networks that fluctuate less rapidly, we may search and store content daily, weekly, or even monthly. In all cases, we try to stay as current with social conversation as is warranted by the channel in order to bring the most value to our user.

The net result of the process described above is a vast database of information about social network activity related to books and the written word, and a set of tools that can be employed both at fixed intervals and in “real-time” to search social networks for relevant conversations.

It’s a rich trove of information that constitutes the data foundation of our business and powers our user applications. We’ve always known that an author or book marketer should not be expected to have to deal with all that data, and we are more than happy to help in the process, hopefully cutting days to hours, hours to minutes, and minutes to seconds when it comes to finding interested readers on the social web.

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2902, 2016

The Importance of Keywords

The value of Find My Audience’s tool is the ability to discover a diverse and valuable readership on social media through our audience locator. To do this, the use of keywords is an essential part of the process.

Every night, Find My Audience aggregates millions of conversations from the Twittersphere in order to create custom audiences for our users. Our tool searches for the most relevant tweets and discussions happening across Twitter that are related to your book, genre, and similar books based on keywords and search terms being used by people across the web. With this information, we create your audience and from there you decide which of these audience members you want to reach out to and connect with—these are your “leads.”

Keywords are words or terms that describe your book or a similar one. After we initially provide you with an initial audience, we will continue to send you new audience members each night based on the keywords that are in your book profile. When you first become a user at Find My Audience, your book will already have keywords and terms associated with it based on research and analysis done by our team. However, you can add your own keywords and terms into your book profile as well. In fact, you should: it’s valuable to add additional terms or remove old ones when you can in order to create new and different audiences to source leads from.

You can choose keywords based on words or phrases you think are being used by potential readers on Twitter when discussing your book or similar ones. For example, say your book is similar to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. The genre for your book is memoir, which means general keywords for searching for your audience could include terms such as #cherylstrayed or #memoir. These terms will help produce a rich audience and discussion surrounding this book, and will surface any discussion happening across Twitter regarding either #cherylstrayed or #memoir—which is rather broad, but still valuable when developing a leads.

To expand and refresh your audience, you could add more narrow terms such as “self discovery” and/or “personal journey” to your book profile. Get creative with your new terms, and see what sort of language works. If your book is similar to Wild, but you know that your readership will likely be young adults, add keywords such as #yalit, #juvenilefiction or even #wattpad[1]. Thinking about and researching the way that people would discuss or label discussions about your type of book is your clue to developing strong keywords and phrases that will give you better results each day.

[1]Wattpad is an online writing community where a lot of young writers and readers share their work. In this theoretical situation where you have written a YA memoir, doing a little research about where online your readership hangs out and shares work will lead you straight into the arms of Wattpad. It’s extra steps like this to develop keywords that will allow you to diversify and enrich your audience results.

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1702, 2016

How to Become Established on Twitter In Order to Use Find My Audience

Are you an author interested in finding your audience? We’re here to help. Find My Audience is a social media management platform for authors who are actively trying to grow their readership. We make it simple for you to find potential readers by scouring the social web for people, places, and conversations that relate to your work. To get the most out of Find y Audience’s platform, you should have a Twitter presence. If you aren’t on Twitter already, here are some tips to help you get started.

First things first: if you don’t have a Twitter account, you need to sign up here. When you’re choosing a handle (@), the most obvious thing to do is to use your name. If you have a common name like Joe Smith, you might want to consider adding a descriptor (e.g., @JoeSmithWriter). If you have other social media accounts that require unique usernames (e.g., Instagram), we suggest you be consistent with the handle you use.

Next, you need to consider how you want to build your brand. To do this on Twitter, create hashtags that identify yourself and your book, such as #yourname and #yourtitle. These hashtags create communities based around specific conversations (like #optoutside for REI). If you want to search communities, you need to search hashtags in order to find the most recent conversations about those topics and the people who are talking about them. The more you hashtag your book title and your name, the more others will do the same – it’s a form of reciprocity, which marketers suggest for good social media etiquette. You can also hashtag your genre in order to attract audience members interested in that topic.

We strongly suggest you make social marketing on Twitter a part of your daily routine. Just like you plan a specific time to work out during the day, or to cook dinner, or to write, designating 15 minutes a day to creating your own tweets, following new people, and retweeting will allow you to have a constant presence on Twitter.

More helpful tips:

-The best readers are authors. Don’t be shy to follow and engage with them.

-Save character space by using link-shortening websites like bit.ly.

-Have a succinct and informative bio and a link to your author website.

-It’s never a bad idea to put your book cover as your cover photo.

-Link to excerpts of your book using sentences that hook readers.

Once you get started, you’ll have all the tools you will need to get started with our Beta. This is a really exciting chance to grow your readership in a fun way, expressing your personality and engaging with new people.

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1202, 2016

What It’s Like to Work in Boulder, Colorado

Our team feels lucky to work at Find My Audience for a multitude of reasons – but namely because of its prime location. Our office is based in Boulder, Colorado, which is a quaint college town nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Some people call it a little San Francisco, but we think we’ve got them beat (even if we’re biased). Here are 5 reasons why working in Boulder is unbeatable:

  • Boulder is a hub for innovation. Not only is it home to the University of Colorado at Boulder, but it also hosts an impressive number of startup companies in both the technology and holistic lifestyle industries. For example, our office is located next to the very successful granola company, Purely Elizabeth. They just dropped by earlier this week to give us free samples of their organic granola (and we’re obsessed)! P.S. (They’re hiring).
  • The hiking trails are unbeatable. How nice would it be to spend your lunch break hiking the trails of Boulder’s famous Chautauqua Park? Or rock climbing up on Mt. Sanitas? Or strolling around the Boulder Reservoir? It’d be a fantastic luxury. We should know – we love to take advantage ourselves!
  • You can bike to work. Boulder is a cycle friendly town that is almost always sunny. If you haven’t heard, Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year. Not bad for a bike ride, right?
  • Were a 15-minute walk to the Pearl Street Mall and a 5-minute drive away. Treat yourself to a scenic lunch at the West End Tavern, the Rio, or the Med. Dining in Boulder will never disappoint.
  • Youll find a boutique coffee shop on the corner of every street. We highly suggest trying the Oatmeal Raison Cookie tea from Pekoe Sip House – or if you like to mix your drinks, you can always grab a glass of wine in addition to your coffee at the Laughing Goat. You can’t go wrong there!

 

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to work in Boulder, it’s still a great place to visit. And if you’re an author interested in using Find My Audience, don’t be shy! We’re located in the Steelyards at the corner of Pearl and 30th. We’d love to give you a tour of the office and show you how our tool can help you maximize your book marketing efforts online. Plus, you never know when we’ll have a dog running around the office! ☺

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2801, 2016

Writers & The Zero Moment Of Truth

 

In our last post we discussed the importance of Micro Moments for writers. Micro moments present opportunities for writers to build their communities and/or market their books, assuming the timing is right. Micro moments comprise the first step in what we are calling the Audience Location Journey.

Here’s an example: assume that you have written a phenomenal work about a woman who is stranded on a distant planet without food or water. She will need to use all the ingenuity she possesses to survive until her crew can make it back to rescue her. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Your book could be the kissing cousin of the best-selling The Martian. And that’s not a bad thing, for if you can identify positive tweets and posts about The Martian, and connect with the authors of those sentiments, you may also find your own audience. Marketing experts call this an “affinity audience.”

Let’s further assume that your affinity audience has finished The Martian and is looking for a similar book to read. They are full of “intent to buy” but aren’t sure which book they will be buying. So they whip out the phone, pad, or computer and start researching. Google calls this The Zero Moment of Truth, which is “the precise moment when they [your potential readers] have a need, intent or question they want answered online.” This is the second step of the Audience Location Journey.

And journey it is, for in this phase your potential reader moves back and forth between devices (phone to computer and back again) and channels (Twitter, Facebook, et. al), checking prices, reviews, and in the case of books, asking for recommendations or simply taking a look, for example, at friends’ Bookshelves on GoodReads.

The marketing task, then, is this: to “shape” your potential reader’s journey — and anticipate the questions s/he might ask along the way.

This requires that you understand your reader’s intent. Indeed, one of the truisms of marketing today is that intent and immediacy of messaging are more important, as Lisa Gevelber of Google notes, than “reach and frequency.”

Zero_IMG_02_

So, where should you start? We suggest you first answer a number of questions, such as:

* What questions will the user want answered? And what are the answers?

* What kind of cover images or art will hook the user?

* What blurb works best to compel the reader to continue reading?

* Which books are similar to your book?

Keep in mind that your marketing efforts at this stage are not so much about “your” work but rather about addressing what your potential reader wants — what they feel comfortable with. To be sure, in the “morphology” of reader taste similarity takes pride of place. As a result, especially if you are a self-published author, you might want to engage in a species of resemblance marketing.

Another way of looking at this is that the answer to every potential reader question is this: “It’s like the book you just read (but with a slight twist).”

Let’s make this more concrete. Take a look at the following three book covers.

Notice the family resemblances? Now is not the time and place to talk in depth about our desire, or lack thereof, for originality in what we read (and see). Notwithstanding, it is important to take into account the degree to which the publishing industry shapes your readers’ tastes. Tim Parks in a recent NYRB article describes the situation as thus:

The difficulties of the writer who is not yet well established have been compounded in recent years by the decision on the part of most large publishers to allow their sales staff a say in which novels get published and which don’t. At a recent conference in Oxford–entitled Literary Activism–editor Philip Langeskov described how on hearing his pitch of a new novel, sales teams would invariably ask, “But what other book is it like?” Only when a novel could be presented as having a reassuring resemblance to something already commercially successful was it likely to overcome the sales staff veto. 

In closing, we should point out that your “public face” (cover art, web site, etc.) needs to be professional and enticing — in short, it needs to pass the “gut test.” If it does pass that test, and many don’t, then you have a chance to further influence the reader’s Zero Moment of Truth. In our next post, we will discuss the different ways you can do that.

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412, 2015

Writers and Micro Moments

Talk to any savvy digital marketer these days and you’ll find that the trend everyone is discussing is “micro-moments.” It should come as no surprise that the phrase was coined by Google to describe those “intention-laden moments” that drive users who want to “know, go, do, or buy.”

While these intentional moments are critical for Google to understand what ads to push down to the user, they can also be important moments that writers can use to build community, introduce, and sell their books. They are moments when you can shape the perception of your potential audience. Don’t lose the opportunity to do so!

But first you must understand where the audience — and therefore the opportunity — is. Let’s start up at the macro level and then we’ll move to specifics. Traditionally, marketers (spurred on by work done by various companies, most notably Proctor & Gamble), thought of the customer-buying journey as consisting of three steps or “moments”:

* Stimulus

* Shelf Experience

* Experience

The advent of the Internet created an additional step, one that now takes places after the stimulus, and is referred to as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) — a term popularized by Google’s Jim Lecinski and discussed in his ebook, ZMOT: Winning The Zero Moment of Truth.

The ZMOT is that decision-making moment when a consumer turns to the web to do research on a specific product. As Lecinski notes, “Whether you sell yachts or shaving cream, your customers’ first impression — and quite possibly their final decision — will be made in that moment: ZMOT.”

More recently, digital marketing maven Brian Solis has added another step: the UMOT. Solis writes that “The UMOT signifies the instant when a customer creates content based on an experience with your product or service and publishes it in their community or network of preference for others to find. The intention of doing so is a combination of self-expression and the desire to inform others.”

The Customer Journey is now five steps, then. Below is a graphic that Solis has done to illustrate the steps along the way.

Untitled

So, what does this have to do with you — the writer looking to sell your book? Well, first and foremost it establishes a new Mental Model for the way you locate, build, and reach out to your potential audience of readers. Let’s call it The Audience Location Model. Let’s map that model to the five marketing steps pictured above.

We’ll start with the first step of the journey: the stimulus. How do you 1) “stimulate” a potential reader’s awareness of and interest in your book? Or, alternatively, 2) how do you identify a stimulus (an event or trend) that provides an opportunity for you to build community, or even pitch your book?

We suggest a two-fold strategy. First, play the long game — and play it well. Find great people to follow, build a community, engage in conversations, retweet, favorite, like, and when the time is right, mention your book. This strategy works, but it takes patience — and reciprocation, what we refer to in our office as The Social Contract.

Second, you should also follow events and trends that are closely tied to your book. Of course you’ll need to identify what those might be. We suggest you start by identifying the following three types of events or trends that are relevant to your book (there may be more). Here are three you can begin with:

  1. Internal – refers to events or trends in your book (e.g., Pearl Harbor)
  2. External – Birth and death date, awards, sales figures, etc. of comparable authors.
  3. Trending – current events-hashtags that can provide marketing and community-building opportunities.

There are a number of tools you can use to engage in this “forensic marketing.” Of course Twitter and Facebook have trend feeds and Google has a number of tools, including Google Trends, that can be helpful. But the secret sauce lies in the ability to understand that a specific trend or event has a causal connection to your book in some way and provides a marketing opportunity. For example, if you have written a book about female pilgrimage, you would want to join in on conversations about the movie Wild. In short, to identify that causal connection, you have to know your own work and you have to keep a watchful eye on the social channels — a time-consuming activity!

In our next post, we’ll take a look at the second step of your reader’s journey, the Zero Moment of Truth, and discuss how you can use it to shape your reader’s perception of your work.

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1910, 2015

What Is An Audience?

In today’s social media culture we assume bigger is better. Advertisers push their message onto millions of followers and get instant approval from billions of likes and retweets. But for writers, the ideal audience has nothing to do with numbers. Instead of pushing our work onto as many people as possible, it’s much more helpful to focus on pulling in that smaller slice of the population who will love what we’re writing. 100 fans who care about our work, can’t wait for our next release, and who loan our books out to friends, are worth more than a million faceless followers who will never take a chance on one single story. Instead of shouting louder to be heard over all the social media noise, the secret is to cultivate a solid audience that is ready to listen to what we have to say.

About The Author
Lauren Sapala is a fiction writer, writing coach, and blogger. She founded the Write City writing group in San Francisco, and its sister branch in Seattle. She coaches all levels of writers, helping them to discover their voices and realize their goals and dreams.  Lauren currently lives in San Francisco and is working on her fifth novel. She blogs regularly at www.laurensapala.com.

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