Using Social Media to Promote Your Project

Posted Thursday December 16th 2010 by Jen Angel

Last year, Aid & Abet released a how-to pamphlet on doing your own publicity, called Get Noticed: How to Publicize Your Book or Film. As we've become more reliant on social media tools in our work we decided to expand on the material there and include some basic how-to tips here on the site for our clients. I hope you find this information helpful!

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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Project

I talk a lot to people about how to use social media to promote their books, films, or other projects. It’s a lot of work and personal time, but incorporating blogs, Facebook, and Twitter into your outreach plan can really pay off – and can help lead you to valuable connections and resources you might not have found otherwise.

When thinking about incorporating social media into your outreach or publicity plan, here a few things to remember:

  • Build your website first, and make sure you link your social media to it.
  • Social media is a long-term commitment. If you want to use social media, you should plan on incorporating it into your daily routine and posting or interacting with people on most days. Having a blog or a Facebook page that is not maintained (or poorly maintained) is worse than not having one at all.
  • Social media at its best is a two-way conversation, a way to meet and interact with others who care about the same things as you. Using these tools as a one-way broadcast device will not help you cultivate the rich interactions that are the most helpful and rewarding.

Tool #1: Blogging

If you’ve already created a static website and want something that is updated more frequently, starting a blog is a great way to include fresh content. You may have even chosen to build your site with free blogging software like Wordpress or Typepad.

What do you talk about? Here are some examples of things that you can post about.

  • Status or interim updates on any projects you are working on
  • Repost news articles or web content that is relevant to your topic and may be of interest to your readers.
  • Reviews of your book/project, or interviews with you.
  • Reports from conferences or meetings that you attend that have relevant content
  • Requests for information or opinions about your project
  • Humanize your project by profiling yourself and/or other people associated with the project, or talk about things that are going on in your lives (someone is getting married, worked on a related project, went on a trip, etc).

To make your posts stronger, we recommend:

  • Remember your focus. If your blog is about a book or project, great – that will help you keep your content relatively narrow. Once in a while a post outside of this content area is fine, but for the most part, stick to the main topic of your book or project.
  • Including a graphic in most posts really helps make the blog more visually appealing to the casual reader.
  • Link to any people, organizations, or news items mentioned in your post. You might also consider linking to background information about the topic, or other posts where you discuss the same things. This helps make the post more dynamic and less cluttered by moving content into links - think of links, essentially, as footnotes.

Once you have your routine down of how often you are posting and what you are posting about, there are several easy ways to get more traffic to your blog:

  • Post a link to your blog posts on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • If you mention any people or organizations in your post, be sure to link to them and also send them an email telling them that they were mentioned.
  • Send a personal email to friends and supporters who you think might have an opinion on the post, and ask them to read it, make a comment, or post to their social networks.
  • Some social networks, like Linked In, allow you to update the settings to automatically repost your blog posts.
  • Read other blogs and comment on them

We recommend allowing comments on your posts, and checking frequently to see if anyone comments so you can respond or answer questions.

You can see an example of how we use this to post news and updates on the Aid & Abet website, though because it's essentually a news feature for us, we don't allow comments.

Tool #2: Facebook

Facebook is one of the most widely used social networks, boasting over 500 million active users around the world – it’s hard to ignore. Yet, as the company constantly changes its interface, how to best promote your work is constantly changing.

If you don’t have a personal Facebook profile yet, get one. Connect to your friends, family, and colleagues by searching for them by name, or by looking at the friends of anyone you are already connected with. Opinions on how private to keep your page vary widely – I, for example, am only friends with people I actually know or have interacted with. Others are friends with everyone – they use Facebook as an organizing tool and want access to the widest audience.

Maintaining your personal page is important because your best way to promote any project, event, or activity is through your existing network – by making a status update, posting a link to your blog, or posting a link to an interesting article, you will be sharing that with all of your friends (and potentially with their friends, too). You can also ask your network to help you publicize something by asking that they repost items on their profiles, invite their friends to events, etc.

Facebook also allows you to create “Pages” for businesses or projects. We have a page for Aid & Abet. The benefits of using a fan page to promote your work in addition to your personal Facebook page are that people can “like” your page (i.e. become connected to you) even if you don’t know them – it’s not like they are connecting to your personal profile. Also, more than one person can administer a page and make posts/etc, so this is a benefit to any kind of group project. If you choose to create a fan page for your project, we recommend posting at least once on most days, and actively responding to anyone who posts or comments on your “wall.” This is a big commitment and you should be sure that you are ready to incorporate social media into your daily routine before launching a new page.

Once you have your personal page and a fan page for your project, some of the things you can post are:

  • Links to any blog posts you write
  • Links to any reviews of your project, interviews with you, or guest columns by you that are available on the web
  • Articles or web content that may be of interest to the people who like your project
  • Information on what your partners or supporters are doing

You can also write status updates that give people more of an insight into how you work and what you are doing. For example you could write status updates like:

  • Progress reports on any new work, or events that might be coming up
  • Interesting meetings (“Today I met with…” or “Today I interviewed…”)
  • What you are working on (“Today I am working on a new article for… and it will be up next week.”)
  • Requests for input or opinions

We do not recommend posting all of the same items to your fan page and your personal page at the same time – if someone is your friend and follows your project’s page, they’ll get the posts twice. Post most of the updates to your project’s page if you have one, and ones that are more personal or chatty should be posted to your personal profile.

Tool #3: Twitter

Twitter is a great way to broadcast what you are doing and what you find interesting, but more importantly, it is a great way to interact with and engage in dialogue with others who care about the same things. Similar to Facebook “pages,” Twitter allows anyone who is interested in your work or what you’re saying to “follow” your tweets.

While there are tons of “how to use Twitter” articles floating around on the web (we love this presentation on the basics by Deanna Zandt), there are just a few tips we’d like to pass on about how to use Twitter for promotion:

  • Everything we said about posting on Facebook applies here. You can use Twitter to tell people what you are working on right now, any reviews or interviews about your work, and link to interesting articles and web content. There are some tools available that will cross post your updates between Twitter and Facebook, but I prefer to use them separately, since I want to make sure to check for anyone responding or commenting on whatever I post.
  • Create a list of key words that apply to your project, and use Twitter’s search tool to find others who are also using those words. Follow those people. If they say something interesting, “re-tweet” it or respond saying you like it. This is one step toward creating relationships. Do the same searches once a week to find new people saying interesting things.
  • Also search for people mentioning your name or the name of your project, and respond to their comments or thank them for reposting your work. Maybe you want to follow them because they are interested in the same type of content as you.
  • It is important to check your Twitter feed on most days. The most effective Twitter users leave Twitter (or a Twitter client like Hootsuite) open on their computer or smart phone and check it several times throughout the day.
  • It’s important to post a mix of your original comments/links/thoughts as well as “retweeting” material from other users.
  • The best way to gain more followers is by posting interesting things and by interacting with others.
  • Make sure to upload a photo and fill out the bio portion of your Twitter profile - you can include a link to your website here.

When to Use Social Media

Even if your book or project isn’t ready for the public or hasn’t been published yet, you can still begin using media NOW, by interacting with others and creating community around shared interests.

Sharing what you are working on, the interesting research you are doing, and the articles & other content you like even before your book is published will help you build connections and create momentum for the launch of your book or project. It also humanizes you and gives your supporters insight.

When your project is ready to launch, it is obviously important to announce the specifics of where people can get or buy it, or if they can see you speaking or on a tour. Especially with Twitter, we recommend that people make these type of key announcements several times (often spaced over days or weeks), because many Twitter users follow hundreds of other users – it’s easy for a tweet to go by quickly and be missed.

After your books is published or your project is launched, continue to post about your activities, but include any reviews, feedback, or awards your project is receiving. And don’t forget to tell your community about whatever it is you’re working on next.

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The best way to use social media tools, especially Facebook and Twitter, is to start an account and jump in! By experimenting with what and how to post, as well as watching what others are doing, you’ll learn how to best incorporate these tools into your routine.

If you need help, especially if you want to create a media strategy or incorporate social media into your existing plan – don’t hesitate to get in touch.