In this five-week workshop we’ll cover how to use social media platforms for book launch campaigns and to build your brand as an author. Topics include how to pick the right social media platform for you, how to create social media posts from the writing you’re already generating, how to plan a monthly social media calendar, and how to manage your social media platforms without burnout!
Although social media can feel like one more thing to add to your already busy life, it’s a necessary part of promotion. Authors are small business owners — solopreneurs, if you will. That’s why it’s important to use social media platforms to market your product and your brand. But authors are also creatives, and there are so many ways to use social media to engage your creative side (and that of your followers).
This workshop is for all levels with a focus on those fairly new to social media. You should have basic computer skills and feel comfortable navigating the internet. You do not need to have a social media account set up in order to take part in this class, but for those who do, we can answer specific questions about your account(s). We will discuss Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and we will use the free version of Canva to create graphics.
After five weeks, you will be able to create a sustainable social media strategy and monthly content calendar for at least one social media platform.
Instructor: Alli Marshall Meets online via Zoom. Wednesday evenings starting March 22, 6:00-8:30.
Why use a color palette generator? When branding a business, website, or campaign, it’s important to have a dedicated color palette. Because those colors represent your mission, they should stand out, be immediately recognizable as YOUR COLORS, and also relate to your products, service, or campaign.
There are many places to find color palettes, such as Canva, Pantone, and Pinterest (just search “color palette” — you won’t be disappointed!) You can also learn more about color wheels and color theory at Hubspot’s informative blog on the subject.
But one way to create truly unique color palettes is to create your own from images that inspire you. Here are three color palette generator tools to help you do that.
Instead of using Canva’s Color Combinations Resource, try the Color Palette Generator. Here’s how it works: You upload an image and bam! In less time than it takes to blink the generator has churned out a palette for you.
But, as you can see from my demo below, the generator has a mind of its own. I was expecting pastels and brights and, instead, ended up with something more reminiscent of The Brady Bunch’s living room.
PROS: It’s ridiculously easy to use, and the site also offers demo images to try. CONS: If you don’t like the colors it pulled from your image, there isn’t a way to select other parts of the image, or add or subtract from the generated palette.
The Image Picker at Coolors.co offers lots of options. To use it, browse or drag and drop a photo. The Image Picker will immediately select five colors from the image. BUT — and here’s the cool part — it places markers on the image showing you where each color came from. You can drag each marker to change the color, creating a truly custom palette. There are also layout options for a collage when you export your palette.
The image I used, below, is of purple and gold late-summer flowers. The initial palette suggested by the generator was darker and more subtle. I reselected for brighter yellow and pink shades.
PROS: So many options, and it’s fun to use. CONS: Some options, such as certain collage layouts, are only available with a pro subscription.
Collaborative interface design tool Figma offers tools for layout as well as palette generation. For the latter:
Install a plugin such as Photo to Palette.
Run the plugin and it will automatically generate a color palette based on colors in your image.
Or, for more control:
Create and set up a free account on Figma.
Create a new project and import and image (or several images!)
If you’ve selected a number of images, you might way to organize them on the page.
Using the rectangle tool, create a 50px by 50px square to the right of your image(s).
Duplicate the square at least three times.
For each square, click the fill option on the left-side tool bar.
Using the eye-dropper select a color from the image
When you’ve filled in each square with color, you’ll have a customized palette.
For my palettes, I selected images of butterflies (below) and vintage hats (top of page). The plugin-generated color palette runs along the bottom of the image and my hand-picked palette is on the right side.
PROS: Lots of control in color selection, and the ability to use and select from multiple images. CONS: More complicated to use. The automated generator requires a plugin and offers no control of color selection. The manual process has many steps. The Figma platform requires initial set up.
There you have it! Three ways to generate your own color palettes for your brand assets, your website, a marketing campaign and more.
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Social media is an important part of the marketing and brand awareness strategy for any author. As I pointed last week in Social media for authors (made easy) Part I, even if you DO have a full-time publicist and social media team, your readers want to hear from you, in your own voice. They want to connect with you, engage with you, and buy books from you. And that’s where your social media platforms come in.
In Social media for authors (made easy) Part I, we went through the various social media platforms, what differentiates them, and what they each have to offer. In this post we’ll talk about how to choose one or more platforms, how to set yourself up for success on social media, and how to avoid burnout when managing your social media.
How to choose your platform(s)
1. The most important question to ask yourself is: Where does your audience hang out?
If your readers predominantly flock to Pinterest, you don’t want to invest your time creating TikToks. On the other hand, if you’re writing Young Adult fiction, your readers probably gravitate to younger platforms (such as TikTok) rather than a professional site such as LinkedIn.
Take the time to do some research. One way to figure out where YOUR audience hangs out is to look at the audiences of other successful artists in your genre. If you were to create a “RIYL” (Recommended If You Like) list for your writing, what well known authors would you include to give potential readers some idea of what to expect? Make that list with five names and then look up what social media platforms THOSE authors use.
2. What platforms do YOU enjoy spending time on?
This matters a lot. Do you enjoy creating video content? Do you HATE creating video content? Do you want to engage with your audience or be more hands off? When choosing a social media platform to promote your work, expand your brand, and sell your product, you want to be sure it’s a platform on which you actually want to show up. If you really can’t stand Facebook, pick something else — your followers are likely in more than one place. What we’re doing here is looking for the Venn diagram of social media where you and your audience meet.
3. What sort of content do you like to create?
We covered this a little bit above, but it bears repeating. There are several parts to social media: The image, the headline, the caption, and the call to action. Different social platforms highlight these elements differently. Instagram is all about the image (or video). The caption matters, but you’re attracting attention with the image. Facebook, on the other hand, makes it easier to post and share links (no need to say “link in bio”). Reels are a fun way to show off your creativity in short form video or share a direct message to your audience by speaking to them on camera.
4. Pick one social media platform to start.
Weigh all the options we discussed above and then create a sustainable strategy. Follow your plan for at least three months. Get really comfortable with one social media platform before adding another to your marketing plan.
Tips for setting yourself up for success on social media
1. Consistency is key.
When creating a social media platform, pick a name that is easily recognizable — ideally your first and last name. Use the same name across platforms (my personal accounts use @alli_marshall because @allimarshall was already taken). If your first and last name aren’t available, try last and first name. Or first and last and author, or writer: @allimarshallauthor, @authorallimarshall, @allimarshallwrites, @booksbyallimarshall.
2. Be professional and recognizable.
Use a professional photo that shows your face. If you’re an author, use your author photo. Use your book cover or some portion of your book cover as your background image. If that’s not an option, choose an image that connects with your writing.
3. Fill in your profile.
Using key words that relate to your field of writing (fiction, novelist, horror, fantasy, young adult, poetry, creative nonfiction, etc.). And add your website link or (for Instagram) a tool such as LinkTreethat allows you to share multiple links on social media. With LinkTree your “link in bio” goes to a customizable site with ALL of your links conveniently displayed: Your website, your publisher, where to buy your book, your various social platforms, and any reviews or events you want to include as well.
4. Add your social media link(s) on your website.
Also, in your link tool and on your social media platforms add links to easily connect followers to your other platforms. It’s all about networks and connections.
How to avoid burnout while managing your social media
1. Start by creating a monthly schedule.
You can create an easy content calendar by following the steps I laid out in this blog. Using a blank calendar page or template, lay out a month of post ideas for yourself. I recommend starting with three posts per week and rotating between tips (or other added value content), engagement (such as personal stories, behind the scenes glimpses into your writing space, photos of you at an author event, etc.) and sales posts. Sales doesn’t have to mean only “Buy my book.” You can share a review, a photo of someone reading your book in a fun or unexpected place, or a quote from the book. The important part is that the call to action is something like, “Learn more and find my book” and a purchase link.
2. Create content in advance.
Instead of trying to create a post each day, set aside 30 minutes per week or two hours per month to batch-create content. You’ll find it goes much easier when you’re not up against a deadline. And, when you have your content created in advance you can also SCHEDULE in advance. That means never having to remember a posting day. I’ve included some information about scheduling posts here.
3. Repurpose content.
This is not only efficient, but also good marketing. A person has to see a post something like seven times before they connect with it. Sharing the same message more than once (as long as it’s timely and on brand) helps readers to really see and hear your call to action. You can also repurpose content from your blogs, interviews, online articles, and even podcasts or radio interviews. I will share a post soon about how to download and edit audio content for social media posts.
4. Let yourself off the hook.
You want to show up consistently for your book and your brand. But sharing your work as an author should feel like more of a joy than an obligation. Follow your strategy and be as regular as you can with it. But also know that if your gut is telling you to spend your time taking a walk in the sun, or calling a friend or, I don’t know … writing? Do that. Posting can wait. Social media will still be there tomorrow. Your mental health, physical health, and creative well being are far more important than any sale.
If you’re an author, unless you have a full-time publicist and social media team, you need to be on social media yourself. In fact, even if you DO have a full-time publicist and social media team, your readers want to hear from you, in your own voice. They want to connect with you, engage with you, and buy books from you. And that’s where your social media platforms come in. Here’s our easy primer (part one of two!) on social media for authors.
These are some of the main ways authors use social media:
• Create brand (book) awareness
• Build a following
• Promote an event such as a tour or book launch
• Sell books
Are you wondering if a website is enough to accomplish the goals above? A website is part of the recipe for success, but — like any good recipe — there’s more than one ingredient. If managed well, there’s something of a feedback loop that happens between a website and social media platforms. It looks something like this:
The largest age group using this platform is between 25 and 34, but Facebook also has a small but mighty group of age 65+ users. It’s a good space to post links to blog posts, videos, event updates, photos, reviews, etc. You can create and invite followers to your events and you can also engage with other authors and publishers here. You join Facebook groups for writers and post your events on other group pages.
The majority of this platform’s users are between 18 and 44. It’s image-driven with posts using photos, video, and graphics. Instagram has become a necessary platform for businesses in part because engaging content can reach well beyond a user’s follower base. (And yes, my dear author friend, YOU are a small business.) Instagram allows you to engage through short posts with an eye-catching image or video.
Expert tip: Instead of linking to your website in the profile — the ONLY link currently allowed on Instagram — use atool such as LinkTree that allows you to share multiple links on social media. With LinkTree you “link in bio” goes to a customizable site with ALL of your links conveniently displayed: Your website, your publisher, where to buy your book, your various social platforms, and any reviews or events you want to include as well.
One more tip: Invest time in Instagram STORIES. These are posts that only last for 24 hours, but can be way more casual. Stories are a great way to give your followers a quick update and, because you can include links on Stories, they’re also a helpful tool for sales and for connecting audiences to upcoming events.
3. TikTok (and/or Instagram Reels)
“If your brand’s target audience includes anyone between the age 13 and 60, you should be on TikTok right now,” says Wallaroomedia. Perhaps. It’s a very fun and engaging platform with lots of room for experimentation and being yourself. Do you enjoy creating short form videos? Then TikTok might be for you. Keep in mind, nearly half of the demographic on the platform is between 18 and 24. If this is your audience, go for it.
Expert tip: TikTok has a GLOBAL audience, so this is an opportunity to expand your reach beyond the US.
If your audience is older, you might want to focus on Instagram Reels instead. Videos here are similar to those on TikTok, though trends follow a few weeks behind TikTok.
If you still think of Pinterest as the place to find craft or recipe ideas … you’re not wrong. But it’s also so much more. Pinterest has long been considered the social media platform for introverts because it’s MORE about sharing ideas and LESS about promoting a personality or even a brand. That’s not to say you don’t want to use basic branding principals on your Pinterest posts (such as brand colors, fonts, and logos).
Pinterest demographics: 32% 18-29 years old. 34% are 30-49 years old. 38% are 50-64 years old. This is also the platform that takes the LEAST day-to-day management, and interaction is rarely necessary or expected.
Types of pins: Static (a single image), Video pins (a single video), Carousel (a collection of image slides), Idea pins (a multi-page format featuring up to 20 pages of videos, images and text in a single pin), and Rich pins (these have embedded meta data that is synced from your website).
This is the largest social media platform (81% of U.S. adults use YouTube) and, as I’m sure you know, contains a wide variety of video content. If you enjoy creating video content (or have someone on your team making video content for you), this is the place to post book trailers, videos from author events such as readings, and interviews. If you have a podcast, you can also post a video recording on YouTube. This is an effective way to grow an audience.
Expert tip: You can repurpose short-form, vertical video content from Instagram Reels or TikToks for YouTube Shorts. This newer feature of YouTube was introduced in September 2020. You may not have noticed shorts on your YouTube homepage yet. If not … scroll down. These <60 second videos can be wildly creative. Or very simple and direct. YouTube just released a new guide for Creating Shorts if you’d like to learn more.
Social Media Today announced that Meta has launched new reels features in the Creator Studio App (which can also be used on your phone or desktop / laptop).
Among those features is the ability to schedule reels and that’s a big deal if you’re a content creator. Reels, for those who aren’t familiar, are short-form, vertical videos that appear on Facebook. They’re usually less than a minute, though Instagram has started to allow longer reels.
You’ve probably heard by now that video is the most popular form of content across social media platforms. Instagram Reels were launched about two years ago to compete with the short-form video platform Tik-Tok. Pinterest is encouraging its users to create Idea Pins (formerly known as Story Pins), which also use short-form vertical videos. And even YouTube now hosts YouTube Shorts, which are vertical videos of one minute or less.
Anyway, until recently, Instagram Reels couldn’t be scheduled in advance, though the planner in Meta’s Business Suite allowed for scheduling of Facebook and non-reels Instagram posts. And that’s kind of problematic if you’re trying to incorporate popular video material into your social media posting strategy yet have to remind yourself to post it. Or you have to make time during your busy to week to post and create at a time when the reel is likely to get the most viewers (for me that’s around 7 p.m., but your followers might be online at a different time). Or you have to make reels when you’re able to, or inspired to, and post them then and there in the hopes that the timing will work and the content will get plenty of engagement.
So being able to schedule is HUGE (!!) … but only if it works. So I tried out the new features in the Meta Creator Studio. Here’s what I found:
Once there, the directions for creating a reel a pretty straight forward: Upload a video. Trim it to one minute max, and resize it if needed in the resize screen. To CAPTION your video, you need to click “back” to return to the first screen (as opposed to captioning as the last step, which is the order of operations when you post a reel directly from your Instagram app).
Finally, click publish to schedule your reel for a future date.
In the Creator Studio you, rather ironically, don’t have creative tools for your reels. No stickers, no filters, no text and no close captions. You also can’t add music or a voice over.
I found a work around to this by importing my video to the Instagram app and adding close captions there, then downloading it to my phone and re-uploading it to the Creator Studio. You can do this with EITHER captions OR music, but for some reason you can’t save and download a draft with both.
You can’t edit clips other than trimming the beginning or ending, and you can’t import more than one clip at a time.
You don’t have the option to add a location, which is especially important for those promoting and event, a brick and mortar business, or a city or neighborhood.
You CAN add hashtags and tag other accounts, but neither autofill from your previously used tags or your followers.
You can’t edit or add a cover image.
I did go ahead and schedule my post through the Creator Studio, but it’s a far from ideal system. In fact, the reel I scheduled went live on my Facebook feed but NOT on Instagram. (You had ONE JOB Creator Studio!!) If you plan to use this featuring for scheduling reels, I suggest first editing your reels in a program like Canva, Premiere Pro or Davinci Resolve so that you can colorize, add text and transitions, pull in photos and additional film clips, music, voice overs, etc.
Export your completed reel video and upload it to the Creator Studio for scheduling, if you want to try it. Though I recommend waiting for Meta to smooth out the kinks.
Another option, if you’re interested in paying for a subscription to a social media management platform, is to find a platform that includes scheduling reels. Some that have this feature include Hootsuite, Planoly, and Metricool.
More options should be popping up soon. Instagram unveiled its Reels API to all social media management platforms in July and many, like Buffer jumped at the opportunity to offer drafting, scheduling, and auto-publishing of Instagram Reels. The services are included with subscriptions.
Showing up isn’t an all or nothing proposition. As part of my campaign against perfectionism, I want to encourage you to show up for your brand, business, or project EVEN IF YOU DONT FEEL 100% PREPARED. Not great at Instagram Reels? Make something super-simple. Haven’t perfected your latest blog post? Add “Part 1” after the title and share what you have knowing you can update and revise later. Thinking about starting a newsletter but not sure what to write about? Write about not knowing what to write about … and how to find ideas
Showing up is about being PRESENT. It’s not about being polished or having the exact right thing to say. Yes, you can just drop in and say “hello.” SRSLY. It’s great to be the person on social media (or in business or out in the world) who has the impactful product or the well-researched presentation. But it’s also important to be the person asking, “How are YOU today? What’s going on in YOUR life? What are YOU working on?”
I really do believe strongly in the value of creating space for others to talk about themselves. Social media, at its worst, is vapid and self-absorbed. It’s selfies and influencers and we’re all marketing something even if it’s just ourselves. But it doesn’t HAVE to be that way.
Organic marketing isn’t all about selling. It’s also about sharing a story and giving value. The call to action can be “join my mailing list” or “visit my website” or even “buy my product” EVEN IF THE POST is about sharing a personal story or three tips or a fun fact. (I’m going to go out a limb here and say it’s also OK if the call to action is “be good to yourself” or “smile at a puppy today.” I, for one, am not a marketing robot and I hope you’re not, either.)
Organic marketing IS about drawing a connection between your product or service, your social media presence (connection), your story as a human on the planet (trust building), and the space where those interested can find said product or service. Organic marketing is the space where you can be open for business and also open to making friends, meeting collaborators, and nurturing like-minded creatives. Sales are cool. Community is cooler.
Social media, at its best, is about community. We build community through authentic expression and a willingness to be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean you have to share your squirmiest secrets. It does mean you can allow yourself to be a work in progress and share your process with a community that is evolving right along with you.
Keeping that in mind, showing up can take on any form you need it to. The only “rule” to showing up is making a practice of presence. You have all the say in what form that presence takes in your social media space and for your brand, business, or project. You get to decide how often. There is no hard-and-fast number for posts per week. Find your sweet spot — is it one blog post? Three Instagram posts? Daily tweets? All good if you can do it with creativity and joy. If you can do it with a sense of serving your community.
You also have full say in what your content pillars are, what your main social platform is, whether your posts are text-based or video-based or graphics-based. Yes, there are metrics that point to some types of posts performing better than others and certain platforms being a better match for certain products or services. You can study those trends and performance indicators if you want to. But you don’t HAVE to. You only have be your genuine, wonderful, unique, creative self and show up in the way that feels good to you and is meaningful to your community.
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I recently heard the term “contentpreneure” and I like it. It describes what many of us are doing these days.
According to Forbes, “An entrepreneur who uses content as a key pillar of their business strategy. Examples include a startup producing blog posts to market their SaaS product, a consultant who creates YouTube videos to build their personal brand through informative content, or an agency that uses a thoughtful newsletter magazine as the core of how they market their services. Content is key in how one positions themselves as a thought leader, especially when produced consistently and in service of building a community.”
The article goes on to point to content creation as a route to earning (through monetization of online platforms or collaborations).
But I don’t think content creation necessarily has to be paid to have value. One of the interesting things about online marketing is that much of it is about building community. The content creator on Instagram or Pinterest is making content to share as a means of attracting potential customers to their website to purchase a product or service. But the way content creators develop customers is not through hard sell. Instead, it’s about providing value, education, entertainment, or nurturing.
I love that as contentpreneures we can fully invested both in running a business and being a maker. Was there ever a time when those two facets of entrepreneurship were so intertwined?
I’ve noticed a trend lately of friends and colleagues leaving social media to escape its toxic qualities. And yes, that certainly exists. But I’m currently inspired by the array of creative opportunities social media and online marketing are offering to innovative makers and small business owners.
Where are my master multitaskers? If you’re anything like me, you’re doing a little bit of everything (video, social media, content creation, editing, PR, media outreach, project management …) and loving it. But also going a little crazy.
How do you organize your days and weeks, and the workflows for multiple clients? I’m a lifelong listmaker so what’s working for me right now is using the Task List function in Notion in an unorthodox way.
Notion is an organizational tool that’s infinitely customizable. People use it not just for workflow organization, but also as a personal journal, to track workouts and health stats, to plan vacations, and much more. Here’s what my Dashboard (think of it as a homepage) looks like:
So what you see here are three columns. The left column is for task and idea organization, the middle column has a page for each client I work with (each page expands into task lists, goals, brand description, brand pillars, etc.), and the right column just has one thing right now—my contact lists for various campaigns.
Up until recently I was using the Master Calendar function to schedule everything that needed to be posted, such as blogs, Pinterest pins, social media posts and reels, and newsletters. My Master Calendar looks like this:
Each client has initials to identify them, followed by the posting need on the date it must go live. A red tag means it needs to be done or was pivoted away from (that way I know I can reuse that idea later). Green means it’s ding dang DONE. I like the system, but I still wanted a to-do list to jot down what needs to be done but also ideas and inspirations that come up for me. that’s how I like to work. Here’s a typical Alli Marshall to-do list:
It works! And it’s SO satisfying to cross stuff off. BUT this analog method has plenty of drawbacks. For example, see where it says “NewSong record reel”? That was a social post I was creating and it had a lot of moving parts. Still images, video, audio, and an extensive caption. I couldn’t organize those things with pen and paper because I needed them to be on my desktop so I could pull them into my Canva program where I created the reel.
So I created a new system in Notion to address this. See, notion already had a Task List function. It looks like this:
Straightforward, right? I even tried replacing my pen and paper to-do list with this digital version. But what DIDN’T work for me was the columns. All of my to-dos are To Do, unless they’re done. In which case I don’t need a column for them because: DONE. But I did need a to-do list for EACH CLIENT, all conveniently housed in one tidy document. So this is how I reworked Notion’s Task List:
What you’re seeing here is a list for each client, and each item expands to hold text, images, ideas, meeting notes, screen shots … whatever I need! It’s a big fat multipurpose multi-client multitasking to-do list extravaganza. And I imagine it will evolve. Just posting about it here has got me thinking about renaming it (perhaps: My Big Fat Multipurpose Multi-client Multitasking To-Do List Extravaganza).
As I learn more about Notion and how it helps me in my work, I’ll continue to share. I hope this post gives you ideas about how to streamline and organize YOUR workflow.