3 Steps to Playing a Social Networking Game You Can Win

attr: http://brokenremote.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/help-desk-board-gameAs a writer, you may think that social networking is waste of time. And you’re right. It is — if you don’t create a game plan, and play a game you can win.

Before I get into why, let’s define social networking. (It’s only one of my favorite topics, ever.) According to Jace Shoemaker-Galloway, a feature writer on suite101.com, social networking “refers to a community where one connects and communicates with others on the Internet,” including blogs, instant messaging, email, video, chat rooms or forums, i.e., Twitter.com, Facebook.com, and LinkedIn.com.

For published writers, social networking is a way to share our books with new audiences, find allies, and increase sales. For as yet unpublished writers, social networking is a way to find an audience, find allies, and build our list. On allies: an ally is anyone who can be a support to you on this precarious and wild journey as an author. I see allies as authors in my genre, book reviewers, agents, editors, industry pundits, librarians, fans, and anyone who thinks what I’m doing is cool. For authors at any stage of their career, social networking is about community, connection, and sharing.

NOTE: There are no rules that say you NEED to be involved in every social networking platform. That said, it’s in your best interest to be where your readers are. Take some time to research that. Popular with many readers are sites like GoodReads.com, and LibraryThing.com.

Why a game? Games are fun! Games are play. Coming to social networking as a game can create a lightness and joy that can be conveyed in the way you communicate online, and help you create genuine connections.

Why play a game you can win? Because winning is fun!

Playing a game you can win has three main steps:

1. Set up your game. You get to define the rules, the game’s parameters, and how to win. Winning can be in any of these three areas:
* Time: When will you dive into social networking for your book and author career and for how long?
* Actions: Be specific, i.e., post content, or “friend” or “follow” a new connection.
* Tracking: Keep track at least monthly.

2. Play the game. You do this by interacting with your connections and by offering useful, timely, and genuine content.

Authors often ask me what to post, lamenting, “I don’t know what to write!” I hear you. What to say can be overwhelming, especially when we’re used to writing long, and much social networking requires short posts. I suggest you start with one benefit of your book or blog post.

Viewed through a business lens, a benefit indicates how the widget or service will be of value to the client. For a novel, the benefit is what readers are attracted to — the hook, if you will.

For example, in Patricia Simpson’s novel, Spellbound, she could tweet about her medieval knight come to 21st century Scotland. Actual tweet: “Medieval knight awakens in 21st century Scotland. Curious? Read Spellbound! http://patriciasimpson.com/”

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, in regards to her book, Out of the Dark (Samhain 2009), could tweet about an Anglo-Saxon woman falls in love with a Norman sheriff, and she’s blind. Actual tweet: “An Anglo-Saxon woman falls in love with a Norman sheriff, and she’s blind. Curious? Read Out of the Dark http://joannsmithainsworth.com

Other benefits you could tweet or post about besides setting and time travel can be book review quotes, the jobs your protagonists have, the story question, or a quirky fact you found while researching the book.

3. Track. As one of my mentors says, “Winners keep score!” And I know you are winner.

BONUS: Celebrate your wins! Tell your new Facebook and Twitter buddies! We will cheer with you.

An example: You can decide to spend 30 minutes a week, once a week on Twitter, and the same amount of time on another day on Facebook. You win by visiting at least five friends in each location and interacting with them, by clicking “like” on something they wrote on Facebook, reading and commenting on their posts, or posting.

Another example: Plan to post four times a month to your blog, and promoting your posts via Twitter, Facebook, or using Ping.fm, “a simple and FREE service that makes updating your social networks a snap!” Update: Or Yoono.com, another social networking service, also free. Yoono allows you to ping several of your networks at a time, and only the ones you want.

Online social networking is new and evolving. We are the game makers and game changers. Don’t just take my word for it. Check out this post on The Relationship Economy blog, “Social Game Changers”: http://www.relationship-economy.com/?p=8761.

And above all, have fun!

c.2010 Beth Barany

(Earlier and shorter versions of this article first appeared in the Creativity Coaching Association newsletter and the Writer’s Fun Zone blog.)

The Promotion Posse is a monthly column in Heart of the Bay, spotlighting promotional strategies for authors, written by members of SFA-RWA with a knack for PR. You can find author and columnist, Beth Barany, raving about books, authors, and the ever-changing publishing and book marketing world at www.twitter.com/bethbookcoach, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bethbarany.

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