by Tammy Burke
I am delighted to hear you will teaching a pre-conference workshop THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF EVERY AUTHOR’S ONLINE MARKETING STRATEGY. Our attendees are sure to gain so much insight! I remember leaving one of the monthly Liars Club Coffeehouse for Writers meetings with my head spinning with the wealth of good information after hearing you talk about the optimal ways to use Twitter for marketing. And I see that social media isn't the only thing listed which you will be covering during this workshop. I hope everyone brings a notebook!
I was wondering if you might whet our appetites even more by giving us an example or two about the workshop.
Don Lafferty: Facebook is the eight hundred pound gorilla of social media. Seventy-five percent of Americans are logging into Facebook for on average, more than fifteen minutes a day. So it makes perfect sense to start your social media strategy with a Facebook author page to build community in much the same spirit that we build an email list.
But Facebook has stacked the deck against us, depressing the number of people who see our posts to somewhere between one and three percent of the communities we’ve all worked so hard to build.
So how does an author reach the people who have made a deliberate decision to connect with their Facebook page without breaking the bank on Facebook ads?
I’ll cover that in my seminar.
With the dizzying, ever-growing plethora of choices in social media networks, how does an author know in which ones to invest their most valuable possession – Time?
I’ll go through a step-by-step evaluation to help you determine which social media channels are best for your writing goals and the most efficient, effective ways to manage the time you spend tending to them.
Have you ever changed someone mind's from believing social media and time management shouldn't belong in the same sentence to understanding its value?
Don Lafferty: It’s always prudent to weigh the value of the investments we make in the goals we want to accomplish, in fact, it would be foolish not to. I don’t see that I’m changing anyone’s mind as much as giving them the facts they need to make a decision within their comfort zone. Time management is essential to every part of our careers, but information is the key to setting this balance in everything we do.
Changing direction for just a moment...The Liars Club is a wonderful group of Philly-area writers who pay it forward in the writing community by offering advice and free events. How did you become a part of this? What do you like best?
Don Lafferty: I became part of the Liars Club when my good friend, Jonathan Maberry, invited me to join. That’s the short answer. The long answer starts just like every other writer’s journey – with a passion for storytelling and a knack for stringing words together. Eventually those two things brought me to The Writer’s Corner in Doylestown where I met Maberry. Within three years, using Jonathan’s platform as my test lab for MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, we were among the pioneers of the use of social media for writers.
When the original eight Liars decided to invite more people to join, Maberry – who’s always on the lookout for a win-win – brought me in as a way to elevate the overall social media savvy of the group.
Being part of the Liars Club has opened so many doors for me as a writer, a speaker and a marketing consultant, but, at the risk of sounding corny and trite, the friendships I’ve made through my association with the Liars Club trump every other awesome thing about it. Being a part of the community of support for aspiring writers that has grown around our activities is something I could have only dreamed of when I walked into the Writer’s Corner back in the spring of 2005.
We've seen social media grow and change. For one, the teenage crowd seem to be moving away from FaceBook and are using Snapchat. What are your thoughts about the evolution of social media? How important is it to know what is likely to be trending as you're trying to reach your optimal audience? What do you believe are today's most advantageous social media sites?
Don Lafferty: Tammy, I’m surprised all the time by the innovative ideas people are coming up with to slice and dice the social media landscape into new and innovative ways for people to connect, share and collaborate. The evolution of social media is going to continue to drive toward a more seamless user experience, where the boundaries of a media channel will no longer be an impediment to sharing and discovering new things right where you are in the palm of your hand, or using a wearable device like Google Glass.
The importance of keeping pace with the changes in social media is critical to people who do what I do, but it’s not easy. My clients depend on me to have a solid understanding of the various social media channels, and in turn I depend on specialized experts to sift through all the latest and greatest shiny objects so I can figure out if and how to incorporate them into a client’s strategy.
For writers, there are a few social media channels that are no-brainers, like Facebook, Goodreads, Google Plus and maybe Twitter. After that, it all depends on what the writer writes, and where their target connections are playing in social media.
For example, a cookbook author should be on Pinterest. Maybe even Instagram. But a creative nonfiction author probably wouldn’t get much traction for their work in a community like that.
A writer’s content will dictate the social media channels into which they should jump.
You have an interesting blurb on your company's website about how in 2005 you realized the marketing potential of social media after having daughter-assistance creating your own MySpace page. Presumably, this was one of the first steps which led you to becoming a social media guru. Could you tell us a bit about this? Also, I was wondering if there was a particular catalyst which inspired you to become the Chief Marketing Officer of the digital marketing agency, Mingl Marketing Group?
Don Lafferty: You’re absolutely right, Tammy. About a year after I became a regular attendee of what would become the Coffeehouse for Writers, Maberry orchestrated a competition designed to pit two groups of writers against each other to see who could successfully pitch and sell a nonfiction book first.
In the end, I wound up on a team with Kerry Gans, Jerry Waxler, Keith Strunk, Jeanette Juryea and Carron Morris. We decided to pitch a book about all the ways the Internet had changed how people were able to connect.
We decided to write about business, medicine, romance, and sex among other things, so when we divided up the research, I drew the research on Virtual Communities, which at the time, was Myspace, Xanga, LiveJournal, listserves and Yahoo groups. I went home from that meeting and asked my then, ten and twelve year old daughters, to show me how to get on Myspace. Once I started to play around with it, my marketing brain exploded with ideas for authors and small businesses to connect to the people in their target demographics at a level never seen before.
This was 2006, before the term “social media” had even been coined. Back then, writers didn’t build platform by blogging, but by working in the field and writing magazine articles, so I set about querying all types of markets to write about the uses of Myspace for marketing. By 2008 I was in business and the next year I left my full time job to pursue a full time career as a freelance social media marketing consultant. As the business grew I eventually had to form a company to scale up, and Mingl Marketing was born with the help of my partners, Ron Musser and Mike Gospodarek.
Do you find more differences than similarities between what small businesses should use with social media versus a writer looking to increase his or her readership and book sales?
Don Lafferty: Huge differences. [Most] writers are people. [Most] brands are not. The relationships people have with authors are very different from their relationships to brands. Although both types of relationship can be quite passionate, an author is the brand and rarely has professional branding consultants, PR consultants and marketing and communications professionals vetting their content. Consequently, an author can make connections in social media channels that will foster loyalty in readers in a way that brands can rarely accomplish.
But there is a dark side to this, and we’ve all seen it. An author whose core message is “Look at me! I’m so cool! Buy my book! Look at me! Buy my book! Oh, and politics! Come to my book signing! And bring your whole family! Oh and religion! And buy my book! Did you buy my book yet? Because I have a new one coming out in 9 months, so hurry!”
You get the picture.
Just out of curiosity, how does one go from testing guidance systems for the B-1 bomber program in the 1980s to being described as “one of the strongest technical communicators in the business?”
Don Lafferty: Because I have always been a writer and I’ve always sought out adventure. These have been the main themes of my life since I was a teenager.
I joined the Air Force to see the world, and it was one of the single most important and beneficial decisions I’ve ever made, but even in the Air Force, I wrote for the base newspaper, wrote almost every piece of important correspondence for almost every one of my superiors and became responsible for narratively documenting many of our test protocols and internal manuals. So even though I spent my days flying, I spent my time on the ground writing about the work we were doing.
Upon my discharge from military service, the best paying jobs I had offered to be were sales and marketing positions where I spent most of my time telling stories. By the age of twenty-six I was routinely speaking to large audiences and wherever I worked, I was the guy that had to craft important written correspondence.
So my time in the military gave me a solid background in technical writing, but I was already a writer before I got there.
Could you tell us more about your fiction writing?
Don Lafferty: I am all over the place with this. I love to read genre; horror, crime, and noir specifically, and I love to write that too, but the past couple of years I’ve taken a turn toward what I know – family life, relationships and the tangled web in which so many people live their lives.
I prefer short form at this time in my life because I know what it takes to write long form and I’m just not ready to make that commitment, but I have that to look forward to. I hope.
And last question...is there was one solid piece of advice you tend to share when asked "How do I become successful?"
Don Lafferty: Seek the company of successful, positive people in the field where you endeavor, and when you find them, listen carefully. Contribute. Support, don’t hate. And be kind.
Do not expect success to find you. You need to chase it as if your very life depends on it, because it does.
Don Lafferty’s short fiction has appeared in NEEDLE MAGAZINE, CRIME FACTORY MAGAZINE, SHOTGUN HONEY and a number of other markets and anthologies. He’s written corporate communication, marketing and advertising copy, and feature magazine articles.
Don is a regular speaker, teacher and the Chief Marketing Officer of the digital marketing agency, Mingl Marketing Group. He’s a member of the Liars Club, the social media director of the Wild River Review, and serves on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 300 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).