Vicky and I had great time working with Alex and Bob and were excited that they were able to share how they decided to write and ultimately publish their book.
(sorry for the wonky image – darn Facebook – but video works fine)
Theirs is not the typical publishing story.
Alex and Bob knew that to get their book Getting to Hell Yes! into as many hands as possible, the ultimate goal, it was going to be necessary to find new ways to brand, publish and market their first joint project together.
The premise of their book is that it provides a 4-part conversation structure and teaches you how to talk about emotional or highly charged topics in an easy non-confrontational way. It’s a tool they use and teach. They received so many requests for the guidelines that they began writing up what was first imagined as a simple Word document to share with clients and friends.
It then became clear that this should be a book and a resource. The goal: as many people as possible benefitting from having better conversations.
They intentionally made the book short and concise. You can read it in about 90 minutes or so. That was deliberate so that people are empowered to learn the system and then use it. It’s meant to be a practical resource that’s used often.
Don’t miss these great insights on their journey to Getting to Hell Yes! launch:
Hear how Bob and Alex decided to make this book come to life. The early decisions and the method for getting it into as many hands as possible.
Vicky shares how they figured out what the brand could be and how that was decided.
The branding process explained. Both Bob and Alex have personal brands and the new brand is resonating with both audiences which was the goal, but at first it was hard to see how to make that happen.
Bob shares the back story about how they created their avatar for the book.
Find out why “taking it home” was so important to the authors.
How to “Chicken Soup for the Soul” the message and framework. This is huge!
Hear how they determined what success with this book would look like.
The title Getting to Hell Yes! was strategic and they explain it in the book. A smart strategy!
Why they decided to offer this for FREE!
The (un)expected bonus from more people and companies knowing Alex and Bob as a result of launching the book.
Why a big launch wasn’t the goal and why longevity was the driving decision behind the website components and the free download idea.
This was such a fun project because it allowed for some out-of-the-box thinking and approaches to book marketing. It also proved there are a myriad of ways to plan, execute and measure the success of your book launch when you are clear about your message, your audience and your goals!
To learn more about Alex, Bob, and Getting To Hell Yes!, check out these these resources mentioned in the interview, and download your FREE Getting To Hell Yes! copy today!
As we’re halfway through 2018, now is a perfect time to take inventory of your brand and gain the clarity you need to make any needed shifts to ensure you end this year on top with focused and successful marketing.
I’ve recently been working on some projects with Vicky Vitarelli of V dot V Marketing, and we wanted to share what we think is a basic and practical approach to branding and marketing. We did a Facebook LIVE video to break down the 5 steps or elements to clearly defining your brand.
What is a brand?
VV: It’s how you tell the story about your product and/or services to your customers. It’s how you differentiate yourself from your competitors or entice people to engage with your brand and become clients.
NS: I’ll add that it’s important to figure this out because when you have your brand elements clearly defined, it’s much easier to put your marketing plan in place. You aren’t guessing, and you can be much more consistent in all areas of your marketing.
VV: As we jump into these 5 elements I want people to think about this as a lens that they use to see their brand. You know when you go to the eye doctor and they have you look through the lens and say better/worse? Use that approach to hone it on what parts of these elements are already great and what needs changing or updating.
Brand element No. 1: The physical attributes.
What does it look like? It will include your logo, your colors and fonts used on your materials. All of the things that you use to visually represent your brand identity.
NS: Many people stop right here, but this is just one element of your brand.
Brand element No. 2: Your communication style.
What to do you sound like? Are you a leader, a guide or authority? What type of vocabulary do you use in your messaging? What is the tone? How do you want others to hear you? Soft and nurturing or empowering and bold?
NS: How do your customers experience the way you communicate? How do they hear you?
VV: Right! It’s important to remember that every touch point that your customer has with you is significant. Brand voice shows up everywhere. In your invoices, your web copy, your blog posts. Each part of what a client experiences should have the same voice.
NS: Yes! It’s important not to let some areas become boiler-plate. If you outsource copy and writing it’s important that they understand as well. It’s not just about the facts and figures, they also need to understand the voice and how you want to sound so you stay consistent.
Brand element No. 3: What is your brand promise?
You may be selling a service, or a physical product or a book or a combination of those things. Let’s say people are selling consulting services. That’s not really what your clients are buying. They are buying the solution. An author is selling a book, but they are also selling the messaging in the book. The solution is what your client is buying.
This is also a great place to get clear on why people are buying from you or not buying? Often, digging in to find out why your message is different is a good way to really get clear your unique brand promise.
VV: A great example is the Mastercard “Priceless” campaign. At the time this was conceived, Mastercard was number 2 in their industry. We decided to use that and say Mastercard is for those special purchases, the ones that have to happen, the ones that are not every day. And it worked!
NS: Your brand promise are the benefits around what you are selling and what your clients are looking for.
Brand element No. 4: Who are you selling to?
I often hear people say “Everyone can use my product or service.” And that might be true, but everyone isn’t looking for it and everyone isn’t necessarily going to purchase. If you want to market to everyone it requires a massive budget to reach everybody.
Instead, let’s focus in on who will get the most benefit of what you are selling and really clarify that. Demographics are one part. Men or women? What age? Sometimes a geographic component might be important.
Even more important, what is the mindset? What are they thinking? If everyone can use what you’re selling why don’t they have it already?
NS: When you’re clear on this it then makes brand voice so much easier to define as well. When you know exactly who you’re “talking to” you can use tone and vocabulary that fits them specifically and will resonate with them. Writing for “everybody” means generic communications that aren’t going to resonate with anyone.
Who are your people, your tribe? When you get really clear here and it makes everything much easier.
Brand element No. 5: How do you know what your clients really want?
Do client research. Talk to them and ask them to share their experience with your company. Not just the product, but all aspects. The buying experience, customer service, ease of use etc. How did the product or service impact their life? Why did they choose you? How did they find you? What else did they consider before buying from you? Did you meet their expectations?
If you are new and don’t have clients, interview your prospects and find out from them why and how they go about making the decision to buy from you.
You will be able to understand their pain points and then you can shape your messaging to speak to that in a well-defined way.
NS: Remember that anyone can do this too. You don’t have to have access to a research firm. You can track these things from reviews, comments online, responses to your emails, as well making it a practice to ask customers for their feedback. Make it easy for them to let you know and they will be happy to share that with you.
VV: Creating ways to listen to your readers, clients and customers on a regular basis will help you create marketing strategies that stay relevant and resonate.
Summary: The Five Steps To Do Your Own Brand Audit
What do you look like?
What do you sound like?
What is your brand promise?
Who are you selling to?
Listen, ask and stay mindful of comments of customers to continue to guide you.
Branding means different things depending on our background and where you are in your business. This approach is meant to keep it simple and focused, so you can identify what you want to say, who you want to say it to, and how to best communicate the way you serve your clients or customers.
Are you clear with all of the elements of your brand? Where are you stuck? Where do you need help? Leave a comment below or connect on Facebook and share!
Want to schedule time with Nancy? Click here for a free consultation call!
Learn How Kate Shares Content About How To Be A Better Person
Author Kate Hanley recently released her newest book, “How To Be A Better Person” in response to the discovery that “how to be a better person” is one of the top Google searches around the new year. With so much great and useful information in her new book, Kate had many options for promoting it. In a recent (technology challenged) Facebook LIVE interview, we discussed her strategy and the things she learned along the way to book launch. We also explore how sticking to her mission is what makes her successful on social media – with a side of slime, memes, and whippee-wows!
N: What has been a game changer in terms of the online marketing behemoth that you have now for building a platform, and for your book launch – what’s the game changer for you?
K: I like social media. I legitimately do. However, I’ve always liked to use it when I’m inspired and when I feel like I have something to share or when something cool happens. I have been more resistant and flummoxed about how people post on social media and get some consistency.
So, what has really been a game changer for me has been embracing structure and planning. I feel like I’ve found a good way to marry structure and inspiration. I pick a theme for a week. For example, I’ve been doing micro-blogs on Instagram that follow the 8 sections of my new book, “How To Be A Better Person”. Things like showing love, and working well, and being healthy.
For example, one week I’ll talk about being healthy. Having that framework of the subject then allows me to be inspired to come up with 3 or 4 ideas and think about how I can represent them visually and I feel like it has helped me be consistent, and still feel like I’m being true to myself.
I did try to outsource someone to post on my behalf and it just didn’t feel right to me. I feel like one of my social media strengths is that I’m vulnerable and real. So, outsourcing didn’t exactly work for me. I did get outside help from you, dear Nancy!, figuring out what that structure would be and that was 2 thumbs up with a circle and a snap!
Yes, you are so good and natural, especially in the live video format. It was a treat and easy for me to ask you “Why don’t you do more Facebook live?” Most people cringe, but you said: “Okay great, no problem.” And you come across so authentically and naturally which is great.
Right! And you can speak to the fact that I was asking “Are you sure people will want to hear about the book for 8 weeks?” And you had to hold my hand through that.
Absolutely. Part of engaging on social media as an author is actually getting people into the book. You are answering their question “Why would I want to read it?” And you provide examples of what they can expect in the book, right?
Yes! And that reminds me of something which I think can be a conflict for authors. The idea of giving away your content for free. How much is too much? How much is too little? I haven’t found the ceiling yet of what feels like giving away too much content. I think that the more you can really give people the more they can experience what the book is like.
There’s always more in the book. I guess I could post a tip a day for 400 days but still, ofthat’s not the same as having the book in front of you and having a reference that you can easily turn to.
Diving into a section of the book for a week and talking about it in my newsletter and on Instagram has helped me melt some of that resistance.
Yes, there’s the typical fear that “why would anyone buy the book if I’m telling them what’s in it?” But think about it, putting up a button on your website or social media saying “buy my book,” is a BIG ASK of someone who’s never heard of you before.
For you those of us who know you and love you, it’s no problem. We get it, we’re going to pre-order. However, breaking your content up into pieces to baby-step people into your book gives them a little warm up. They get a chance to get to know the awesome Kate Hanley, the person, the expert, before they buy in.
Seeing this content sharing as a door opener is very important.
Next question: What is your favorite platform? Where do you feel most at home, or the most in connection to your people?
It’s interesting. I love Facebook. If you look at my usage (and I don’t really track any of that and I’d only want to as a way to bring more awareness) in terms of where I go the most frequently, it’s absolutely 100% Facebook. Mostly on my personal page – but I do love building engagement on my professional Kate Hanley author page.
I post about my work on both of those places. In terms of experience and how it makes me feel it can at times, make me feel overwhelmed. Like a single drop in a vast ocean. I know Facebook is a business, and I know that if you want to make an impact and get seen you have to “pay to play.” I get that.
I love the engagement I get on Instagram. It’s closest to my heart.
That brings me to my next question. When you first started talking about your book launch, you weren’t new to Instagram, but you were confused about how to use it, right?
Yes. I didn’t know how visual my stuff was. I talk a lot about different ways to think for example. How do you take a picture of that? That was a barrier that I just had to get over.
It definitely makes me think. I have 401 tips in my book and some of them are more visual than others. So, I try and look for ways to share that. But even pictures of the book in a bookstore, or photos of people reading the book itself, it is very pretty. That’s something for authors to think about.
I think the cover is pretty, but when you open it up inside – it’s also really interesting. Some pages have gold flecks, and some have other colors.
I just got over not knowing and figured it out. For example, when I was talking about health, I took a photo of my vitamin D tablets that I take every day. ItIt forces you to think creatively.
There’s also something about the engagement that makes it worth it. It would be nice to line up my posts in advance and you can still go in when you’re inspired – like I like to be – you can change it up but you’re not starting from scratch.
I do like Twitter too because it’s so easy. I don’t like that a Twitter post only has about 15 minutes worth of currency, but it’s something I feel like is easy to stay on top of because you don’t have to craft it quite so carefully.
What are you doing this year, with this book launch to reach more people? You’ve had 2 book launches in a year and that’s a lot. What are you doing differently now?
I am extending how long I’m talking about the book. You helped me and coached me through a pre-order package with bonuses and well in advance. Which was not easy to do especially when you release 2 books in one year.
And you changed your website and did a rebrand.
Right! It was really helpful. If I have a list then I know what to do and I can do it. If I have to figure out what goes on the list, then that can take me a really long time – so I might never even make the list.
So having your help there was invaluable. We did the pre-order campaign to reach out to those who already know, like and trust me. Those people who are already following me on social media and/or who are on my email list. That was really cool.
I have extended the time I’ve been talking about it. It’s only been a month – but it feels like a year because time is moving so fast. I feel like I’m still continuing to gain momentum. And because I don’t have another book coming out in six months I’m staying on this longer.
My last book was called “Stress Less”, which applies to different parts of life but How to be a Better Person really does touch all parts of your life. I’m being inspired by the content in the book to find ways to talk about it for a longer period of time.
It has been fun to think about how to leverage my content. I love to do that. How do I take one idea and use it in different ways? What goes in the newsletter and on my website? What goes on Instagram only? What goes on Facebook and Instagram? What’s just good for Facebook? I thrive on the variety, so it’s been helpful to have some structure along with some experimentation and adventure.
You did a video – for the other book and for this book. Talk to us about book trailer videos.
I did do a video in the past, and it was very different because, there was voiceover with B-roll of me and my kids (because we’re low-cost talent!) We shot it at my house and that was really enjoyable and fun, and I think it helped bring people into the book.
This time around, the book trailer video was more of what my husband (who is a web designer, animator, and digital artist) calls a whippee-wow—a really cool-looking, animated, digital experience. This video has a 3D version of the book flying around. It suited the book. Each video suited the topic of the book. It got about 5,000 views — it was very simple, and I do love working on them.
If you are working on a book and want to talk video trailers reach out to me. I love the idea of distilling it down to this one idea. I think all I did was show quotes and had one line of text. I edited ideas until I had the one core idea.
Also – authors make sure you have some text on every frame because if someone is watching but has the sound off then they will still know what’s going on. That wasn’t really an issue with the last video, so it was kind of cool to figure out the latest and greatest when it came to the video trends.
Great advice, Kate.
Now, what is your secret sauce? The magic of Kate Hanley when it comes to connecting with your people?
Right. Golly, I feel like I need someone else to answer that question for me! That’s a hard question!
I think that I can cover somewhat heavy topics with a mix of levity and realness.
For example, I did a Facebook live about stress relief (above). My son was home that day and it was hot out, and he was playing with slime. It melted, and we had this slime disaster and I was trying to clean it up while I was on my FB live. My hand ended up covered in slime and I think slime even got on the ceiling.
That was very real. Melissa (who was on the FB live video) says relatability and I think that’s what I’m trying to get at. I don’t live in a glass house that’s for sure.
Right – my word for you was authenticity and relatability which is accessible authenticity. I remember the video where you daughter was your camera crew when you were opening packages. It was very real, no worry about special lighting or anything. It was awesome. And make us all feel like we want to be in “Kate Hanley’s world.”
I think Facebook Live has really changed things and maybe edged it ahead of Instagram. It’s so easy you just turn on the button and start talking. The ones I watch are like that – I had a friend who was doing her Facebook Live the other day while using a toothpick. I loved that!
You also find the best viral videos to share. I don’t always like that, but you have a knack for finding the ones that will make me stop and actually watch! That is a skill – not everyone has it.
That makes me so happy. That’s my mission statement. I wrote a mission statement for my Kate Hanley author page. It is: I promise to only share useful content related to being a better person and feeling your best, and the highest quality means.
That’s perfect. You are definitely living your mission.
If you don’t mind sharing your stats with everyone. Part of the platform as an author is knowing your numbers. That’s important. But we’ve also talked about the quality of engagement being the most important – I know that’s a big factor for you. But what metric or stat are you proud of or want to share?
I started my website in 2005. It was MsMindBody for 10 years. From the very beginning, my take was I don’t care about traffic, I’m not hoping to write a blog post that goes viral someday so I can say I got a million visitors in one month. I want to be able to demonstrate that I have a relationship with people and know that they have invited me into their inbox.
So I have always really prized my email newsletter subscriber numbers. That’s really what I look at the most. That also keeps me thinking about what do my people need? What can I create and give away? How do I draw in just the right people who are going to be digging my special sauce?
That’s a fun, creative lens that inspires me to think about what those people need to hear when they sit down on Wednesday mornings when my email arrives in their inbox.
Here’s an interesting insight from my rebranding. I have 1,613 likes on my Kate Hanley author page. I rebranded over the summer of 2017 from MsMindBody.com to KateHanley.com. I wanted to change my Facebook page and have all my social media to reflect that change. I had been msmindbody for 10 years and I felt like my subject matter was broadening and I felt like maybe I was hiding a bit behind that, so I made the change.
I noticed that after the change, I stopped getting as many likes. I think that might be because the new “title” which is my name, doesn’t really say what I’m about the way that MsMindBody did. I’m happy that I did it and there’s still growth, just not as many as before.
I want to get back to stats for a minute. I want to talk about what is my most favorite discovery with you in terms of stats. Is it okay for me to share the most popular page on your site? Does that steal your thunder?
Sure. We discovered that two-thirds of my web traffic is coming from a blog post that I wrote – I think it has to be about 5 years ago, titled, “How I Stopped Hating My Husband and You Can Too”. What that means is that people are going to Google and are typing in “I hate my husband” (or some version of that) and my blog post is popping up.
This makes me really happy because that post talks about maybe it’s not all your husband’s fault. Maybe there are ways that you could be co-creating the situation and that means that there are tools that are at your disposal to use to make it better that don’t require you to try and make someone else change.
Things can shift and get better and I’m happy that people are finding that post instead of a post about hiring an attorney or something else.
Right – and that’s information that you can use and act on knowing that there’s an audience looking for information like this. You can create other content around that or that complements this post. I also found this to be such an incredible example – of how good content will continue to be found and read – it just keeps going.
I know. It’s amazing how evergreen it is.
Lastly, what do you do to get away from this stuff? Away from the social media and the things that can be consuming especially when you’re doing a book launch? Do you have rules about it or do you recognize triggers when you know it’s time to take a break? Or – share your tips from the book that help us manage social media.
I don’t specifically talk social media in the book, but I do talk about building focus and that means minimizing distractions. One of my favorite apps is called the Self-Control app. It is meant more for desktop/laptop. You can blacklist sites and you can set a time limit for access to those sites.
When writing this book, I had an aggressive deadline. I set the time to 15 minutes in the beginning and worked my way up to one hour, so I could focus on writing without the temptation to hop on social media. It really helped me eliminate the distractions, so I could sit down and write and get the book done.
I also love using airplane mode on my phone. Totally amazing. You also have to turn off wifi, but it’s great because you don’t see the notifications.
I appreciate all of the zest that you bring to this discussion. Thank you for doing this video and for sharing your experience. It’s been a dream watching you bring this gem of a book to launch and beyond and see your continuing enthusiasm for it.
Thank you, Nancy. It wouldn’t have happened without you giving me structure and some marching orders and encouraging me.
Do you have questions about Kate’s book launch? Post them in the comments below and I’d love to answer them or have her reply. In the meantime, if you want more information about Kate and her life-changing book, How To Be A Better Person, check out her website, sign-up for her fun newsletter (you won’t regret it), or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
Learn how a “global mom” does #socialgood while #keepinitreal
This Behind the Seens interview is with Chrysula Winegar, who is a “communicator, agitator, and global mama” working as Senior Director, Communications & Special Initiatives at United Nations Foundation. She is passionate about changing the world.
Originally from Australia, Chrysula and I met virtually online many years ago though we happily discovered we live in the same town IRL. However, we confess that we “see” much more of each other online – thank goodness for social media! I am really excited to share some of her “behind the seens” of doing #socialgood for #globalmoms while #keepinitreal with her family and friends.
What has been a game-changer for growing your audience?
Social media has been the gateway for everything we’re doing regarding social causes and issues.
Originally, it was Twitter. It was a space where I met like-minded people and developed both personal and business relationships. With Twitter, there was this power coalescing around an idea or cause. Over time, I found it to be less effective, and Facebook and Instagram are the more impactful platforms now.
I have learned that social will be ever-evolving. Don’t ever put all of your eggs in one place; always be looking for what’s working now.
The principle of how we connect, how we find people, and create spaces—is not going to change anytime soon—that is our constant. Making use of the benefits of the platforms is what changes.
When we helped build the Giving Tuesday (global day of giving) over six years ago, we knew that social media was pivotal to raising awareness for the campaign. So we created the name and messaging specifically with the hashtag in mind. It was a deliberate decision to use #GivingTuesday to make it even easier for people to share and engage.
What are your favorite social media networks or platforms?
Personally, my favorite is Instagram for really connecting with friends and people who are far away, like my family and friends in Australia and other countries. There is an intimacy that I am enjoying.
I think the only way we are going to get through this logjam is to take time to understand one another.
What are you doing differently this year to reach more people?
We’re using Instagram stories and Instagram takeovers to spotlight our members and have them showcase our work to their communities. Non-profit funds are sacred, so we cautiously use some of our budget on Facebook promotions. The ability to specifically target our audience and highlight our message is unparalleled, so we are very carefully using this platform to expand our reach in this way.
The targeting ability is great, the downside is that without a few dollars behind it, it’s very hard to get your content seen on Facebook. That’s why we are strategic and use funds in a very targeted way. These stories need and deserve to be heard.
You can have the best advertising strategy in the world and unlimited dollars behind it, but content is still king or queen. It may sound a bit cliché, but we know that we have to continue to be better storytellers.
“The only way you can bring folks together on an issue, ultimately, is to tell a story and have that story be real, and raw and powerful (and) at the same really respectful to the person whose story it is.”
We are very cognizant that the message needs to be heard without exposing people’s lives unnecessarily. It’s a fine line that those of us in the non-profit space have to manage. That narrative is essential, so we are always grateful for those people who are willing to share their experience with us.
What’s your secret strategy in connecting with an international audience?
In terms of the global health work that we do, the most powerful way for us to connect is mother to mother. The Global Mom’s Challengewe know that those who want to engage there either: are a mom, have a mom, and/or love a mom. When we can tell a mom’s story as much as possible in her own words, we know that as a mom, you and I and our audience can hear that story, watch that video, or see that photo essay, and really understand and empathize.
I met a mom in Mozambique who walked 15 miles one day to get her kids to a clinic for vaccines. We can really put ourselves in her place and understand what that must have been like. A day of lost wages, hours of waiting when she got there, and a 15-mile walk. With two toddlers. It’s staggering.
My pediatrician is close by. It’s a short drive and a 20-minute wait, right? The ability to use these platforms to stay connected yourself, to take an experience and translate it to our own lives and then realize the gap, is what moves us to get involved. To help. To close that gap. It’s really powerful.
Can you share some stellar stats?
Global Moms Network has more than doubled in the last couple of years. We are a community of about 250 thousand-strong, which translates into a powerful group of people who have raised their hands and said, “I care about the health of women and girls both locally, and around the world.”
It’s a truly global audience now. Just over two years ago, our audience was 90% US-based. Now the US is about 40%, so we’re excited to see that people across the planet have embraced this.
It was a big goal for us. We truly wanted to “put the globe into Global Moms,” and it’s been rewarding to see that happen. There’s no “us and them.” It’s all of us.
How do you use these platforms to stay connected yourself?
Social media allows me personally to share in a way that’s authentic and real. I can be an overshare-er, so I’ve learned that I need boundaries for myself personally and for those whose story I share.
My kids are teenagers, so I am respectful of how things impact them. And of course, I take great care when sharing someone else’s story as well. It’s important to be real, and boundaries help.
I use #keepinitreal – those are the posts that my friends and family interact with the most. Blogging took off because of the authenticity; the real-ness and the personal nature of that medium pulled us in.
That’s MY secret sauce. It’s no secret, though. It’s actually taking away the secrecy. It’s being open about what we’re all going through. When I can take that and translate it into the work, the ability to be real is everything.
What do you do to disconnect? (fun, non-digital stuff?)
We just got a puppy named Milly. She’s utterly divine.
I love YA fantasy fiction. It’s my secret escape and a great way to bond with my daughter.
I take singing lessons just because. My teacher has an annual recital for her students which is a group of teenage girls and me. I participated in the last one and it was a fun, powerful experience. This is a creative outlet that’s just mine. Just for me.
Find out how your cousin (and mine) authentically sells books and connects with the world!
Best-selling author, friend, cousin, human guinea pig and general all around great guy, A. J. Jacobs is out with his newest book It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree. He was kind enough to chat with me in the midst of his book launch to share his secrets on how he successfully connects with loyal fans. We chatted about religion, politics, sex, family as well as broccoli, bubble gum and black sheep – oh yeah, we talked about social media and book promotion too!
Check out our conversation – you will definitely learn a thing or two!
What’s been a game-changer for you regarding online marketing, or any marketing?
Well, I’ve learned a lot from you and appreciate the tips you share in your newsletter. I do enjoy promoting my books on Facebook and Twitter (and engaging with readers) and I’ve found that it’s best to be really up front.
There are two ways to do this. One is to be blatantly obvious. In fact, I recently shared a post that said “Blatantly self-promotional list of nice things people said about my book.” My audience knows I’m being up front and it seems to work.
Second, even when sharing self-promoting information, I like to make sure there is some added value and/or humor. Recently I spoke at the JCC and I posted “Join us at the JCC even if you’re not a J.”
That isn’t really a joke, but hopefully, it makes someone smile and they find the post at least humorous instead of annoying.
Also, when I promote a podcast, I try to pull out 3 or 4 things to mention. I recently did a Q&A about tobacco enemas and rotting fruit and other important topics – and then the link to the interview. So maybe that is a bit more interesting than “please read my interview”.
Oh my, how will we top that? What I like is that this is such a great extension of your brand and tone. Your writing is also done this way, so it works because you use humor and they know they’ll get a chuckle as they listen in.
Thanks. I hope so. My friend Morgan Spurlock (the documentarian) says to “give them some bubble gum with their broccoli” which sounds a bit odd, but I get the point which is to entertain as well as educate.
That’s why your books are such a hit. There are always some laugh out loud moments. I literally find myself doing a “spit-take” while I’m reading.
You are very nice and one of the best supporters of my writing. Here’s a great strategy for people. Become friends with Nancy Sheed and she will promote your book very successfully.
Aww. Thanks A.J. It’s my pleasure!
Do you have a preferred network or social media platform? Where do you feel like you connect the most, have the most fun or it is easiest for you to go to?
I’m on two platforms, Facebook and Twitter. I have 80,000 followers on Facebook and I think about 25,000 on Twitter. I feel good about that most days, but then I’ll look at a friend who has 4.2 million followers and decide I’m a loser.
It’s all relative, of course (book title!) and you can’t think like that. Comparing yourself to others is such a waste of mental energy. So back to the question; Facebook I like a lot because I am able to do longer posts and hopefully more entertaining posts.
I like posting pictures and the posts that resonate the most are photo-driven.
One of my books is being made into a sitcom (on CBS) and my wife and I took photos of the set and shared them. That was a big hit. People loved it even when I use them to promote the book. I’ve shared photos of me holding the book (this might have been my publisher’s idea) and people really liked it. It is called Facebook for a reason, right? People like faces!
On Twitter, I do more one-liners and try to do 2 non-promotional tweets (observations or jokes) for every promotional tweet.
I do feel guilty every day that I’m not on Instagram, or Snapchat or Facebook Live or whatever. It’s exhausting how much I’m missing.
You are absolved! I say this to people all the time. People who do all the platforms can’t do it well unless they have a support team of people (5 or 6) doing it for them. I know you want to be you. You want the interaction to be from you and with that level of engagement you are so absolved. You do NOT need to be on more channels.
I want to share this about your Facebook posts, the ones that I see that get a lot of engagement, are when your wife Julie posts on your behalf, or shares her take on what’s going on. It’s always funny. You are also wonderful about sharing some self-deprecating photos of yourself and I think we all feel like we get to see the “behind the scenes” (see what I did there?) version of A.J., and we appreciate that.
I do like to post unattractive photos of myself, yes. And they are easy to find. I remember one that got a lot of traction was one of me on a roller coaster with my kids – about to throw up. For the record, I did not get sick, but I did look like I was going to.
The other thing that has worked well for me is posting a short post that has nothing to do with my books. Posts that are somewhat political or outright political have worked.
I did a post about a year and a half ago that I think qualified as “viral”. It got about 20,000 shares. It was a post about an Ann Coulter comment during the Republican debates last year. I’ll keep it clean, but she said something like “How many f*****g Jews do they think are in the United States? She felt they were trying to pander to the Israel lobby.
Well, I figured this was a question that should be answered. So I did a post about how many f*****g Jews are there? I did the math about how often Jews have intercourse, how many were having intercourse while she was speaking and the post took off. That helped me get a ton of new followers on Facebook.
I’ll also add that political posts have been the reason that I’ve lost followers too, and I’m okay with that. I don’t need everyone to follow and it’s a decision that was right for me.
I never used to do political humor, but in the age of Trump, I decided that I can’t keep quiet anymore, and if I lose followers, then so be it.
I recall us discussing this back in May. I wondered if they were just showing up more, or if you were writing more of these types of posts. When I asked, you said yes, it’s become more frequent and more common. I found it interesting to hear your results.
It goes back to your authenticity. You are the nicest guy, and we all want everyone to love us. This also goes back to knowing your audience. You understand that not everyone is your perfect reader, and it’s okay because the others that stick around and follow you really do love what you write, and post and share.
Right! My friend Tim Ferris says there are over 300 million people in the United States alone, and if 90% of them don’t like you, but 10% do, that’s 30 million people. That’s an insane amount of people, so hopefully, my percentage is a little higher than 10% (of people who know me), but you definitely don’t need to appeal to everyone.
It’s impossible to do.
What is different now that you’ve been doing this? What’s moving the needle that is different?
Well, one thing that I’m going to try for the first time is something that many of my author friends have done. I’m sending out a free .pdf of part of my book to my email list so that people can get a a free sample of the content.
My book is about family and ancestry and genealogy, and I have a 20-page appendix at the end. It’s a beginners/dummies guide to genealogy.
I’m going to send that out and I hope that will attract people. There’s another interesting thing happening with this book as well. The marketing department from Simon and Schuster is trying something which is new for us both.
There are several DNA companies who expressed an interest to be involved. So we are partnering with one of them and in the book, you’ll get a discount code for 40% off of their DNA testing.
The book is about $26, so you’re actually going to make money by buying this book.
That’s a great promotion!
I ask authors what they are doing to promote their book, or how they plan to get people to the site and engage with them. Often, the response I get is “well, nothing really.”
It’s a big missed opportunity. I’m glad you are embracing the marketing and promotion part of being an author.
I do enjoy the marketing part much more than I used to. I look at it as a creative endeavor instead of a chore. You’re creative, and lots of marketing people I know are, too.
When I was promoting the book I wrote about the Bible, I tried to visualize how to market that. It’s the Bible. There’s so much to talk about that it was hard to know where to start.
So, I split it up into tiny slivers. I remember I wrote a piece about sex advice from the bible for Glamour magazine. I also did a piece about music in the Bible for Spin magazine.
This is a great PR strategy. Did you use excerpts from the book or were these articles that you wrote?
They were original posts. I did a lot of writing, which is extra work and not always my favorite thing, but they worked. The ideal thing would be an excerpt or a review or feature which is a more direct way to say “buy this book.”
But this works too, and the more tangential connections you can make, the better it is overall for the success of the book.
Well, I can tell you that Google loves that. This has become a key factor in SEO (search engine optimization). It’s a good thing for you, for search and your website, even if you can’t draw a line from an article to book sales.
Okay, it’s time to share: What is your secret sauce to connecting with people or to getting people connected? I don’t want to give away the book, but you did try to organize the world’s largest family reunion. That’s pretty interesting.
Well, I’ll share what I know. This book was interesting because it is really a book about social networks and connectivity, and how we are all related. So I joined this family tree on some of the websites like Genie.com and it was like LinkedIn on steroids.
If I wanted to find a producer on GMA, I’d figure out how they are related to me. Like we figured out that you are my 8th cousin 3 times removed. Then I’d email the producer and I’d be upfront and say “Hey, we’re related. Believe it or not, we are cousins” and I’d explain how I found that and then ask if they’d like to do a favor for a “family member.”
It didn’t always work. I’m sure some of them reported me to security but it did work well quite a few times. You have to be really specific when dealing with traditional media. You have to be personal and then make your pitch.
Another secret would be putting myself in my reader’s mind. I try to understand what others want to see and read. I also try to be aware of what is annoying to me and avoid that. I like posts that are humorous and value-added or things you might now know.
So this brings up something that’s interesting. I’m actually a bit torn about celebrity culture. On one hand, I love it, and on the other, I think it’s destroying society.
So if you can incorporate a celebrity angle that will work. You know… emailing and telling people they were related to me is one thing, but if I could show them how they are related to their hero or a personal hero—then they were hooked!
Instead of focusing on your stellar stats, I wanted to see if posts that get shared and re-tweeted (high engagement) are your indications of what’s working versus the number of likes or followers?
Yes! Engagement is the most important.
For a while, I was doing an article for Esquire Magazine and I was crowd-sourcing advice. I don’t know if someone should break up with their girlfriend or marry their co-worker but the crowd might.
I’d ask people to send in questions and post them on Facebook. I’d get hundreds of replies and I’d engage with them and then select the best to be in the magazine article.
I don’t have time to do it now, but I loved the concept. It got people excited because they were mentioned in Esquire magazine. And people have strong opinions about all kinds of things.
Like airplane armrests and what is the proper way to share it or how to handle the issue when you are in the middle seat. People were super passionate, and I loved that.
I love questions on Facebook, but not when people ask without adding content.
Like when you see a post that says are you a beach person or a mountain person? With no explanation or story.
Right. That question is fine, but the person asking should also share a funny or touching story to provide context. That sort of engagement is very genuine.
Is there anything you can share with us about stuff that didn’t make the book? What got left on the cutting room floor? Are there family secrets you couldn’t share? (Us content people want to know!)
You are one of my readers, and you help me when I’m writing. I’ll send a few chapters out to some of my readers and ask them to tell me what they found most interesting and what wasn’t interesting.
If several people all say that they didn’t like a chapter, I’ll cut it. Not on the opinion of one person, but if there appears to be a consensus. It’s a great indicator of what my readers like
This is a great editing tip. Editing by crowdsourcing – asking for and getting feedback from your readers. I’m not sure all editors will agree, but it’s great to hear what works for you.
Now, A.J., what do you do to get away from everyone when you need to? You know post-book tour and those days when you need to disconnect?
Well, my wife Julie started a business, Watson Adventures, with a friend of mine, where they do scavenger hunts in museums and historic neighborhoods. And they are excellent because they really are offline. Not using a phone, just using your brain and looking for clues in paintings and things like that.
She’s converted me. I don’t think I grew up liking this sort of thing but now I really enjoy it.
Well, they are now in most cities so when we travel, we always do the scavenger hunt in that city. We were in San Diego recently, and we did the one there. It’s really fun.
And it’s a great way to check the quality of the experience!
A.J., I love the new book, and I already have a few people who are getting it for Christmas. I’ll include the link below for everyone so they can buy it, too.
Thanks, Nancy. You are a big supporter, as is your sister Holland (who owns a bookstore). I am going to St. Louis on the tour, and I specifically chose St. Louis because of your sister.
That’s awesome! That’s so nice of you, and she’s really looking forward to it. I’m can’t wait to share this book with lots of people. Thanks, A.J.
In yet another brilliant book looking at the state of the world as only he can, A.J. Jacobs manages to bring the world a little closer with his pursuit of creating a single family tree of every human on the planet. His hilarious tales of cousin connections, while planning a record-breaking family reunion literally had me in countless laugh-out-loud moments. All the while, each chapter manages to shed new light on how intermingled family, history, DNA, immigration and civilization have become. It definitely made me want to me to do more digging around my own family tree. There’s something for everyone in this witty, earnest and heartfelt journey.