Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Use LinkedIn as an Author

This month we’re continuing to look at how to effectively use various social media platforms to promote and market authors and their books.  For the past two months, we looked at Twitter -- first at the basics, and then at some of the more advanced elements.

Today, we’re going to look at LinkedIn.

I must confess that LinkedIn is NOT a platform that I use.  I write under a pseudonym, but currently have a LinkedIn account under my real name.  At this point, I don’t have the time to create a LinkedIn account for my pseudonym and maintain it.  So some of this discussion will be based on what I’ve learned in my social media marketing class, and some will be based on what I’ve observed others doing on LinkedIn.

The most common way I’ve heard LinkedIn described, and the way that I often describe it, is as Facebook for professionals.  Unfortunately, when people get into this mindset, what they often do is turn their profile into a standard resume and just wait to see what happens... only to find that nothing happens.

You need to make your profile more engaging than your resume.

You can fill in your basic profile information and get a profile picture set up -- all of that is fairly standard stuff.  Please remember, though, that when you choose your profile picture, choose one that clearly shows your face (and where you face takes up a large part of the picture).  You may have a wonderfully beautiful picture of you standing next to a fruit tree in full blossom with flowers and leaves and fruit… but can people clearly and easily see your face?  People want to get to know who you are, and one of the ways they do that is by learning what you look like.  (However, if you’re like me and write under a pseudonym, things get a little trickier.  If I were to create a LinkedIn account for my pen name, I currently would not want my real picture up there, so I’d have to come up with some alternative.  Perhaps my book cover?  Though that is a poor substitute, it would have to make do, I suppose.)

Now comes the part where you need to be creative.

When you fill out your summary, don’t give us a dry play-by-play of your career.  Tell us some of the highlights!  Tell us a good story!  Make it compelling.  Tell us about your greatest moments.  And did you know that you can add pictures to your summary?  Pictures make things more compelling and interesting.

Your background is similar.  This is where you list your work experience and job titles.  But this is not simply an electronic version of your resume, so don’t list your job duties.  Tell a two sentence story about the highlight of that job.  And add a picture of two if you have one!

I went through my list of contacts and pulled up someone I’m connected to who has hundreds, if not thousands, of connections.  (It simply reads as 500+, so I don’t know what the actual total is.)  He has a clear face picture, his summary tells of his rewarding struggle of starting up his own non-profit, he’s got a number of pictures, slideshows, and video clips embedded in his summary and experiences, and he tells a quick story about each position he’s served in (complete with pictures and videos).  As a result, his profile page is VERY long, but it is also very engaging.  As I scroll through it, I pause several times, skimming the info around a picture, taking a second look at something, stopping to read a tidbit or two.

The best way to figure out how to set up your profile is to look for the person with the most connections and see what they do that you don’t.

There’s something very important to keep in mind, though.  There’s your above-the-fold section, and your below-the-fold section.  Above-the-fold is what is shown when people click on your page, but haven’t scrolled down yet.  What’s at the very top?  Your profile might be awesome when you scroll down, but if your top section is blah and not engaging, then people have no reason to scroll down and see more.  You need to sell people the very moment they find your page — and then you need to make the rest of your page just as engaging so that visitors feel its worth their time to scroll through and continue reading.  (Think of it like a folded newspaper sitting on a table.  Is the top half of the front page engaging enough to make you pick up the newspaper, unfold it, and read the bottom?)

That’s a very quick summary of your profile on LinkedIn.  You can easily search for articles and webpages that can help you make an engaging profile.

But here’s where most people struggle with LinkedIn.  They think that the profile is all there is to it.  Perhaps they could send a message to someone, or post some new information, but that’s about it... right?  Wrong!  LinkedIn is filled with groups.

This is the key way to network and succeed with LinkedIn -- groups.  You want to join as many groups as you can -- I think there’s currently a limit of 50.  You want to aim to join about 45 groups (so that you have wiggle room of a few extra) that are relevant to you and your writing.  There may not be 45 groups, but I can guarantee you that there are more than one.

Once you join these groups, you DO need to participate in a group discussion now and then, or no one will know that you are part of that group.  And that’s the reason you joined the group -- so that people see you.  If you contribute meaningfully to a discussion, then people will click on your profile to see who you are, and if your above-the-fold is stellar, they will scroll down and learn more about you and your books.

The basic rule of LinkedIn, which is also the basic rule for any of the social networks, is to be social.  If you are on there only to sell, then you are wasting your time because no one will listen to you.  It is by being social, on a regular basis, that people get to know you and what you’re all about.  And it is through that, that people will connect with you as an author (and maybe buy a book or two).  It’s not immediate, and it’s not a tool for massive sales.  It’s all about building relationships, strengthening your name as a friendly and knowledgeable author, and connecting with the people that will read your book.

Next month: How to Use Facebook as an Author

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay romance and his first novel, Autumn Fire, is available through Champagne Books.  He is a lover of books, coffee, chocolate, and cute Starbucks baristas.  Click here to visit Cameron's website.


Rita Bay said...

Great series, Cameron. I was motivated to rethink Twitter. I dropped Linked In simply because of the time involved. I love my publishers, don't plan to change, but I only have so much time. I prefer spending my marketing time with readers.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very true. It's all about making yourself look interesting. Face-to-face fun.

Nikki said...

45 groups!!!! You're kidding, right? Sorry, I don't have the time to deal with that. I'm currently in 4, and can't keep up with them. Your advice about polishing your profile is valuable, though, and I need to do that. Thanks, Cameron.

Big Mike said...

Thanks CJ. Very informative.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Anonymous said...

;) Yeah, I would never join 45 groups, either! But if you're a super-networker, you should!

You join 45 to get exposed to as many people as possible, but not 50 (which is the maximum, I believe). The logic is behind personal messages -- you can't send personal messages to people you aren't connected with UNLESS you are both in a group together. So if you see someone you'd like to message, you quickly join a group they're in (which is why you leave that wiggle room) and send them a private message.

But keep in mind, the resource I'm drawing upon is meant for business marketers... not necessarily writers... :)