Thursdays with Amanda: The Free Social Media Critiques Begin!

September 13, 2012 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

Wow! Lots and lots of takers on my offer last week to give free social media feedback. It’s going to take awhile to get through it all, but I’m up for the challenge.

Now, for some structure…I think I’m going to go with a 2-1-2 approach. I’ll give blog critiques for two weeks, then one will be spent doing a “normal” post. Two weeks again on critiques and so on until I’ve worked through the list. Sound good?

I also realize that I should provide some background on who I am and what qualifications I have to do this. So, a bit about me…

Before becoming an agent, I worked for some years at a marketing agency outside of Chicago. I was a social media marketer for two years, and then a copywriter for one. I quit the job to pursue agenting full time.

While in marketing, I worked with clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore and more. I scripted and directed Peg Perego USA’s 2011 collection product videos and was the primary visionary for their Facebook page and blog. For Vera Bradley, my primary achievement was writing sales, ad, descriptions, and store copy for their various 2010 and 2011 collections.

So that’s my background and why I tend to have a handle on this marketing thing. For me, it’s all about putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Giving them what they want. Not  necessarily what you feel most like providing.

Alright now, without further adieu, here’s some feedback on 5 of your sites:

1. Let Me Write That Down is a blog by Ruth Stearns.

  • My first thought is that you don’t blog very often. To have a successful blog, you must write at least once per week.
  • It sounds as though you’re trying to reach writers and not readers. This is a common blogging mistake among aspiring writers. They feel that in order to attract attention is to sound like a professional author. But what type of people actually read blogs on writing? Writers! And unfortunately, writers aren’t your target audience. Your target audience should be consumers. People who are actually going to buy your book, love it and talk about it.
  • I commend you for putting your Twitter feed on your blog, but to be quite honest, it looks like a dead zone. This is probably because the top two Tweets are simply forwarded Tweets from what I’m assuming is Goodreads.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Figure out who your audience is, and write blog posts that appeal to them. Avoid writing about writing…unless you only want other aspiring writers as readers.

2. The Homeschool Experiment is a blog by Charity Hawkins.

  • It seems as though your website only exists because of your novel. It should be the other way around.
  • I think this is a well-designed page that will appeal to homeschooling moms. Great idea to put your Focus on the Family endorsement up front. However, that part of the page gets really bogged down with words. I’d rather there be more sales-driven copy highlighting the FOF endorsement, then a separate page where they can learn more about the book. So in other words, create a HOME page that houses the FOF endorsement. Then have a separate BOOK page.
  • “Press” sounds like press releases and radio appearances. I’d rename that “What they’re saying”. AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, put the Pioneer woman endorsement up in your masthead or something!
  • Where’s the cover of your book? Why isn’t it on the page called BOOK? I can’t find it anywhere. This makes me less likely to click through to purchase it.
  • Move your BLOG further up on the top nav. It gets list amidst the sales pitches for your book.
  • Be intentional about titling your blog posts so they’re searchable! Read my post here.

Charity also submitted her Facebook page.

  • The issue with this page is that it’s focused on you when it should be focused on your readers. Turn it into a space where homeschooling moms can share tips, frustrations, ask questions, etc. Instead of posting cute things your kids do, post questions to your followers, such as “What classic novels are you having your high schoolers read?” Posts like this foster community and participation.
  • Again, I wonder about separating the book from the community. This appears to be a fanpage for a novel, which is fine, but if you want it to be more, you’ll have to focus less on the book.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Refocus your media to be about a homeschooling community. That will be much easier for you to grow and will naturally result in more book sales.

3. Your Verve Magazine is a site by Paula.

  • A very cool and aesthetically pleasing landing page, but it’s not clear what this is. There needs to be some sort of descriptor for the reader. Something that makes it obvious how we’re supposed to interact with the site and what we’re supposed to do.
  • With a site like this (your content is pretty much all fiction stories), there’s not a lot that is going to help it out on Google or other search engine platforms. Google looks at text on a website to determine what the website is about. With your site, 99% is made up of fiction. There’s not any sort of descriptive page to give this weight on Google. So if you’re sitting back, waiting for people to visit the site, it’s not going to happen because they can’t find it. You’re going to have to do the gruntwork and spread the word the old-fashioned way. Through links and online relationships. If you want to give this weight on Google, you’ll need to plaster “Free short stories!” or “Read this free short story” and similar phrases all over the site.
  • From a reader’s perspective, there’s too much variety in your genres. Because you aren’t focused on a singular reader, it’s going to be that much harder to get followers.
  • Lastly, there’s no easy way for a person to know when you have a new short story up on the site. There’s no Twitter or RSS feed. So I don’t know if you update it weekly with a new story (this would be ideal) or if you update every quarter.
  • Make your stories easy to download onto an e-reader. Right now, the color scheme on your site makes it unpleasant to read them online.
  • Beware of the break! Your site requires a lot of scrolling down. Most visitors aren’t going to put up with that and they’re just going to leave.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Focus more on usability and less on what’s visually pleasing. There can be a happy medium!

4. Readin N Writin is a blog by Patricia W.

  • The blurb about you appears after the break. Move that up so that it sits above the Writing Tip of the Day.
  • This strikes me as a blog that’s just a big cheerleader for books and reading. You provide some great industry news, book reviews, and you do a good job of bringing it back to your readers and getting them involved in the discussion. But I noticed that not many are taking you up on that offer?
  • This could be because it’s not quite clear what your blog’s goal is. I recommend being up front about that and making it either the first line in your bio or somehow including it in your masthead
  • You could also reorganize your site by having a page for book reviews, a page for industry news, a page for author interviews and then your main page which interacts with your readers more.
  • Remove the ads. They are distracting, and I doubt you’re making anything from them.
  • Instead of putting all your badges and social media on the right side of the blog (where it extends downward quite a ways) try organizing it through adding pages and creating buttons that will easily direct readers to Facebook,Twitter, etc
  • If you need to grow your readership, you’re going to have to treat this like a side business. Spend two hours a day securing author interviews and reviews and finding online sites and e-publications you can work with. Publicize each post as much as you can and work at putting together a team of people who will rewteet and share your posts with THEIR networks. Keep this up and see where you are in a year…it’s a slow process, but you can do it.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Restructure and reorganize your website, bringing clarity to your site’s goal. Then, get serious about promoting and developing the site!

5. Lindsay Harrel is a website by Lindsay Harrel.

  • Very cool idea to be up front about your posting schedule!
  • You’ve taken the “personal story” approach to blogging…which is fine, but it also means your blog is going to rely on your writing chops for it to grow. I feel you’re doing well in that department. Your posts are easy to read with short paragraphs and you’re sure to include the reader by posing a question at the end. Well done.
  • I think you should write your bio in first person. It would just fit better with your overall style.
  • Be sure to respond to those who comment! You want to foster a community. When bloggers fail to acknowledge those who leave comments, the commenters are less and less likely to leave comments in the future. You don’t want to turn those people into lurkers!
  • It may also be time to have a masthead developed and maybe something of a brand. Just to pretty up the site. Since you don’t focus much on your writing, I’d keep the focus on your blog and your relationship with your readers. In other words, don’t get a redesign only for it to turn into a sales pitch for your book or your career. Keep the focus on your blog. That’s where people are congregating. And believe me, they’ll still buy your book.

RECOMMENDATIONS: It might be time to take it to the next level–give it a more professional look. But keep the focus on the blog and not on your author career.

Anyone else have comments or ideas for these five fabulous writers?

 

Posted in Marketing and Platforms, Social Media Critique

  • http://twitter.com/rampantpanda Ruth Stearns

    Thanks so much for taking a look at my site! That was very helpful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      Good!

  • Paula

    I really appreciate this- thanks Amanda!

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      Glad it’s helpful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lkharrel Lindsay Harrel

    Thank you so much for the critique, Amanda! So helpful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      You’re welcome, Lindsay. :)

  • CharityHawkins

    Amanda,
    I had no idea you had such an extensive background in this! Nice brands too–love Vera Bradley! Okay, all your comments were spot on, and hello–why did I not ever notice there’s no cover of the book?? It’s the artwork from the top graphics, but a new reader wouldn’t know that. And of course highlight the Pioneer Woman referral–it’s a bit hidden now! Thanks so much for all your insights. You nailed it. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      You’re welcome!

  • Melissa Tagg

    First of all, yay for seeing Lindsay Harrel’s name here. :)

    Second, Amanda, I loved all your advice. I couldn’t help thinking of my own website as I read…and taking note of things I can do on mine. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/lkharrel Lindsay Harrel

      Thanks, Mel! :) It was awesome to get Amanda’s insights on my blog. I’ve got some work to do!

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/corvallis.wrtr Corvallis Wrtr

    Great insights. And kudos to you for the Peg-Perego Facebook page.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      Thanks!

  • Ginger Harrington

    I really enjoyed looking at everyone’s blogs and gleaning great pointers from your advice Amanda. Thanks so much for taking the time to give specific feedback that we can all learn from.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      I’m glad it was helpful, Ginger :)

  • http://twitter.com/mchristineweber m. christine weber

    Okay I thoroughly enjoyed looking through everyone’s sites! You each have such unique style and passion flowing through your work. Fun, fun, fun. :0) And Amanda, I loved your feedback on them.
    See you next week at ACFW!!! *ridiculously enormous grin*

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      See you at ACFW!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cindy.scinto Cindy Valenti Scinto

    This is so much better than taking a class on social media and websites. We can look and see the improvements you’re mentioning. I am learning oodles! 8^)

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      Good to hear!

  • http://messymiddle.com/ Amy Young

    Wow. This is so helpful — to look at the blogs and then at your comments/recommendations. Thank you for taking the time to invest in this project!

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      I enjoy doing it, Amy, so it’s good to hear that it’s worthwhile.

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  • PatriciaW

    Wow. Thanks for the great advice. Some of it I’d thought of, but not everything. I’m also learning from your feedback to others. I started out making the aspiring writer mistake, talking to writers, but switched along the way to talk more with readers (although I think most of my blog readers are still writers).

    You’ve provided a lot of food for thought, and some great advice. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

      So happy it was helpful!

  • Marcie

    I have a blog at marciescaringhands.weebly .com and would like a critique of my site. I got rid of the blog because I wasn’t bloging enough here. I do have a article here on the Value Of Play. Let me know what you think

  • Marcie Kenny

    Amanda have you had a change to look at marciescaringhands.weebly.com. This is my web page and would like for you to critique it for me.