Today I have asked Molly Jo Realy, my fantastic editor to come and talk to us about creating a Swarm. Among her awesome skills is helping authors create a following on social media. Some called it a tribe. Molly Jo calls it a swarm. Let’s find out why.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy life to pay my readers a visit. I’ve set out some brownies on my kitchen table, which is my favorite place to conduct interviews. Take a seat and help yourself. I heard you prefer coffee so I had my hubby make you some.
Thanks, Cindy. It’s true, I’m a coffee addict. Thanks for noticing.
First, explain what a swarm is and why writers need them.
Well, for starters, the word “Swarm” sort of just came to me. I was writing a blog post on the Do’s and Don’t’s of social media and I titled it “To Be or Not to Be”. It was at this time I also reconstructed my monthly newsletter and named it “Here’s the Buzz.” So the bee theme fell into place and once I realized that, it was a no-brainer to recognize my people as my Swarm.
A swarm of bees works together for the good of all and to support the Queen Bee in her goals. Other than the Queen, bees don’t really have a multi-tier hierarchy. They help each other and spread sweet nectar and pollen to keep their world going and growing. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Bees communicate because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to build hives, discover new fields, or survive.
I’m not a Queen Bee by any means, and it’s my Swarm who keep me flying. They share my passion for writing and help create a social media buzz by telling others about my books, editing, mad ninja skills, and whatever else I share that they want to pass on. They communicate with me, telling me what works, what doesn’t, what I can do better. They are my foundation, my support. No Queen Bee is worth anything without a strong Swarm around her.
Why should writers bother with social media? Isn’t promoting our books the job of our publisher?
Not at all. First, most authors of our caliber are contracted through smaller publishing houses which rarely have their own marketing division. When a publisher signs you, they expect you to come “pre-packaged”, that is, with your own networkers and supporters. Your first source of honey is going to be your own hive. We are the first generation of writers to have instant access to the world via the internet. It’s integral to our flight that we know how to use it efficiently, and that includes interacting with and being responsible to our Swarm.
I’ve heard you have to post a lot and often on Facebook, Twitter and all those other social media sites in order to get noticed. Is that true?
Yes and no. 100% of any Swarm is found via a mix of Facebook and Twitter. All other sites are a good boost, but I recommend picking and choosing an amount you can regularly interact with. Some busy bees can manage many, others might want to fly closer to home. Remember the key word here is social. If you have a Swarm, you need to care for them. This means letting them know they’re good for you and your environment.
On average, post three to four times daily, each day. And follow up. If a worker bee replies to your post, how long do you think he or she will stay in your Swarm if you constantly ignore them?
My sites of choice are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, for daily Swarming, and I visit Pinterest and Google+ a few times each week.
Also by sharing with your bees daily, it’s not such a heavy load.
Toss out a freebie or contest now and then. Post questions, quizzes, polls. Share their stories and reviews. Appreciate what they do on your behalf. If a bee tags you in a different hive, say thanks for the honey.
Remember that even an angry bee can be beneficial, if handled properly. Let’s face it, sometimes bees sting. But that’s few and far between. The trick there is to acknowledge the hurt and move forward. Sharing someone else’s bad review of your book can start your Swarm buzzing on your behalf.
How do you keep the interest of your swarm and grow the numbers?
There are different analytic insights you can track on Facebook, your blog, etc., to notice which of your posts get the most interaction. Find your focus, and make a bee-line for it. Don’t fly all over the place, but direct your Swarm. My blog offers a plethora of topics, but the underlying theme is Faith, Family, Food, and Fun. There are subtopics like editing tips, social media buzz, Pinterest-worthy crafts. On Facebook and Twitter, I post short links, curate from other sources (foodie articles, Pinterest shares, writing and editing sites). Find the theme(s) that tie what you write with the people you want in your Swarm. Nature will take its course from there.
After you’ve told everyone on social media to buy your book what more is there to say?
First, I must say, never, ever, ever “tell” someone to buy your book. Your swarm should be with you from the beginning stages. Bees don’t move into a pre-built hive. They build it according to their Swarm specifics and the Queen Bee’s plans.
So start your Swarm early. Build your social media sites while you’re still writing your book. Share the flight. Some days you’ll have blue skies and tail winds, other days are stormy and all you’ll want is shelter. Let your Swarm be a part of the process. When your book is ready, your Swarm will be your first readers and buyers because they’ve taken the journey with you.
This doesn’t mean to spill all the beans. You don’t want to post chapters online or reveal the whodunit prematurely. You can definitely create a buzz with before-and-after actions. Share their reviews. Ask them to help set up book signings and author events.
Unless you’re a one-and-done writer, you’ll always have a need for your Swarm.
What if I don’t have time to deal with social media because my life is squeezed between my job and writing deadlines. Any suggestions?
I again recommend picking your location. Some hives are big, some are small. There are scheduling applications like Hootsuite that you can use to preschedule posts.
Besides social media are there other ways to create a swarm?
Most definitely, although it may be less noticeable as social media enables us to reach many people on a larger plateau quickly. Having said that, some Swarms are physically located. Ask your family and friends to join you for a potluck to update them on your writing progress. Find small groups where you can present your works: book clubs, church groups, writers meetings, craft fairs.
Is there anything more you would like to add about swarms that I forgot to ask and you feel is a need-to-know?
Remember to take care of yourself and your Swarm. And remember that bees move on. If you start with sharing recipes on Facebook, it’s not that sticky to change your post themes. Keep the sales pitch to a minimum (one in six posts). The rest of the sharing is meant to build relationships. Have fun with your hive!
If all you want is to sell books, just take out an ad in Sunday’s paper.
Molly Jo, you’ve been so helpful. Why not tell us a little about your writing projects and your editorial service and how my readers can contact you.
In addition to writing and editing, I’m the producer of the Firsts in Fiction Podcast where we talk weekly about writing fiction. I enjoy helping others develop a social media presence, cooking, and sharing life online.
My work in progress is NOLA, a location mystery set in New Orleans. It’s about a woman who’s so fed up with life she takes a trip and winds up in New Orleans where she gets caught up in a possible murder. She has to choose between returning to what she thought was a life worth escaping, or staying and embracing the chaos of new love and old wounds.
Thank you again. This has been fun, and the brownies were excellent.
You can contact me through the links in my bio.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Beeutiful interview. I Beelieve we have all benefited from your wisdom.
Molly Jo is a writer, editor, social media ninja, and producer of the weekly Firsts in Fiction podcast. She is the founder of New Inklings Press and author of The Unemployment Cookbook: Ideas for Feeding Families One Meal at a Time, and other books available through her website and on Amazon.
Her current work in progress, NOLA, is a location mystery set in New Orleans and is scheduled for publication in late 2016.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and her blog, Frankly, My Dear . . .
If you have any specific questions about social media or would like to share your experience please leave a comment below. I always love to hear from you all.
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