In the first post, we covered what a Facebook reader group is exactly and what the underlying marketing principle should be. For this Writer Wednesday topics post, we’re gonna go a little more into the practical details.
How to Build a Reader Group
I am not going to cover the technical aspects, there is plenty of information to find online if you do a Google search. What I want to focus on in the last part of this post is on how to grow your reader group.
The most important bit of advice I can give you is that you have to find something that will draw people in and then keep them coming back for more. You have to find something that is unique to your brand, your books, or your group that brings value in some way to people. It can be entertainment, it can be giveaways, it can be that you’re known for having the funniest memes, it can be anything you want, as long as it’s something that readers appreciate enough to hang out in your group for.
I realize this may sound contradictory to my previous comments about relational marketing, but it’s not. Any relationship starts with finding something you have in common. And that’s exactly what reader groups are about. We already have something in common: our love for gay romance. But that alone is not enough to draw readers in, as they have now hundreds of reader groups to choose from and a limited amount of time to hang out in all those groups. So you have to figure out what you can offer that is unique to build that relationship. You can look at what other authors are doing, but usually, copying what others are doing will only get you so far. You have to find your own path in this.
For me, this was not something I had figured out from the start. I started my reader group about a year ago, back when not everybody had one yet, so it made things a little easier for me. The competition was a little less, so to speak. But I did have a clear view of what I wanted the atmosphere in the group to be like, and I slowly discovered things that worked for me. Since I am a methodical person, I actually made a strategy for my reader group, and it has worked very well. I have found a few unique things that I like to do with my group that engages the readers and keeps them coming back.
Key Word: Engagement
That word engagement is the key word, by the way. For a reader group to be successful, there has to be a conversation, not a monologue from the author’s side. I love that when I ask questions, start a poll, or share something about my personal life, I get dozens of comments.
But that too is something you can cultivate. I’ve made it a habit to react to every single comment on my posts, no matter what they are, even silly comments on games in giveaways and takeovers. I may occasionally miss one due to Facebook’s inexplicable notification system, but I usually try to like at least and often I reply. Doing that consistently helps readers feel that you see them, value them, and care for them. And that, more than anything, makes them come back for more.
To create engagement, you have to share posts people want to interact with. Questions, obviously, are a good starting point, but it’s much broader than that. Part of that relational marketing is that a relationship is always a two-way street. If you want to build that relationship with readers, that means showing a bit of your personal life as well. If you keep your private life completely offline, you’ll find it much harder to connect with readers. That doesn’t mean you should post pictures of your kids, for instance, or share every intimate detail about your marriage, but it does mean that readers really appreciate getting to know the real you behind the author-you.
Again, I realize this comes easier to me because I am a relational person, so those who have trouble connecting socially may find this a very hard thing to do. I completely understand that, but unfortunately, it’s not something I can really relate to since I’m wired differently.
How to Grow Your Reader Group
We’ve talked a bit about the principles and strategies behind reader groups, so now it’s time to get into a little more practical detail. Let’s say you’ve started your reader group and you have about thirty people in there. How do you grow it?
First of all, you mention it literally everywhere. For me, my reader group is the first thing I mention in takeovers, and the back matter of my book, in my bio where ever I post or use it, and in any conference I’m at. Whenever people ask me about the best way to connect with me, I always, always refer them to my reader group. That’s because joining my reader group is a low commitment from them, much lower than signing up for a newsletter, for instance.
Plus, a newsletter is far less relational. Yes, I know, a lot of marketing gurus swear up and down newsletters are still the single best marketing strategy, but for me, my reader group works better than my newsletter. Plus, I like it more because I can interact more directly with people. I may get a few responses on each newsletter I sent out, but I get hundreds of comments every day on the stuff I post in my reader group. Big difference.
Second, you have to invest time in your reader group. Groups do not grow by themselves, especially when they’re still small. You have to post multiple times a day and react whenever readers respond to what you post. Hanging out in my reader group is a considerable time effort for me, but I see it as an investment in my marketing, so I don’t mind. Plus, I genuinely like the personal contact with my readers, so to me, it’s not a chore but a joy.
On average, I post at least four times a day in the Nook, usually more often. What I post is a mix of personal posts, the occasional promo, teasers, funny stuff, anything LGBT related, polls, daily or weekly themes, you name it. I have a few recurring themes that work very well for me, and I also try to come up with something new on a regular basis. Readers are encouraged to post as well, and it’s rare that I have to remove something someone posted.
Your reader group has to be a priority for you, which also means that it’s important to hang out there yourself. I have a PA, but she hardly does anything for me and my reader group. That’s all me, and I want it to be. Readers don’t want to build a relationship with her, they want to build a relationship with me. Now, there are certainly reader groups that are more focused on the author brand and books than on building a personal relationship with the author, and that’s fine. That’s a valid choice to make, and in that case, you can most certainly delegate running a reader group to a personal assistant. But that’s a different type of group than what I chose to run.
Okay, I have shared a TON of information about reader groups. I’m sure I haven’t covered everything, so if you have any remaining questions after reading these posts, please drop a comment so I can cover those in a future post.