Monday, July 13, 2009

Viral Marketing, Pt. 3 of 4: Overlooked Sites and Wastes of Time

In this series’ previous installments, we’ve covered how to maximize exposure on Twitter and on Facebook, arguably the two most important networking sites on the web. Today, I’m going to touch briefly on a handful of sites that we sometimes overlook in our quest for a web presence (and a few it’s probably best to overlook).

The key to viral marketing is being viral. We need to have a presence on as many sites as possible. It’s impossible, of course, to take advantage of every single one. Even full-time marketing firms aren’t capable of managing that many accounts. But it’s vital that we weigh our available time and schedule in as many different options as possible. Those options include, but are certainly not limited to the following:

AuthorNation: Features a large (although not heavily trafficked) forum section, a showcase for writers’ portfolios (I post my Wordplay blog articles there every week), and a nice networking system for exchanging mutual “friendships.” I haven’t gained a huge amount of blog traffic from this site, but I’ve certainly picked up a new reader or two, and therefore I usually only stop by once a week to update my portfolio and check out the new posts in the writers’ forum.

Scribd: A increasingly popular site for sharing written material. Hits ranging in the thousands are not uncommon for skillfully keyworded articles. Although the majority of articles are offered for free (I’ve posted short stories and blog articles), Scribd recently introduced a feature that allows authors to charge for each download.

Library Sites

Library sites are a prime spot for writers to find their key customers: readers. These sites allow members to catalog the books they’re reading and discuss them with fellow readers. Most sites feature extensive forums, where members can easily communicate with others (and subtly promote their work). Myriad library sites exist, with new ones popping up every day, but the two I’ve utilized are:

  • Shelfari: It’s user-friendliness and unlimited library size has converted me to a fan. I use Shelfari almost exclusively now and have enjoyed their huge and friendly forums. Shelfari’s biggest drawback is its tricky sign-up sheet which, unless managed skillfully, ends up spamming everyone in your address book with a request to join the site. It’s a one-time deal, but it can prove annoying and embarrassing for those with large address books, unless they skip the step that accesses their address books.
  • LibraryThing: Although not as attractive or user-friendly as Shelfari, LibraryThing caters to authors with its detailed profile pages and its Featured Authors. Its free membership does, however, feature a limit of 200 books. Having hit that limit some time ago, I rarely upload new books any longer and, instead, concentrate solely on the forums.

Wastes of Time

One of the keys to effective marketing is being able to instantly recognize which sites are a waste of time and eliminate them from your routine. Following are a few sites that have proven disappointing to me:

  • AuthorsDen: Similar in many ways to AuthorNation, AuthorsDen shares LibraryThing’s idea of limiting a free membership. Members are allowed to post articles and stories and book excerpts, but only up to 75 megabytes. After that, you must either delete some of your information or purchase more space. I gave up on AuthorsDen not long after joining, because I disliked the layout and was discouraged by the lack of interaction. However, in “Author’s Den—Free Marketing With a Punch,”a recent Marketing Tips for Authors blog post, Tony Eldridge noted that anything posted on AuthorsDen immediately lands at the top of Google’s search results. Needless to say, I’m rethinking my original assessment of AuthorsDen as a waste of time. Check it out and make your own decision.
  • MySpace: Once the monarch of social sites, MySpace is rapidly being abandoned in favor of more popular alternatives, such as Facebook. I maintained a page on MySpace for a while, but soon decided it wasn’t worth the time, since almost everyone on MySpace was also on Facebook.
  • ShoutLife: Billed as the Christian MySpace, ShoutLife has the makings of a great social site, especially considering its special features for artists, including authors. For the most part, however, it fails for the simple reason that self-promotion has taken precedence over interaction. Most members are too busy touting their own wares to look at anyone else’s.

Part 4: We’ll talk about diversifying your web presence through blogs, podcasts, and vlogs.
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