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April 10, 2018

Does Your Platform Need a Spring Cleaning?

Broom leaning against a wall with text: Spring Cleaning: Time to Update Our Website and Social Media

Do you know what your platform is? Our platform is everything we use to get our message out.

For most of us—who don’t have hordes following our book tour of signing events at bookstores cross the globe—our platform consists of online components, such as our website and social media accounts. We all get busy, however, so we can fall behind on keeping those components up-to-date.

Just as we might need to do a little spring cleaning around our home, we also want to occasionally check our online lives and see if any aspects need updates or cleanup. Let’s take a look…

Does Our Brand Need a Refresh?

Ugh. Branding? Don’t worry. Our brand is simply what others think of us, so we all have a brand—automatically. (Even our pets might have a brand. *grin*)

What Is Our Brand?

Our author brand is just others’ impression of our stories, of our writing, or of us as a person or an author. With a strong brand, others will recognize that our funny posts on social media come from the same person who writes those funny books (or whatever impression we give)—thus increasing their connection to us and our work.

For that recognition to happen, we need to use consistent “triggers”—such as our avatar, pen name, etc.—for others to connect the dots. Then to create our brand, we want to match those recognition triggers to the impression we want to give others.

Colors, word choice, typeface style, graphics, etc. all combine to create an impression. Ideally, that impression from the visual and functional elements we choose should complement the impression we want others to have about us and our work.

Do the Elements of Our Brand Still Match Our Work?

Spring cleaning (or any other time) is a good reminder to review our branding materials and make sure they still match us and our work.

For example, if we’ve changed what we write—such as if we’ve added in non-fiction, switched genres, or incorporated a new style—we might need to update virtually every aspect of our brand.

Does our brand do a good job of giving others the impression we want? Click To TweetMaybe we have a better handle on our voice or unique selling angles since the last time we worked on our brand. We might have snappier ideas for a tagline or author bio now.

Or maybe our branding elements simply look out-of-date. Certain typefaces or graphic styles can look old-fashioned, and a new approach would look fresher.

So we occasionally want to ask ourselves if our brand elements—the things that trigger recognition and help readers connect the dots of who we are—are still working for us:

  • our avatar or headshot
  • our logo or typeface for our author name
  • our “title” (such as our genre or website/blog name)
  • our tagline
  • other images (headers, etc.)
  • the colors of our images, logos, or text
  • our author bio or introduction
  • other descriptions of us and our work, etc.

Update Our Platform to Match Our Brand

Once we know whether our branding elements still match our work, we’ll know if we need to update any of those materials on our platform. In general, we want to be fairly consistent to make it easier for readers to connect the dots between our social media accounts, website/blog, and books.

For example, we might need to dig into our website and all our different social media accounts and…:

  • change our branding elements to an updated version or to be consistent
  • update our images to put our newest release front-and-center
  • change our website’s home page or social media’s header format to highlight both our fiction and non-fiction
  • update our social media bio and/or “Latest News” section of our website to include the latest accolades
  • delete mentions or links to any writing we no longer want to emphasize or have removed from sale
  • etc., etc.

Update Our Website for Branding & Security

Recent news has emphasized how much we don’t own our information on social media platforms (*cough* Facebook *cough*), so it’s a good time to remind us all that we should have a website. Our website (or website/blog) is our online home that we can have more control over and helps make us Google-able.

However, if we have a website, we likely need to do other updates during our spring cleaning as well.

We should…:

  • make sure our website is running the latest software version
  • update the software for any plugins, apps, or customizations
  • swap old plugins or apps that are no longer being updated to different ones (and avoid security issues)
  • see if any plugins are no longer needed
  • check if our website theme or format is missing functionality we need, out-of-date, or old-fashioned looking
  • ensure our website format is a good match to where we are on the publishing path (such as reorganizing pages to show off a new series, etc.)
  • take inventory of website elements that aren’t working as well as we’d like or that we might want to emphasize more
  • identify features we’d like to add, maybe to appeal more to readers or to update our site (such as making a mobile version)
  • run a backup on our home computers and get a backup of our website

My Spring Cleaning…

Taking my own advice, this past weekend, I followed through on all the website advice above…

Do our website and social media accounts match our current brand? Click To TweetI updated the “Latest News” section of my homepage, blog sidebar, and Books pages to mention Stone-Cold Heart‘s final in the 2018 Carolyn Readers Choice Award. Woo hoo!

In addition to making sure I was up-to-date with all the software pieces, I deleted a defunct Twitter workshop from my website and removed a widget that didn’t work. Decluttering for the win. *grin*

I tweaked the programming for the comment system. (Yes! This means Comment Editing and Subscriptions should now work—I tested them and everything. *fingers crossed* Yay!)

I noticed that far more visitors come to my blog from Pinterest than from all the other social media platforms combined. So I added a ton of content to my Pinterest account, pinning and organizing a few hundred blog post images:

(So if you’re a visual person, check out my Pinterest boards to see the best of what I have on my blog.)

Every so often, we should check the pieces of our online life to see what needs to be changed, updated, deleted, or enhanced. Whether “spring cleaning” works as a good excuse for you or not, make sure to put this step on your list of things to do. *smile*

Have you ever updated elements of your online platform? Are they in need of updates now? Have you checked your branding elements to ensure they still work for you? What changes have you made to your platform recently? What changes do you still need to make?

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Bran Ayres

Welp, this sent me off to see how all my online spaces fared. And well, there were some definite cobwebs in the corners. ^_^ Thanks for the reminder!

Deborah Makarios

Thanks for the reminder – I needed to update the WIP widget in my footer to show I was on to the first draft of my new novel!

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks! My husband is my webmaster and we’ve just added an interactive map feature. I’m interested that you get so much traffic from Pinterest. There is always something uncovered in a spring clean, but most days I’d rather be writing.
I know it’s probably a section post all to itself, but the most important item for me to update has been the content inside my books – which lets readers know about the next in a series and what other genres I write, what they can find on my website and where I blog.

Glynis Jolly

I noticed you really didn’t touch on genre/blog/website name change. I’m thinking about doing that but am hesitant because follers may be lost in the process. How would you suggest how to handle it?

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[…] time, we talked about using the opportunity of “spring cleaning” to review our brand and see if we needed to u… on our website or social media accounts. But sometimes a “refresh” isn’t […]

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[…] Jane Friedman reminds us that a strong author platform is about more than numbers, Kristen Lamb dissects what platform is and why do authors need it, and Jami Gold asks if your platform needs a spring cleaning. […]

Sieran Lane
Sieran Lane

Wow! I want to try the editing feature!! About outdated fonts, is it true that Georgia is out of date now? I believe Goodreads still uses Georgia when I write reviews on their site.

Edit: Omg the editing feature does work!! 😀

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