Amanda Luedeke

October 4, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques Part 3


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.

A few weeks ago, I offered free social media critiques to those who replied before the 14th. You see, social media is a specialty of mine. Before becoming an agent, I worked for some years as a social media marketer at a marketing agency outside of Chicago. I worked with clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore and more. A somewhat longer description of what I did can be found in the first critique post.

1. The Messy Middle is a blog by Amy Young

  • I’m not sure the aesthetics of the site complement the goal. When I first brought it up, I almost expected it to be a site on architecture or interior design. There’s just not much color, and so it has a very cold feel (lots of grays). Your font tries to warm things up, but the masthead is so overpowering with its stark image and cold color scheme that it just doesn’t feel like a place “where grace and truth reside”
  • Your “about” page, though creative, is a bit too meandering. When faced with the issue noted above, I had to rely on this page to give me a clear picture of what I should expect from the blog. It took awhile to get that picture, and I’m afraid you’re going to lose potential readers as a result.
  • You’ve tapped into a subject matter that could result in a good following (woman is transplanted into foreign culture; must make a way). But there’s a delicate balance between journaling your experience and making the reader feel as though they’re part of it. Because that’s why people read blogs like yours…they want to imagine that they’re in your shoes. Keep that in mind, and you’ll easily make connections with readers.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Really think about whether the look and feel of your site is communicating its message. Maybe it comes down to needing a new tagline? Maybe a new masthead image? Take an inventory of your posts and develop a brand based on how you write, what you talk about and the emotions you tend to invoke.

2. K.D. Byers is a website/blog by KD Byers

  • Any particular reason for the .org? Are you an organization?
  • Your masthead creates a very Celtic look and feel. Is this what you’re going for?
  • Your tagline, “Stories of life and faith,” don’t always come through in your content. You focus a lot on the writing process and sharing your writing wisdom, but these posts have little to do with life or faith. When I read your tagline, I expected the blog to be full of posts just like the one you titled “Quiet Patience.” Instead, it’s a mashup of entertainment, writing tips/advice, personal stories, and links to elsewhere on the web. I feel you’re almost there with nailing down your content. You may just have to be a bit more choosey. Who is your audience? Who do you want to reach? What would they enjoy reading? Answer those questions, and you’re there.
  • I’m not sure I understand the “Story Series” thing…the explanation was just a bit fuzzy, and the “Writing Resources” page again shifts attention to writing instead of “life and faith”. I’ve told numerous other bloggers this same advice: Writers are not your target audience.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Identify who your ideal reader is, and cater your content to what they like to read. That’s the first step in taking this from a personal blog/journal to a blog that people read and share.

3. Parenting the Greats is a book website by Kevin Butler

  • I’m not a fan of the template, because it’s hard to know where to go/what to do when you stumble on the page. I ended up setting it to the “classic” view as soon as I figured out how. The bad thing about that, though, was that it took away all of the eye candy.
  • The website is sloooow with lots of load time. You’re going to lose visitors because of this. (I wasn’t able to get the “About” page to load)
  • I couldn’t find information on where to buy the book or even whether it was for sale yet. If this info is on the site, then it’s buried. Bring it to the forefront. You don’t want visitors to leave without making that connection. Even if it means having them sign up for a book release newsletter.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I see these kinds of sites popping up here and there, but in order to be effective, you need to give the reader something to DO. Show them where to buy, pre-order or get updated information on the book. And, I also suggest a redesign. Make it clean and straightforward, and make the “About this book” the central part of the site.

4. Eine Feisty Berg is a website by Cheryl Odelberg

  • The name of this site really throws me. It’s not memorable, it’s difficult to spell, and it makes the site sound foreign.
  • In looking at your top nav, you come across as a jack of all trades. It gives the impression that you are an expert in all of these areas and that you’re going to blog about all of them. But when you actually click on the links, you’re directed to a single page about each. I’m not sure what the goal is here. Why dedicate a single page to Health and another one to Movies/Books and another one to Wisdom if you’re only going to say a tiny bit about each topic and then move on?
  • What is your goal? To push your poetry? Short stories?  Thoughts on life? Health? Walking? Wisdom? Entertainment? I can’t find a clear goal or direction for this site, and I think it causes some reader confusion.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Ultimately, this is a blog disguised as a website. You’re really just talking about yourself and your day, but all of the options in the top nav paint a different picture. I’d revamp the design of this site and turn it into a straight blog. Then, if you want to promote your poetry or book through the site, make that one additional page on the site. This will help visitors better understand how to browse and interact with the site.

5. Love Notes is a blog by Anne Love

  • I’d remove the first tagline. It doesn’t say much about you or the blog.
  • I love the title “Love Notes!” But it definitely promises a certain experience. Be sure to deliver on that and don’t get sidetracked talking about things that don’t pertain.
  • You mentioned you want to be an author…The smart thing to do would be to turn this into a blog for READERS and not WRITERS. So ditch the writerly talk and focus on love stories/books/etc. If you get people to rely on your site for Christian historical fiction info, they’ll ultimately want to help support your author career.
  • To get more readers, go out and find where historical romance readers congregate online and ask them to frequent your site (you may want to put together some kind of incentive). Be consistent about content and interact with everyone who comments.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Turn this into a site for readers of Christian historical fiction. Dedicate 1-2 hours every day to going out and finding potential readers. Then, when you set your sites on your author career, you’ll have a bunch of people who not only LOVE the genre you write, but will be willing to support you.

Does anyone else have suggestions for these brave bloggers?


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  • Cherry Odelberg says:

    Amanda, that helps a lot! Thank you. You pointed out some things about which I had only a vague sense or discomfort.
    As a writer in progress, how do I build a webpage apart from a blog that is all about me?

  • Donna Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your critiques of these websites/blogs. My website languished for a couple of years while I tried to figure out what to do with it. Finally, I just let it go and dedicated some time to deciding what I want my website and blog to be. Your critiques gave me the insight and understanding I lacked in my first attempt. With my first book coming out after the first of the year, it is time for me to get in gear!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Congrats on the book! And I’m glad you feel in control of your web presence now 🙂

  • Amy Young says:

    Amanda!! Thanks for the feedback. I plan to go back and rework my “about” page — and in two weeks I have a post going live that gives the back story to the photo in my header. I hadn’t thought of linking it to my about page (thanks!).

    I do have a question related to gender — men, do you have the same reaction to my site that Amanda did? (and if you do, please say! I’m trying to get an accurate read, not preserve my feelings).

    I’ve been in China for twenty years, so the transplanted American take is an interesting one. I haven’t had many “first” experiences in years (except the reality that China/life has certainly changed a lot). My hope has been to encourage people that they can integrate their faith into life wherever they are … it’s helpful to get feedback that I haven’t communicated that well enough.

    I’m very grateful for the time you invested. Amy

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Glad my feedback is helpful! Okay, I’m going to push this further…Are men your target audience? If so, then their take on your site would be crucial. But the writing and the topics felt much more female-oriented to me. Which would make a man’s opinion on the site null.

  • CharityHawkins says:

    I had a comment for Kevin on Parenting
    the Greats (and sorry, I would have emailed you privately but couldn’t get that
    page to load). The title of this is intriguing to me, and the pictures
    are very interesting, but I was so confused when I looked at the site the first
    time I just left. I didn’t know what it was. I think if you could do what
    Amanda suggested, and highlight the book aspect with the sample chapters
    prominently displayed, maybe showcasing some of your parenting writing with
    some of those fabulous pictures in a more traditional blog format it would draw
    me in.

  • Anne Love says:

    Thanks so much Amanda! Through reading your earlier crits I suspected you’d say pretty much what you did. So, my crit partner and I just launched a new blog, Coffee Cups & Camisoles, with these things being the focus. Your comments just confirm what we we’ve been working on. I appreciate your “free” time. This has been very valuable. :o)

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