Amanda Luedeke

October 25, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques, Part 5


Amanda 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.

(Picture tweaks provided by Paula at )

1) The Glitter Globe is a blog by Stephanie Pazicni Karfelt

  • The bit of text under your blog’s title is much too long. It should be one sentence at most–a tagline. If you feel this description of your blog is important, move it to a separate ABOUT page, complete with a close up picture of you.
  • For the best SEO (search engine optimization), you should tag your links to actual words instead of dropping the link into the text. See how I did this in my byline at the top of this post?
  • Consider the order of your right nav. Place the things that you most want readers to interact with at the top. So, the Followers and Network Blogs widgets should be at or close to the top.
  • It’s great that you use pictures, but rarely do I see a picture of you. Try to include yourself more in your photos. It will help readers feel a stronger connection.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Think about how your blog comes across visually. Where does the eye go? What is the call to action? With that big block of text at the top and a right nav that is buried by a long archives section, it’s time to be more intentional about how the blog looks and how you want readers to interact with it.

2) We have an untitled blog from Heather Marsten

  • Xanga is a very outdated site, and I’m not sure how much weight it holds on Google. You should consider crossing over to WordPress or Blogger if you want the site to grow.
  • I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this. It seems that this blog exists for a certain group of people to have access to Bible study information. Because I’m not  in that group, I feel as though I don’t belong.
  • The posts are long, and the color scheme makes it difficult to read. So even if I were drawn in by the content, I’m not sure how long I’d stick around.

RECOMMENDATIONS: What is your goal? If this blog exists to provide content to a church group, then it’s probably achieving that, because the participants know what to do with it. But if it exists to appeal to new readers, the content needs to be completely revamped. Think short devotionals on a daily basis. 200-400 words. Searchable titles like “Daily Devotional for Moms: Psalms 23”. And you’d also benefit from transitioning to another blogging platform…one that allows a more cozy atmosphere.

3) Love, Friendship, and All Things Girly is a website by Bethany Jett

  • I love that you are up front about how often readers can expect content!
  • Make sure for that middle picture in your masthead, that you are the one facing the camera upright. I think you’re the one upside down at the top, but can’t tell.
  • I like your speaking page and your ads
  • I feel you can be more intentional about your content. It doesn’t hit a consistent target reader, nor does it deliver on content expectations. With your book being what it is, I expect more of that type of content to be present on your blog. Right now, the blog is a hodge podge of Internet memes and personal stories. Try to hone in on what your book is going to make you an expert in…relationships.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Think about your ideal reader. With your book, you’re going to have readers in their teens and twenties. So focus on this age group rather than moms and family. Focus on relationships. Become an expert. There is always room for personal stories, but be sure that they resonate with your readership. And though I’m a big fan of using photos, be careful not to overload your posts with text-based memes.

4) The Hole on the End of the Bible Belt is a blog by Jonathan

  • You’ve gone the extra step and purchased a URL for the site…is there a reason you went with your Twitter name and not something more directly related to your blog?
  • In addition, you may want to consider redoing your Twitter name. Again, I’d choose something that has to do with your blog’s title. Twitter makes it so that you can chance your username at any time without losing followers. It would be a good idea to do this if you want to build a brand around this idea of the hole in the Bible Belt.
  • Consider using hashtags when you Tweet a new blog post. This will help ensure that your Tweets are seen by people who could potentially become readers.
  • I really like the fact that your blog posts are short devotional-type entries. I think this could appeal to an audience. But with this, do make sure that each phrase and word is the best it can be. There were times in your posts that I got hung up on sentences and the like that just weren’t as crystal clear as they could have been. So really take the time with each post to edit for clarity and readability.

RECOMMENDATIONS: This could result in a following for you, but you must be consistent, your content must be superb and you must learn how to spread the word. I know there are a lot of “musts”, but I do think it’s worth it. Think about branding yourself in everything you do. Research hashtags and get in front of your potential audience. Then, blog them away by your bite-sized content.

5) Laura L. Smith is a website by Laura Smith

  • A fabulous masthead would really help the visual appeal of this site. If you use Blogger, I can recommend using the discount we were given from Elegant Custom Blogs. In addition to this, you should come up with a tagline that describe what kind of an author you are.
  • Your posts are well written, but they don’t get much interaction. Experiment with what it takes to get your readers talking. Maybe you need shorter posts? Maybe they need to be more topic trendy? Maybe the question at the end needs to be less deep and more conversational? Work at meeting your readers where they are. Then, over time, you can draw a deeper side out of them.
  • You may also want to think about targeting moms with this blog. Since parents are many times the ones footing the bill for Christian YA fiction, it wouldn’t hurt to try and turn this into a “moms of teens” blog…just to see what happens.

RECOMMENDATIONS: A redesign can make this site feel less heavy and more youthful. In addition, it may be time to tweak your content so that you’re better connecting with your reader.

That’s it for this week…what have YOU done in the past four weeks to make your blog or website better?

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  • Cindy Valenti Scinto says:

    Hey Amanda, I love to chime in when I have time. I hope none of these critique recipients will find my comments appalling. Ouch. Yowza. Yikes. 8^)

  • Cindy Valenti Scinto says:

    For the Glitter Globe–I love your ability to be creative and unfettered by standard format. I would think of making the frame where your posts are wider, and increasing the font. I’m getting “older” and have a tough time with small print. 8^) I like what you do and who you are, but believe your theme and background can fit you better if you were to change it. YAY for you for having your site! Many people and authors I work with are hesitant to stick their “brains” out to the public.

    For Love, Friendships, and All Things Girly–Love the font being a good size. Maybe the white background for your posts can be pale pink or a light beige. White can be so stark against black text. Sometimes people take the black text down a notch and use a shade lighter. I love your excitement and all things girls theme. I would suggest, as a design person, maybe less lines and frame borders to calm the page down a bit. Posts are great and I love your writing, Maybe a few less pictures–they can break up the content in a post too much at times. GREAT stuff!

    For The Hole at The End of The Bible Belt–Here I go again with the white. Maybe toning the white down a bit. Maybe it’s ‘my’ eyes or my graphic design artist brain, but black text on white always seems bold. I found your posts contemplative reading, but not sure about your goal and title relation to content. I like how you express your ideas in your own way and aren’t inhibited by any particular format. Maybe your About Me page could have more information explaining the goal of your site. 8^) Adding a few graphics to posts may be helpful to engage the average blog reader.

    For Laura Smith–I love your theme and site design and yes–you have subtle colors behind your text. (I know, I’m a nuisance.) Great posts and I can see your busy promoting and speaking. I happen to love teens and been an editor for a teen site for years up until six months ago, so you got my attention. While I love the picture on your home page, I think you need a logo or branding for yourself. You could replace your name in the text with the logo. If that’s your tag line at the very top, incorporate that into a logo. Also, are you writing ‘for’ teens or for ‘teen parents or caregivers?’ I agree with Amanda that you may want to add some ‘swag’ to your site. [tehetehe teen lingo stuff] 8^) But great stuff here!

    • S.R. Karfelt says:

      Thank you for the feedback Cindy, and thanks for stopping by The Glitter Globe! Just for you I will widen the frame and make the font bigger! And as soon as I finish up this next round of edits, maybe I’ll even remodel. It’s supposed to be a comfortable, fun forum – not hard on the eyes.

    • Cindy Valenti Scinto says:

      Stephanie–you be awesome! 8^) So glad I found you here. Thanks, Amanda, for hooking us up when you didn’t even know you were…

  • S.R. Karfelt says:

    Amanda – Thanks so much for the feedback on The Glitter Globe. I made your recommended changes, and I like the way it looks. I appreciate your time!

  • Paula Jones says:

    Thanks for using my picture tweaks ha ha!

    -Paula : )

  • Becky Doughty says:

    Amanda – great tips that can be applied to ALL blog sites. Going back to my own now to see what more I can do…

    For now, I’m heading in a new direction (it all takes so much time to change!!!)

    ~ I’m blogging less: scheduled posts on Monday and Friday, optional inspiration in between, keeping me available for guest posting on other sites.

    ~ My posts are thematic: Mondays – Wielding the Word (was a devotional, morphing it to a shorter word of encouragement AND a book review of the genres I read and write), and Fridays – All Things Sisters (My current WIP is a 4-book series about sisters. Includes real-life sister interviews, links to sisters in the news, sister pics, etc.) Now comes the daunting task of chopping out all the extra categories I’ve naively created over the years. ARGH!

    ~ I have linked my blog to other social media sites like FB, Twitter, LinkdIn, and Goodreads, etc. so that I can tap all locations where I’m active.

    ~ Every post has a pickle. I mean a picture. Or a video. WITH proper credits if not my own.

    ~ Most importantly, I try to promote at least ONE OTHER blogger/author/person, if not many others, on my website with every post.

    And it’s always changing – next week it may be a whole new list!


  • Bethany Jett says:

    Thanks for the critique!!!!

  • Bethany Jett says:

    Spot on. I will call three of my friends and tell them to come lay on the grass with me so I can copy that middle photo.

    I’ve been selfish with my dating posts because of the book, but I’ll start posting more about that. Did you love the “Frenemy Friday” posts?!?!

    …I’ll try to limit the memes. Pinterest Anonymous anyone? (and sorry for the duplicate “Guest” post underneath. Disqus was my frenemy today.

  • Guest says:

    Spot on. I will call three of my friends and tell them to come lay on the grass with me so I can copy that middle photo.

    I’ve been selfish with my dating posts because of the book, but I’ll start posting more about that. Did you love the “Frenemy Friday” posts?!?!

    …I’ll try to limit the memes. Pinterest Anonymous anyone?

  • Johnnie Alexander Donley says:

    I’m sitting across the table from Bethany Jett after we’ve read your critique on our separate laptops. I had to ask her what a text-based meme was (confessing my ignorance here). She scrunched her eyes and tilted her head, then laughed. The Pinterest stuff! The girl does love to re-pin. We also laughed about the middle picture comment because I had looked at it before and didn’t recognize any of the girls. Bethany isn’t in it, but that’s her sister (and my daughter) Jill at the top. We’re having a dedicated writing weekend — Bethany and her manuscript, me and the proposal for my next novel.

    Thanks, Amanda, for a spot-on critique. Enjoyed meeting you at the ACFW conference.

    From Bethany’s Mom

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Thanks for reading! That’s funny that Bethany isn’t in that middle picture at all…I thought she was the one at the top!

  • Clella says:

    Wow. I am going to read your other recommendations about blogs. I am just beginning to revamp with a new idea. Thanks so much for the info here. . Will be interested in your other comments. Clella (Bethany’s “old” friend from FCWC)

  • Kay Camenisch says:

    Thank you, Amanda. I appreciate your comments and am learning from them. It’s very helpful.

    On the Glitter Globe site comments, you said, “You should consider crossing over to WordPress or Blogger if you want the site to grow.” Are you saying that using WordPress or Blogger affects growth, no matter what the site is like? Is it better than a custom designed site?

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      My comment was for Heather Marsten’s site, which is on Xanga. I just don’t know much about Xanga. It’s old and there’s not much you can do with it. I also wouldn’t go so far as to say that WordPress and Blogger hold more Google weight than a site you build yourself, but I DO know that flash and images (most websites use images to build the design) decrease SEO.

  • Laura L. Smith says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Amanda. Excited to see what I can do to revamp my site.

  • Melissa Tagg says:

    Hehe, um, I don’t think I have anything intelligent to add to the website discussion at the moment, but I just wanted to say I love the new headshot, Amanda. Very distinguished. 🙂

    • Rajdeep "Call me Raj" Paulus says:

      Did you do something with your hair, Amanda… Something different… just can’t quite pin point ;).

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I was going to post a vampire one, but it’s not ready…not sure it will be ready in time for next week, either 🙁

    • Raj says:

      You know there’s a zombie APP for iPhones, right.. in case the vampire pic doesn’t work out! 🙂

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