With both indie and traditionally published authors expected to build a platform, they often get discouraged when they see minimal growth in that area. Sometimes it causes them to lose all motivation to stay on social media or even finish writing their book.
I personally have struggled with the whole social media, building platform, algorithm, all of that over the years, but thankfully, God has placed Ruthie Gray in my path. I’m so pleased today to have her here with us as a guest on Ink and Impact.
Ruthie Gray is a wife, gigi, empty nester, and marketing coach for Christian female entrepreneurs who specializes in Instagram and newsletter strategies. Her hobbies include Florida beach walks, RVing with her hubby, and creating fun hashtags like #Gigirules. Ruthie is the founder of the Authentic Online Marketing School and Insider Mentorship, and podcasts at Authentic Online Marketing (“so easy your mom can do it”).
Thank you for having me, Dalene. This is fun.
It is fun. I have just learned so much from you over the past year or so that I have known you and have been inside your mentorship. And I’m just so thrilled to be able to bring you to our listeners, because I know they’re going to glean a lot from what you have to say today.
I wanted to give just a little bit more background for our listeners. One thing you didn’t mention in your bio is that you started out as a blogger, and that you have written two books of your own – two parenting books, is that correct?
Yes, it is.
Okay, so you know firsthand about the process and struggle of writing a book and building a platform, right?
Yes, well familiar.
One thing I want to highlight, too, is that your Christian faith is also important to you, which is what attracted me to your you and your program on Instagram, especially.
So, as you were blogging and growing and writing books, building an audience and everything, I was wondering if there was a particular verse in the Bible that you really leaned heavily on during that time?
Oh, I leaned heavily on wisdom verses – all the wisdom verses. I lived in Psalms a lot.
But really, I always go back to Joshua 1:8 – “This Book of the Law shall not depart of out of your mouth, but you will meditate on it day and night. And then you’ll make your way prosperous, then you’ll have good success.”
That was the Lord’s encouragement to Joshua, who was supposed to take over the land and claim the land. And we can claim that promise in our own lives when we know that God has called us to something.
Way back there many moons ago when I started that blog, and I knew that God had asked me to write and to be public, I was scared. I didn’t want to do it.
I wanted to write, but I didn’t want anyone to know about me.
Isn’t that the truth? It’s such a conundrum.
I run into writers like that all the time. And authors, you know, they’re like, “I should build a platform on Instagram. But I really don’t want to be public.”
Right? Which is a shame. Because as we know, books can make an impact. They can really, positively impact our readers.
And that’s one question that I always ask my guests: What is one book, in addition to the Bible, that has impacted you in some way?
Well, there is one main one besides the Bible. But first, one other thing I did want to say about that verse was, I always go back to the Bible in whatever I do. It is my regular practice, and has been for years – even more so now – to seek the Lord every morning in His Word and prayer, because that’s the only way that I’m going to know what to do.
But besides that, my accompanying book that is often right next to my Bible is The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. And anybody who’s followed me on Instagram for any length of time, watches my stories, will see snapshots of that every once in a while. Because I think it’s important to understand God’s character. And to believe it.
Yes. Oh, that’s a great one. Thank you for sharing that.
I ask guests to share their books that have impacted them as an encouragement to other writers out there, because God has given you a calling for your story, for your book, for a reason – to impact people. It’s to share His truth with them.
Whatever genre you’re writing, fiction or nonfiction, He has you there for a purpose. And it is to spread His Word, spread His gospel, and spread His truth to readers to encourage them and impact them.
Authentic Platform Building
All right, we know that books can truly impact people. But sometimes reaching those people, our audience is a big hurdle.
There’s one main consideration that you teach, Ruthie, to overcome that hurdle. And that is to be authentic.
I was wondering if you could explain what you mean by authentic online marketing.
Way back, when I first started teaching marketing, I realized that is a word that I want it to be linked with: authenticity.
Because only you can say your truth, the way you can say it. Only you can say your message.
So to be authentic is going to be staying true to your own standards for how you want to present yourself, but also who you are as a person, because people purchase from the person. They get to know, like, and trust you first.
And that’s what we teach on Instagram: how you’re going to stand out from the crowd is by embracing your own unique voice.
I always say at the end of my podcast, “remember to share your message in your own voice, in your own authentic way” because there are people out there that will resonate with that.
They’re waiting for you. They don’t know it, but they’re waiting for you.
Because only you have those little nuances in your personality, or your sense of humor, or the way you teach, or even the little things that you do behind the scenes. Those all matter.
When I was first learning this from you, I discovered it’s a little intimidating, it’s vulnerable, to put yourself out there and show your true self.
When Instagram started, it was all about the prettiness. Everything was supposed to be picture perfect and pretty. And there’s still a lot of that.
But back at that time I was thinking, “Well, I don’t have the pretty backgrounds” and “I don’t have the perfect lighting.” There were a lot of excuses on my end. What would you say to people who have all these types of excuses?
That’s why I’m here. I want you to start where you are.
You can’t wait to be perfect.
If you look at my grid, it is not perfect. I am a real person trying to teach real people who don’t have it all together technology wise that they can start where they are at any level. Just start.
There are simple ways that you can improve, like standing in front of a window for good lighting, just natural lighting. That’s one easy fix, or stand outside.
But you have to start where you are.
And you can also create boundaries of what you’re not going to share. You don’t have to share all your dirty laundry; you don’t have to share everything about your life at all. You can have boundaries, but you do need to determine what you are going to share because people connect with a person.
That’s right. And as authors, the natural instinct is to share about our book. And you want to share about your book and you want to share those behind the scenes about writing. But would you also recommend that people share a little bit about themselves?
I do. I 100-percent do.
How do you get inspiration for writing? Maybe you take a daily walk. So you can take a little snapshot of your walk, or a little video or a reel or a story. How do you fit writing in around caregiving? Or babysitting, or babysitting grandkids or parenting, like you are – just little things like that.
I have had people follow me on Instagram because they’ve seen pictures of me with my mom or my dad in doctors’ offices, in waiting rooms, and things like that, that are behind the scenes. I fit in my work life around caregiving.
So, if you can, portray yourself as “Yeah, I’m a real person.” People, again, want to know about your book and about what you do; they really want to understand you as a person. Yeah, there is a personal connection there that needs to be made.
And I think that’s really important, too, when you’re first starting out. You might not have your first book published yet, but it’s in the works. It’s never too early to start building your platform and getting visible on social media.
So that’s an easy way to start building that platform and being authentic and start getting some followers.
Let’s say someone is an aspiring author working on their first draft and first book, and they just get on Instagram, or maybe they’ve been there for awhile but they’ve never really done anything with it. How would they go about engaging with others to help build their platform?
Build Your Platform Through Engagement
It’s good to get in a group if you can. We have a free Facebook group called Authentic Instagram Engagement. You can go in there and mix and mingle, we have communication threads or questions, we have shared threads once a week.
Find your people. Go with a group of colleagues and other Facebook groups and connect with them. But you need to not just drop your link and run; you need to actually go over to their profile and visit these people, and look through their friends and their followers and start connecting with them if you think that they’re like your ideal audience, or someone you want to get to know.
You have to be social on social media.
You can also find and connect with people through SEO terms such as “books” and “writers.” Find them through hashtags, like #writers and #Christianwriters. There are many ways to do it. But you have to spend the time doing it.
And by connecting with them, that could be commenting on a post that they have or a reel that they’ve posted, and you’ve watched the reel and you make a comment about something you appreciated about that reel.
Or if they have a story, you can send a comment to the story about what you liked about it. Or if they’re asking a question or a poll and their story, you respond to that.
Become their follower. Don’t stalk them, you know, and say something for everything that they do. But over time, you get on their radar and then they might follow you back.
And again, just one connection leads to another connection that leads to another connection is what I’ve found. Would you agree with that?
Absolutely. 100 percent.
Create 10 minutes a day just to do that – just to network. Because every connection does make a difference. People know other people; you have to network. That’s how you make it in the online marketing world. You must network, and you must support other people. It’s not just all about you. It has to be a unifying process.
I think we know intuitively that it’s not about us, but as we’re striving to grow this platform, especially if we’re wanting to become traditionally published and there’re agents and publishers saying you have to have these five-figure numbers or more to get published with them, the focus then tends to turn inward.
You start to narrow your focus to yourself.
So, I want to encourage you – and I think Ruthie would agree – to not just focus on yourself and not just focus on the numbers, but focus on creating relationships. Like Ruthie said, being authentic about your process and sharing those behind-the-scenes kind of things.
Yeah, trust the process. That is part of the process.
If you bring it to the Lord daily, and you’re relying on Him to help you get your message out; if you do the work; if you are truly a team player and others minded; if you’re sharing – then it’s going to come back to you and God is going to bless you in His time.
Don’t Quit Building Your Platform
I love how you lead by example, Ruthie, over on Instagram. If something changes with the algorithm, or IG decides to drop something or do something, you’re throwing up your hands with the rest of us. But then you say, “Let’s not throw in the towel; let’s just figure out what to do next.”
So, if an author listening has gotten to that point where they’re just throwing up their hands in frustration, what are some things that you would recommend they consider before walking away?
I have a lot of feelings about this right now. But if you will be consistent, that’s the thing.
A lot of people think going viral is the ticket. That’s not really the ticket. The ticket is consistently showing up, networking, and being social on social media – developing relationships, seeing who you can help. It’s not just about you; it’s about others, too.
Create a schedule that you can commit to. If it’s three times a week, it’s three times a week; if it’s one time a week, do that. Try to do two to three times a week.
Instagram loves Instagram, and it wants people on the app all the time. We obviously can’t do that, but there are some things that we can do:
- Maintain consistency.
- Build in time for engagement.
- Do something simple, which is stories. You can do stories 3-5 times a week. That’s simply sharing your post to your story and then talking a little bit about it, or sharing something behind the scenes. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just be faithful.
- And if at all possible, get in a group that can help you know what to do, like ours, like the mentorship.
The Value of Groups
Yes, I will say that being in a group has made all the difference in the world for me. I haven’t gone viral or anything like that, and that’s okay. But I have made so many fabulous connections, so many friendships. And those connections have led to other connections, like you said.
And it’s encouragement. We all need encouragement. It’s weekly, sometimes daily encouragement that we need, and it’s right there in groups. So yeah, I encourage anyone if you’re not on IG, find a group on Facebook or even in LinkedIn; wherever you’re at, there are groups.
Test the waters, try a few of them out – not all groups are created equal. Just make sure that you’re finding ones that share your Christian values, that will support authors, and support you.
I know you’ve already shared so many tips and things with us, but was there anything else that you could share, especially about IG for authors?
Social Posting Isn’t a Waste of Time
Just know that you’re not wasting your time.
When you’re crafting a meaningful Instagram post, that is also building your writing craft.
Back a million years ago when I started writing my blog, I was pouring my guts out, but I didn’t know if I was doing it right. And when I go back and read some of those blog posts, I’m like, “Wow, I’m so glad I kept writing because, wow, there’s improvement there!”
Also, build that email list. That is another way that you can really improve your writing craft. I feel, honestly, that committing to my email list every week (it might be every month for you or every two weeks), I’m building a writing discipline there, too.
You will get better as you go. But you must do it; you must do the work. So never stop writing and never stop honing your craft, whether it’s on Instagram or wherever you write.
That is such a good point; I’m so glad you mentioned that. I was thinking too, while you were speaking, that it’s not a waste of time on those social posts, either, when you’re sharing an important truth.
Many times, I’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t know if I should have taken the time to do that.” And then someone will direct message me to say, “That’s exactly what I needed to hear at that moment” or something like that.
Even if you just reach one person, that’s one person that was worth your time.
Ruthie, you mentioned a lot of different terminologies like reels and stories and posts and all that. You are the Instagram go-to person, so if any of our listeners have any questions about that, I highly encourage them to check out Ruthie Gray and her Authentic Online Marketing.
I also know that you have a special challenge coming up. Do you want to share that with everyone?
Instagram 30-Day Stories Challenge (October 2022)
I would love to. It’s a 30-day challenge. It’s only stories, every day.
Of course, you are welcome to sneak in a post here and there if you want, I don’t care. But I am doing this kind of as a test.
It’s starting October 3 and you can hop in at any time.
I have a method to my madness that’s going to simplify things for you. It’s going to help you create ongoing content.
There are ways that non-followers can find you through stories, which we’re going to talk all about. You’re going to get a download immediately when you sign up for the challenge called “Five ways that non followers can see your stories and find you.”
It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be so much fun. It’s going to simplify your life for 30 days.
Well, I know I’m excited to be joining you. We’ll see how this goes.
If you if any of our listeners here want to connect with you about the stories challenge or about your mentorship or anything like that, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
Follow me on Instagram @authenticonlinemarketingpod. That’s the best way.
All right. That wraps up our time today. Ruthie, I am so thankful that you were able to join us. It’s been a pleasure.
Well, I always love talking to you, Dalene. You are like a steady voice of reason in this mad world of writing and you’re always gently directing writers: “Don’t freak out. This is what you can do next.” And so, I appreciate you and I’m just thrilled that you are part of my community.
Thank you so much for that. Well, thank you everyone for listening and go out there, write your books, and make an impact.
Schedule a Book Coaching Session
If you’d like help along your writing and publishing journey, I’m here for you. Schedule a book coaching session with me to discuss your most pressing issue. Gain the clarity and strategy you need to complete the book God has called you to write.
Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DM me on Instagram to receive the scheduling link.
Have you written a Christian book (fiction or nonfiction)?
It doesn’t have to have been published just within this year. If you have written a Christian book, I would love to learn about it.
Send me an email to email@example.com that includes:
- your name,
- the title of the book,
- a brief summary (like the back cover copy), and
- a link to where I can see the cover and read a few sample pages.
Please don’t send any attachments.
But I do want to learn about your book and I would love to be able to share it with others I know. Especially with indie published authors, it’s hard to get your book seen a lot of times and I would love to help get you a little bit of traction here through the podcast.
Looking to join a weekly writing group specifically for Christian writers?
I am so excited about The Inkwell that I’ve been hosting for about two years now, where we meet every Wednesday at 10am EST to write and connect with each other and pray with each other.
It’s just really blossoming into this beautiful weekly writing session that I know I get so much out of, and I hear from so many of the other participants that they are really thriving with it as well.
And yet, I also hear from several West Coast people that they would love to join, but it’s just too early in the morning. 10am EST is, I believe, 7am their time and I know that’s really hard, especially if you have littles and you’re trying to get them out the door to school or if you have another job and you’re trying to get off to work. I understand that.
So, I’m thinking of adding another time slot!
I would still keep the 10 o’clock – that’s not changing. I would just add a 2 o’clock EST time slot on Wednesdays. I would love to get feedback from those of you listening in the Pacific Standard Time, or even mountain time – oh, wherever you’re at, lol.
Let me know if you would be interested in a 2pm EST time writing session at The Inkwell, and please do send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you’re on Instagram like I am (that is my favorite social platform of choice these days), send me a DM. Connect with me and send me a DM and let me know what your thoughts are about The Inkwell.
That’s it for today fellow pen pusher.
Remember, don’t just write a book. Make an impact.