Authors and other business owners* have been leveraging the power of the internet for many years, but the repeal of net neutrality rules is a game changer with the potential to limit your ideal reader's ability to discover you.
*Whether they see themselves as such or not, authors are business owners. If you are not an author, replace "author" and other publishing industry-specific verbiage as needed to reflect you and your industry.
Social Media, SEO, and the Power of the Opt-In
What is the #1, most difficult thing to do and the thing that is required before any literary agent or publisher will take you seriously? Building a platform.
Why? Because platform is another way of saying exposure. That is, platform is a measure of your reach and influence.
Most authors get exposure and build their platforms in two ways: social media and search engine optimization (SEO).
Most indie authors, especially new ones, rely on social media to connect with potential readers and entice them to click through to their websites and then take the additional step of opting in to an email list.
Many authors focus on how many social media followers they have and measure engagement with likes and shares, but what really matters is how many of those people convert to subscribers on their website and ultimately how many of those people open the emails and take action (like buying a book) based on the content of those emails.
Blogging and list building through social media is labor intensive and slow, but when done consistently, your email list and platform will grow.
Search Engine Optimization
The second way authors currently attract attention is by using keywords on their web pages and specifically in blog posts. The hope is that over time, their site will rank higher and higher so that when a potential reader uses a search engine, the author's content will show up as one of the top results. Websites that show up in top positions in search results get the lion's share of clicks, which means higher potential to gather email addresses through opt-ins.
Time and consistent effort are also required to build a list using this tactic or a combination of social media exposure and SEO.
Authors who employ a strategy of using the internet to build a platform benefit from net neutrality: free and equal access to their websites.
What the Repeal of Title II Net Neutrality Means
The repeal of Title II means that free and equal access is no longer protected. Internet service providers (ISPs) can now give preference--in the form of higher speed access--to companies willing to pay. While not blocking, the reality is that this could severely limit the number of site visitors to non-paying URLs. Here's why: (Slow) Speed Is a Killer.
All the work many have done to improve their site's SEO won't matter if internet providers throttle usage for individuals and businesses unable or unwilling to pay to get priority over the owners of sites who are able and willing to pay.
Indie authors may find themselves cut off from potential readers if ISPs demand a financial investment to compete for bandwidth.
What This Means for New and Aspiring Authors
If you do not currently have a large email list and if your site visitors click away from your site before it finishes loading, they in effect opt-out of your content and email communications.
What This Means for Established Authors
Established authors with large email lists and footprints on Amazon and other book sales sites may fare better because they have direct access to ideal readers and will benefit from being on platforms run by companies that will pay for priority access to the internet.
If, as many fear, ISPs take advantage of the liberties afforded them by the repeal, how will authors who need and want to expand their platforms and have invested all their time, energy, and money in internet marketing get in front of potential readers and create opportunities for themselves?
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO MITIGATE YOUR RISK
It's anybody's guess as to when changes will go into effect and how those changes will affect us (small business owners, including authors).
Regardless, there's still a tremendous amount of opportunity to be found in good, old-fashioned networking: the kind that starts with face-to-face interactions; personal introductions to like-minded people; and practical, value-based relationships.
I'm not suggesting that any of us abandon our internet marketing strategies, but taking a wait-and-see approach is not a good option. Calculated action has no downside.
What assets do you currently own, which do you need access to, and how will you overcome the challenges presented by changes that affect how authors connect with readers?
You cannot control everything that goes on around and affects you, but you do control what you do every single day. What action will you take today and tomorrow and the next day to position yourself for success?
(Related and recommended: Please don't kill the blogs)
Photo Attribution: Pixabay.com, CC0