Social Media

A lot of self-publishers are approaching social media with the vague hope of it being a sort of wonder solution to marketing and promoting. They’ve been told that social media sells stuff. But I think that they don’t understand how social media actually works.

Social media, social networks, in a way the Internet, can be defined as a continuous flow of INFORMATION. Also, social media enables easy access to ENTERTAINMENT. And lastly, social media is a way for people to interact with each other.

That being said, if you, as a self-publisher, as a writer, can’t offer people these things, social media isn’t going to help you very much.

If you use your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter account just to dump info about your books and buy links, and do all that shameless promoting stuff, people have no reason to stick around.

That should be your number one priority. To give people a reason to like your Facebook page, to follow you on Twitter. The only way you can build an audience is to offer people what they’re looking for. Information, entertainment, and interaction. Or something like that.


I blog about writing, self-publishing, and books. More or less. The thing is that when I started blogging, I wasn’t exactly thinking about this whole platform building thing… I just set out to write the type of blog I’d enjoy reading.

That way some people might enjoy reading it as well.

Your approach can be different, but the idea is that you should blog about something you’re interested in. Yeah, blogging about the subject matter of your books is easier to do when you write non-fiction.

The idea is that I’m offering people information. Valuable or not, it’s their decision. But I want them to come back. I don’t want to spam people with a ton of shameless promotional posts.

Indeed, my blog is a place where I can freely showcase my novels (I can actually use the plural now). When I release something new, I tell people about it. Sometimes I mention my books, when this is relevant. I also try not to overdo this part. Sometimes, just before a new release, I write posts about some of the elements/aspects found in the story.

And then I try to engage this audience. If you remember, before I released Jazz, I did a cover-off where people could choose the cover they liked best. I host giveaways, contests, stuff that’s supposed to be fun and entertaining. At least, I try to.

Then there’s the part that really sells books. Or anything, actually. I interact with this audience. I write a post, they comment, I answer, stuff like that.

People love buying stuff from other people. From real people.

I build relationships. It’s a fun thing to do, and I do it because I get a lot of pleasure out of this alone. Of course, some of them might buy my books. That’s one of the perks of building this type of relationship. Make people more willing to pay $2.99 for a book.

More willing, you say? Well, yeah, ’cause contrary to popular belief, people aren’t using the Internet because they just can’t figure out what to buy next. They aren’t searching precisely for your book. In fact, you can assume that they don’t want to buy your book. They don’t care about it, they don’t need it.

And you have to change their minds.

This is what most self-publishers get wrong. They think that there are millions and millions of credit cards out there on the lookout for something to buy. All you need is exposure. Give them a buy link, and they’ll spend every single dollar on your books.

Exposure alone is not enough. A million people visiting your Amazon page isn’t going to translate into sales. Or, at least, not a hell lot of them.

Readers want a reason to buy your book. Or one not to buy it.

One more thing about blogging. No matter how good you are at it, you’ll never make everyone who follows your blog buy your books. It’s just impossible. I mean, you can’t have an entire following composed of people who can’t wait to buy your books. In fact, most of them will never buy your books.


The same principle applies. Offer people something in exchange for their time, whether it is just funny pictures or philosophical quotes.

I use Facebook to post quotes, relevant news, some interesting pictures. Stuff like that. I use Twitter for the same thing.

The only sensible rule is that social media can’t be used effectively when your only interest is to sell stuff.

Somewhere in the beginning of this post I said something about building relationships. The type of relationship that develops between a fan and an artist… that alone is a reason to become one. It’s something that can’t be replicated. People read your stuff and they feel connected to you. They get a chance to see into your brain. That’s magic.

Like I said, social media can also help you build relationships with potential readers. Makes finding an audience easier.  But you can’t build fake relationships.

I always like to use Neil Gaiman as an example for all this. He’s, of course, a great writer, and this helps a lot. But there are far better writers out there. What makes him so successful, or at least a part of it, is the fact that he’s willing to spend a lot of time with his fans.

He’s built one of the most impressive fan bases in the industry. He replies to his fans, he answers questions, he’s funny. That’s why that Twitter account of his is worth millions of dollars. Because people respond to what he has to say; he’s built so many genuine relationships that people react and respond to anything he has to say.

He has influence. And that can’t be bought.

One more thing before this post becomes too long. Numbers are not that important. You can have, let’s say, 500 followers. Just 500. But you can have 90% of them truly interested in your books. You can publish a book, and in a matter of hours, sell 450 books. So it’s all about how engaged your audience really is.

A hundred true fans are better than a million strangers.


128 thoughts on “Social Media

  1. Pingback: My buddy Cristian Mihai with some incredibly good advice about social media – and succeeding with it…:) « Thomas Rydder

  2. Pingback: Social Media | Halina's Blog

  3. Great thoughts. I've often wondered about the content on my site. It's very random and the site doesn't have a specific theme really. And I don't do the twitter or Facebook thing as I think they are just dumb among other things. You offer much useful information to your visitors.


  4. yeah there is nothing like being yourself and doing and sharing what you love. As was said many times now, to be or not to be! Humanity might be getting the idea, to pretend is not to be.


  5. if interacting and engaging with others on a screen has similar potential as it does in person,

    then maybe the circle of friends stays the same. it either happens or it doesn't or am i making this too equational?

    the people i read on facebook who i also see in person are very much the same whether on screen or on the street. the shyer ones don't post very often and the more outgoing ones inspire interesting threads or maybe my sample size is too small to draw a conclusion.


  6. Exactly. And speaking as a reader, if I come across a blog that should be subtitled "I'm desperate, buy my book", that is an instant turn off. Even if I'd been considering buying the book, I might decide against it on principle, because I don't like being treated as a walking credit card. An author needs to woo his potential readers, not bludgeon them. Or try to guilt trip them.

    Also, an author's blog is a place to showcase his writing and personality. It doesn't cost anything to read, so he can use it to say "You like what you read here; you might like my book, too."

    I like this post… do you mind if I cross-post it to my blog? If I can figure out how, that is.


  7. I like the way you use the vocabulary. Your writing is so understandable, even to people like me, that English is not our native language. In other words, I enjoy reading you. Bravo.


  8. Cristian, this is honest and useful…and I completely agree. Building relationships, then caring for them is the awesome way to go. I just glaze over when I see shameless book promoting links on Twitter. I'm sure I'm not the only one.


  9. I wholeheartedly agree! While my blog is in part to "get my name out there," it's also in the hope that I can build relationships with other bloggers and my audience. That, beyond anything else, is the most important to me.


  10. Truly spoken. I was managing the social media for an NGO for sometime and I often volunteer to give facebook training to NGOs; The one thing which I always insist on is promote your cause and not your organisation.

    Some NGO focus a lot on their own needs so they will be continuously posting about their requirement for NGOs; their requirement for donations etc (similar to people trying to sell stuff).

    I can pinpoint one great NGO facebook page in India currently and I feel so sad about that :(


  11. very true…i have seen people doing just this thing in social media…specially fan pages of famous actors etc whilemany people post their love for there actors there are some who promote their links even there…i myself feel it as yikes what is the relevence…wonder what others felt!


  12. Very true… thanks for this post! I'd never really thought about it that way. I think the principles apply to other things, thought, not merely books. I actually got some really good ideas for marketing my next music album as I was reading this!


  13. Pingback: Social Mania –

  14. This is a great post, Cristian! You're right! The quality of the content for the desired target audience and the level of engagement with that audience determines how successful a social media account can be. I love the last line of your post! I couldn't agree with you more! :)


  15. Really insightful and helpful. I love posts where someone has lucidly distilled all my ruminations in the last month, and mostly made me see what I've been thinking without realizing it. This is definitely one of those posts.


  16. Well said, Cristian! I think for some it's hard to draw that line between constant marketing/promo as an author and the human connection most seek out on social media. And ditto, I want my fans to feel a genuine connection to me first and then my work as an author.

    Thanks for your insight,

    ~A.M. Day


  17. Perfect timing. I am new to facebook and find it's purpose unclear and confusing so far. However, I have found that my blog has created an unusual and unsuspected bond with old and new friends, casual acquaintances and complete strangers. I have been surprised to discover that many of the above now consider me "a best friend." All along I thought I was writing to myself, to a blank screen in my room by myself. Communication brings surprises.


  18. An idea so simple, yet very eloquently put. I don't think much about social media regarding sales, but this was informative none-the-less for blogging in general. : ] Right from the beginning I couldn't help but think the words ring true about people not grasping how to effectively use social media, heh.


  19. Reblogged this on thehuntformrrightnow and commented:
    I am hoping to build a better fan base for The Hunt for Mr Right Now but I do keep in mind that this blog os primarily a tool for ME – for me to vent, share, laugh, despair etc. However, writing to an audience does help. It seems to work better in some ways than just journaling for myself. This post by Cristian Mihai piqued my interest.


  20. I love this post. It's really helpful, particularly as I feel like . . . I'm a writer, not a PR chick. I started my blog for the same reason as you–I just wanted to write something enjoyable. I'm also all about relationship. What I can't figure out is how to get more people to engage with ME. I always respond to my comments, I go visit the blogs of "like-ers," I ask questions for discussion in my posts quite often, and yet I get very few comments.

    The one thing that makes me think I am building some relationships regardless, is that some recent posts about some personal health issues have gotten more comments and reaction than most. But I don't want to turn my blog into a bad-health-rant. So . . . any other suggestions for blog-relationship building?


  21. Terrific post! Building relationships is so important and, I think, the most rewarding aspect of the process; although I'm not at all poo-pooing the financial rewards associated with building a brand/following…after all, we gotta pay the rent and cable bill too! :)


  22. Personally, I blog for the intrinsic value. I got chucked off Facebook (I think they didn't like my outspoken words on behalf of the environment, that and NEVER clicking on an advert). I tweet for laughs, for communication, to keep informed and to inform. I don't want to be an advert, I want to blend into the background on the internet, for a peaceful life. :o)


  23. Thanks for your excellent post – I am in the process of trying to decipher publishing, marketing, and social media for my book in progress, as well as improve my blog-relationship building; this all takes time, dedication, and most of all patience!


  24. I am new to the entire social media thing, but Interacting and knowing a bit about the author have made me buy books. I recently bought a book from a twitter friend he has been so nice and kind to me, he always responds to his twitter and blog.

    Have to mention the giveaways do help, it is kind of like going to the grocery store and they give you a free sample, then you are hook. I stared to follow you one month and 3 weeks ago so the word press says, got a free book actually two (second post with free books), will I buy a book from you yes. Reading the blog has made see a different perspective of you the writer and if I like one book I will read the author again. But, the bad thing with the readers there’s so much free things (novels, blogs, and short stories) in cyberspace that make the reader lazy, they go for the free stuff and do not purchase.


  25. I agree to all you have written here, especially that this is the era when people don't buy stuff from companies, they buy stuff from people. I hate FB pages that try to sell us then and there a service or a product. In my opinion the main purpose of a FB page or of a company account on Twitter/Google+ is to engage and to communicate with prospects and clients. Is it not a selling platform.

    And then it gets worse when you see that there's the same content on FB, Twitter and on the company's blog. So why should I follow all?

    I think every social media specialist/manager should read this post.


  26. I'm relatively new to blogging, and that brought a Twitter account and a Facebook page and Pinterest and Etsy and other interactive sites that take up a lot of time, especially as I'm a slow learner, but they all seem to be so necessary. Right????


  27. Cristian, when I started blogging back about 2005, it was as a result of attending the first Australian Crazy Quilters Convention in Canberra and it was suggested that as the members were spread out around Australia and New Zealand, blogging was a method of keeping in touch and sharing what needlework each of us was currently working on.

    I never anticipated attracting others to read my words, nor did I wish to sell anyhing……..but I thoroughly agree with your comments and commend you for sharing


  28. I think you should take all your blog posts sometime in the future and compile it into a book on writing. Once again, spot on in your observations about readers.


  29. Thank you for some great advices. I agree with you – social media is all about interaction. Just putting your message out there is not enough, the audience must be given the opportunity to also express their opinion. It's about internet democracy walking in different ways than it used to. All the newspapers online sites allows for posting comments on articles, the same with blogs. I think the internet generation today would lack interest very quickly if they weren't able to interact and leave their opinion. That's the difference between reading about things on the internet and reading about them in a paper magazine. :)


  30. Thank you! As a very recent arrival to the blogging world – who just got things up and running to start writing all the wry witticisms I've always wanted to write and see if anyone likes to read it – I found this post highly informative. Including on questions I didn't think I had!


  31. So very true. The biggest turnoff is when someone i enjoy reading shifts to the marketing thing… And all i get are marketing email. They lose me then. As you said, social media is socialising, not marketing. Don't think I would ever call marketing entertaining tho. Reading a blog as you gave posted is more likey to amke me explore more deeply as to what you do write. Theres the hook that gets me in :)


  32. Hi,

    I truly enjoyed this article because what you have written is so true, and many people are mistaken and are getting no where. They end up disappointed with Social Media. They don't realize that they are using the right place, Social Media, with the wrong methods.

    Great article.




  33. Thanks for this blog. As I was reading it I realized that the reason why several of my past blogs didn't connect at all was that I was trying to hard to "sell" something and not really engaging the audience. Now, with my blog about my dissertation process, I have to be sure to give the audience insights about writing a dissertation – – I can't just vent about my own process. I need to give the audience what I wish I could find: a step-be-step guide to writing a dissertation. And then maybe more actual dissertation writers would interact with me, because that's really what I want. I need feedback and conversation.
    I started a class on blogging and am going to forward this blog post to those students. It's a mustread. Thanks again.


  34. Pingback: Birds, Words, and The Book of Faces | Misadventures of a Would-Be Writer

  35. Love this post! I wish we told writers to go out into the brave new world of social media and "build relationships." Then, we could just drop the word "marketing" altogether. My favorite part of social media is meeting new people and building relationships with writers from across the world.


  36. Pingback: How Tom Hanks Helped Me With Social Media: | Misadventures of a Would-Be Writer

  37. Wow – I really needed to hear this! I'm an independent musician, and it's SO tempting to only use my Facebook and Twitter to post about shows and new songs. What are some ways you think musicians specifically can take advantage of social media tools to connect with and build their audience?


    • Well, I think you could try to add more info – news, stuff like that, whatever as long as it's not related to your own works, but somewhat still related to music. Also, it's nice to ask people questions, to ask for an opinion.

      You could always stalk other musicians and see what they're doing. Then maybe you can figure out some new, original ways of interacting with your audience.

      I believe imitation always comes before innovation.


  38. I do not have Facebook or Twitter. And I'm not trying to sell myself or anyone else – Perhaps I've got it all wrong. I still like being inspired to write short verse when ever I can. I do enjoy the social part. I enjoy the sharing part. If someone is entertained enough to come back for more of what I've written…then they will.

    For those brave and courageous enough to print and sell, all the best. One day…I might join you.


  39. As someone above mentioned, so many of these principles apply to more than just promoting a self-published book. With your permission, I would like to re-blog this on both my WordPress blog and on another blog I have ( I'll wait for a reply before doing so. Thank you Cristian.


  40. "It’s something that can’t be replicated. People read your stuff and they feel connected to you. They get a chance to see into your brain. That’s magic."

    Great post! It made me think…I am a new blogger, not knowing many things, but I'm slowly learning. Wish I'd had more time to put more of myself into it. Love your style of writing!


  41. This is true, I have bought lots of books and art partially because I have had some kind of a relationship with the person. I would never buy something I am not interested in or didn't like, but the personal touch made the difference between that one and all of the possible similar ones out there.


  42. I'm fairly new to blogging, but I have noticed that the blogs I stick around for aren't the ones who are blah blah blah about their new book or video tutorial to buy.

    My theory is also to build relationships, it's fun and it's rewarding.

    Thanks for validating what's in my heart. ;-)


  43. Your sentiments are my sentiments. I went to a poetry reading and a poet kept saying, "Here's my book. It's for sale. I brought plenty of copies." If you're reading your book from the podium and flashing it in the audience's faces, then we know it's for sale.


  44. Pingback: Building My Brand « An Elegant Disaster

  45. Pingback: Social Media « Lawrence Merithew

  46. You have a great point. I started my blog to build my platform, but it's not all about selling people on my work. My goal in building a platform is to share my work with others. You see, my work doesn't get read much. I let friends and family read it, but other than them fiction editors are the only people who read it. I've been craving more feedback on my writing, however that is also hard to get as publishing companies often don't want to publish work that has been blogged as it's already been read on the internet. Basically the writer who wants to blog or post their work on the internet has to work twice as hard and churn out twice as much work so they'll have something to sell and something to share.


  47. Great and informative post here! I agree with you. I blog about things that I am passionate about and if you are enthusiastic and creative in your posts whether that be about travel, writing, art or photography others will take note and check you out! Keep writing and blogging!


  48. Pingback: Social Media (Cristian Mihai) « EJ Clarke

  49. Pingback: Social Media:An article re-blogged from Christian Mihai | LAGOS BOOKS CLUB / EDUPEDIAWEB:NIGERIA'S 1ST ON-LINE REMEDIAL COLLEGE!!!..

  50. I'm so glad that I read this!!!! I'm new to blogging and Twitter. I've been on Facebook for awhile so my computer illiterate mind feels more comfortable with that and is kind of panicked about branching out. But I only went on Twitter to promote my blog and its not working. I think I might spend some time trying to use Twitter bearing in mind that I need to focus on the "social" part of "social media". Thanks for posting this!!!!


  51. After reading this, it really opened my eyes to what Im doing wrong, Im not the best blogger, actually Im probably one of the worst, but I got into blogging through college and my initial plan was to just rant about crap that was only important to me or make it a place to post my poetry. It wasnt until Is started posting my poetry that anybody really started to follow me, but Im still in that same place, where I find it incredibly hard to gain followers. I just released my first peice of self published work, its just a short story, but the first installment of a series Im working on.Ive really have gotten discouraged because Im finding it so difficult to get like on the Facebook page I set up for it, and I havent been able to draw any attention to it here at wordpress.

    I was wondering, should I just start a whole new blog since the one I have is sort of unorganized and not really focused on anything? Or is there still hope, and keep the one I have but just change things about it?


  52. This is so true! I see so many job postings about social media, and people don't know what they're getting into.. If you want to build an audience, you have to be a real person instead of just advertising.


  53. I think social media can be both a scary and huge space for someone who is relatively new at it, hasn't been around it much, or who has never really been told what it is all about. Here you are, thrown to what could be a potential audience of gajillions, and now you need to be interesting, entertaining, informative, and different than the rest. Holy crap. Scary thought if you are the type to dwell.

    I like your viewpoint of just, basically, doing what you know. Talk about what you love. Be real. Be passionate. The problems arise when you try to be that gregarious stand-up comedian that you think just may be lurking deep within you if you coax it out enough with the promise of liquor and cookies, when really you are a die-hard gaming nerd who is in love with the latest expansion of WoW.

    Know thyself. And then tell everyone else about you. Because somewhere out there, there are others who share your passions, and, ultimately, you'll feel better about what you have submitted to the ever-present interweb.


  54. All that being said – great post, by the way – do you think people comment on blogs because they have to tell you they liked your post or because they too are looking for power, influence and readers for their blogs? Building relationships is exactly the purpose of social media as in your example but also in every other B2C relationship, its cheaper to keep customers than to find new ones. Taking the time to interact with your customers – to their satisfaction builds your brand.

    But I always wondered when a successful blogger drops a post, and 400 people like it and comment with, "great post", if they feel part of a network, like yours, or they are hoping to begin a relationship?

    Who knows. Possibly you have some thoughts???


    • I think it depends. I get a lot of comments, and quite a few don't agree with what I have to say in my posts. So they aren't commenting just for the sake of it. But I suppose that somehow you're right… commenting on other blogs is a good way to drive traffic to yours.


      • Thanks for the reply, Cristian. I didn't think about those negative comments when I commented, you are absolutely correct and now that I give it more thought, I think the negative posters do so either to set the record straight or to cause a controversy and stand out from the rest of the folks who comment.

        I think deep down inside, there is a definite strategy to posting comments but no one has told me the rules yet so I just don't know. :)

        But from today on, I will engage my commenters on all the forms of social media I am on in hopes of building that loyal base.

        Thank you again for the great post and for taking time to reply to my comment. I wish you continued success.


  55. Pingback: Shameless Self-Promotion Is a Good Thing! « The Daily Hottentots

  56. I agree. I just purchased a book on blogging (my first) by Cynthia Lamb. What I love about your posts, Cristian is that you have vocalized our concerns for us. You encourage us to be us while admonishing us not to be egotists. That's a fine line. Care about others while putting yourself out there. That is the stuff self-confidence is made of. I love this line. "A hundred true fans are better than a million strangers." I am growing quite close to some of my blogging friends, and I'm at the 6 month mile marker. Thanks C.


  57. Thank you for writing this, Cristian. I have had a blog for a year regarding raising children with autism. Part of the purpose for my writing is to give meaning to our efforts to raise our own kids to independence. The other purpose is to encourage parents of younger children with autism. (My kids are young adults, graduated from college and finding their way). My blogging community is made up mostly of those within the autism community. I don't have a lot of followers yet, but your last line about 100 true fans is very encouraging. Maybe I will publish a book, and maybe I won't, but I think I am meeting my goals for now.


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