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.
FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
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.