Learning How to Use Social Media Effectively

Does marketing via social media outlets really help sell more books? Writers are spending time on Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other internet sites with the hope of marketing their books. The question we all keep asking is this: Is the time cost-effective?

Recently Agent, Chip MacGregor had a guest post by Rob Eager, President of Wildfire Marketing. Eager had some interesting thoughts about whether social media really helps sell more books. He gave the impression that social media won’t help us more than traditional marketing efforts, and he had an example of an author who hadn’t sold significantly more books as a result of his blog.

In fact Eager even went as far as to say: “If online activity doesn’t create a lot of book sales or some form of significant revenue, then it’s time to re-focus on other marketing priorities . . . I am not against social networks. Rather, don’t make them a prime area of marketing concentration. Social networks may help raise awareness, but if that awareness doesn’t create direct book sales then it shouldn’t be a top priority.”

In light of statistics that show greater percentages of the population are using social media (read this previous post for fascinating statistics), I found Eager’s views puzzling. The more I pondered his words, however, I came to the conclusion that any medium of marketing whether traditional or online needs to be done with savvy and intentionality or it won’t be effective.

The fact is that writers can have dismal sales as a result of traditional marketing too. We’ve all heard the horror stories of book signings where no one shows up, or radio interviews that make an author look like a bumbling amateur.

Traditional or online—the key is learning to be a smart marketer.

I disagree with Eager when he says we shouldn’t make online media our prime area of marketing concentration. I don’t claim to be a marketing expert—far from it. But if the large majority of the population is hanging out online, I’m guessing online marketing will become the primary way we reach our audiences. If so, rather than giving up or downplaying social media, we need to learn how to use our sites better, so they will create more book sales.

How can we use social media more effectively? Here are just a few things I’ve learned. Be ready to chime in with your ideas.

1. Don’t forget the “social” in social media. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: It’s not about US. Cyberland is not the place to continuously brag about our awesome accomplishments and our five-star book reviews. Rather, it’s a place to build relationships, chat with people, give to others, and connect in real ways. And as we all know, building relationships takes work . . .

2. Give it time. Don’t expect to make it work overnight. I’ve spent the last year and a half building strong followings. Those friendships often lead to more. But the reality is that it won’t happen all at once or without effort, which leads to the next point . . .

3. Be aggressive. Don’t be passive. We have to make the effort. We can’t sit back and wait for people to “talk” to us. We have to step out of our comfort zone, visit new blogs, and chat with new people on Twitter or Facebook. If we’re generous with our followings, we’ll find more people following us back. And that leads to the next point . . .

4. Reach out. Don’t be cliquish. I see authors, especially on Twitter who never socialize outside a certain circle of friends. They only chat with their best friends and they never move beyond the same 350 followers they’ve had for two years. It’s no wonder social media isn’t helping them sell more books. Sure, we’ll have those we’re closer to. But if we want to be effective, we have to broaden our base, have an ever-widening circle, and be open to new friendships.

5. Don’t make it all about sales. The cost-effectiveness of social media can’t be measured only in terms of book sales. As I’ve worked hard to broaden my web presence, I’ve reaped many other benefits: growth as a professional, knowledge of the industry, interview requests, connections that will help in promotion, etc. The direct sales benefits might not be easily calculated, especially in the short term. But down the road, hopefully the effort will pay off.

If you have time, and you haven't seen this funny video (thanks Rebecca!), it just goes to show that traditional methods of marketing can be utterly ineffective too. It's not necessarily what we do, but how.

What about you? Have you seen authors who aren’t making the most of social media? What should they be doing differently? What other ideas do you have for how any of us can use social media more effectively?


  1. I totally agree with you in that it's how we do it.
    To use it effectively, I think writers need to build relationship and pique interest. If they do those two things, it might at least help get people to look at a first chap online. If someone likes that, there's the chance they'll buy it, I think.
    But I also think writers shouldn't confuse generating interest with talking about the story, interview etc.
    I don't know, it's an interesting thing.
    Good post!

  2. Wellll, I think you are doing an awesome job with social networking. My thought is, you can reach more people from your home, various age groups and it (social networking) is the most populuar way to socialize these das- so why not use it. I can see how it can take too much time away from writing also.

  3. Great post, Jody. I think social networking is about building relationships. Slow and steady. Don't start too late, but don't sacrifice vital writing time if you don't have a book coming out.

  4. Jody, I fully agree with you. Marketing is marketing, in any form. I think it's safe to say writers are readers. When we hear about a great book, we get excited and we spread the word. Word of mouth is THE power tool of a book's success. Your points about being active, deliberate, and social are critical. As always, such an informative post! May we link you for Friday over at our blog? Thanks so much!


  5. Read that article. Read this. So much to sift and discern out there. I'm learning a lot about marketing my writing right now. Fascinating process.
    ~ Wendy

  6. I agree with Paul above! I will add that social networking is about having conversations with people online. You can't use Twitter or Facebook effectively if you don't reach to those who reach out to you. I know some who get on Twitter, post something and then, get off, never responding to the people who reply to them. In order to build relationships, we cannot allow potential readers to have one-sided conversations with us. We have to engage. I agree with Paul, though, for those who aren't published yet, don't forget to keep your priorities in line.

  7. In my opinion, the best marketing efforts I have seen from authors (published as well as unpublished) so far are those that do not have "MARKETING" all over them. Writers who talk about their lives, who share what they have learned, who give advice - if I get the (most likely wrong) impression that I know them on a personal level, I am more likely to buy their books as soon as they come out instead of waiting till they are cheaper. I am also more likely to act like a fan girl.

    (If it works with rock stars, why shouldn't it work with authors?)

  8. I love your #1 and #4 most. It needs to be about relationships as well. I have been very limited about accepting friends on Facebook only because someone wants to add to their numbers. If I add them and they don't even say a word, then I usually drop them down the line. Not so much on Twitter but I don't want it to be all about how high my count goes.

  9. LOL. I love that video. I'm afraid that'll be me, too. I admit, I'm not as attentive to my blogging and twitter as I should be, but I've met some great writer friends. Until I actually find representation, however, I concentrate more on my writing.

  10. Jody, this is an excellent post. It is wise to question what the marketing person says about social networking because a marketing person makes their money from doing the other marketing things like advertising and public relations. Social media is free. That being said, hiring professionals to help promote yourself is a good thing to do if you can afford it, because they are experts at what they do. I was one for 30+ years. That doesn't mean I am effective at doing it for myself, however. Sigh!

  11. HA! That was a funny video.
    I enjoyed the post, once again, Jody.
    I see how I've been tooting my own horn so to speak on my own blog.
    I see now I need to make it more...professional.
    Thanks for the advice!

  12. Good post. Need to brush up on my marketing skills, whether it is online or otherwise. Have a great week! :)

  13. Great tips--I especially agree with #5. If it's all about sell, sell, sell, it turns people off. I know people who are agressive promoters/marketers who use the blatant, buy-my-book focus on every post, tweet and comment--it doesn't win friends or influence people.

    Social marketing and media is about giving and receiving.

    Great post!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  14. My debut novel comes out in September, and I have built a solid Twitter/Facebook following over the past few months. I still find it challenging to truly engage these social networks. Remember that old adage, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Sometimes that's how I feel about my tweets and blog posts. But I do think in the long run these relationships will prove invaluable.

  15. I started to Twitter so that I could develop a marketing base (or whatever the term is). I don't know about that yet... But I DO know getting ON Twitter, I have spent more money on books than I would have had I NOT been on Twitter! I like feeling "connected" with the authors of the books I read. Then, if they let me into their personal life (what can I say, I am a voyeur...), I am more willing to put out cash. Seriously. One author, whose books are really pretty good, has lost my interest because she maintains a professional distance from others in social media. I understand this, certainly, but I don't *like* it! When Bart Millard posted pictures on Twitter of his son, Charlie, when he was sick, I knew I needed to buy Mercy Me's newest CD, even though I had been disappointed by previous Mercy Me CDs. (I LOVE Mr. Lovewell, btw...the best from MM yet!) So, as someone out there spending money, I know what works to get me to is definitely, as you mention, the SOCIAL part of social media.

  16. I like Wendy's comments about what's right for you. I'm not a big fan of twitter or facebook, but I love the blog world, but like she said that may change.

  17. Great post as usual Jody! You get what you give!!!! I was actually thinking about your blog last night and wondering what yummy topic you would post about. You are really making an impact!

  18. I completely agree with you on this post. And with the comments that point out the "social" part of social media. It definitely is about interacting. That's the way authors become a "brand," a whole person that readers feel loyalty to, rather than just a book someone read sometime. It's certainly a more long-term approach, but an important one.

  19. Marketing is such an intimidating concept, but I do like the point that we have to focus on whatever we're best at, whether it's online or traditional methods.

    Thanks for the great post! :-)

  20. This is a good post. I must admit that I have bought books from authors I follow through their blogs and twitter. Social networks may not work for everyone, but they do work if you are willing to work.

  21. For me, creating the blog and the twitter accounts have allowed me to LEARN so much. Plus, it's been so nice to speak the same language with other writers (instead of boring my poor husband to tears).

    I do have to be careful of the amount of time I spend social networking, as opposed to actually writing. Which is why I'm shutting down after this comment!

    Thanks for your wise post.

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  23. A great post Jody. Social networking is not just about book sales, its about building relationships. There is so much to learn from other writers: from writing to marketing, from blogging to editing.Everyone has something to teach.

    Was just wondering what would be the topic of the day. Just love your posts, you share knowledge and information so generously.

  24. Great posts, great reminders! Thanks Jody!

  25. The biggest stumbling block of social media for most writers I know is that the concept of self-promotion is counter-intuitive to their introvert personality. This is not always the case, just my observation. If you can find someone who believes in your work and seems to use social media effectively, don't be afraid to ask for help.

  26. Great post! And I agree 100%!!! No one wants to follow the person who just brags all the time and does nothing else. We're all here to help each other...IMHO! I try to keep my blog as honest and real as possible. I'm not giving great bullet points of writing advice, but I hope that my journey is helping people learn about the publishing industry!

  27. Never go to a bar to pick up women, and never go to a social networking site to sell your product.

    Instead, go to the bar to drink and have fun. Women may or may not happen, but at least you had fun.

    Likewise, step into a social network to enjoy yourself, find friends, explore common interests, and maybe enhance your writing skills via public floggings. Book sales may or may not come, but at least you had fun.

    Great post.

    - Eric

  28. I think it depends on the case. I've heard people account for where twitter had a direct relations to sales. I also think twitter is more about branding and relationship. And your books support who you are.

    But, I agree that writing a great book is what counts. And then writing the next great one.

  29. For me, my online presence and social networking portals have complimented the grass roots work I have been doing to promote and market my novel. Each Monday and Friday, I ensconce myself in my downstairs office with my pre-WW1 bakelite telephone (yes - the one that looks like Carrie's) and I work the dialer, calling book stores, talking to the managers, talking to libraries, to book groups, to everyone I can think of. Where people desire more information on an instantaneous basis, I direct them to my portals which I have structured to give as much relevant information as I can.

    Key word - complimentary. And it has worked.

  30. I can finally post comments! Woo-hoo!

    Great post.

    I think as far as utitlizing social really just depends on what our personal goals are. Not everybody is on Twitter or Facebook to network. Sometimes it is just about socializing with people you already know. Not to say you can't make more friends. Of course, that's always great! To decide if we're being wise with it is hard to determine without knowing our individual purposes.

    Thanks for sharing the wisdom Jody!

  31. Jody-
    Great point about intentionality in your marketing efforts.

    Based on my experience in a marketing agency, I just want to point out that there is a danger in relying too much on any one media channel. I see this a lot with our clients who want to pour their entire budget into one type of media.

    Despite impressive numbers of online users, there are still more out there who have yet to touch the web world we run in daily.

    The best marketing campaigns I see are integrated-using traditional media as well as utilizing online channels. Over time, this may change, but for now I would say be open to everything. :)

  32. A great post, for sure, Jody. One thing in particular you mentioned had me laughing and shaking my head in agreement. One of my followers (and I follow her back) really only talks to a select few on a regular basis. I don't really understand that, as I try to reach out to as many folks as I can. I know I like it when someone replies to my tweets. (makes me all giggly) So I try to do the same. It really is about building relationships. Slow and steady wins the race. Personally, I think Twitter is WAY more effective than Facebook. To me, Facebook is a bit like Myspace when it comes to really networking. The true networking is done on Twitter. (I think)


  33. The was a great video. Lots of stuff to think about in this post.

  34. I agree with you - social network marketing is important and productive if done with intentionality.

    You are a great example of that!

  35. Great post, and I agree. YOu have to give it time. And really, I think you have to be in it for more than just the sales of your book aspect. People are very quick to pick up if you are interesting in them or just in selling them something.

    Thanks for your comments on my blog.

  36. There's something to be said for a "don't put all your eggs in the same basket" admonition. I also wonder if the success or failure of any one marketing method depends a lot on the personality of the author and the genre involved. I agree that we need to move out of our comfort zone, but I suspect we'll be more effective marketers using those methods that take advantage of our enthusiasm. Another idea might be to get help from friends and others who are more comfortable with other methods will give our efforts a boost.

  37. Love the video!

    And thanks for the tips. Since my books only sell online, online marketing is very important to me, ergo I'm glad you don't think it's a total waste of time.

  38. Excellent post, as usual, Jody.

    Love that video--what a hoot! His facial expressions alone are worth the time to view it.

    I'm using social media as much as possible, and trying to build relationships. People is what Jesus is all about, after all.

    I become very annoyed at authors who post on Facebook every two minutes. I perceive that as self-serving marketing, where they holler, "Look at me! Notice me! I am funny, clever, witty, and wise." I'm not attracted by that type of overkill. I am attracted by genuineness and approachability. Both of which you exhibit most graciously, Jody.

    You bless us.

  39. You are TOTALLY right when you say "social" in social media. When I feel like I know the author - I buy their books... even if they stink. Just because I KNOW them and I want to SUPPORT them and they're just neato. :)
    ... um ... I wasn't implying that your writing "stinks" btw.
    *open mouth, insert foot, but leave comment anyway becuase it's sort of funny and Jaime thinks Jody will get the humor*

  40. LOL that video is hilarious! And so sad. There are no guarantees, least of all in this business. And there's no accounting for popularity sometimes - there's a wild X factor in publishing that can be daunting.

    I do there there's a danger spending too much time on social marketing, but there is a balance. You have to leave time to write! But writing in a vacuum is the way of the past, where writers toiled in isolation and often gave up because they had no sense of their audience, the market or the real world of book selling.

    Just my 2 cents! :)

  41. Hi Jody,
    I've been reading your site for awhile, but I think I've just been lurking until now.
    Great info. I also read the post by Rob Eager and was puzzled at some of what he said. Your thoughts helped me realize I wasn't alone.
    So, I'll continue to write and rewrite my memoir and doing the social media thing as smart as I can, using your suggestions.

  42. I agree that we shouldn't be cliquish, but it's so hard to maintain such a broad network of friends! I meet more people online every day, and then I don't have as much time to chat with old friends (such as you, the FIRST PERSON to follow my blog, for which I will always be grateful)...

    Sigh. I need more time in the day.

  43. Great post. I couldn't agree more with every one of the tips you've mentioned. I've concentrated my marketing online, and I've never regretted it. I've had to put in a lot of hours and a lot of creativity and passion, but it's been worth it, without a doubt.

  44. I agree that it's in the heart and soul of your intent!! And that's a hard thing to quantify!

    So cool to be back at your blog!!!


  45. Hi Jody -

    I agree that Social Marketing is important. The bottom line for me is building relationships. I might not be able to have a close friendship with each person, but I can show them in some way that I care.

    Several authors I know are virtually invisible because they don't have an online presence. Their books don't get reviewed or bought because no one knows who they are or what they write.

    When I encourage someone to become a Follower through a giveaway, I'm trying to draw them into a supportive community. What value will they experience if they don't connect?

    Susan :)

  46. Jody, great post as always. I think the important thing to remember with social media is that it's only effective if you're offering something of value to an audience that wants it. Selling a book is like any other business venture -- you need to have a plan: Consider your target market, budget your time, know your competition, and set goals. I'd say this is true for both fiction and nonfiction authors. Have a plan!

  47. There's definitely a lot to be said about how we do it. And our purpose. It's important to remember these things!

  48. Social media's like a lot of other things in life -- you get out of it what you put into it. I think people who spend time in the cyber realm can pretty much sniff out a used car salesman type from a genuine person. :)

  49. I think to get social media right you have to get its etiquette right. And you have to be active...very active. But this doesn't mean spending hours and hours on it when you could be writing. It just means careful scheduling.

  50. YES YES YES. I completely agree with your tips, and in fact, I'll be sharing this post as it's good info not just for authors but for anyone who is using social media to promote, well, pretty much anything. Brava!


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