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?

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