I am a huge fan of Twitter and an increasing fan of Google+. But I use it more for the business of The Creative Penn and less for my fiction. I also know that there are always issues with time pressure and authors must choose methods of marketing that work for them. Today, J. Steve Miller explains why he's given up trying to attract social media followers, and concentrates on other ways of promoting his book.
I’m an author who blogs casually – whenever I happen to feel like it. My Alexa ranking stinks, and I like it that way. I seldom tweet. I use Facebook to keep up with my real friends. Yet, I’m self-published and very pleased with my steadily increasing book sales.
I’ve studied and tried the “build a massive following” approach, which works great for some people; but don’t believe it’s the best approach for me, and perhaps most other authors as well. I actually use social media a lot, just not in the way many publishers and literary agents expect authors to use it.
Problems with Building a Social Media Following
First, building a following consumes lots of time.
Social media guru Chris Brogan recommends a minimum of two hours a day. Think of J.R.R. Tolkien, who taught full time and hung out with his family after work, writing books after his children went to bed. Had he spent those two hours blogging and Tweeting, we may have never read The Lord of the Rings.
Second, there’s no proof that building a large following can work for every author.
Granted, it works for some authors, but that’s not the proof we need. Compare social media to the California gold rush. Had I lived in New England in 1849 and read regular newspaper reports of people striking it rich, I’d need better evidence to warrant selling the farm and moving west. I’d want to know, “out of the last thousand people who made the move, what percentage struck it rich?” If eight out of ten, I might move. If one out of 1,000, I’d keep the farm. But that’s precisely the statistical information we lack concerning authors trying to build social media followings.
Third, when I studied low profile authors who sold a lot of books, I found very few taking this approach.
When authors reported on book marketing forums, “Twitter works for me,” I’d ask, “How many books are you selling as a result?” Typically, they sheepishly replied “a few” or clarified that they were defining “success” in terms of how many people they drew to their blogs through Twitter.
How I Use Social Media
Some good studies have been done that relate to the effective use of social media. Drawing on about ten of them, I crafted some principles that guide me.
Principle #1 – “Let others praise you, rather than praise yourself.”
This principle is at least as old as King Solomon, who advised, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” It also flows from Gallup’s study of over 17,000 social media users which found that people don’t typically buy products as a result of companies pushing their own products through social media. People doubt our objectivity concerning our own products.
Razorfish found 61 percent of responders relying on user reviews, compared with 15 percent relying on editorial reviews. Unfortunately, trying to sell my books to my Facebook and blog followings is much like editorial reviews – it’s me pushing my own products.
Knowing the power of user reviews, I use social media extensively to give away free copies of my books for early input and early reviews. For Sell More Books!, I offered members of the popular Yahoo Self Publishing listserv a free digital copy for early input as I was still editing. After publication, I emailed those early readers a big thank you, and offered them a free paper copy, requesting an Amazon review if they felt compelled. Social networking allows me to find my niche audiences and get plenty of reviews, as well as allowing them to spread the word on their social networks.
Principle #2 – “Go where people already gather, rather than gather a crowd around yourself.”
According to Shiv Singh, social media guru for PepsiCo,
“The holy grail of social influence marketing is increasingly considered the ability to identify which referent influencers are the most powerful and have the highest impact on brand affinity and purchasing decisions. After you’ve identified them, the next question is, how does a marketer reach these referent influencers that surround their customers?”
Applying this principle to marketing my personal finance book, Enjoy Your Money!, I found the top 200 personal finance blogs and offered free copies to the bloggers for their review. Almost one in four asked for a copy. Eighteen came through with a review and/or giveaway. It was both cost and time effective. My sales tripled and I didn’t have to keep posting several times a week on my blog. Instead, I went into seclusion to write my next book.
Principle #3 – “Address the interested, rather than interrupt the disinterested.”
39% of people surveyed unfriend people on Facebook who try to sell them something. Even if you limit your sales pitches to one of fifty comments, many question your motives for keeping in touch once you start mentioning your books. Rather, I visit forums, blogs and listservs where people are looking for information on the topics I write about. I link to my books in my signature.
Principle #4 – “Consider your strengths and passions, rather than assuming you can replicate any marketing scheme.”
A Gallup study of over two million people concluded that people need to concentrate on their strengths. If your strengths and passions incline you to blogging, Facebook and Twitter, you may do well building a following there. But if it’s a chore that you endure solely to sell your books, don’t be surprised if you make little impact. There are hundreds of ways to market your books. Choose methods that fit your unique passions and strengths.
My approach goes against the flow, and a brief post doesn’t give the subject justice, so feel free to agree or disagree below in the comments and I’ll interact. Thanks, Joanna, for letting me share!
J. Steve Miller writes a wide range of books on topics ranging from personal finance to philosophy of religion to writing and publishing. Social Media Frenzy expands on the topic of this post. Sell More Books! helps low profile and debut authors narrow down which marketing methods might work best with their unique strengths and books. Publish a Book! helps authors decide on the best self-publishing company. Over 1500 people a day visit his website for teacher resources on life skills and character education. He loves hanging out with his family, giving talks, caring for his 106-year-old granny, and doing weird stuff like spelunking. Connect with him at www.enjoyyourwriting.com .