The Value of Social Media

The numbers surrounding social media are undeniable: roughly 1.23 billion monthly active users on Facebook and 231.7 million on Twitter share infinite bits of information every day. Those are just two platforms. There are many more starting every day. So why not get those users interested in your book. Should be easy, right? Well, yes and no. But there’s no doubt that using social media properly can greatly enhance your exposure as an author.


While your publishing may get you started on the road to marketing success it’s really up to you, the author, to kick your marketing program in and make it work for you. The level of additional free advertising is up to you and how you choose to utilize social media. Whether you’ve perfected speaking in 160 characters or less or you’ve never ventured into the modern day forums, here are some tips to get you started and keep you going…


Choose the Right Platforms


By now there’s a platform for just about everything — art, photography, scrapbooking, reunions, music, games and so on. But don’t get overwhelmed. The first tricks you’ll want to master are knowing your audience and networking accordingly.  While Facebook and Twitter are great staples and may offer the largest general audiences, you could easily get lost in the constant flow of prolific unorganized content.


Consider Pinterest for a highly visual presence. You can use the cover, create an image of a quote or take a photo of a display. Include a brief description and link to your book, and tag your pin with associating search words. Pin other books and quotes that interest you. Your material will circulate quickly among people with similar interests.


Use LinkedIn to network with other authors. Try Tumblr if you want to avoid character limits but don’t want to maintain a full-length blog. If you’re really ambitious, you could stage promotional videos through YouTube.


Keep in mind, too, that though all social media sites host wide ranges of individuals, demographic trends are constantly evolving. Generally speaking, the end of 2013 showed most Facebook users are 18-34. Teenagers make up most of the Twitterverse, though recent trends show an influx of 55-64 year-olds. Women dominate Pinterest and men tend to gravitate towards LinkedIN.


You don’t have to have an account on every single site. Figure out what works best for you and cater to the people you find there.


Make it Easy


There are few quicker ways to lose interest than creating unnecessary steps for your readers, especially as popular access continues to shift from traditional web browsing to mobile formats. You have limited time and space to capture their attention; don’t make them search a seller’s site or leave them to the mercy of Google. Instead, guide them directly to what you want them to see, no matter which platforms you use.


That said, link EVERYWHERE. Always have a link with social media posts and profiles, but also include the link on your website or blog, in your email signature, on your business cards. Everywhere.


Keep a Book Club in Your Pocket


Reading apps offer great supplementary tools to your presence online. If you’re looking for a social media catchall catered to your writing endeavors (or even if you aren’t), create a Goodreads account. More than 20 million users rate and review books, share lists of recommendations and receive suggested reading based on what they’ve already read. With an online interface and a mobile app, users can easily check in anywhere. And, as is social media gospel, it provides the option of sharing anything from Goodreads directly to your other profiles.


BookCrawler digitizes your entire library with the use of a built-in barcode scanner. It similarly enables you to share your thoughts instantly and endlessly converse with other fans and critics. You can even meet up with people you know in your community if you’d prefer an old-fashioned group discussion.


Just browse your iTunes App Store or Android Marketplace to find other book-friendly apps to boost your readership.


Create Some Hype


Some experts will tell you that the best time to promote yourself is either when people are in the middle of your book or immediately after they finish — the mindset being they’ll help create excitement around your writing while they’re excited about it themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re on your second or third or fourth book and they already know who you are. There’s also merit, however, in creating a buzz beforehand. Share a teaser or two. Reveal a small part of the cover art. Come up with a few hashtags — words or brief phrases preceded by the pound sign (#) that trace how often your topic is mentioned or discussed.


Don’t Spam


As we alluded to before, social media yields a lot of noise. You’re competing — constantly — with celebrity gossip, sports teams, news stories, recipes, endearing animals, fashion trends, weather events, TV ads, products, workout routines, vacation giveaways — you name it. The key is finding the balance between standing out and making the noise louder. You’ve partially taken care of that concern, as you’re on the sites you’re most comfortable with and that are most appropriate for your target readers. But what else can you do?


One answer is don’t post too much or too little. Too often and you’re regarded as spam. Too little and you’re forgotten. Balance. Studies have shown it’s better to post on Facebook and LinkedIN during the week just before and after typical work hours, while Twitter and Pinterest get the most attention on weekend afternoons. You’ll probably have to finagle your timing to best suit your needs, but if you’re not sure when to start, try following those trends first.  


Additionally — and it may seem counter-intuitive when trying to promote your own work — post about other things too. For every post you make about yourself, try to share three others from different sources.  After all, folks are finding you because they’re interested in your work, style and ideas; your topics might usually revolve around reading and writing, publishing or brainstorming. As long as you make it relevant, you’ll never run out of topics. And don’t worry. For the times you can’t resist posting something that’s a bit of a stretch — maybe a worthy cause or unlikely inspiration, a great app you’ve discovered or that irresistible kitten in a toboggan — you’ll share a bit of your personality and maybe even connect with more people you might not have otherwise. Balance.


When promoting yourself, do so in a variety of ways. Host a contest. Play character trivia. Have a giveaway. Offer a discount. Include a visual whenever possible.


Keep the Conversation Open


The whole point of social media is interaction. Think about it: if you only wanted people to hear you, you could host a podcast. Reach out to your fans and followers. Acknowledge their comments and answer their inquiries. Engage them. The more you give people to talk about, the more they’re going to talk. You’ll also become a human being rather than another promotional page; you’ll gain a caring and relatable reputation. Seek their opinions, not just about your work, but what they think of different genres, magazine articles, and industry trends. (These make for good “other” posts as well!)


Prioritize Your Time


“But,” you may be thinking, “I can’t just sit and chat all day. I have writing to do!” And you’re correct. Building a fan base takes time. (Just think of how your predecessors did it with little more than a typewriter and word of mouth.) If you find yourself having trouble managing your time, start with a basic schedule. Devote a set amount of time to social media each day. Then log out and get on with your life. The Internet will still be there tomorrow.

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