Social networks have to be a part of the arsenal of any writer who wants to get the word out today. But social networking can be confusing, daunting, and overwhelming. And if you do it wrong, you could end up frustrated because you’re not getting the attention, interaction, or sales you want. It’s important to learn the culture of each network so you can participate successfully. But once you’ve figured out how to use your chosen network, you need to have some ideas for what to post and how to market your work.
Before discussing what to post and how to market your work, let’s get your thinking straight. One of the biggest misconceptions many authors and writers have about popular social networks is that they should hop onto these sites and simply start selling. You can use these social networks to get sales, but it’s wrong thinking to go in with the sole desire of peppering your networks with your sales message and buy links. That’s a sure recipe for being ignored. The social side of these networks is largely that. It’s social. Readers go to be entertained, have fun, and talk with others. They aren’t going in to be sold to. Now, in the course of being entertained and having fun, they may decide to buy from you. That means you must seek first to be entertaining and informative, then sell. Rather than seek first to sell.
So you can’t run to your social network, throw up a profile, and bombard your readers with buy links. That doesn’t work. Be a part of the conversation and leave your annoying buy links at home. Sure, it’s OK to post the occasional buy this link, but make that the exception, not the rule. The way you sell using social networks is by sharing interesting information about your work. Build a relationship. If you just want to rush in and scream buy, then you need to place an ad.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way …
Use social networks to build your brand, authority, and for engagement
1. Tweet your news. Create Facebook statuses, Tweets, and Google Plus posts about your work. Don’t just say “buy my this” or “purchase my that.” Instead, post news about the work. If you get a good book review, post news about it. Or if you have an interview or speaking engagement, announce it to your networks. The point here is to share interesting information about your work. You want to build your brand by increasing awareness of you and your work.
2. Post interesting content. It’s not necessary to post only information about you or your book or work. Post what is interesting to you or would be interesting to your readers. This can include content from your blog or book as well as content from other sources. Mix it up. Choose from a variety of sources. Be a resource for others. It’s not just about you. It’s about what you can offer or give to others.
3. Tweet your journey. If you are an author working toward the publication of your book, tweet updates about the journey. For instance, when you sit down to write, tweet that you are writing. If you are working on a character sketch and having a tough time, tweet that. Tweet that you are really excited about your forthcoming book because of X reason. Tweet that you just approved the cover design of the soon-to-be-released book (or if you are being published by a traditional house and aren’t actually the one who approves the cover, tweet that you’ve just seen the new cover and are so excited). The point is to take your reader on the journey with you. Let your reader get invested in you and your book and your reader will be more likely to support that project.
4. Be real. Readers don’t just want to get to know a book. They want to know an author. So make yourself real to them. Share your ups and downs related to your work.You don’t want to have a constant stream of posts in which you are crying, but if you run into a rough spot in your work, it may be OK to share that. That may inspire others going through similar things and it may make your readers feel closer to you. Share a few “real person” posts — something about your child, your pet, your travels, etc. Let your readers, followers, and friends get a glimpse of who you are. Being real doesn’t mean you have to post every single thought that pops into your pretty little head, though.
5. Ask questions. Engage your readers with questions. Take a poll. Conduct a survey. Or just ask a question of the day or week. Make it relevant to your industry or topic or tie your industry to the news of the day in an interesting way. If you ask questions or try to engage readers in some way, don’t just hop on the network, post your question, then hop off. Hang around to see if you get replies and if so, respond appropriately. Create conversations. This is engagement.
6. Use a link shortener. This can let you reduce the number of characters your links take up. This is very important for Twitter where you’re limited to 140 characters. A good link shortener will also give you stats, which can let you know how many people clicked on your link. You can use this info to see what types of links get the best responses.
7. Friend or follow people you want to know. On Twitter, for instance, that means following people in the industry you work in or other authors who write in your genre. Retweet their interesting posts and reply to some, as well.You can do the same on other networks, such as Google Plus. Add interesting people to your circles. When you do this over time, this can help you to extend your reach because many of those you follow on Twitter or you add to your Google Plus circles will follow or add you back.
Social networks are great tools for today’s writers. But using them properly means taking the time to become active in the communities by sharing interesting, useful, and informative content. This can lead to sales, speaking and consulting opportunities, business and partnership ventures, and more. I’ve landed clients as a result of my social network interactions, but none of those clients would have come if I had approached the networks strictly to sell. I share useful content. I interact. I answer questions or share my perspective as a publishing expert. I even share info about my kid sometimes. I am a real person seeking to interact, and not just a sales message.
What is the best way you’ve found to market using social networks?
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