It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with all of the social media changes, but the message is loud and clear: social media is an important way to gain reader visibility.
Most authors I've met have been on one or more social media sites. Some are just on all of them because they feel they have to be. They feel like being everywhere is an important part of their marketing. But the truth is that it's not. In fact, it's not about being everywhere but everywhere that matters. Why? Because effective social media isn't quantity, it's quality, and this goes for likes, followers, favorites and pins too.
Have you ever looked at another author (similar to your market) and seen some high (maybe very high) follower numbers and envied their tribe? Well, take a closer look, because if those followers aren't engaged, if their content isn't getting shared, favorited, liked, pinned, or commented on, their high number of followers is relatively useless. It's like lecturing to a crowd of a millions of people who are all listening to Spotify instead of you. They are there, but they aren't really present. Numbers can be deceiving, but engagement is not. Engagement is clear and it's visible and you can't bury the lack of engagement in a staggeringly high number of followers. You either have it, or you don't. And sometimes you might just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So what's an author to do? Let's look at how to significantly increase the engagement there:
Follow the Success: There's an old saying: success leaves clues and this is very tru, especially in social media. So first, you'll want you to do some sleuthing. Many times author willl open accounts on a bunch of social media sites without doing any research. The question to ask is: Where are other similar authors? What social sites are they on and what are they saying? Ignore their follower count and instead look at their engagement. Are their posts getting shared and liked? Not only will this exercise help you better understand what's working and what isn't on social but it will also help you determine the best platforms for your message. Now when you do this, don't follow author brands. What I mean by this is don't follow household names like Nora Roberts or James Patterson. Instead find authors in your market who are off the national radar screen but still rocking it in social. This is a much more fair assessment. Why? Because big brands can do almost anything they want. We did some work with Guy Kawasaki a while back and Guy, being a big brand, could hop on MySpace tomorrow and his tribe would follow him there.
Figure out who your readers are: Who is your reader? I mean who is really reading your book? If you said "everyone is my reader" then go back to the drawing board and find a better answer because "everyone" is not a focused target. The reason you want to be specific is because you'll want to be on social sites that are actually appealing to them. This is also often determined by the age of the customer, too. Snapchat, as an example, tends to pull in a younger demographic (18-34, according to ComScore). Facebook on the other hand went from having a younger demographic to seeing their site "age" as it were. The largest increase in users on Facebook from 2013 to 2014 was in the 65 and older category. Sites like Vine, Tumblr and Instagram also skew in the same age demographic as Snapchat, so 18-34. And social sites like Google+, Twitter and Pinterest tend to see a similar age demographic as Facebook.
Find out what they want: Several years ago when I was living in New York I frequented a local hardware store that was having a hard time competing with the larger, Home Depot a few blocks over. They'd tried doing a lot of social media but nothing seemed to work. One day I was chatting with the owner and I asked him if he'd ever considered doing videos. Short how-to repair videos that their customers could view at home if they were trying to tackle a home repair like replacing the putting up a shelf (so it didn't collapse the minute you put stuff on it)or fixing the toilet tank. . Along with the videos they showed where to get the parts in their store. Often, if they were running a special, they'd organize the videos around a promotion or something. They also did these seasonally. The result was phenomenal. Their customers loved the videos and the personal touch they added. The videos weren't done in a studio; they were captured on a phone right there in the store. It was a low-cost way to bring in new people or to help the weekend warrior dig through projects faster and easier. By doing this, by identifying the needs of their customer they not only helped their existing client base but also brought in new people as customers spread the word about the helpful corner store. The videos were then shared on Facebook and Twitter -- later Pinterest was added to the mix which increased their shares even more.
And while this is an example of a brick and mortar business trying to bring in new customers, the message is still the same: knowing what drives your reader to consider your book will go a long way when figuring out a) what social site is best for you and b) now that you're there, what do you say?
Once you determine what drives them, figure out the best way to get your information to them and by "best way" I mean best format. Will it be video? If you're doing anything in healthcare or wellness, you may want to become a curator of what's new and distilling confusing and conflicting health and wellness information to your end-user. This may also mean sharing other people's content, which is perfectly fine.
That's what we do and if you want to become a resource I would consider doing that as well. Becoming the go-to for your industry is a great way to set yourself apart and drive even more attention to what you've got to offer, because it gives your followers confidence that you're sharing the best of the best, which is what's best for them.
But what if you've written fiction? Well how about being really character focused. Readers love digging into characters they love. Giving them insight into things that maybe weren't in the book. Remember that section of your book your editor asked you to cut? Hello, deleted scenes is that you? This is a perfect time to use it on your blog and then share it on social media. What about video, even short trailers that focus on one character? It's a fun way to give them insight into what drives the people in your book.
Add value: This is something that I find a lot of folks forget to do -- and even fiction authors need to remember to add value. For many, it becomes all about sharing and getting posts up and the value is often forgotten. Are you adding value? Does this post *really* matter to your reader? The more value you can add to their lives, the better and quicker you'll grow your engagement on social media.
The magic of simplicity: On average, we read the equivalent of 175 newspapers each day. Startling figure, no? According to the book The Organized Brain, when you take into account ads on TV, billboards, social media, emails, and blogs posts, the number of things coming at us in a day is staggering. Do you want to add to that noise or help your reader filter through it? With so many of suffering from neuro-fatigue people are being much more selective about what they read, and speaking of that, have you noticed the new trend on blogs where they're including the approximate time it will take to read the post? Brilliant idea. Got five minutes, then here are some posts you'll love. If you blog, you could also segment your posts by topic and amount of time it will take to read them. Very soon consumers will start rejecting the constant flow of content and become wildly more selective about what they consume on a daily basis.
What do you really have time for?: Sadly this is a question we often consider too late. Social media sites take time, a lot of time. What can you reasonably do while still creating or sharing great content? Unless you do social media for a living you probably don't want to spend all your time on there so be honest with yourself in how much you can handle and either give up some social platforms or outsource the work if you know these platforms are important to your book marketing.
Repurpose, reuse, recycle: When you create content, consider how many different ways you can use it. Let's take the example of the hardware store doing video. So they used that video on YouTube, pinned it to Pinterest, shared a link to it on Twitter and also used the native video for Facebook. The same is true for any blogs you do, like one a client of ours did for her fiction book.
She did it as a #TBT post (Throw Back Thursday) and we shared it for her on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We'll also create more images around this, since it's a look into how these characters met. So pictures from outings, things like that. Readers love this insight on characters!
The key here is that you don't have to keep creating new content all the time. Reuse and repurpose. Maybe that video can now be an infographic, or if you have a podcast why not have that transcribed and use it for blog posts and/or social media tips? The key here is to create a content plan that isn't a one-hit-wonder. Create stuff that can get used in different formats across different channels.
The numbers never lie: Much like engagement numbers, traffic numbers to your site are important to track as well. If you have Google Analytics installed on the backend of your website, have a look at where your social media traffic is coming from. These numbers may surprise you. I had a client who was almost positive her social traffic was coming from Pinterest because of all the followers she had there. Turns out they weren't, in fact Pinterest was the lowest social site on the list. Now this could be because of the demographic of the Pinterest follower who likes to share and repin but also it could be that that's not a good place for her to spend her time. Instead she found that Twitter was the number one traffic driver. Check these numbers because they will tell you a lot and as you start ramping up new activity on a site watch it closely. Is the traffic to your site coming from this platform? If it is, good job, if it's not figure out why.
Not that long ago being on social media meant being everywhere and if a new cropped up up, you needed to hop on that as quickly as you could. While there's some benefit to being an early adopter, it may not be the best use of your time or your social marketing footprint. Seth Godin once said, "Social media is a great way to look busy." And while I agree with him to a point, it's also a great way to share your information and drive new business. They key is to define the difference between looking busy and being productive because they aren't the same thing. Often I see authors that are very busy in social media but their work isn't really driving results. Clearly defining the needs of your readerand the limits of your time will go a long way to defining a social media action plan that not only works for you, but drives new readers as well.