Occasionally I see an author struggling with social media (aren’t we all) and it seems like we all have some of the same questions. Here’s a sample I saw on a friend’s blog recently.
Is Twitter effective at all as far as selling books? The fleeting posts are quickly buried within a matter of seconds. I can see only two ways it might help: possibly developing friendships with the exchange of RT’s, and using a hashtag that might get you noticed by the right people. However, regarding networking, Facebook seems like a far more effective tool. At least, that’s been my experience, though I could be wrong!
The answers to how effective any form of social media is, as always, is: it depends.
What do you want from it, and what is it designed for? In other words, don’t drive your car into a lake and hope it will function well as a boat.
Here’s what I do; your experience may be different.
I have a handful of people I email with. I have less than a dozen I spend “quality time” with on Facebook (chatting or whatever, as opposed to going through and reading and liking my friends posts). I have over 12,000 followers on Twitter but I chat with very few each day. It’s just not possible for me to chat with 12,000 people in any meaningful way. I think most follow because they enjoy the content I put out, and if they say something witty, I try to reply in kind, but realistically with 12,000 I probably won’t even see it. If I follow Stephen King, it’s just to see what he talks about on occasion; if I follow Jenny, it’s to interact and be supportive.
And there’s the difference. When I had just a few followers on Twitter, it was easy to interact.
In the end, do the social media you enjoy. Try different ones and stick with what works for you. Right now, for me, that’s my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – in that order as far as where my efforts go. As far as which I enjoy, it’s Facebook #1, then my blog, then Twitter as a very distant third, then Instagram if I think about it – and I don’t (I have a reminder in my Outlook schedule that says “do something on Instagram.”
I check FB 20x daily at least; I need a reminder to check Instagram).
I LOVE chatting with my author friends on Facebook more than almost anything else. I love my blog and its great readers. I like Twitter much less but I’m still learning what it’s capable of. I’ll focus on Instagram one of these days but not soon.
What have these various social medias done for me?
Facebook lets me laugh and joke and help and support and be supported by people who I consider friends. We share writing advice and work on marketing ideas like business partners, and we sometimes discuss problems completely unrelated to writing, like vacations or issues at school. If they come to town, we are going out for drinks. Posting on Facebook publicly helped me decide about which book cover to use, among many other things.
Twitter helps me find new friends, but mostly it helps me be a cheerleader for other authors. When I posted about beta readers, I got 20 in about 2 days (I needed maybe six). When I connect with somebody on Twitter, we eventually evolve over to email or Facebook. To me, Twitter is a big net with a broad range and the connect ratio is therefore very small – but it exists, and a small percent of lots and lots of people is still lots and lots of people.
The blog is where I ask the Twitter followers to connect. I talk about the blog in my Tweets and some folks go there to see what I’m up in arms about. If they like what they see, they follow the blog and begin to comment or reblog, while I reblog and comment with them. It’s more writing oriented but we talk about anything. If I have an issue with doing laundry, I’ll post about it on the blog, but typically that’d go on Facebook.
Instagram is currently receiving the top tweet from the prior day, with an author-themed image or meme, and occasionally pictures of me and the fam on a vacation or at Busch Gardens.
In other words, I put out what I’d like to receive.
I’m not an autograph hound or celebrity follower, but technology has allowed me to correspond with certain people I’d never have been able to connect with as a kid. That’s what I try to be for people. I’m not a celebrity (except to my five year old daughter, and yes I’m going to milk that as long as I can because one day Dad won’t be cool), I just play one on the interwebs, and I try to be what I’d like my “heroes” to be. Friendly, helpful, and funny. A good resource on my blog. A good friend on Facebook. A witty comment on Twitter. A real person out having fun when I appear on Instagram
Does it sell books? Sure. But if you think that’s a fast or easy process, it’s not. Ads sell books (if they’re good ads) much faster. But adds don’t tell me how I made a reader cry, or how I transported them back in time to when their adult children were magically their babies again, or how they turned pages so fast they stayed up til 4am because they had to know what happened next in a story, or how I helped talk them off the ledge when they were frustrated, or inspired them to…
Well, you get the idea.
To me, building a platform – which is what social media is for authors who want to sell – is a long term arrangement. To me, it’s that girl who wants a relationship, not a one night stand. What I want from my platform might be different from what you want, and what works for you will be different from what works for me. (Although maybe try not to be the drunk guy at the bar trying to get laid on the first date.) What your readers want from you will be different from want mine want from me – maybe.
That’s the part we all have to figure out for ourselves.
What do YOU do with social media, and how’s it working?
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.