There have always been various methods used to advertise and sell books. Social is just one of the latest incarnations. It is still about hand-selling to individuals, but this time on a global scale.
The first job of an author is to write great books, but these days, the second job is to market them, especially as a new author with no backlist. This is true for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.
A recent article in the Guardian wanted to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, so this is an attempt to resurrect social. Of course, it is an inexact science but here’s how the marketing principle AIDA works.
Attention is hard to get in this speedy online world. Millions of books compete for it as well as perhaps the more powerful media of video and gaming. Social networks are a way to grab attention for a moment in order to draw people into the funnel as above. Pieces of content are breadcrumbs leading to your door. This could be a picture of the tequila your character drinks shared on Pinterest. It could be a piece from National Geographic that your niche audience would find interesting. It could be a link to an article you’ve written about an art gallery launch that sparked your creative flow. Be interesting, entertaining or inspirational and be sure to use an enticing headline so people want to click and share.
Social is pointless on its own as a marketing mechanism (although of course it can be enjoyed for its own sake). The aim is to get people to notice you and be interested enough to follow you or click through to your website.
Social networks rise and fall. You don’t own that real estate, you only borrow it for a while so be sure to capture the interest. This means that you need a website and a list mechanism so that people can sign up for your newsletter or updates. This is permission marketing - people have given you permission to email them which is a more personal form of communication and can develop the relationship further.
Sometimes people will buy a book based on one contact but generally it takes time for people to make a buying decision. Once people have found you and are interested in what you’re doing, they will follow your blog, maybe listen to an interview with you and continue to follow you on social networks. They will also receive your email newsletter. By producing other pieces of content you will expand the impact you can have.
Social is about people knowing you, liking you and trusting you enough to let you have a slice of their time and attention. Authenticity over the long term is therefore important so you can sustain it. Marketing, like writing, is a long term activity.
Once people know you, like you and trust you, they are far more likely to try your books, or recommend you to others. There is no hard sell necessary. This method is about attracting people who might be interested in what you have to say.
How the 80:20 rule works with social
The 80:20 rule has nothing to do with the amount of time spent on social networks. It is about the percentage you spend on promoting others vs. yourself. One of the biggest mistakes of social is to make it all about you. The focus should be on being useful, inspiring or entertaining with occasional tweets that promote your own material or talk about personal things. This also brings about social karma, a generosity that comes when you promote others and results in enhanced word of mouth.
Social means social
Social doesn’t work if you don’t enjoy it or if you are unrelentingly negative. Networks are collective energy expressed in one place. If you exude negativity or hype or spam, then that’s what you will experience in return. It is about enjoying yourself, joining a conversation, learning from people, sharing something interesting and making connections. Yes, it’s actually fun!
Some people think that online relationships are somehow shallow or unreal, but for introvert authors, the online social world is far preferable to live networking events or parties. Friendships formed on Twitter can spill into Skype conversations, meeting up in person and support networks, as well as mutual promotion.
Of course social isn’t a magic bullet to sell millions of books. It’s just one tool in the arsenal of marketing activities that some people enjoy. But from my personal experience, it can definitely result in book sales.