I’ve been asking a lot of questions about the value of social media from different angles. Marketing. Personal. Author. Community. Etc. I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason why marketers are so hung up on the idea that social media will work for them is this: they believe you always have to go where the people are. I’ve since learned, however, that this isn’t always true. Social media for marketers isn’t like driving down a highway or walking into a single store with a bunch of brand names on the shelves. Twitter is oft described as a cocktail party. Facebook is a family reunion where you play tag with people you may or may not know very well. Google+ is rapidly turning back into H.S. or college where you’re interacting with certain cliques or broadcasting on a P.A. system. E-mail is one-on-one and group chats? Well, that’s where the cool kids hang out.
In real life, most of these situations are not places where you’d find someone intentionally selling something. It’s word-of-mouth. It’s the friendly recommendation. It’s not the flyer waving in your face or the catsup bottle oh-so-conveniently positioned. That’s part of the reason why aggressive marketing online can turn people off. Why? Because it’s not about that person feeling like they’re a valuable part of whatever that marketer is doing. It’s about ramming that book down a reader’s throat and getting nothing else out of it.
This year has very interesting for me. My hundred day social media blackout was designed to go off-line for 100 days to find out what social media meant to me. My conclusion? It’s not about what I want, it’s about being part of a community. (You can read the Results of my 100 Day Social Media Blackout here.) Then, I popped back online and launched a community-focused campaign called Speak Out with your Geek Out which was a smash hit. While communities can build up around people, places, business, things, etc. that word implies that in order to be successful on social media you need to give to get and leave the broadcasting behind when you can.
Some authors can use social media to broadcast because they have such a huge fan base it’s difficult to interact with everyone. Others ask questions and share the replies. Still others avoid social media like the plague. When I got back online, the community I was involved with changed. Some people left. New people came on board. It was simple to talk to people; so easy, in fact, that after two weeks I was reverting to some habits I was trying to avoid. Only this time? I was aware of them and it was easy to correct.
Speak Out was spontaneous, positive and wildly successful. Why? In hindsight, it was because my call-to-action was based on an emotion rather than an obligation. As authors, you should all understand how crucial those emotions are to your storytelling ability. Well, the same is true with online communities.
People say and do stupid things, smart things and amazing things because they’re reacting to something on the screen or are inspired to share based on something that’s happening. Intentional updates (like the kind marketers use) aren’t as common as you might think. Social media is more about spontaneity than it is about planning. Even when you’re diving in with a great idea that will light your readers on fire? Sometimes you have to try and try and try again before something catches on.
So what does this mean for you? Well, as an author you have to figure out the best way to reach your readers. Social media is temporal and fleeting. Sometimes, that isn’t the best channel to connect because your readers may not be online the same time you are. For others, they feel (as I do) that there is a price to pay for being too well connected to your audience.
When I went off of social media and focused on my website, there was no negative impact to my sales or traffic. In fact? My stats went up. I went back online and, now that it’s been a little over two months, I can see there’s been no impact on my traffic or sales whatsoever. For me, being online doesn’t directly translate into sales or connecting with readers. So what does it do for me? It allows me to be a part of the community. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes that’s not. Either way, it’s a place where I’ll share news rather than scream “Buy my book!” After all, not every follower I have is a reader. That’s what my newsletter and website is for.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/MLV_Logo_Color_Small.png[/author_image] [author_info]Monica Valentinelli is an author and game designer who lives in the dark. Her hobbies include: tormenting her cats, designing jewelry, and hiking in the woods. In addition to her genre work, Monica has a professional background in online marketing with a strong emphasis on copywriting, web analytics, social media and search engine optimization.[/author_info] [/author]