Monday, August 6, 2012

Social Media is not a Bullhorn

You see it all the time. A writer hunkers in a bunker for months or years cranking out a novel, publishes it, sees the dismal sales numbers, and panics.

She hears that she needs a platform, that she needs to market the book and herself. Desperate to boost sales, she signs up for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Blogger, Pinterest, Instagram, and who knows what else, and then begins spamming those outlets with a blatant, pushy, hard-sell. She gets on mailing lists for writers and spams them. She comments on blogs, pushing her novel.

In short, she assaults other people using methods that she herself never responds to when she’s on the receiving end. That's not marketing. That's just annoying.

I recently heard one such writer say, "If it's NOT okay to do this much, why do we call social networking an essential promotion tool?"

Which I liken to the question, "If it's not okay to use pliers on brass, why do we call it an essential handyman's tool?"

Knowing how, when, and where to use a tool is as important as having the tool.

Think for a second: How many acts of blatant self promotion do you see in a day? How many of them do you personally act on? How many times a day do you buy something based on a blatant act of self promotion? How many of such posts from complete strangers do you pass on to your friends?

As I’ve said before, writing may be art, but publishing is a business. When you decide to publish, you have to think like a publisher, and that includes taking on marketing, which is not the same as spamming people.

Marketing is not easy. It's about discovering the true felt needs of the customer and then satisfying those felt needs. Few people have a felt need to be assaulted by a stranger with nonstop requests to buy something, now! Or even felt the need to get that treatment from a friend.

Social networking is about being social, not about turning into a non-stop infomercial. It's about building a tribe, not a stack of sales. Think of what being social means in a physical environment:
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Ask questions about others instead of talking about yourself
  • Be genuinely interested in the other person
  • Build relationships
  • Add value to draw people back to your blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, etc.
These same things are the reason social networking emerged, not as a soapbox for a person with a bullhorn hawking goods.

Anyone who is going to market on the internet needs to learn what marketing really is and the techniques that are effective with the various tools at hand. There are dozens of books and websites on the subject. It's not hard to learn the basics.

Here's a good starting point: How to use Twitter for Marketing and PR.