I Call BullSh*t: Social Media Marketing is Easy

Dung-heapI’ve decided to start a new regular post call “I Call Bullshit”.  In these articles I will take  common themes, rules, myths, and legends about writing and publishing, and I will call out the bullshit behind all of them.  Call me the Mythbuster of the writing world. Unless that violates some copyright, then just call me Richard.

Anyway, one of my favorite sayings is, “I call bullshit.”  Why? It has so much more of a punch than, “I don’t think that is true. ”

This time around I tackle the myth that Social Media marketing is easy.  You wouldn’t believe how much I heard this starting out as a business owner, and now as a writer.  And on the surface it sounds easy.

Here are some of the things I have heard:

All you have to do is post a lot and people will follow you and buy your products.

Once you have followers, the word will get out about your projects.

If you write engaging articles, people will continue to read your blog.

Getting followers is easy.

Well, I call bullshit.

I am not a social media expert, and I think anyone who claims to be an expert better have some concrete evidence to this title.  But, I have used social media for my old security business.  And I currently use if for my writing, and for Plasma Frequency.  I am constantly on social media, not just for business but for personal use too.

First, simply posting doesn’t attract followers.  You have to post things that either engage your audience or entertains them.  And you have to get them to like it enough to share (or ReTweet or ReBlog) it to their followers.  And it has to be good enough that their followers than choose to follow you.  This can be excellent articles, a hilarious Tweet, information that your audience might enjoy, or anything like that.

Again, that sounds easy, but it isn’t. Lets look at my author account on Twitter.  I’ve been on Twitter for going on three years.  Not a long time, but I have almost 4,000 tweets in that time.  Or,  roughly four tweets a day.  That doesn’t sound like a lot and compared to others, I am a novice.  But, even still I can only think of maybe twenty tweets that actually gained mass popularity and directly resulted in adding one or two follower.  I know of only three tweets that directly brought on 10 or more followers.

Now, my blog on the other hand does tend to attract more followers with each post.  I usually get one follower for every three to four posts I make.  But, I have had some posts, such as my self publish one, that brought on a ton of followers.  And my articles on writing tend to draw more attention that my promotional posts (I’m getting to that).

I haven’t had a a follower of Facebook is ages.  Facebook is becoming the vast wasteland of social media marketing.  And I will get to that soon.

Now, posts resulting in purchases…. I hate to tell you this.  But I can not account a single sale on any product to Social Media posts.  Not one.  For one reason it is hard to measure that.  I am sure people see my book is out and go buy it.  But my guess is most of those people were going to buy it anyway because they know me, or know my work.  They just needed the reminder it was out now.  But, how many people have read this blog and decided they wanted to buy my book?  There is no way to really know that.

I will say, as a big time consumer of books, I have never seen a promotional post by an author I didn’t know and decided to buy it.  My promotional post I mean “Here is my book link.  Please go buy it.” Followed by a link.  Any why not?  Well that is a lot like a hard sale.  Imagine walking into the car dealership, which is already a hard sell location, and the first think the salesman said to you was, “Here is a car, please buy it.”  You probably would leave.  And I doubt you would buy the car, you know nothing about it.

The same is true in social media.  You need to get people to buy your books because they like what you have to say.  That means they like what you post on your blog, the Tweets you post, the Facebook things you share.  And then, only every now and then, you give them a reminder that you have a book out.  Or you integrate reminders through out your posts.  I often reference my books and my magazine in posts.  But not in a “Buy me now” way, but in an example or a causal reference.  Like product placement on TV.

And that takes a lot of work.  I go back through my blog posts to add these links you see.  I have to constantly update my website and blog to show relevant books.  And even still those only result on a few clicks.

Promotional posts are not outlawed.  There are several promotional rules out there.  Some say the one-in-three rule, or the one-in-five rule.  I personally use the one-in-ten rule.  That is that one in ten of my tweets or Facebook posts are promotional.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I count my tweets.  It is a general rule of thumb.

Lets say you are lucky to have a vast amount of followers.  I certainly don’t.  But maybe you are lucky.  You may actually be unlucky.  Here is why:

Facebook has stacked the deck against authors, especially broke ones.  It is a game of percentages. Not all those people will see your posts.  Not even half of them will.  Not even a quarter of them, unless of course you pay for that.  Promote your post and it will pop up everywhere and to everyone, even people not following you. But it comes at a price.  Of my last few posts on my Author Page, only 2.5% to 8% of my followers saw the posts I made.  On Plasma Frequency’s page it was a bit better, 9% to 41%.  Note, the 41% was on those posts that were shared by others (like when an new issue releases and all the authors share).

So here lies the problem with Facebook:  Getting Followers, and getting those followers to see what you post.  The solution, and the only one I know of, is to pay Facebook.

But I am a small press that doesn’t make a profit.  My books are not making a profit yet either.  I am unemployed, trying to make a living off of writing.  I don’t have “extra” money to pitch into a Facebook campaign.  And even if I did, a little research will show you that there are plenty of people who didn’t get much for their money.  And what would I have to pay to get all my posts seen all the time? My wallet just started crying at the thought of it.

You may be thinking Twitter is the way to go.  Sorry, to tell you that simply being free has not solved the problem.  Getting followers can be easy.  Follow a shit-load of people and so many will follow you back.  Then, I know people who go back and unfollow all the people who don’ follow back… I call bullshit on that too, but that is another topic.

Anyway, I see people with 5k followers and following 5k people.  I follow 400 people on my account.  When I go on Facebook, I can go back for an entire day and read all the post from a day.  Maybe it would take an hour, or two tops.  Go on Twitter, I can read Tweets for four hours, and only get about 3 hours down my timeline.  There are so many people out there shouting on Twitter that things get lost.  Some of my favorite Tweeters are constantly missed by me.  I find myself skimming over my timeline and bypassing any tweet with a link in it.  Anything that sounds like “buy me”.

And that got me thinking. If I am doing that with 400 people, what is the person who follows me with 5k other people they are following.  I can guarantee they are not reading Tweets by a small time author with sarcastic humor.  So while Facebook will tell you that they are not showing your posts to everyone.  Twitter is showing it to everyone, but I contend that just as few are actually reading what you Tweet.

And, WordPress tells me how many views I get on each article I write.  None of them add up to all of the followers I have.  In fact of the last ten posts, the readers number worked out to about 25%, on average, of my follower count.  And that is just the ones that clicked the link.  Not that actually read the article.

And if that is the case, simply having followers does not mean they are hearing about your projects.

Write engaging articles, Tweets and posts, and people will read what you write.  Well, what the hell is engaging? You can answer that for yourself, but not for other people.  It sounds easy.  Just write about writing.  Sorry, but every independent author and writer out there is putting out self help articles on their blog.

So what makes yours stand out from the crowd?  Your personality.  Certainly the fact that this feature has “bullshit” in it will mean some readers won’t read it.  But, it is also giving this article a bit of my own style.  Regular readers know that I tend to have a rambling, sarcastic, and sometime crass humor in the topics I write about.  Every single one of my blogs oozes with my opinion, and that gives it my own flair.  You can get my information anywhere, but my opinions and humor you can only find from me.

All that still doesn’t mean new followers.  They have to find your blog, Twitter, or Facebook before they even decide if they want to read what you say.  And while WordPress does well to attract new people to my articles, the rest is up to me.  It isn’t easy.  And, I can write one really good article, but not everyone is going to read it.

Finally, getting followers is easy.  Three years I have been fighting my way up to getting good quality followers.  And you see, that is the real trick here folks.  Getting followers is easy.  You can get thousands of egg avatar followers on Twitter, but those bots aren’t reading shit you write.  You can use programs to gain more followers, or be part of “Team Follow Back” and get thousands of followers quickly.  But they are not reading what you say, and that defeats the entire point of everything you’ve been working for.  Why write at two thousand word blog, such as this one, if no one reads it?  Why keep tweeting away when no one is reading them?  That is not an effective social media marketing strategy.  That is a scam of trying to make yourself look popular in the hopes that you might get more followers based on your perceived popularity.  It won’t work.

There is only one way to get quality followers on any social media platform.  Time.  Develop a strategy and stick with it.  Modify it as you find out what works, and keep plugging away.  I certainly get more hits to my blog now than I did three years ago.  My interactions on Twitter have gone up.  But it takes a lot of hard work.  Why do think major companies hire social media team members to manage their pages?  Because it takes a full time marketing team to really work on it.  And let’s face it you are only doing it part time around all the other jobs of being a writer, publisher, and/or editor.

To say social media marketing is easy is complete bullshit.  Like all marketing, it takes time, strategy, know how, and hard work.  It also takes the added step of being social and being yourself.  There is nothing easy about it.

Spotlight on Dissolution of Peace

The folks over at Celebrating Authors have done a Spotlight on Dissolution of Peace.  You can check it out here: LINK.  As you usual please show your support by letting them know you saw my spotlight, what you thought of it, and any other comments.

Celebrating Authors is a great website dedicated to spotlighting authors and trying to unite them with readers.  I think they are a great site, and I follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  Check out their Facebook Page, Facebook Group, and Twitter page too.

 

Marketing for Writers 101

A Brief Self Help Guide for Writers

One of the things that I failed to understand when I started out as a writer, was that writing is a business.  And if you want any business to succeed, you need to market it.  I don’t think many people understand the importance of writers to market themselves.  It is one of the only ways you will gather readers, reach out to your readers, and let them know when new works are coming out.

You may be thinking that you won’t need to market because you plan to publish in a traditional fashion.  You may assume the publisher will handle all the marketing.  Or you may simply think your works will sell themselves.

Well, I believe you are wrong and you can do so much to promote yourself for little or no money.

Social Media

Social media offers the best way to connect with your readers and fans.  If you are not much for technology it is relatively easy and helps.

You really need a presence on the three major Social Media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages so all three is almost a must.  Also, you need to use them.  I try to post something each day.  I certainly check them every day.

Facebook:

With Facebook, you really need an Author’s Page.  Pages are separate from your Facebook Profile.  Creating one is easy, relatively fast, and pretty effective.  You can visit my Page to see what they look like.  You may even want to create a separate page for a book you may be working on, or recently published.  Robert S. Wilson has one for his book that you can look at as an example.

Why use an Author’s Page instead of your regular Facebook Profile.  Well for one, you may not want to share personal matters, photos, and friends with your fans.  Second, it is far easier for your fans to click “like” then it is for them to send a friend request and wait for your response.   Third, Facebook offers a TON of tools for pages that help with promotion.  Tools you simply don’t get with a standard page.

You can create a page by visiting any page.  In the top right corner there is a link that say “Create a Page”.  Once you have a page post links to your other accounts on social media.  Also, post information about upcoming releases and the like.

Twitter:

I never found much interest in Twitter.  But at the advice of other writers I made a Twitter Account for myself.  I have found it far more fun then I thought it would be.  I have more followers on Twitter then I do on my Facebook Author Page.  I think Twitter gets its appeal because anyone can follow anyone.

Setting up and account is easy.

Use Twitter to share all sorts of things.  RT (Re-Tweet) posts that you like.  Reply to Tweets you like.  Here is a little help with Twitter from one novice to another:

“#” is a hash tag.  It is used to make searching for posts on a particular topic easy.  People add it to the tweet to help with searching.  Keep the terms together versus spacing out words.  Example “#amwriting” would be used; not “#am writing”.

RT is Re-Tweet.  This usually is used if someone replies to a tweet and wants to put it to context.

Example: “I wish I had ur motivation. Can a walk to the fridge count as cardio? RT @megselizabeth86: Cardio and legs. Yay. Gonna be sore as hell tmrw.”

And last, as you see in the example above is the @sign.  It represents the profile mentioned.  @Richard_Flores4 is mine.  When people mention you, this allow their followers a quick click to see your profile.  It results in great exposure.

Some will tell you to do your best to get a Re-tweet or a reply for major celebrity/business page just to get the exposure to a lot of potential fans.  I don’t go that far.  But I do reply to celebrity posts as appropriate.  I mention profiles when it is appropriate to.  And I always try to give a shout out to fellow authors.

Google+

I think this will be the most difficult for the social media novice.  I consider it the love child of Twitter and Facebook.  It does have a lot of the best of both worlds.  You can post things to the public or just to certain circles.  My fellow writers are in one circle, family in another, friends in another, and those I am just following in a fourth.  Once you understand it, and Google has good videos on it, you can start sharing certain posts with certain circles.  Or you can share with all your circle, or the general public.

Google+ is probably the one I use the least.  Mostly because I don’t have many people on there.  But, that is changing over time.  The one major disadvantage to Google+ is that they are taking down profiles that are not “real”.  While I support removing fake profiles, this may pose a problem for those authors that use Pseudonyms.  I don’t use one, so I don’t know how hard they are being on it.

Website

You need a website.  I have one right here.  I choose to combine my Blog and my Website.  Its free to use WordPress, Blogspot, and most other blog sites.  It gives you a free web presence and combines a blog.

Eventually, I will have my own .com, but for now this works.  And all of the social media sites let you place a link to your website on them.  So there is some good cross promotion of your sites.  Here are some things your site should have:

Blog:

You should have  a blog too, even if you have your own .com.  Your blog can be hosted on your own site or separate from it.  Just make sure the two are linked together.  Blogging can be fun, it gets you writing for one.  It also inspires discussion and hopefully inspire new authors.  There are whole articles on blogging and what you need to do with your blog.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Pick a schedule and make sure to post something on it.  For me it is once a week.  For some it is once a month.  It just gives people a chance to know when to look for new posts.
  2. Announce new posts on your social media sites.  This will bring readers.
  3. Allow comments.  Allow commenting to encourage discussion.
  4. Have a Follow tab.  This allows people to set up email alerts when you post something.
  5. Establish some blog rules.  Having some rules will ensure there is less backlash should you have to remove a comment.
  6. Use HTML tags so people can click the word, and see what you are talking about.
  7. Respond to the comments you get.

About Me:

You need an about section on your website.  Tell a little bit about yourself.  This allows readers to know if they found the real you (Imagine how many Richard Flores there are in the world).  It also establishes some of your qualifications to blog on the topics you choose to blog about.

Bibliography:

Put a Bibliography down if you have works published (or have publishing dates for them).  Put links to purchase them and/or read them if you can.  Think of it like your resume.

Contact:

Put a way to be contacted.  Most blogs have a contact us form you can use so you don’t have to share your email if you don’t want.  Also you can link your social media there.  Facebook and Twitter have profile badges you can add to your site homepage.  WordPress even has widgets to use for that too.

Pictures:

In the world of websites, people like to see pictures.  So I urge you to add visual elements to your site.  Its something I still work with all the time.  I also think you need your picture up on the home page.  People like to see who they are talking to.  But that is more of an opinion of mine.

Store:

Put a store up on your site of some kind.  Even if it is just links to Amazon.com’s listing of your book.  I don’t have any books out yet, but when I do, you can rest assured there will be a store up.

Links:

Put up links to other bloggers you enjoy, sites you use regularly, and to other writers you enjoy.

Examples:

You have see my blog as one example of a Wordpess site.  Here are some others:

Robert S. Wilson’s Blog on Blogspot.

Michael R McDuffee and Karen T. Smith uses a blog format on a .com

Orson Scott Card and Jeffrey A. Carver have more elaborate web sites.

Now What?

You have the web presence now in Social Media and with a Website.  Best yet, it can all be done for free.  Now how do you draw attention to yourself.  Well, that requires the real work.

Cross Promote:

Get together with your fellow writers and share their sites.  Share them in blog posts when you can (as I have done here), link them in your social media site, announce when they have books coming out, share their sites in your LINKS page, and promote them as much as you can.  You will be surprised how many will do the same for you.

Comment on other posts:

Comment on blog posts, twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Use your pages to make these comments and drive readership to you.  Reply to all the comments you get.  People like to be acknowledged and it gives everyone a sense of participation.

Link your website on everything:

Put a link to your website on everything within reason.  Any comment form that asks for it, any profile you fill out, add it as a signature to your emails, and post it for your friends.  The more you post it the more clicks you might get.

Brag:

Tell everyone everywhere of your site.  Writer’s Groups, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and other places.  Just make sure you don’t violate Terms of Service and get flagged as SPAM.

Network:

Networking is big business.  Its also hard work.  When you meet new people, you have to be willing to admit you write.  I do it almost every time I meet new people.  I let people know any time the topic comes up.  Go to conventions, writers workshops, and any other place where writers are gathering.  Put together some simple (and usually very affordable) business cards.  Pass them out like candy at every convention, workshop, and function you attend.   Have your name, website, and contact information on there.  You never know who’s hands it will fall into.  Word of mouth is the biggest advertiser out there.

Advertise:

If you have some money to spend, you can advertise your Facebook Page, website, and more.  There are some cheaper ways then others, but this cost money.  If you self publish a book, you may want to spend a bit of money on advertising.  But the rule I always follow for advertising is this:  Never spend more on advertising then you would make if someone buys what you’re selling.  That is to say, if you make $1 profit on every book you sell don’t spend $2 per flier to advertise it.

Summary:

There is obviously many avenues for marketing your work.  Each of these I mentioned could be a whole course of study by themselves.  My hope is this will bring you to a good starting point.  Get you going, and then you can fly on your own from here.

Questions, Comments, or more?  Feel free to comment.