Yesterday, while I was listening to a debate on my car radio about the future of books, the station suddenly cut to an advertising break – that seemed to last for an eternity.
Eventually I switched it off in sheer frustration.
But it didn’t stop there. After arriving back at my house I logged onto Twitter, only to be hit by an avalanche of authors all shouting “Here’s my new book, please buy!”, which was equally tedious.
It struck me right then that many authors think social media should be used to ‘run advertisements’ the same way retailers do on radio stations. But in doing so, those authors are making a critical error – and run the risk of being ‘switched off’.
Here’s the crucial thing to understand:
If you constantly advertise instead of being interesting, readers will tune out.
Thing is, after you have developed a relationship with your Twitter followers by interacting and being genuinely interesting for a while, you might get away with sending out 5 or 6 Tweets during the day for a 99 cent, special-price promotion of your Kindle book, or even sending a sequence of intriguing descriptions of your book at a regular price. You probably will get a spike in sales doing this, but it’s a terribly short term way of operating if that’s the only thing you ever do.
People are on social media to chat, interact and be entertained, in a similar way to talk-back radio listeners. They are certainly not there to be ‘pitched’ at. So authors who constantly ‘shout’ their books on Twitter and Facebook, and do nothing else will soon find themselves being ignored. i.e. It doesn’t pay off in the long run.
But if you mix it up with interesting content, then people won’t mind seeing limited promotion amongst it. Don’t promote all the time. Promote at the RIGHT time. i.e. after you’ve spent time giving out value first.
Here’s a (fictional) example of an author using Twitter the wrong way – endlessly sending out nothing but promotional Tweets like an advertising radio station, relentlessly blustering “Buy my book!”
Note: This is a fictitious Tweet based on similar Tweets I have seen cluttering up Twitter
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the almost-irresistible temptation to do this, because it seems to make perfect sense. After all, we’re surrounded by advertisements that shout about products – on TV, on websites, in magazines, and on the radio. This is known as ‘interruption’ advertising, and yes – it does work on TV and radio (to an extent).
But it only works because people are already tuned into that station. And why did they tune in to begin with? Because the station has lots of interesting, entertaining content on it.
Now, you might be thinking: “That’s ok – everyone else’s Tweets and Facebook posts can be the entertaining stuff, and mine can be the advertisements in between”. Sounds like a good plan, right?
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, for two reasons:
1. People will only see your updates if they have deliberately chosen to follow you. And no-one will choose to follow you if they can see your account is full of ads for a book they know nothing about.
2. Even if someone does choose to follow you, they will usually unfollow you once they see that all you do is shout about your book. At best, you’ll be completely ignored.
No matter how interesting you may think your book is, relentlessly shouting about it without Tweeting anything else at all will be viewed as annoying spam, not entertainment.
The Exception: Already Famous Authors
“But authors like James Patterson shout out their books on Twitter, so why can’t I?”
Famous authors like James Patterson can do this because they are already newsworthy. The fact that he has a new book out is an interesting thing to his followers because they are already huge fans of his previous books. He’s a celebrity, and can get away with being an ‘adverts only’ radio station, because his fans are already highly interested in him and hang on every word.
But if you’re not yet a famous author, this won’t work. Potential new readers that you interact with on social media won’t know anything about you or your writing, so the fact you have a book is not interesting or newsworthy. It’s just annoying spam, and you’ll be given a wide berth if you ‘shout’ about it.
So is there any point in using social media if you can’t shout about your book?
Absolutely. Let me explain…
How To Promote Your Book on Social Media – Without Shouting
The solution to getting attention is to create a high degree of interest first, and only then introduce your books. You become likeable and well known, because you share interesting genre material and don’t constantly talk about yourself or your books.
For example, you write Tweets and Facebook posts that link to fascinating content you’ve written that isn’t immediately about your book, but that readers of your genre would find interesting.
The ‘secret’ is that your blog post content is written firstly to gain the interest of readers, and you only mention your books later in the content, once their attention is captured.
This will also generate discussion and sharing of your material on social media, which further increases interest – leading on to sales.
Remember, once you successfully take them across to Amazon from your blog, Amazon will do all the heavy lifting from that point, provided that your books are listed correctly, and you use their promotional systems properly. Your task using social media (and all the other promotional tactics covered on this blog) is to ignite the initial sales needed to get the process started.
You can even take people to Amazon directly on Twitter if you are determined to do so, but in the first instance, make the majority of your Tweets interesting to readers with intriguing content and interactive chat that’s not about your book, but about your genre – the ‘world around your book’. After a while when you feel convinced that you’ve become familiar and interesting because of positive feedback, then you can Tweet directly about your book. But even than, only about one in ten Tweets at most – as a rough guideline.
Let me make this even clearer: ‘Engage first, sell second’ is the secret sauce.
Like the talkback radio host with his listeners, the path to being effective in social media is to create a meaningful connection so they take an interest in you and your writing.
Furthermore, doing it properly is really enjoyable! Social media doesn’t need to be a chore, it can be fun and extremely interesting once you start to interact.
‘Conversation’ makes both Twitter and Facebook the perfect home for an author. Holding conversations, particularly with readers with a common interest, does a number of important things:
- It sets you apart as a real person in whom they’ll become genuinely interested
- They’ll become part of your fan group – your ‘author’s inside team’
- They’ll share your Tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts with their own communities
- They’ll want to spread the word about you and your books
- They’ll eventually become your book buyers
The bottom line:
Social media is named that way because it is best used socially. So avoid shouting, take the social path, and you’ll be well on the way to igniting the viral ‘word-of-mouth’ promotion you need to ignite book sales.
If you’d like to know more, I teach how to do this, step-by-step, in my ‘Twitter For Authors’ mini-course.
What do you think? Be honest – have you ever ‘shouted’ your book? Do you interact with readers the right way on social media?
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
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