Unlike most people, I have been avoiding social media. This year I realized I can’t keep ignoring the power of social media.
In the first week of January, I started a 100-day project — to write a social media post every day on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
As soon as I started posting regularly, I began getting messages from people who wanted to either sell me something or to read their stuff. Some sent me links to their article, others wanted me to review their website. But this one guy sent me a page-long email asking me to spread the word about his novel. He even wrote the synopsis and included the links where I could buy it.
That tipped the scale for me.
I am new to social media but even I could sense that he had gone too far.
You can’t expect someone who hardly knows you to start recommending your books to others.
He didn’t even try to ascertain whether I read historical fiction or not (His was a historical novel).
That got me thinking, there should be some social media etiquette.
When I started looking for them I couldn’t find any. So I built a list of mine.
- Don’t bombard people with your products. If someone knocks on your door and straightway starts selling you a product, would you buy it? How do you feel when someone cold calls you to sell something? I feel exactly that. Cold. No one warms up to a cold caller. The same is true on social media. Social media enable us to reach targeted readers and attract those who might enjoy what we write. But they need to get to know you first. Build the trust. Let your audience warm up to you. Give them some snippets from your life. Once they get to know you, they might get interested in reading your work and later on down the track might want to buy your book.
- Be Genuine. People can discern whether you are being honest or not. They can detect whether you are being authentic or putting on a persona. One would think social media is a place for conmen, but surprising people need to be more authentic and congruent with their values on social media than they are even in their real life. Why? Because you get caught out pretty soon. The best way to use any of the social media sites is to be authentic and real. You have a better chance of attracting people and build a long-term relationship that way. Don’t broadcast spammy sales messages. Just be yourself and interact.
- Be useful, interesting, or entertaining. Social means social. Social media means a place to interact with other like-minded people. Just as we were taught not to go to anyone’s home with bearing a gift, you shouldn’t appear on social media without bearing a gift. Remember the phrase ‘what’s in it for me.’ Everyone wants to know things that will help them, or interest them, or make them laugh. If you are not offering something that they want you won’t get their attention. You don’t need to do weird things, be nasty or abusive to get attention, you just need to bear a gift whenever you appear on social media.
- Develop the relationship first. Building relationships takes time. You will need to invest time and effort. If you are not willing to do that, and just want to flaunt your product at every new contact, people will be put off quickly. People can discern whether you are in it for the long term or are just after a promotional opportunity. People are not stupid. Social media is a long term strategy that you should only follow if you consider someone to be a contact worth pursuing.
- Pitch them, but only when it is appropriate. Once they have noticed you in some way, you can ask to share your work. You can make them your beta readers or you can send them announcements whenever you launch a product. Don’t do it all the time and certainly don’t do it before they get to know you.
Toxicity on Social Media
So many people come off social media because of the toxicity that goes on there.
Recently Tim Denning wrote about the dark side of LinkedIn where he told the story of a woman who had experienced bullying (called womanizing) on LinkedIn. Predators would develop a community around their content, using a group chat like WhatsApp, and then use it to exploit unsuspecting women.
They would pretend to make women feel good and leave nice comments on their LinkedIn posts to get their attention. Then they would try and do anything to meet up with them in person so they could, hopefully, get them in bed.
Many other women reported witnessing the same kind of experience. I too have been contacted by men wanting to talk because they were feeling lonely and asking me personal questions.
Bullying is universal by womanizing is new to the cyberworld. As a woman, we need to be more vigilant on the internet.
Can we ignore social media altogether?
Social media is a mixed blessing. On one hand, it provides community and friends who might never have met in real life, people who ‘get you’ even if they live on the other side of the world.
On the other hand, it makes us the target for bullies, womanizers, and vendors who want to push their products to us.
You can ignore social media and many people do.
But if you need to build a platform it can be a very effective way to reach your audience.
As an author, it has several benefits.
- You can build your community. Particularly if you are a self-published author who is selling directly to your readers. Authors need to stay in contact with their readers to sell their books
- Talk to other authors. Writing is a lonely profession. But if you know other writers, the process of writing becomes more bearable plus you discover opportunities to collaborate and to learn from each other. Social Media is a great place to connect with other writers.
- Advertise to potential readers. You need the means to announce your books. There is no better way than social media.
It is also a brilliant form of marking for introverts and most writers are introverts. You can choose when you interact and you can also be at home in silence and yet still be ‘out there’ connecting with people.
In many ways, social media is still about hand-selling to individuals but on a global scale.
But the real power of social media is about making connections and building relationships.
It is a brilliant way to market organically. This is how the marketing principle AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Actions) works for social media.
Attention is hard to get in this speedy online world. There are books, TV, podcasts, and streaming. Yet people spend a lot of time on social media and the best thing about it is that it is the only medium where there can be two-way interaction. Pieces of content are breadcrumbs leading to your door. You can share bits of your story, your hobbies, your successes, and even your failure as long as it is interesting, entertaining, or inspirational and you are bound to build a following.
Social networking is pointless on its own as a marketing mechanism. The aim is to get people to notice you and be interested enough to follow you or click through to your website.
Make sure you have all your social networking links on every page or the sidebar of your site so that you are easy to contact.
Also, make sure to capture people’s interest with a sign-up so that you can develop this fledging relationship further. Social network rise and fall. You don’t own that real estate, you only borrow it for a little while.
Sometimes people will buy your book, as soon as they hear about you 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 might follow your blog, may listen to your interview, or simply continue to follow you on social networks. They may also receive your email newsletters, by producing other pieces of content you will expand the impact you can have over time.
Social Networking 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 that you can sustain this. Marketing like writing is a long term activity. You might share snippets, and pictures from your writing life while you’re writing your books on social media. And in this way, those who follow you will be ready to buy when you launch.
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.
Once you have their attention you have built up a desire to see what you are doing. As you can now ask to take action and buy your book.
Socialising is about having fun.
Social networking 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.
Joining a conversation, learning from people, sharing something interesting, and making connections could be fun.
Just like socializing is fun.
So how can you be social on social media?
Social media is about being social. You got to follow all the rules you would follow when you are socializing with people in person. Keep these simple rules in mind.
- Make friends rather than push products. Friendship will bring you much more rewards than the little financial gain you will have from selling a book or a course.
- Build trust. Share bits about your life, your interests, and your work so that people get to know you before they decide to buy something from you.
- Be honest and be yourself.
- Think long term.