Monday, November 11, 2013

Ten Tips on Using Social Media to Promote Your Books

Many of my clients are stumped by the social media aspect of marketing their books. They understand that establishing a strong social media presence is important, but a good number of them avoid it because it appears time-consuming and somewhat daunting.

But creating an effective social media marketing strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. I recommend that authors focus on sites that will give them the most bang for their time and effort. Rather than attempting to establish a presence on all sites, it’s better to start with two or three of them. For those new to social media, I usually recommend beginning with Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and building a presence on those sites first before expanding to others.

As far as what to post on a site, the most important concept to understand is why readers use social media in the first place. Most people don’t visit social media sites in order to be sold goods and services; they’re there to connect with others and to learn about topics that interest them. So, the best way an author can sell books via social media is to build relationships with readers. Authors will find the most success by being themselves and sharing items that are relevant to them personally. And those interested in the same topics are the best folks to friend or follow; ultimately, they’ll be likely to follow back and peruse an author’s posts and tweets with interest.

Here are ten tips on how authors can make their social media sites work for them:

1. Start your social media efforts early, at least a few months before your book is scheduled for release. Many authors wait until their books are out before becoming active on and/or participating in social media sites. Don’t wait until the last minute – it takes time to build an audience, so give yourself a few months to friend/follow others and develop relationships. And don’t stop with a few friends or followers; set aside time each week (one hour a week is plenty) to follow others and add friends to each of your social media sites.

2. Use your author name as your Twitter handle or your Facebook page title. Take some time and prepare a good, strong sentence for your bio (my recommendation is to keep it professional and brief, and avoid overused catch phrases regarding food, cats, being a nerd, etc.). Also, for consistency, be sure to use this same biographical sentence on all your social media sites. Include a photo of yourself rather than your book cover (this helps with the relationship-building, so that readers identify with you as a person). Include a URL that links to your blog or your website, so that readers know where to go to find out more information about you.

3. Focus on readers (rather than other writers) in your posts and tweets. Spend some time determining who your target reading audience is, where you can best reach those readers, and what will interest them the most.

4. Be a generous participant – post often on your social media sites. Share information that you find interesting and/or that you think readers might like.

5. If you’re stumped on what to post, retweet others’ posts on Twitter, and express your thanks when others retweet you. Comment on readers’ blogsites and social media sites and link back to posts that you find interesting or that you think your readers might like.

6. Use dashboards like HootSuite, Threadsy, Tweetdeck, etc., to schedule posts on social media sites. Be sure to schedule at different times to reach readers who reside in different time zones. If finding time to manage your sites is an issue, consider hiring someone to do some of the scheduling work for you. It doesn’t have to be expensive – a tech-savvy high school or college student can be a great help with scheduling posts and updating info on sites.

7. Don’t be a selfish friend or follower – refrain from posting constant invitations to buy your book, and be judicious about sharing snippets from your work. Instead, be a source of information for your followers --- build relationships with them by providing valuable information and responding to their questions and comments in a friendly, professional manner.

8. Use your social media sites to distribute interesting info about yourself or your book. Announce contest wins, event appearances, new releases, blog posts, and general news that will help readers learn more about you and your book. Do this without pressuring your audience to buy; instead, keep the focus on providing information and developing relationships with your readers.

9. Offer to guest post on other social media sites and blogs and return the favor to those who might be interested in appearing on your sites. Contact other authors whose work is similar to yours or who write in the same genre, and consider working together to create genre or topic-specific blog sites with posts you can then share with your social media followers.

10. Be careful with the content on your social media sites. Steer clear of political or religious statements, and avoid undue criticism of others. Your goal is to build relationships, not destroy them, so avoid any topic that is likely to offend readers who might not share the same views.