Social media and its purpose?

Social media is extremely important for a struggling author, artist, small business and big business. I get that. The nauseating words that permeate all the help blogs, sites, and articles all have made it perfectly clear it’s how you get your wares in front of people. Get connected they say. Post your stuff with links and tags and witty comments. Don’t forget to talk about other people. Post their stuff too. Engage your followers. Blah, blah, blah.

(I’m making a point so stick with me here.)

OK. I get it. Cheap advertising. Bring them into the fold. Talk about things important to them. Spread the word on other things and occasionally pitch what you have.

Here’s my problem. You see so many adds on social media to buy this or buy that you become numb. You watch the twitter feed go by and if you’re lucky, or persistent enough, you might see 1 out of 500 tweets that are actually engaging. What’s worse you see the tweets from people that are “experts on social media and will show you how it’s done to grow your base” about 1 in every 20 tweets. You click the link and check out their message. It’s just recycled information you’ve seen 1000 times. OK. I get it. Everyone is saying this is what you do.

So I click on their twitter page. I scroll through their tweets. Their tweet history is 90% what they’re selling, 8% other people and 2% that might be interesting other things.

Huh? Really? Practice what you preach there, dude.

My point in all this? Yes I really have one and it’s not just a rant.

People that are going to buy what you’re selling have to be invested in you emotionally. Sure there might be writers out there that are better than you and sell their books $5 cheaper. So what? If someone doesn’t know them they are less likely to buy those books. However, if you have been actively and sincerely engaging your followers they are more likely to by what your selling. They invest emotionally in you and in a way you have to do the same with them.

How many of you have tweet deck setup and auto-respond to follows and DMs? Is that really engaging your followers? When was the last time you actually responded with a personal note to the people that followed you? Did you thank them for the honor of the follow and to have a great day?

Yes I said honor for the follow. Why? Because there are 50 billion tweets every minute (ok maybe not 50 billion but a lot) and your tweet caught their attention enough to actually look and follow you.

Social media is supposed to mean social and interacting not pitching your wares every 30 seconds. Could you imagine if people in the real world did what a very large number of tweeters do? Could you imagine walking down the street and have everyone pushing signs selling their wares in your face with the occasional joke or engaging comment?

Take a break people. Stop and talk to people. Say hi, ask how there day was, ask about the kids, the dog, what they’re doing. BE SOCIAL not an advertising agency.

Building your platform and (cringe) social media.

For a few, ok several, years I have been trolling the internet for answers on how to build your platform.

Wait. What? Platform?

Yep. Platform. Not the thing you stand on but in publishing terms it’s your reader base, followers and everyone interested in what you’re writing. The statements are everywhere that you need to build your platform, know the demographics, know the interest level and what they’re interested in.

Easier said than done, right?

As an author you have to promote your book. It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King or Jack Mason. Granted my involvement and energy expenditure in the promotion is far higher than Stephen’s but we all have to promote.

So how do you build your platform?

With the internet it’s both easier and harder to do than in days past. The internet provides you easier access to a greater number of people but the other edge is it provides the same access to everyone else. It’s not as easy to get noticed. The Twitter feeds fly by with new tweets, re-tweets, people selling their wares, recommendations and what they’re doing updates. Facebook feeds are full of friend updates, Farmville updates and whatever else.

Social media has become a stream of noise. You can’t keep up when you have 50 new tweets show up every 20 seconds. (Ok, so I need to trim my feeds down.) Occasionally you see a juicy morsel you can sink your teeth into but otherwise you just want to run away. You don’t have time to watch and read it all. You have a book to write, a job to do, a family or other responsibilities. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the streams and lose your focus.

However, as an author, social media is where you need to be to promote your book, yourself and your brand. It’s where you build that platform of readers and followers. It’s where you connect with other authors, agents, publishers, editors and the list goes on. It’s a necessary evil.

The key is to minimize your time with the various social media sites while maximizing your reach and visibility. Everyone… wait that’s a strong word. A lot of people tell you you need to tweet 4 to 6 times a day, post on Facebook daily, update your blog a couple times a week or more, visit and post on other blogs, post on YouTube, Google+, Good Reads, blah, blah, blah.

They’re right. You do need to do those things. Yes those things take time. You have to promote. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean they will come. If you’re financially set you can pay someone to do those things. If you can’t afford a $15,000 marketing campaign you could check out Fiver. $5 will can get you a lot but you have to be careful.

You can also do it yourself. Before you get all nervous and jittery and jump up and down screaming you don’t have the time let me give you a couple tips.

As I said earlier you want to minimize your time but maximize your reach. The key here is to integrate your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and whatever other social media account you have. You want to be able to post in one or two places and have that post carry automatically to other sites.

For instance I am posting this on my site which happens to be a WordPress blog. By setting up a couple plugins and WordPress this single post will automatically post to my Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts. A little later in the day I’ll take this post and send it out on Facebook which will again hit Twitter. So I’ve hit most of the major sites with just 1 or 2 posts rather than having to visit each one to post. It’s certainly a time saver.

Watch your analytics. Pay attention to when people visit in relation to when you post. Change your times and frequency to get the widest reach based on your page views.

Engage your readers. Don’t just try to sell your book to them. They need to get to know you and be able to relate to you. Get to know them. Post things that encourage them to comment on and be active. Take time to respond to posts and comments. If they engage they’ll stay around and that’s what you want.

How you manage your social media campaign is entirely up to you. There is no magic bullet or formula to give you an instant platform. It all takes work just like it took to write the book you’re selling.

Keep at it and persevere.