The Value of Social Media

Blissed out on paperbark flower nectar
Blissed out on paperbark flower nectar

I was intrigued by this article on Blendle initially because it offered a way of making journalism pay for itself, but then because of something said in the article: “people don’t want to spend money on the ‘what’, they want to spend money on the ‘why’.” In other words, people expect to get news (the what) for free on the internet. Understanding the story behind the news is what they’ll pay for.

For authors, who are pushed by publishers, peers and the challenge of discoverability to self-promote, this is a major issue. If we have a new book out, this is news. We splash it around everywhere we can think of because we can see that doing so works for big name authors.

Ah, there’s the point. For big name authors, their substantial fanbase values the news of a book release. So the what (the news) is also the why (the author’s name). But for those of us starting out, our author name is not a value statement, which means we have to go a step beyond an announcement of our new book to communicate why it is important to its audience.

There’s so much in the paragraph above.

For a start, do you know your book’s audience? You’d better, because you need to know who you’re communicating with if you want to reach them. Where do they hang out?

What is your author brand, your promise to readers? If you’re aiming to be a big name author, this has to be clear. Make a promise and deliver it, again and again.

Most importantly, what value is your book to its audience? Why must they add it to their lives? Sometimes we answer this question with the book’s hook, the attention-grabbing premise of the story. Sometimes with quotations from reviews, recommendations by big name authors, excerpts to showcase the writing, or visually with the cover. Covers ought to say a lot about the book and what it will deliver.

Believe it or not, this is the start of your marketing plan.

Is your book entertainment? emotional catharsis? informative? cautionary? what? Now, why is that important and to whom?

Keep this in mind and work out how the message is best communicated. Which social media will you use and how will you use them? Don’t forget images! Be aware that you’re often competing against paid promotional activity. If you have a budget to do some yourself, research like crazy the best (as in, best for your book) media for reaching your book’s audience.

Remember that you can add value to your new book news by adding a discount or free promotion with a motivating end date. You can add a code to a free bonus story or anything else you can dream up. Just keep on message: your promise to readers, the value you bring them.

People complain that social media is an echo chamber, a crazy waste of time, a place where authors annoy everyone with “buy my book” messages — and it’s true. But it’s also false. News announcements are the empty noise, but deliver something of value and it cuts through.

If you want to make your social media time count, remember two things:

  1. You’re communicating with real people, and that means listening and responding, valuing them. Don’t be all “buy my book”. Be interesting and interested.
  2. Stay on message. When you’re doing a “buy my book” post, ask yourself: what value does this deliver to its intended audience?

Social media can be both fun and effective, if you remember why you’re there.

10 Replies to “The Value of Social Media”

  1. This is brilliant and definitely a tweetable post.

    I’ve known this to some degree but reducing this to its base elements of what and why really bring it home.

    Thank you for posting this. I’m also saving this post to remind me of what’s important in marketing.

    1. Thanks, Maria. I’ve been thinking about all this stuff since the start of Carina Press (remember those days?) and five years later, I might actually be on the road to understanding what the heck it is we have to do!

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Now that is a great link. My reading of that article and its relevance to a romance writer’s marketing plans is slightly different. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct. 🙂

    My thinking is that people who normally wouldn’t pay for news won’t pay for something that is everywhere on the net for free (the syndicated news), but they will pay for in-depth, long form journalism.

    I guess if you brand yourself as a syndicated type of romance writer (write the same romances as the next), scream it from the top of your lungs over social media to the entire world, the reader might decline to pay for your work and/or return it. However, if you brand yourself as an intensely sensitive writer who writes unique stories, gets to the nitty gritty of her characters and her worlds, and you send that message to a niche group of interested readers, this is when you’ve hit marketing nirvana. I’m no marketing expert, but I think this has less to do with marketing and more to do with the actual books. But those are just my thoughts.

    1. Georgia, I think you’re spot on for marketing nirvana. It also sounds like you know exactly who you’re writing for! that’s huge.

      You’ve probably heard of marketing funnels. I’m still in Stage 1 — trying to scoop up everyone so that I reach my (future) dedicated readers. Working out how to widen my existing funnels and add more (if I understand the concept at all, which is debatable) seems to me part of that thing where I have to test for value in my social media. So that’s where my post was coming from.

      Everything is changing and no one knows quite what it’s changing into as our use of the net and taking it for granted settles in. In a way, I’m hoping that levels the playing field. Even the clueless (looks in mirror) have a chance 🙂

      1. Hi Jenny,

        It sounds like you’re on the right track too. And, for the record, you’re not clueless. The clueless get left behind because they’re too busy watching themselves to comprehend that something has changed.

        1. You may have something there — about watching themselves. I think some people who had small successes 3 years ago with self-publishing are a bit stunned at how the publishing landscape has changed. It seems none of us can afford to sit still.

    1. It really is. Ainslie Paton (on Twitter @AinsliePaton) has been invaluable in prompting me to think clearly — as opposed to tweeting in hope LOL — about PR.