Social Media: The Art of the Nudge

Iris Blasi, Digital Media Coordinator, Hilsinger Mendelson East | @irisblasi

Ed note: Iris Blasi is a speaker at the upcoming Publishers Launch San Fransisco on November, 2. The conference, which follows StoryWorld Conference + Expo, will explore Ebooks For Everyone Else. Blasi will discuss how small publishers, agents, and authors can make their books more discoverable through social media and make use of a wide variety of online tools. With less than a month to go, you’ll want to register now.

We’re well past the social media tipping point. No longer must people explain its value or justify it as more than strangers announcing what they’d had for lunch. And yet still I find so many showing up at the social media pool, all suited up in their 140 characters, and they’re just doggy-paddling—tweeting about the errands they ran that day, posting an interesting link or two, broadcasting their observations about life, ‘liking’ up a storm, chatting with friends.  As long as you’re not posting anything inappropriate for a public forum, this is all no harm, no foul. But if you have anything other than a purely personal motive for engaging, you’re wasting time with this splashing around. If you’re on Twitter for more than just socializing—if you actually have something to sell—it’s time to learn how to do some fancy dives.

The good news is that as an author, an agent, or a publisher, you already have something to talk about: books. Social media ignites when passion meets profession and, presumably, if you’ve written, agented, or published a book, you love reading. (If not, you may want to stop now and consider a non-publishing career path.) “What are you reading?” is one of the most intimate questions one can ask in polite society, and you can use the magical things that are books to connect with other like-minded people.

The big question is HOW?

There are numerous ways to do this – tapping into category-specific trending topics like #fridayreads; dipping into the search function to find people talking about your subject of interest; actively following thought leaders in your field – but the one I find to be the most under-utilized is the Art of the Nudge.

Social media is often likened to an online cocktail party. In such a situation, you wouldn’t necessarily barge up to a person you wanted to meet, extend your hand, introduce yourself, and launch into your pitch. Instead, you’d engage in the dance of proximity: being interesting within earshot. You tell a joke so on point that the group surrounding you laughs simultaneously; you share an anecdote that sparks an animated conversation. This piques your target’s interest and draws them to you. This subtler art is all too often neglected in social media, in favor of direct contact.

There are handles everywhere in the social media world. Grab onto them. Use them to get someone’s attention and – voila! – they’re pulled right into the conversation.

Back to our hypothetical cocktail party. How often have you heard, “Did you read that thing in the Times?” A good conversationalist can steer the discussion deftly no matter the answer. But imagine if when you posed the question, the person standing behind you within earshot just happened to be the journalist who wrote the article. And that next to her was her editor. And next to him was one of the experts she’d consulted for the piece. And then a college kid writing his thesis on the topic overheard and chimed in with a few tidbits of information from his latest research. And then a preeminent scholar on the subject wandered over to add in his two cents.

What is a relatively unlikely occurrence in that setting (if it happens, it’s a heck of a party) is well within the realm of possibility in social media circles.

Before long, we’ll reach a point where handles are prevalent on business cards, resumes, and hyperlinked every place a name appears. Until then, it is almost always worth the extra 60 seconds to find the right attribution, which will allow that person to overhear what you’re saying. Read an interesting piece that morning? Look to see if the journalist is on Twitter before posting. Giving a shout-out to a book on #fridayreads? Check to see if the author or the book itself has a Facebook fan page or Twitter account. Did you get a nice bit of publicity from an online venue? Post on your Facebook page using their Facebook handle, so it appears in their stream. Have something smart to add to a conversation begun in an article? Include the media outlet’s handle and that outlet may well re-tweet you, bringing your words (and your handle) to the attention of a much wider audience. These are the ways to initiate an interaction. You’re not @replying them; you’re not playing “please re-tweet me” games; you’re not hollering for them to buy your book or read your blog post. Instead, you’re virtually name-dropping in conversation and making sure they hear you. <Nudge nudge.> I’m over here and I have interesting things to say.

When plotting just how you want to brush up against someone using The Art of the Nudge, think about your desired reaction. Do you want them to click through to a link? Follow you back? Re-tweet you? Answer a question? Sign up for your mailing list? Write a review? Having the endgame in mind will change how you plan your nudge. (And, no, “more followers or fans” should not be your objective. Empty popularity contests won’t get you much of anything. Social media should be the means to some kind of end.) Pause for a moment and think about what works on you: with information streaming by at a mile a minute, what catches your attention? Probably not someone screaming out for followers and begging for re-blogs. So what is it, exactly, that earns your click-through? What makes you want to re-tweet? Pinpoint how others successfully seduce you, and use the lessons learned from these online Don Juans with your own followers.

At its core, social media is really the art of the tease.  It’s all about clever headlines and good timing. Sure, you could walk out on stage shouting into a megaphone about how great you are. But if you take off a single glove in just the right way, you might find a lot more people sticking around for the rest of the show.

This post originally appeared in the conference program for eBooks for Everyone Else and has been reproduced with Ms. Blasi’s permission.

Iris Blasi is the Digital Media Coordinator at literary PR firm Hilsinger Mendelson East. Formerly, she was an associate editor at Union Square Press, and she’s also worked for Random House, NBC, and The Idea Logical Company. Her writing has appeared in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Dow Jones Newswires, Publishers Weekly, BUST Magazine, The Jewish Daily Forward, Bitch Magazine, and BookPage.


2 thoughts on “Social Media: The Art of the Nudge

  1. efulsang

    About five years ago, I published my first book through my small publishing company, Aarhus Publishing. It was a good book, a novel. Made it into Amazon, a few bookstores, and as many libraries. It reviewed well, sold poorly, then died. It died because little ol’ me was trying to copy off Big Pub’s marketing homework. I didn’t realize then that Big Pub was about to flunk out, mainly because he was using the same outdated methods he’d been using for the last 50 years–signings, tours, TV/radio interviews, magazine/newspaper reviews, etc. For me, those methods were a lot of work and a lot of money for ephemeral payback.

    Today, I’ve had my eyes opened… by my daughter-in-law no less. Jaime is a very cool thirty-something ‘teenager’. Welcome to the New World! Now I’m in a mad scramble to figure out Facebook and Twitter. Like most tech-savvy guys my age, I knew what they were but could see no earthly use for them. After a lifetime of avoiding viruses (I was in the Army in Asia), now I want one for Christmas! In short, I found Iris’ article to be extremely thought-provoking. (Note to self: Always be subtle!) Tell me more, Iris. Tell me more! Lead me to the promised land of Bestsellerdom!

    Ejner Fulsang
    Editor, Aarhus Publishing

    1. Iris Blasi

      Welcome to the digital world, Ejner! Two points to help you get started:

      1.) There is no “scrambling” to learn in social media, as that’ll be patently obvious to anyone who has been hanging out here for a while. Open an account and feel free to just watch and listen until you feel ready to jump in yourself.

      2.) Put your twitter and FB handle everywhere you can — your email signature, your business card, and your comment post. How are we to engage with you if we don’t know that you’re there?

      Hope to see you swimming around in the social media pool soon!




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