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We often confuse relevance with creativity. Relevance is not about being cutting edge or participating in the latest fad. When it comes to social media, relevance is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time through the right channel. Sometimes it’s actually easier to understand relevance by looking at what it’s not.
1. Relevance isn’t about tools. Tools come and go, and if you rely on Facebook or Snapchat (heaven forbid) to bring you success, then you are on the wrong train. Tools deliver the relevant information; they are the conduit. They help you target the audience you need with relevant content that triggers a sense of value and leads them to an emotional connection. If you don’t connect with them personally, your content is forgettable, no matter what channel it’s on.
2. Relevance isn’t about being hip or on the cutting edge. A first cousin to number one, the need to be cool doesn’t solve most buyers’ needs. Engagement isn’t always about being an early adopter. If your mantra is “sell, sell, sell,” it will sound just as hollow on Snapchat as it does on Facebook.
3. Relevance doesn’t always increase with reach. Traditional marketing reach is a measurement of how far your social media message goes. It’s about eyeballs—how many people see a post. You can try to game reach by purchasing one of those silly retweet packages for $15, but the truth is they are a complete waste of money. Their tweets don’t reach your target audience, so they don’t deliver a relevant message. Their audiences have not been qualified to buy your books. Relevant reach is about numbers and your targeted audience.
4. Relevance won’t increase by being on every social media channel. More isn’t better on social media. It’s all about matching audiences to the right content. Where are your readers and where are they in the habit of buying? Targeted is better. Know your audience.
Relevance Is About the Strength of Relationships
In information science, relevance is the way in which one topic is related to another. Google algorithms rely on relevance to show you exactly what you are searching for. If you Google the phrase “social media marketing,” for instance, an algorithm will search for such things as pages that others have referenced on the subject, keywords and other relevance measurements. The order of web page results you see is carefully selected based on your past searches, where you go online and where others have gone, as well. Each page is assigned a relevance score, if you will.
Facebook also uses a relevance score that determines which ads will be seen and how much they will cost. The better you are at matching your product and message to the targeted audience, the higher your score is, and the more likely it is that Facebook will show your ad to users. You may think that is unfair, but it is actually a consumer-driven algorithm. Facebook users complained for years that Facebook was full of spammy newsfeed ads, so Facebook made a promise to users to show them only ads they would be interested in, matching the products with their age, interests, location and user habits (other products and pages they had liked). And it’s actually a good deal for advertisers: the more you know my audience, the better you can target them.
What Is Relevance in Social Media?
These relevance calculations from both Google and Facebook give us an idea of just how important relevance is in social media marketing. There are five factors you need to consider to be relevant in social media:
1. Who is in your audience? And don’t say everyone. When we say audience, we’re not talking about outliers or small percentage groups like 55-year-old women who like science fiction erotica; we’re talking common demographics. For instance, if you write Young Adult (YA) books, you are targeting young people ages 10-18, generally speaking. This group also has preferred social media channels and interests. You can find much of that data through online searches.
Professional associations and publishers often report on specific genre-related data. You can also survey your readers’ interests through a Facebook or newsletter survey. Do you pay attention to your fans on Goodreads? What kinds of books are they reading and recommending?
2. What other authors write books like yours? In marketing, this is called opposition research. Knowing which authors write books like you do can help you in the hunt for an audience for your books. Do you like the Facebook pages of other authors in your genre? Follow them on Twitter or Pinterest? Read any of their books? It is especially helpful to keep an eye on how they market. What are they doing that is captivating?
I have one client who routinely asks her Facebook fans to share books by other authors they like. It’s foolish to think your Facebook fans are only reading your books. So how can you partner in initiatives with other authors to share audience promotion efforts? Build bridges—no author is an island. Your audience moves in many circles.
3. When are readers buying books? When are your book sales the highest? What about other authors you network with? This information allows you to develop a better mix of social media content that helps rather than content that hypes, as Jay Baer would say. You don’t just want to jump on social media when sales are expected to be the highest and start selling. Relevance is built on a 12-month cycle. Offering relevant content year-round builds the kind of loyalty that earns us the right to sell when the buying cycle kicks in.
It is also helpful to know when the best times of day and days of the week are to post on social media. There is abundant data online to answer these questions. I recommend using these recommendations as a starting point. Posting times can vary with demographics such as age, gender and time zone. For instance, YA readers frequent social media more during non-school hours. Remember your audience.
4. Where are your readers? Once you know who your readers are, it’s time to find out where they are. All social media platforms are not created equal. There is a wealth of information on who is on which platform and what they are doing there. Pew Internet Research is an excellent source of who is on which channels.
5. Why should your readers care? Why should they buy your book? Defining what makes your book valuable to readers is gold. A great example of this is the book descriptions on Amazon. Next to your cover, it’s the main motivator for buying your book, especially for new readers. It must move the reader to want to know more about your book. Otherwise, they may not bite. Good copywriting is an art and can be learned. Attention spans today are shorter, and readers are more critical than ever. They are bombarded with so many messages that they quickly move on if you don’t hook them. If your content is relevant enough to make an emotional connection, though, you will have succeeded. Always leave them wanting more.
This is part four in a five-part series on SMART social media marketing by Chris Syme.
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