Social Media Marketing Must Be Sustainable

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

In How to Market a Book, Joanna Penn writes, “The first job of an author is, of course, to write great books, but these days, their second job is to market them.” Penn goes on to address the misunderstanding many authors have about marketing:

I know the very word can be off-putting, but marketing is not about shrieking, “buy my book, buy my book” crazily on social media. It’s not about scams, unethical practices or treating people badly. Marketing is about sharing what you love with people who truly value hearing about it.

The truth is, if you have an aversion to social media, it probably stems from an aversion to marketing in general. And who could blame you? Social media platforms change faster than Kim Kardashian changes shoes.

When we talk about marketing in 2015, the conversation is incomplete without social media. Marketing research tells us it is a key player in buying decisions: according to Ad Week, 71 percent of consumers are likely to make a purchase based on a social media referral, and 78 percent say that a brand’s social media posts impact their buying decisions. With 71 percent of the adult Internet population using Facebook and 52 percent using more than one social media platform, these numbers are hard to ignore.

Successful Social Media Marketing Needs to Be Sustainable

“Sustainable” is a trendy word today. Slap it on a product and you’re in. Sustainable practices insure the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely—in it for the long run. It is not just a trendy watchword, though; it is a principle that can be applied to any practice, including marketing.

Sustainable marketing has 10 key characteristics, which act as filters for every strategy we implement and every tool we pull out. Checking our social media marketing plan against these characteristics insures that our marketing will be successful in the long run.

1. Sustainable social media is organic. Organic practices are ethical. They rely on natural growth and are fed by word of mouth. The audience decides if the product fits their needs. If it does, they spread the word. If your marketing is not organic, you may have growth, but it will be temporary. Examples of inorganic marketing practices include buying social media followers, buying book reviews, and paying for tweets and retweets. But paid advertising designed to foster sustainability can also be organic.

2. Sustainable social media values diversity. Finding the sweet spot of audience diversity takes some work. It starts with knowing who your fans are and having a keen sense of their needs. Putting all your marketing eggs in one basket (platform) aimed at one audience is not sustainable.

3. Sustainable social media adds value. When Jay Baer wrote Youtility, in 2013, his message was revolutionary and long overdue. Youtility is “marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your brand and your customers.”

4. Sustainable social media builds loyalty. When you put your readers’ needs at the center of your social media content, you build loyalty. Your need is to sell, but if that comes across as your primary motive, people will turn a deaf ear. A loyal fan is worth multiple book sales.

5. Sustainable social media starts in a local community. The base of a successful social media practice starts with a core group of invested fans. These are people with a first degree connection to you, whether they are reviewers, a Facebook group, newsletter subscribers, a book club, avid readers or just friends. When you make a connection with people, there is a commitment of reciprocity that takes place.

6. Sustainable social media uses your community’s knowledge and strengths. Once you build that strong community, let them in. Give them a chance to vote on covers, name a character or recommend their favorite books to the community. Crowdsource. Enlist them as ambassadors in your campaigns.

7. Sustainable social media earns trust. Way back when in social media history (2008), Seth Godin wrote a seminal book called Permission Marketing. Permission marketing is the opposite of interruptive marketing. A good example of the latter is a television commercial or an online pop-up ad. In the book, Godin stresses that brands need to make a friend before they can make a customer. People have highly sophisticated BS detectors today and trust their friends much more than they trust advertisers. The lesson: be a friend.

8. Sustainable social media starts with a plan. Marketing without a plan is like playing darts blindfolded. You can get close, but if you hit the bull’s-eye, you don’t know how you got there and probably can’t replicate it.

9. Sustainable social media can be integrated with other forms of marketing. Traditional marketing (magazines, newspaper, radio, television) and social media need to work well together. When your fans go to your website, they should feel the same vibe (message-wise and visually) that they see on your Facebook page or in your print materials. They should be able to recognize you wherever you are.

10. Sustainable social media marketing honors both innovation and strategy. One of the toughest things in social media is to separate strategy from innovation. A core value of true innovation is failure. When it comes to marketing, we lower the odds of failure by using principles that work. Within that framework, there is plenty of room for innovation. But if you just market by trying every new thing that comes along, you will fail.

Like it or not, marketing is an essential part of being a writer. And sustainable social media is an important piece of your marketing plan.

This is part one in a five-part series on SMART social media marketing by Chris Syme.

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4 thoughts on “Social Media Marketing Must Be Sustainable

    1. Chris Syme

      Helene–Sounds like you know your audience. I agree. Old school forms of those channels skew older and being replaced by satellite radio, online magazines, and the likes of Netflix and Hulu.

  1. Ernie Zelinski

    You say, \And sustainable social media is an important piece of your marketing plan.\

    This is wrong. Social media is NOT an important piece of my marketing plan. I know I can bring out a particular new book and have it sell over 100,000 copies in print without using any social media.

    As a self-published author since 1989, I have been able to sell over 875,000 of my books worldwide due to my unique creative marketing techniques. I practice avoiding what is in vogue. I am in general agreement with what this \New York Times\ Best-selling author stated not so long ago in regards to marketing books:

    \The obvious you’ll pick up within an hour of web surfing is create a website, engage on social media (FB, Twitter), blog if you have something to say. Does any of that sell books? Questionable. Very questionable.\
    — Russell Blake, \New York Times\ Best-Selling Author

    I agree with Russell Blake that it is highly questionable whether social media helps most authors market their books. Avoiding what the crowd is doing has served me well. For example, in 2009 when my \How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free\ was selling around 11,000 copies a year, I established a goal of having the book sell 2,000 copies a month or 24,000 copies a year. I decided to concentrate on print sales and not ebook sales even though ebooks were the rage. In fact, I didn’t introduce it as an ebook until around two years ago. When I did, I refused to place this book on Kindle Select or price it below $9.97 as an ebook.

    By sticking to my standards and utilizing creative marketing techniques (that 99 percent of authors are not creative enough to come up with), I was able to get the sales of \How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free\ to reach 24,500 copies in 2013. What’s more, the total sales of print, ebook, and audio editions of this book reached 45,000 copies in 2014 (an 80 percent increase over 2013). Keep in mind that I self-published this book over 10 years ago.

    These words of wisdom apply for authors who want to create a true bestseller (one that sells over 100,000 copies in print — I already have three):

    \Ten people can look at the same thing and only one or two will see the potential.\
    — Robert G. Medley

    \The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be.\
    — John Stuart Mill

    \When you do work that matters, the crowd will call you a fool.
    If you do something remarkable, something new and something important,
    not everyone will understand it (at first). Your work is for someone, not everyone.
    Unless you’re surrounded only by someones, you will almost certainly encounter everyone. And when you do, they will jeer. That’s how you’ll know you might be onto something.\
    — Seth Godin

    \What Is Your WOW Factor? This applies to both the service that you provide to the world and the way you market it. Make it edgy, make it snappy, and make it punchy.
    Even make it raunchy — but make it different! Real different!
    — from \Life’s Secret Handbook\

    “The amount of money you make will always be in direct proportion to the demand for what you do, your ability to do it, and the difficulty of replacing you.”
    — Earl Nightingale

    \It’s better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job on the wrong project.\
    — Robert J. Ringer

    \In the arena of human life the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.\
    — Aristotle

    \Books work as an art form (and an economic one) because they are primarily the work of an individual.\
    — Seth Godin

    \Even the most careful and expensive marketing plans cannot sell people a book they don’t want to read.\
    — Michael Korda, former Editor-in-Chief at Simon & Schuster

    Of course, the only way to know anything definitely about success and prosperity as a writer is to attain them for yourself by yourself — anything less is hypothesis, idle talk, and folklore.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    \Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free\
    Author of the Bestseller \How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free\
    (Over 260,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller \The Joy of Not Working\
    (Over 280,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  2. Chris Syme

    Good points.I would probably be the first person to say that social media is not for everyone. But there are a large number of indie authors out there that choose to use it to reach new readers and extend their market. My point is never that everyone should use it. My hope is that people that want to use it will learn to do so effectively and not randomly. Thanks for continuing the conversation.



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