Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
A mind-boggling 78 percent of Americans have a social media profile. According to Statista, 2.72 billion people will be social media users worldwide by 2019.
It is a given that authors can develop loyal audiences and sell more books with the help of social media. But as numbers of users rise, the pressure to “be on every channel” also rises, as authors succumb to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
Even though it may be true that you have potential readers on every social media channel, it may be a waste of your time and resources to try to connect with people everywhere.
It’s Not About Numbers Anymore. It’s About Engagement
Internet users have an average of five social media accounts (Global Web Index), but they do not engage on them equally or use them for the same purpose. Numbers do give us information about social media, but numbers can be deceiving, as their meaning can shift with time. For example:
• In the pre-algorithm world of 2011, the race was on to build up as many fans on social media as possible. The more followers you had, the more people would see your content, as Facebook was yet to become the first social media channel to institute an engagement-choking algorithm.
• In 2016, numbers are a function of baseline reach as they have always been. But today, three of the major five platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) have engagement algorithms that restrict reach. Because of the sheer volume of online information, users have cried out for a better way to see the information that’s important to them. The result: constricting engagement algorithms. Today, your fan and follower numbers are only a baseline. The effectiveness of your content to get fans to like, share, comment and click will determine how many people actually see your content.
• Average baseline engagement rates are abysmal. The average organic post engagement rate on Facebook in March 2015 was less than three percent for pages with more than a million likes, according to the social analytics firm Locowise (see graphic below). For smaller pages with less than 1000 likes, it was just over 22 percent. So bigger is not better. This also validates the trend of people looking for more personal social media connections.
What’s an Author to Do?
First, the answer is not to be on more channels. What we have seen in the marketing world is an evolution of best practices that started when Facebook slapped on the first algorithm. Marketing best practices are migrating from the “more is better” philosophy (the first reaction to algorithm changes) to the current wisdom that “less is more.”
Yes, there is an urgent need to learn how to write better content. But content is only one piece of the puzzle. Developing loyal fans in order to sell more books on social media is a perfect storm of several factors:
• Knowing your target audience intimately. Know who they are, what their buying habits are, what kinds of information they are looking for, and which social media channels they frequent.
• Knowing the “behavioral culture” and demographics of each social media channel. People are not on Twitter for the same reasons they are on Facebook or Snapchat. Consequently, they do not take the same actions on every channel.
• Knowing which channels are the best for selling. If connecting with an ultimate goal of sales is what you’re trying to accomplish, then know which channels are good at selling and which are not. Forget about those channels that are not. Every channel can be good for engaging, but they are not created equally for selling.
The Answer: Authors Need an Outpost Strategy
The answer to getting found and heard in today’s social media universe is to be present everywhere and engage strategically. Jim Kukral of Author Marketing Club calls this “claiming your digital land.” I call it having an outpost strategy. It is basically a two-step process.
Step One: Designate Your Primary Channels for Engagement
The key to marketing your books online is to pick your poison. In my book SMART Social Media for Authors, I recommend “The Big Three” every author needs to market online successfully: website, email list and Facebook business page.
Depending on whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you may want to add an additional primary channel. This is especially true for nonfiction writers who have business-based books, or Young Adult and New Adult fiction writers.
Furthermore, an author may desire to have another primary channel, such as Twitter or Pinterest or a Facebook group, because they like social media. Whatever you decide, pick your primary channels with care. You’ll be spending the bulk of your allotted social media marketing time there.
Your primary channels are where you are going to engage your fans, forge connections and build loyalty. This will require a deeper knowledge of how to produce engaging content: knowing what types of posts work well, how to trigger a call-to-action, and how to develop influencers who will share.
Your content’s quality and consistency, plus your commitment to interaction, are the keys to building an engaged primary audience.
Step Two: Build Your Outposts
Think of your primary channel as a fort in the old west. It is your main base of operations. It’s where all the action takes place. Think of your secondary channels as outposts in the old west—places where the fort connects with pockets of the population and extends a hand on behalf of the fort.
From 2010-2015, marketers used to say that a little used social media profile was a sign of negligence, a turn-off to fans. If you didn’t want to be seen as thoughtless, you needed to be fully engaged everywhere. Today, establishing social media outposts that point to your primary channels is an essential element of discoverability and search. It’s just good business practice. Since the average social media user has five accounts, it would be a good idea to have a presence on those accounts that acknowledges you have a home base where you connect with fans. An outpost is the search engine of social media.
Outposts Are Not “Set It and Forget It”
Even if you only have an outpost on a channel, you still need to keep the basic elements there current:
• Use any cover photo real estate to promote your latest book launch or tell people where they can connect with you. When you change your cover photo on Facebook to reflect your latest promotion, run that cover on your outposts as well.
• Use pinned posts and tweets to tell people where they can connect. Some social media platforms allow you to “pin” a post to the top of your feed. Use this to let people know where they can find you or your latest book. It’s key to let people know where you are active—they are looking for you. Change these pinned posts as often as you change your cover photo.
• When you are launching a book or promoting a big event, make sure your pinned post and your cover photo reflect that. Here’s an example of how you could do that on Twitter:
• Make it clear in your outpost bio where you are active. Most social media bios support live links. Send them to where the action is. Invite them to connect by clicking.
• Don’t worry about not engaging with an outpost regularly. Your outpost’s purpose is to direct traffic back to the fort, not to try to engage people there. Outposts achieve the purpose of discoverability, not engagement.
Every author is pressed for time. The key, then, is to use your time wisely. Don’t get sucked in by the pressure to be everywhere on social media. Pick your primary channels with care, engage your fans deeply there, and use an outpost strategy to point potential fans and readers to the mothership. On social media, less can be more.
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