I write this post to try and pinpoint the exact aspects and extent of participation in Facebook and Twitter that authors can most benefit from. You can’t expect big results from either social media site; your sales are not going to take off because you are spending three hours a day posting and tweeting.
What you can do is maximize the returns from your presence and your efforts there. Those results are going to be visible more in terms of social reach than in terms of any sales.
If you go in with realistic expectations, you will probably insulating yourself from disillusionment.
From what I have seen, neither site offers you much scope to reach out directly to readers.
Book-related groups in Facebook are dominated by authors pimping their stuff or by authors reviewing each other’s books. Either way, reader presence is pretty much zero.
It seems to me there are two major benefits to authors reviewing each other’s books.
The first, more critical benefit is that reviews help the author reach potential readers: because the reviews are posted to sites like Amazon and Goodreads, they become visible to these readers there. The more reviews a book receives, the more positive the impact on readers who are browsing.
Reviews are social proof—the kind of “proof of quality” potential customers look for.
Talking about reviews, it is rather dumb to expect only positive, four- and five-star reviews. A sprinkling of good and bad reviews, with a majority of good and better, would probably work out best. You can’t expect not to be panned every now and then. Somebody may pan me for that last sentence, I think.
Look at it this way: would you buy a book with reviews that unanimously give the book four and five stars and sing hosannas about it? I wouldn’t—I would smell a four- or five-star rat.
The second benefit applies more to the pre-publication stage, when feedback from other authors helps you iron out the kinks in your book. Though I have yet to receive and benefit from this sort of feedback, I have participated in the giving, and I see some fantastic, constructive suggestions.
Authors help each other out on issues such as choosing the likeliest book cover from a set of possibilities, pointing out typos and other errors in an excerpt and adding impact to an opening line.
Earlier this week, I had commented on a thread in one of the author groups I belong to that I don’t expect much from my Facebook page—everyone knows that Facebook severely restricts your reach to your own connections, unless you pay to expand it—but do expect my posts on my profile to reach all of my friends and my posts in groups to reach all of my fellow members.
Turns out I was wrong on the profile front. I am seeing what I can dig up about reach on the group front.
My posts on my profile reach about one-third of my friends, and the reach is improved slightly if people like my posts. I mean, I am talking here about my personal profile page, where most of my connections are my personal friends.
Facebook is restricting my ability to reach out to my own friends, many of who go back to times when Facebook was not even a sperm in Zuckerberg’s mental scrotum. Come to think of it…
Many of my friends on Facebook go back to times when Mark Zuckerberg was not even born.
Here’s the summary of the benefits you receive from Facebook:
- your profile—it enables you to set up an identity, it gives you more reach than your page, and it enables you to join groups;
- your page—benefits not very quantifiable, probably too small to do that, but you need a page anyway, just to maintain a professional presence;
- your groups—depends on the extent of activity and the extent of your own participation in them. It is better to join a select few groups and be active in all of them as far as possible than to join tons of groups just because your name and photo appear on the lists of members, without contributing much to discourse.
Is it worthwhile for an author to spend money on Facebook Ads? I have never come across any data that focuses on author ad spend and returns gained in Facebook, but I stick my neck out. There are almost surely few benefits for authors from Facebook Ads.
Now let’s take a loof at Twitter. Facebook and Twitter differ in some crucial aspects.
Like with Facebook, there is no obvious reader presence in Twitter, but I am going to stick my neck out once again—way out, this time.
I say that because Twitter gives you a better chance of reaching out to and getting noticed by influencers. For authors still on the way up, influencers are successful, big-name authors, of course. Getting noticed by influencers and getting mentioned by them means getting noticed by their followers.
I am very sure most of an author’s followers on Twitter are fans… read readers.
So how do you get noticed by influencer authors on Twitter, and in turn, by their followers?
First, create a list of influencers you follow. Stay with them even if they do not follow back. Twitter does not have groups like Facebook or communities like Google+. You can create lists and add any Twitter account to any of your lists. Unlike in Facebook groups and Google+ communities, there is no interaction other than the normal tweeting process in lists; when you create a list, all you are doing is giving yourself a channel that focuses on the tweets of the Twitter users on your list, to the exclusion of all other Twitter users.
Keep a daily eye out for influencer tweets that are worth retweeting, and retweet them. You can use a tool like Hootsuite for this purpose. Hootsuite allows you to set up streams for Twitter lists.
Your retweets will appear on the original tweeter’s timeline. That means they are visible to the followers of that original tweeter. When that original tweeter thanks you for the retweet, that thank you is also going to be visible to his or her followers.
You may be surprised by how many of those followers follow you if you keep at it.
You can also initiate follows yourself with followers of influencers by finding out who these followers are using a tool like Tweepi.
One other thing you’ve got to do is keep tweeting. Tweet as much as you can. Use a tool like Buffer for this purpose. Plan your tweets in advance and feed them into Buffer with posting schedules.
Remember, though: tweet appropriate, tweet relevant, and don’t beat your followers on the head by repeating one tweet endlessly. You also risk getting your account suspended by Twitter.
Tweet to a theme. Pick the right theme—a theme that reflects your writing genres and your personality. Make sure most of your tweets reflect that theme. Get known for something specific.
Jeff Bullas, a leading social media expert, has found out that people with more than 15,000 tweets have between 100,000 and one million followers.
Would you agree that even with the most pessimistic estimates, a substantial portion of that kind of follower strength is bound to consist of the kind of followers you most want: readers?
Before I wrap, a word about hashtags: don’t forget to use hashtags in your Facebook posts and tweets. The key word is use, not overuse. Not more than 2 hashtags in a tweet, preferably the same for a Facebook post.
Consistent use of hashtags pays off in terms of exposure. Oh yes, you can create your own hashtags, too.
I am done with this post, but hope you are not. Do you have any suggestions for authors on how to maximum returns from Facebook and Twitter. Please let them know in the comments below.
Photo Flying girl: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes/Flickr. Thank you.
Photo Bookshop: viewminder/Flickr. Thank you.
Photo Hashtag: ognian mladenov/Flickr. Thank you.