I've seen a lot of "you're doing it wrong" statements recently, but for social media it isn't very helpful to just say what people are doing "wrong." Instead, let's focus on who's doing it right when it comes to quality content in social media.
I think the best starting point for this post is a reminder of the fact that social media marketing is NOT traditional marketing. It's not a billboard or radio spot or magazine ad. That's all one sided, and the concept of social media marketing is somewhat like the phenomena that is Girl Scout cookies. Bear with me, here, there is a method to my madness.
Let's suppose that - use your imaginations with me - that Girl Scout cookies are absolutely calorie free and taste just like the cookies you know. But, these Girl Scout cookies are $25 a box. So theoretically you can eat as many of these cookies as you want (and they won't rot your teeth either). However, most of us can't afford to buy unlimited numbers of boxes. So, rank the choices below by who you purchase the most boxes of cookies from:
a.) your daughter/granddaughter/niece
b.) your best friend's daughter/granddaughter/niece
c.) your next door neighbor's kids
d.) your colleague's kids
e.) your poker buddies' kids
f.) some kid you don't know who shows up at your front door one afternoon
e.) the Girl Scout pack that ambushes you outside the grocery store
Does anyone see where I'm going with this? When you have so incredibly many choices of books you could buy - but you can't realistically buy them all - how do you start to decide which books you'll part with your hard-earned money for? Then throw into the mix the used book stores, library sales, library loans, loans from friends...people make special choices about what books they choose to spend their money on. (I for one know there are certain authors who will be easily available at the used book store in less than a month after release. I don't buy their books new most times.) The first factor is obviously going to be - do they want to consume it? (Like those yummy, calorie-free cookies). So after you've created the quality product...Your mom, dad, neighbors and friends are going to run out and buy your book. That's where the idea of social media marketing comes in - if you've made friends, they're going to buy your book - the idea is to make friends, not sales pitches. Readers are able to feel like they're making connections and building relationships with the people who write the books. The stronger the connection, the stronger the commitment.
One of the first reactions I know I will get is, "but I don't want to share my personal life with those people."
If you don't want to share any element of who you are personally with your fans on Facebook, that's fine, then you shouldn't be on Facebook. Regardless of what your Publishing PR person says, you shouldn't be on Facebook. You don't have to read further. Just a tiny reminder, though...those people allow you to do what you do. Just sayin'.
If you want to get a great benefit from social media, I offer up this advice: don't think of the people who like your page as "fans." Think of them as "friends." Stop using the word "fans." Stop having the attitude "me" and "them." If you truly come across someone who is scary and you feel might threaten your well-being, then take the appropriate steps any person would take to protect themselves. In the meantime, don't assume every person who likes your page is a psycho stalker/murderer.
Here are a couple examples of people who are opening themselves up to their friends on Facebook - and to my knowledge no one has killed them or threatened their families:
Shana Galen! I just adore this woman. And blasted if I don't admire her for letting her husband post this picture. I think it's a stunning picture and boy do I feel like she thinks I'm important to her. Shana had her husband post to her author page, so not only does she let the world know who he is, she includes him. I love that he is willing to do that, too.
I'm not saying everyone should run out and post pictures like this. I'm merely showing you that the world does not end because you share this kind of thing with your "friends."
Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself! You'll really gain respect...and the best part is, no one will see you blush if you're embarrassed. AND, like Alafair Burke, you might get some media coverage from it:
Let's look at other examples of people who are doing things right and that may not scare y'all quite as much. ;-)
Marcia Clark. Y'all, this lady is doing it right! She posted regular updates about a hummingbird baby that was in a nest outside her house...she had pictures and video and everything.
Then she posted this picture:
Please notice what she says, "Our little guy is all grown up and out zinging..." OUR - yours and mine. We shared this together. I love it - and she didn't even have to share any "personal" details.
Marcia also posts fairly regularly about legal cases that are in the news...and not in formal legal-eeze, but like she's talking to "friends" about the cases. Obviously that's a big part of who she is:
Connie Schultz, right? (actually she is an author but she's not out selling books, so we'll put her in a different category) And most of us, especially Ohioans, know she's married to Sherrod Brown. She talks some politics on her Facebook page - they're a big part of who she is. She also shares things like this:
You can't see the whole text portion of the post, but it's quite funny. I would draw your attention to: 142 comments, 640+ likes and 23 shares. Granted Connie is known by many, many people, but she's authentic on her Facebook page - as authentic as she is in life. And she doesn't shy away from that. So people WANT to interact with her. The lesson from Connie: Be who you are.
Here's another great example of Connie asking for input from her "friends."
Since I'm a big animal advocate, I follow a number of Facebook pages that deal with rescues, zoos, advocacy organizations, etc. The Big Cat Rescue in Florida does a great job with their Facebook page. Their posts encourage people to interact with them. Like this one:
Here are a few more screenshots of people doing it right:
Hank Phillippi Ryan (she always cracks me up):
Mutts - Patrick McDonnell
I love that RC does it right! Note how he refers to the fans:
O.k., those are just a few examples. Lots of people are doing it right out there. Share with us in the comments people YOU think are doing it right and why. I've linked all of these examples to their Facebook pages if you want to like their pages and follow along. But I want to wrap up with a few common "errors" I observe and offer alternatives.
1.) Don't post every nice review you get. Even if you're alternating those with other posts, it comes across as pompous and really, only your Mom is going to check them all out. Instead, pick one that's very special to you...maybe it's the first time you've been reviewed by the NY Times or the first time you've gotten an AP review or the first time you're reviewed in People Magazine. We get excited for our friends when they have a significant accomplishment. We get disgusted with our friends when they start sounding like, "look how great I am!"
What can you do with those nice reviews? Put excerpts from a handful on your website and create content that encourages your "friends" to visit your website. If they're interested in your reviews they'll read them there.
2.) Don't continually post your Amazon/B&N rankings. Again, Mom is thrilled for you, share that info with her. But in general your "friends" lose interest in that FAST!
3.) Don't continually post buy links and tell people to go buy your book...or worse yet, try to guilt or bully them into doing so. If you want to mention a pre-order promotion you're doing, mention it once or twice and again just before it's over. Then make sure it's very visible on your website, send out a newsletter, but don't beat people over the head with it on your Facebook page. When your book comes out, be creative about mentioning it...show a picture of you celebrating or something, have a release day contest, but don't post links every hour on the hour hoping they'll stay in people's news feeds. Again, use your traditional media forums to talk AT people.
4.) Don't include in your post - "please spread the word, please retweet, please share with your friends." Create great content and let people decide for themselves what they want to share with others.
You seriously could have seen my jaw hit the floor when a friend informed people she was going to moderate a social media panel and she wanted folks to tell her what they wanted to know about social media so she could put her questions together. Someone wanted to know "how do you get your minions to sell your books for you?" That isn't the exact wording but it's darn close and the whole meaning is there. Most people on Facebook aren't so dumb that they don't realize when you're just using them. If that's all you want to do and you don't want to make authentic connections with your readers - close your Facebook page. Please.
5.) Don't ignore what your "friends" tell you by their interaction or lack thereof with your posts. If a post goes totally ignored, see if that's similar to other posts that have done the same and start staying away from that type of content.
6.) Don't view social media as a burden or an inconvenience. Have fun. Make friends. If you go in with a negative attitude, it shows and you aren't helping yourself.
I saw this article yesterday and thought it was outstanding. It isn't written specifically for social media, but it really does hold true with social media, too. I guess interacting with people boils down to the same precedents no matter what venue.
One of the most important pieces of advice I would offer in my professional development course on social media marketing is this: "Remember, it's not about you." If you keep that in mind, you'll find a lot more success than if all you do is talk about you. Think more about what your "friends" want to know than what YOU want to tell. If you show those people you genuinely care about them, they'll care back and buy YOUR box of Girl Scout Cookies. They might even buy a few boxes for their friends!
O.k. let's fill the comments now...tell me who you know is doing it right. And if you have their FB link, provide it for others to check out...THANKS!!