Part 29: determine which social media platforms are the right ones for you to showcase your writing and ebooks.
Social media platforms are not identical. Some are busier than others, and some will be a better fit for your style of promotion.
Does social media actually sell books?
Opinions vary from the negative to the cautiously optimistic. For every runaway success out there, there are ten thousand emerging writers with a handful of sales and 34 likes on their Facebook page.
However, for the emerging author or indie publisher, the question is: how much can it hurt? Your presence in publishing is less than zero – in fact, many people out there actively dislike you already for cluttering up an already overcrowded marketplace. Spend as much of your time as you can being the best writer you can be, and the rest of it informing people of what you’re doing. If it doesn’t work, fine. Try a different angle, a new approach.
Book-specific social media
There are quite a few social media sites built specifically around books and reading. To gauge how active they are, I ran them through Alexa, which ranks them by volume of traffic (in this case, the three months to February 2013), with a lower score indicating heavier usage, i.e. Douban is the 113th most popular website in the world right now, and the 20th most popular in China.
Alexa rank: 19,639 US: 8,012
Based on this, the no-brainer choice for authors who write in English is the fast-growing Goodreads. I must admit to being a bit of a fan – the site design is clean, fast and quite intuitive, with large and active author communities based around a variety of genres.
This is, of course, just a selection of the most popular social platforms out there. There will be others, often specific to a particular country or region (such as Friendster’s dominance among South East Asian internet users), or fulfilling a certain function (such as LinkedIn, a business and professional networking tool).
Alexa rank: 2 US: 2
Make a Facebook page as a writer and invite your friends list to join. Don’t be surprised at the lack of uptake in return; that’s how social media works. Facebook offers the most balanced style of use – you can post a mixture of short and long written posts, and images.
Alexa rank: 10 US: 10
You can set up your Twitter account so it automatically posts to your Facebook author page. Remember, be funny and informative; people don’t want to hear what your cat is doing ten times a day (unless your cat is Grumpy Cat). The 144 character limit means Twitter is suited to people who can offer brief, cutting insights in a single sentence.
Alexa rank: 32 US: 18
Like a Twitter for images, Tumblr has been used very well by authors and publishers who understand the platform’s younger userbase and their resistance to traditional marketing. Heavily text based posts don’t do as well here. However, attach a great line from one of your stories to a suitable image macro and you could well see it reblogged heavily. Tumblr can be used for text-based posts, although these are not nearly as popular as the endless parade of memes and GIFs.
Alexa rank: 35 US: 14
My take on Pintrest is that it’s a more crowded Tumblr for adults, but I’m probably looking for reasons not to join. If there are any active users (Pinners? Pintresters? Pinheads?) reading this, I’d love to hear your comments about the site.
Alexa rank: 132 US: 61
Primarily a news aggregator, Reddit features an almost infinite array of specialist sections, known as subreddits, some of which are devoted to books and publishing. Reddit users are also leery of marketing and will quickly ‘downvote’ such obvious submissions to obscurity. However, a number of authors have built quite a following there by posting high quality comments and links.
Alexa rank: not available
You can hear the tumbleweeds rolling through Google’s take on Facebook. A lot of people signed up, but the activity remains elsewhere.
Five other points on social media
1. Post comments on articles related to writing, books and publishing. After all, you are reading to further educate yourself about your own position in indie publishing. Obviously, you need to have something relevant to say about the article, but I find, if you get there early enough and add a high quality comment, it can drive traffic to your own site. (You have, of course, entered your name and URL in the comment fields.) Find current articles by using Google’s search tool and restricting results to the past day or week.
2. Pitch a guest post to a popular site. Many site owners and bloggers are thrilled to feature guest posts because it takes a bit of the constant pressure for new content away from them. In return, you will have a much wider readership than your own site might attract, and you’ll collect some clickthroughs from your links. But hang on. Shouldn’t you be paid to create content for others? If you know that the site is making money, then by all means, yes. Most don’t. Keep your wits about you, but be realistic.
If you do do a guest post, encourage your social media groups to go and have a look at it, and comment if possible. There is nothing that site managers love more than a traffic boost, and based on the internet’s 1% rule, a healthy thread of comments on an article can give it the appearance of being a lot busier than it actually is.
3. Make profiles on comment aggregators like Gravatar and Disqus. These will add your photo and site URLs to comments you make in most popular blogging platforms. With time, regular posting and a distinctive avatar, you will find that people recognise you from site to site (the internet can be a frighteningly small place, sometimes, especially when you confine yourself to an area of particular interest).
Even better, the Disqus dashboard alerts you to replies to your comments, allowing you to both maintain social conversations via quick replies and further streamline your time spent dealing with social media.
4. Claim your virtual real estate on other social media platforms, even if you let the accounts sit dormant. There’s no point to missing out on usernames relevant to your website because you don’t plan to try the platform for a while. Spend a couple of hours rounding up the available accounts and keep your ear to the ground for large developments in social media.
5. Etiquette, etiquette, etiquette. Each platform has unspoken rules and users who ignore these can quickly find themselves ignored in return: Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest and Reddit.
Proceed to Part 30: ‘Making your own author website’, or return to the article index.
While I’ve endeavoured to provide you with accurate information, what is considered ‘accurate’ will change over time. If I’m wrong, or you’d like to ask a question or share your thoughts, I’d love to hear your take on things.