Recently I was talking about social media with a friend, who happens to be an executive for one of the largest PR firms in the country. He said, “Social media is not transactional. We tell our clients not to expect social media to be about generating sales. It’s about so much more.” I couldn’t agree more, yet I speak with authors frequently who want social media to be the solution to their marketing woes.
It’s not that social media can’t generate sales, but it requires a long-term commitment and has far more benefits than you may realize. It also takes time to build momentum. To get the best results with social media, you need the following in place:
- A clear target audience. Your content must speak to your audience and fill a need, and the intent must be clear. If you’re an author of a guide to living with food allergies, your content should cover related topics like how to identify hidden allergens in foods, tips for dining out safely, and ways to prepare allergy-free foods. If you veer off topic and write about your latest vacation or how to dance the Samba, you risk confusing your audience.
- Consistent content generation. For authors, consultants, speakers, coaches, and related authorities, you will get the best results from social media by consistently delivering great content. We advise our clients to blog at least twice per week (though more is better). Additional content, such as videos, podcasts, and sample book chapters can also help. The goal here is to establish yourself as an authority in your field, and one of the best ways to do that is by delivering great content (which also helps drive traffic to your website).
- Commitment to social media activity. Here is another area where many fall short, and then wonder why social media isn’t producing better results. If you want social media to work for you, you need to invest in daily effort. That means tweeting multiple times per day (Twitter is IDEAL for authors) and posting updates to your other networks (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest) three to five times each week. This also means that you respond to comments, and reach out and work to build your networks by connecting with people who are interested in your topics.
When you put the above strategies in place, social media begins to work its magic. Here are some benefits social media has to offer.
Increase Website Traffic – This is an under-appreciated benefit of social media activity. When you share compelling content consistently (i.e. your latest blog post title plus a link), your site traffic will increase from those who discover your content via social media. Not only do they find your content when you share it, but when others like it, retweet it, or re-post it to their networks.
Improve SEO – Social media impacts your overall search engine optimization strategy. Each time you share a blog post that gets a lot of attention, such as multiple retweets or many +1’s on Google+, the search engines like Google take notice. Social activity factors into Google’s algorithms for that post—meaning that Google is more likely to serve it up in search results because it was popular in social media. All the major social media outlets are also indexed by Google, so your overall website ranking can improve, which leads to more traffic.
Build Brand Awareness – As an author, you are an instant AUTHORity in your field, and social media can help amplify that. By following the guidelines here, you will begin to build a bigger, better, more devoted fan base and you will get known as an expert in your field.
Shorten Sales Cycles – There is an old adage that it takes eight to ten exposures to a product before we decide to buy. This always makes me think about the iPod. It wasn’t something I needed, but as I saw more and more advertisements, plus friends talking about it, I eventually bought one (and quickly fell in love). Social media allows you to get repeat exposure with potential clients and readers. And most of us don’t make buying decisions quickly. I recently signed on a client who said she followed me on Twitter for six months before deciding to hire us. It didn’t happen overnight.
Attract Media and Sponsors – Authors with large social media followings have leverage. Having an audience makes you more appealing to media pros who want to interview you, corporate sponsors who want to partner with you, and publishers who want to buy the rights to your book. The popularity you build with social media can lead to opportunities you haven’t even yet imagined!
Cultivate Community – For me social media isn’t about sales, but about building my tribe. At least 95% of the content I share on my social networks is purely useful content. The other 5% or less is about making my tribe aware of my books, products, and services. When you spend time building a loyal community, they will be eager to participate when you have something to offer. For example, if you build your audience for a year and then launch an online training program, chances are high that you will receive many sign-ups as a result of building that loyalty. But this only works if you’ve met the criteria above (clear target audience, consistent content generation, and commitment to social media).
Social media is incredibly powerful, especially for authors who are also business owners or service providers. Just don’t expect it to be a magic bullet. But if you commit for the long-haul and track results such as website traffic growth, the growth in size of your networks, and other opportunities that come to you in the process (major media interviews or an unexpected new client, for example), over time you will realize that it’s a commitment worth making.