I’ve noticed a lot of authors and publishing professionals who are discounting the impact of online marketing and promotion. It usually goes something like this:
People don’t buy books because of Facebook / Twitter / [insert online community here].
Or: Blogging/social networking takes a lot of energy, has little impact, and robs you of time better spent on publishable writing that earns you hard cash.
Or: Your so-called friends and followers consist only of other people trying to sell YOU stuff.
I sense that many authors have become jaded after not seeing any monetary impact from their blogging or online networking. “Show me the evidence,” these people say, “that this effort actually amounts to sales.”
OR: Many of you have been on the receiving end of hard sells and shills—those annoying people who exploit every online connection they have in hopes of earning a buck.
I agree, those people ought to be spurned—especially because they are setting a bad example and turning people off to what is a miraculous development of our age: the ability to efficiently and dynamically organize and connect with like-minded people for very little (or no) expense.
Social networking isn’t a fad. It’s an expression of what we love to do, which is socialize, have conversations, and form meaningful relationships with new people.
Now, there are two reasons why I think some authors have found online marketing ineffective:
- They tried to make something happen without a strategy and a hub.
- They lacked the long-haul view, meaning they needed to see results too quickly, abandoned their efforts too quickly, and assumed failure.
What Action Do You Want People to Take?
Whatever it is you do online, consider what you want people to do or to think when you appear in their line of sight. When someone “sees” you online, I call that a single impression. Making an impression can mean the smallest of things, including:
- A Facebook status update
- A tweet
- A blog post
- A comment you leave on a blog or forum
- Whenever or wherever you leave a mark
If people are entertained, informed, or fascinated by something you’ve done online, they’ll be curious and want to know more about you. It is very important that you give them some place to go, or something to do.
This is why I recommend every writer have a website, even before they have a book deal or a specific project to promote. You want to have a hub ready—a place for people to find out more, or sign up, or become a follower.
Some writers use Facebook or Twitter as their hub, at least in the early stages—meaning the only action you want people to take might be following you or friending you. This is fine.
Eventually, you’ll need to up your game, and have them become a subscriber to your site/blog, or an e-newsletter. Or maybe you want them to download the first chapter of your book.
It really doesn’t matter what it is you want people to do, as long as you are thinking in terms of what specific action would help you in your career at a particular moment in time. What are your goals for the next 3 months or 6 months or 12 months?
The action you want people to take (as a result of some impression) will change over time. It may even change frequently. That’s OK.
But when it comes to online marketing and promotion, while not everything you do needs to be tied to audience development (that would get boring, tiresome, and unfun), you should have a “route” for people to follow. This route underpins your presence on each facet of your online life, and leads back to the hub (where an action can be taken).
Now, here’s the catch. The longer you’re online, the deeper and more effective you’ll be. The more impressions you’ll make over time, the more people will head to your hub. (You’ll also be getting more comfortable, more savvy, and more in tune with what you need to do. It will be second nature.)
All this happens naturally; you couldn’t stop it if you tried.
And that’s why it takes patience. It’s why quick and short online marketing campaigns (unless backed by a lot of corporate money and powerful connections) aren’t effective for individual authors. You have to be in it for the long haul. That’s how the payoff comes.
How do I know?
It’s happened to me. I’ve received job offers and wonderful opportunities (and increased opportunities for my employers) due to the long and deep tread of my online life.
So I can testify with certainty: It works. But not overnight.