I posted a poll last Friday to get some feedback on whether or not social media sells. I want to thank all of you who took the time to answer the poll and supply comments. You’ve really helped my little study.
The Results are In
After gathering, calculating, weighing, studying, and cross-examining the data and other scientific mumbo jumbo, I’ve found the following to be possible truths.
- Social media has and can be used to make direct sales
- People do purchase books directly from social media
- Based on the poll, most books were purchased because of a blog post (whether an author’s own blog, guest blog, re-blog, or author interview)
- Most sales made via Twitter were made from re-tweets or tweets made by those other than the author
- Goodreads and Facebook ranked lowest on the poll
- Readers are more likely to purchase a book if they know the author
- Readers are more likely to purchase a book if it is referred to them in some way
What I’ve Concluded from this Study:
If authors need social media, but social media does not sell, perhaps the problem is not social media, but who we are trying to sell too and how we are trying to sell. Make sense? All I’m saying is the problem doesn’t seem to be the platform, but how we are using it. There are countless articles online that suggest social media is not a tool nor can it be used to make sales. This may or may not be true. Based on the information I’ve gathered, here’s my plan to increase sales using social media.
- Gain a good following (quality over quantity)
- Advertise wisely
- Use news, not ads to promote books
- Increase “word of mouth”
- Make connections
Gain a Good Following
What’s the ideal number of followers you should have? There really isn’t a magic number. It’s about how engaged you are with what you have. There really isn’t one strategy for gaining followers. Some authors follow everyone who follows them to increase their followers. Their logic is: the more followers they have the more books they will sell.
More people=more sales, right?
What I don’t like about this plan is that the emphasis is on numbers. We should be focused on who is following us, not how many. If people follow you to gain a follower, they aren’t likely to buy your book.
Why Numbers Don’t Matter
The person with 10,000 followers may only have 1,000 followers who are interested in them and their books.
Likewise, the person with 5,000 may have 3,000.
See what I’m saying?
Before you sell, make sure you are selling to the right people.
Look at your followers. Who are they?
How many are writers?
The problem with selling to writers is that they may be too busy #amwriting and not #amreading.
Now this is just an idea. I have no real proof, but writers may not be the best followers to make sales.
- Many identify themselves as–even brag about being–nonreaders
- They are too busy writing
- They write a different genre than you (If they don’t write it, they probably won’t read it)
- They have no money (sorry, it’s true in most cases)
- They don’t use social media to connect, but to promote (it’s all about them)
- They use auto tweets (if they aren’t tweeting, they aren’t reading tweets)
- Your tweets get buried in their feed because they have thousands of followers to gain a following
Does this sound like your followers? Does this sound like you?
You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times: Target your market.
You might ask, aren’t some writers your market?
My thought is yes. Before you start unfollowing everyone who identifies themselves as a writer, my advice is that you should follow them anyway–not just for sales. I follow other authors for advice, to follow trends in my genre and market, and because frankly I love connecting with other writers.
If you want to follow other writers, here’s my advice: follow writers of the same genre. For instance, I used to follow writers of romance, suspense, mystery, YA, etc. Now I mainly follow other fantasy writers.
Not only do I enjoy learning about them and their books, I also purchase their books. My logic is that this should work in the reverse order. Since they write fantasy, they may buy my books as well. Will the mystery writer buy your book if you’re a fantasy writer? Probably not. It has nothing to do with your advertising campaign, they just aren’t your market.
How to Gain Followers in Your Market
Easier said than done. This is why I like Twitter. You can use the search field to type in hashtags and keywords to find tweets and tweeps related to the topic. For instance, my sister writes fantasy parody. Ideally these are the words she should use to find potential readers.
- Monty Python
- Gerald Morris
- Terry Pratchett
- Lord of the Rings
- The Hobbit
- Harry Potter
Why these search terms? Because people who like those things will like her book.
Try this out right now. See how many people you find.
Ok, you’ve found the illusive reader. Do not go all crocodile hunter on them. This is no time to poke and get in their faces. Don’t start messaging them to BUY YOUR BOOK. Follow them and see if they follow you back. If they do, great. If they don’t, it’s not over. Whether they follow you or not, the next step is the same. Be interactive.
- share their tweets
- thank them for following, retweeting, sharing, etc
They will appreciate the interaction and possibly follow you back and/or check out your profile where they will see information about your books. This could potentially result in sales. TA-DA!
I made this sound easy, didn’t I? It’s not. It takes time, but it takes less time if you put your best foot forward. What do I mean by that?
People will make an instant and usually permanent decision whether to follow you or not. Your profile is a landing page. You don’t want to turn them away at base one.
- Have a flattering, professional, and updated profile picture and header image
- Use your real name
- Have a detailed bio that includes professional, social, and recreational info (writer, teacher, reader, nerd, music lover, coffee junkie)
- Create real and interesting tweets
- Include a URL to your website or blog
Everyone tells you that you must advertise or no one will know you wrote a book. They also tell you advertising is bad and turns readers off. I’m so over the contradictory advice. So let’s end this conundrum once and for all.
You MUST advertise, but you have to advertise WISE.
When you must advertise–and you must–make your ads stand out. No, this does not mean typing in all bold in screaming font. Be creative. Check out my sister’s ads on Twitter.
Example: The Knight’s Who say Ni no longer desire a shrubbery. That was my idea. Hope you like it.
Use photos, phrases, and key words to entice your followers. You want to catch their eye, make them read it, click the link, and buy.
Why Aren’t Your Ads Selling?
- Too vague (sometimes I don’t know what the title is, what it’s about, or what genre its in)
- Boring (I see hundreds of ads that look alike every hour. Get creative. Draw my attention)
- No photos
- Inconstant (You shouldn’t post BUY MY BOOK all day long, but you need to more than once a day)
- You repeat the same ad over and over
Think News not Ads
To be honest, advertising is a lazy way to promote your book. We’re writers, we’re supposed to be creative. Think outside of ads to entice people to buy your book.
Let’s break it down. What makes someone want to read your books?
Information: Genre, plot, characters, ratings, author info.
Tweet about your books, not just where you can buy them, but why they should buy. Tell them snippets about your plot, the writing process, your characters, and upcoming projects. Think NEWS not ADS. Do you have a cover reveal? A book launch? Plans for a sequel? A really good review? A sale? These are all ways to gain exposure for your books without using direct advertising.
So in theory: Indirect ads result in direct sales.
This is one of the reasons why blogs ranked so high in the poll. Readers get to learn about the author and the book, enticing them to learn more. They also give you a sample of the author’s writing style. Tweets and Facebook post don’t give you the wordcount to really delve into detail about how awesome you and your book are.
Word of Mouth
People always tell you social media doesn’t sell, word of mouth does. Social media is in its own right word of mouth. A book review, author interview, or a tweet are just digital ways of saying “Check out this awesome author or this awesome book.”
So why is word of mouth so important. Because word of mouth is an indirect ad. Remember how I said indirect ads result in direct sales?
In comments, many of you expressed how advertisements or promotional material from the authors themselves turned you off or didn’t result in you buying the book. It’s viewed as being “pushy” or “unreliable.” Of course the author is going to tell you they wrote a great book. They won’t tell you it sucks.
If I told you to buy my awesome fantasy novel, would you buy it?
Do you trust me?
What if I told you to buy a book by someone else. I bet I gain credibility. I also bet they gain a sale.
People are more likely to buy a book, it seems, if someone else tells them about, so how can you get others to talk about your books?
- Ask them too
- Offer a copy of your book for an honest review: encourage them to share their review on multiple platforms
- Pay it forward. Don’t actually pay. You should never have to pay for promotion like that. If you support others, they are likely to support you back. Check out my advice about reciprocation from an earlier post.
- Share your reviews. Don’t tell your readers what you think about your book. Tell them what someone else does.
So tell me, which tweet would you trust?
So many of you expressed how important it is for you to know the author. While I don’t believe you should always have to or do have to know the author to buy their book (Sometimes a good cover or blurb will do it for me), this is a great way to increase sales.
How connections increase sales:
- They like you: They hope they will like your book
- They like you: They will buy it to support you
- They like you: Whether they bought it or not, they will tell others to buy your book
- They like you: They will interview you on their blog which will increase your exposure
- They like you: They will share your tweets, post, promotions, etc
How do you make connections?
This isn’t hard, people. Simply say, Hello. You will probably have to be the instigator. Going back to how to gain followers. You want quality connections. These will be people who get to know you, support you, follow you, and tell others about you. You have to earn connections.
- Reply to tweets and post (likes are great but comments are better)
- Send real instead of automated messages to them
- Share their content
- Start a conversation
- Join conversations in progress
We’ve all heard it said. You can’t make sales using social media. You can make sales, you just haven’t discovered the secret. You can, you’re just doing something wrong. Ignore the noise.
Why trust what others say?
This is my theory. I’m not guaranteeing I’m right or that my plan will work. I’m simply forming a plan based on all of your wonderful feedback. You never know unless you try. So I’m going to put my plan into practice now during the release of my sister’s debut novel. I hope it works for her. I’ll be sure to let you know.
Thanks again for all of your comments and for sharing my post. Speaking of sharing, don’t forget to share information about your favorite authors. Studies seem to show your support helps.