“Social Media is not a substitute for what?” you are wondering. I left it undefined because the answer is a lot of things. It isn’t a substitute for going to the bookstore and talking to the bookseller about putting your book on the shelf. Or doing a book tour. Or making meaningful connections with people.

If I were to sum it up in a nutshell I guess I could say: Social Media is not a Substitute for Marketing, and Hard Work.

When I teach people how to use social media to market their books, I am very careful to let them know that social media is not a magic train ride to overnight discoverability. I think a common misconception is that social media is a new tool that makes obsolete all that old marketing effort authors used to have to do.

In fact, social media is just one new tool to add to your marketing arsenal.

In the old days we wrote on typewriters, in the old old days it was pen and paper, in the old old old old old days it was cave paintings. Now we have a handy tool called a word processor. But does that mean our computers write everything for us at the click of a button?

No way. We still have to do all the same old work of researching and coming up with the words. We still have to put in the same effort. We are just now able to, and in many cases expected to, do that work on our computers. We can still do all the romantic longhand writing we want, but those editors and publishers still demand .docx submissions, don’t they?

This is exactly the same thing that is going on with social media. It’s a new way of doing things. A way that is supposed to make a few things easier. And a way that we are absolutely expected to get on board with. But it is not a way to have the computer do it all for us.

Now, the same way that you can hire a ghost writer to do your writing for you, you can hire people to do your social media for you. But let’s face it, it’s expensive, and it starts to get a little hollow at a certain point, if all the words that are supposed to be yours are coming from someone else. Am I talking about ghost writing or social media? Hmmmmm……

Yes, social media is a tool that you must use. And yes, it is only supplement to all those old fashioned things like getting out of your house and talking to people. You can tweet like a twit all day and get zero sales. And you can spend 5 minutes at a book fair putting your book in someones hand and telling them what it’s about, and make a sale.

Sure one of your tweets could go viral and you could sell 500 copies of your book from it!!! OMG!!! It would be the answer to all your prayers!!

But how many times has lighting struck you in your life? How many times do you think it will strike you in the future? We are dealing with the same odds here. Yeah, there are tricks you can use, like holding up a lightening rod in a storm. But they aren’t your own private secret tricks. If you go out in the storm with your lightening rod and there are 10,000 other people standing there with lightening rods at the ready, how many times do you think you will be the lucky bugger who gets the jolt from the blue?

Social media extends your reach.

Social media extends your reach.

So what is social media good for then?

  1. You are expected to be there, by editors, publishers and fans. If they don’t see you there they don’t take you seriously. Sorry it’s the truth.
  2. When you do make connections with people the old fashioned ways, you can stay connected with them via social media.
  3. With a little work and elbow grease you can create meaningful connections with people on social media too, so you have extended your reach beyond what the old fashioned ways could get you.
  4. Social media activity can give your overall internet marketing efforts a kind of momentum that will have a snowball effect. It just might take a few years of keeping up the work in a consistent fashion. Yeah I said years….and I said work.

Now you are thinking, OMG I will never get any writing done!!!! But that is because you are thinking in terms of all the things you could do on social media, and not in terms of choosing which things you will do.

Before social media there was (and still is) a billion ways to get out there and market your book. Does that mean you do all billion of those ways? Heck no! If you go on a book tour, you don’t go to every single bookstore in the continental US. You don’t even go to all the bookstores in every city you visit. You make a decision based on how much time you have. You prioritize. You give yourself limits. And that means you miss opportunities. But it’s what you gotta do.

You are one person.

Don’t be the person who thinks creating a Facebook page will automatically boost sales, and don’t be the person who freaks out because there are endless opportunities to market on social media. Be the person who sits down and makes a plan to deal with the marketing opportunities (social media and old fashioned) that one person can manage. And do it.

The simple plan I suggest to all my clients:

  1. Make a complete profile a bunch of different social media. Including profile pic, bio, and a link to your website. Make sure at the very least you hit the big three: Facebook, Twitter, Google+
  2. Use them a bit, explore, and see if there is one that stands out to you as more enjoyable than the others. Choose that one to concentrate your effort on.
  3. Post important things like a link to your latest blog post, or an announcement about your book release, and event announcements across the board on: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
  4. Spend the rest of your time concentrating on the one you chose as a favorite. Connect with people there. Interact with them. Invite their engagement. i.e. – follow/friend/circle people, join communities, join the conversation. Be yourself.
  5. Schedule your activity. Example: Make a post in the morning, something that might be considered valuable content to people in your circles. Come back at noon to respond to any replies. Then scroll through the newsfeed/stream and see what other people are talking about. Make comments on other people’s posts (the best way to get someone’s attention is to give them yours). Come back at quitting time (say 5pm) and respond to any replies. This whole series of activity could take 30min to an hour out of your day. And you could do that every day, or you could do it 3 days a week. That is entirely your choice.

This is, of course, a very basic foundation to your social media and the more you do on social media, the more opportunity you will gain. But it is a reasonable and manageable place to start from. Build however much you want on top of that.