Note: I originally published this as a two-part series, but wanted to join it together and update some of the info. Enjoy!
When I began my writing startup I quickly realized that, like every company in modern times, I needed a solid social media presence. My reasoning was two fold.
I’ll start with the more obvious point. Social media is designed to be a place for people to gather and share information. This information is often in the form of links to other places on the web. By having a social media presence, I can easily go where people are already grouped and try to pull some of them back to my own site and ultimately to my novels for sale.
Secondly, a strong social media presence helps with search results. In order to take the entire first page of results, I needed enough different sites out there getting regular traffic. Social media sites already get a steady amount of traffic, so the real challenge there is to not get so much traffic that it outweighs your own site in searches. After all, your main purpose is to send traffic back to your site and your work for sale, so you don’t want to create a separate entity that distracts people from that goal.
But, those reasons are probably fairly obvious. If you’re here looking for ways to start marketing your novel, then you’re probably wondering which social media to use. Before we get into that, however, I feel it’s important to remind you of the necessity to market to readers. In my own social media travels, I’ve run into far more writers than anything else. This is fantastic in a way, as mingling with other writers opens the door to sharing tips with each other, encouraging one another, finding new work to read, and sharing your own work to a moderate degree. However, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up marketing primarily to other writers, and that would be a mistake in my opinion.
One more point of caution is to keep in mind that social media is primarily about social interaction. The best results you’ll see will come from interacting directly with readers in your target demographic. Finding your target demographic, by the way, is a topic that Joanna Penn lays out nicely in this article. Of course, it wouldn’t be effective to mechanically approach each potential reader with your book, so social media interaction does take a bit of a commitment of time. It’s vital to find groups that you personally enjoy and to join in their conversations with patience and consideration. While there, I think you shouldn’t be afraid to promote your book within reason–after all, if you really like what you’re writing, then it’s expected that it would come out at some point in your conversations. Just be sure that’s a small percentage of how your time is spent.
So, with all of that in mind, here’s a breakdown of some of the more popular social media out there right now and my opinion on each. I tend to target my posts to midday (12 pm – 3 pm) as that’s when most people tend to use social media, although companies usually see better results from morning posts, so I might shift that around.
This is logically the most important social media presence you can have right now. This is a place where readers get together to find out about books–a place built around recommending books to others. What more could you ask for? Well, for starters, it’s a little clunky and not very intuitive. Should a better alternative come along, I’d jump on that ship, but given that Goodreads is owned by Amazon, I imagine it won’t be long before it’s in better shape. It takes a minor bit of effort to become a Goodreads Author, but it’s worth it. Once you are, you’ll have a new web presence with your name that conveniently lets you hook up an external blog with very little effort. In addition to said blog, I also post regular updates about books I’m reading or the progress of my current writing as I feel led. And while I have yet to get involved in any groups there, I still get my highest percent of quality returning readers from Goodreads.
Due to Twitter’s inherently fast pace, I find it lacking logical importance as a tool to find new readers for a novel. The two just don’t jive so well. That being said, given the fast pace, it’s very easy to gain followers and is a nice pool for new people interested in taking a quick dip in your work.
I have my WordPress blog hooked up so that new posts link directly there. Additionally, I post regularly as I feel led, sometimes as Grak, the main character of my novel in progress, Things Grak Hates. My ad efforts with Twitter have been atrocious–money flies out the window far too fast for my taste and provides almost nothing in return unless you have a hefty budget.
But, in spite of its logical failings, the sheer number of followers I have on Twitter has provided the most regular readers to date of any social media site I use, Although, when compared to percent of visits that come from there, it’s dismal. When compared to followers I have there, well…
I’m still not sure what this is actually useful for. Google does weigh your profile heavily in search results, though. So that’s a plus. See what I did there? I turned a useless tool into a joke. Oh wait, Google already did that when they made it. I’ll stop while I’m on a roll.
This would logically work very well for a novel that uses lots of images like a graphic novel. Also, if a work were highly descriptive, like high fantasy, and you had some good sketches of it, that would be a great promo. But I have no real use for it yet.
I’m currently using Tumblr just to have another web presence for search results. Again, this is a highly visual medium, so it’s not the best suited to my needs. However, I do have a running thread of Grak posts based on pictures of nomads from around the web. No traffic yet, but I only just started it. I should also note that while this fits with Tumblr’s mode of operation, I don’t think it would work for Pinterest.
Much like Google+, I don’t find this very useful to meet my purposes. Again, I only use it so I’ll have another web presence for search results.
I hate Reddit for novel marketing purposes. Perhaps someone else out there finds a use for it, but I don’t. AMA’s are great, but only if you’re already famous–no one wants to ask me any question their heart desires. Posting there is a chore since you have to build up karma or wait a very long time in between posts. Even if you make a mistake and delete your post, you still have to wait to post it again. Also, when you do post it, the fiction section is so competitive that other authors are regularly on there downvoting every single thing that pops up, meaning that very few posts stay with any positive rating. It’s awful, just awful.
I’ve saved Facebook for the end in order to give it more space.
I’m not sure if it would be more beneficial to use my personal profile instead of an author page, but it seems less logical. And since trying it would require a considerable effort, I haven’t. However, it’s not like creating an author page is necessarily rosy either. Facebook’s current news feed algorithm is very obviously stacked against pages using external links, so it’s hard to get any real impressions, which means visibility is low.
Still, if you have friends who will read your work just because, then it’s a decent way to get the ball rolling. Additionally, advertising has worked fairly well for me there, garnering a few sales for my debut novel, Things Grak Hates, and bringing in a small number of new readers in my target demographic.
However, I’ve also received a number of seemingly fake likes through advertising. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I should be assuming the likes were fake, but after some research, I don’t see myself paying for more ads intended to generate likes. Also, technically speaking I haven’t always given my Facebook author page the time it deserves. Creating simple original posts does get much more interaction than links do on their own, and it pulls readers over to my page so that they’ll click on the links. With some regular effort, this should logically bring in a higher percentage of readers than Twitter.
But ad fraud isn’t the worst part of Facebook ‘s problem. It seems Facebook has confirmed that pages are getting far less organic reach than they used to. This only serves to further substantiate my theory that maintaining a Facebook page is not very useful for most fiction writers.
Of course, on Facebook’s end, this adjustment to the page view algorithm appears to be a direct result of their efforts to generate more ad revenue. I can understand that desire, and wouldn’t fault them for it, but that doesn’t determine whether or not I’ll continue to use their services. Because in the end, if organic options are off the table, I’m driven to ask, “Is it worthwhile to buy Facebook ads?”
Of course, given that I’ve touched on Facebook ad fraud in the first part of this series of posts, I would say, “Absolutely not.” I don’t see how any small company or even many larger companies could find it useful to buy them when such rampant loopholes exist. In theory, if one had a large enough budget, plenty of waste could be factored in, and the resulting positive reach would be worth their while. But that’s only in theory, and would have to be a very large budget.
Of course, if they close said loopholes, then perhaps things will get better. But until then, if your company is small, why buy ads?
But, in spite of all my Facebook bashing here, I have two pieces of good news to share. I found these interesting bits of information through my own recent experiences. To put the matter succinctly, it appears as though another part of Facebook’s algorithm has changed of late.
First of all, where they used to favor original posts over links, they seem to have dropped that. This only makes sense, of course, as the internet is a tightly connected entity. If you discourage linking to other parts of the beast, those same parts will discourage linking to you. More importantly, the people who use your site will be discouraged, and might seek something new.
But, the second bit of news is far more important. It deals with how Facebook now treats a page’s sharing. Previously, when I would share something from my page, it would get maybe five to twenty more views, depending on how interesting it was. Now, that’s multiplied by ten.
At first, I thought this might be a glitch, so I waited and tested. The number dropped a little as Facebook determined who actually cared about my writing, but it looks to be leveling out way above the previous reach. So this is good. So good, in fact, that I’ve been rethinking my stance on Facebook. Perhaps the glory days of organic reach can still be had with enough shares.
I’ll keep an eye on these proceedings and an ear open to the web. If anything changes or solidifies, I imagine a third part of this series will be in order.