Monday, November 14, 2011

Social Media--Does It Really Matter?

Last year, I sat on a panel about launching your book into cyberspace. We discussed websites, blogging, video trailers, virtual book tours, and social media. I was very excited about the whole thing. Some feedback that came to me after the conference was over, however, made me cringe. A woman from the audience said the general consensus by our attendees was that it wasn't worth it.

Where did we go wrong?

I'm a a Generation X'er, who has had a personal computer for the last 20+ years, and I make my living working from home on my PC. Our audience at the conference, however, was a healthy blend of young college students (not as many as one would expect when it was held at a college), people of my generation, and a good dose of baby boomers. While our theme for the year was all about change in the publishing industry and all the exciting possibilities for writers these changes bring, did we not consider some of our audience might be wishing to hold onto the more traditional ways of doing business? Even though the panel was widely attended, the majority of the audience was at least my age or older. They were definitely interested in what we had to say, but in the end, gave up on putting forth so much hard work for what seemed like nominal results.

How does that translate to how you approach social media and book promotion?

With over 700 million users worldwide, Facebook seems like the place to be. Of course, if your book is geared toward readers ages 55 - 64, that might not be the case. As of 9/25/11, they only make up 7.8% of Facebook's audience. As of March 2011, Twitter had approximately 200 million users. Surely that's a good place to promote your book. But that might depend on your genre, the time of day, and what else is being tweeted and retweeted at the time. Over the past 24 hours (as of 10/5/11), self-help books were tweeted 182 times, the bulk of that coming around 8 P.M. on 10/4. Romance novels were tweeted 134 times, while fantasy novels only received 50 tweets during the same time frame. Goodreads, another site used for book promotion, gets over 797,000 pageviews a day. Its primary audience, women 18 -24 who browse the site from school.

What does this all mean?

No amount of social media is going to help unless you know your audience. I used social media to promote Little Shepherd last year. My virtual book tour was very successful. I gained new contacts. Nurtured existing relationships. The book garnered many excellent reviews--some of which even made it out onto Amazon and Goodreads. It even hit the Amazon Bestsellers List in my category numerous times. What I found, however, is that in order to focus so much online, I had to ignore the audience in my backyard. Yes, I visited schools, but I couldn't talk much about my book because it's a Christian story. By the time I thought to ask our local bookstore to set up a book signing, it was too close to Christmas and they didn't have the time. I held a book signing at my church, but with minimal publicity, I sold few copies.

We always hope to learn from our mistakes. While social media is very important, you can't join every site and keep up with everything else you have to do: write your next book, work, stay committed to your family, and make time for yourself. While online promotion is important, you can't forget about being involved in your local area. I sold several books to parents at my daughters' schools. People I didn't know all that well. Solely, because I volunteered at the school library and we got to talking about books. Word of mouth remains a very powerful promotional tool. Use it to your advantage.

What are your opinions on this? Do you tend to focus on one social network over another? Is there one social networking site you don't feel is helpful to you? If so, why?

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