I just watched a webinar with tech guru Guy Kawasaki, How to Use Social Media to Sell More Books. Catchy title, no? If you don’t know who Guy Kawasaki is, you’re probably one of a handful of people who’ve been living under a rock since the Macintosh was invented. Welcome to the internets, newbie!
And that’s sort of who I think this webinar is geared to: newbies who’ve never tweeted, facebooked, or +1’ed before. How To Use Social Media If You’ve Been Living Under a Rock would’ve been a better title. Or maybe How To Use Social Media if You’re a Guy. Because much of his advice was geared to the male half of the planet. If you write sci-fi or non-fiction and you’ve never used Facebook, this webinar is for you.
Except Guy doesn’t much like Facebook, since that’s mostly for people you already know—family, friends. He doesn’t like Twitter, either, since that’s for “perceptions,” such as “the cat just rolled over.” He does like Google Plus. Which is, as far as I can tell, for guys. Techie geeky guys. Confession: I signed up for Google Plus, used it a couple of days, and found it completely soulless. But its tools are nice, much nicer than Facebook.
Let me back up: The webinar delivers 11 points about social media. Here they are, with my notes.
Eleven tips (because ten was already taken and twelve was too many)
1. Start using social media when you start writing your book. (Note that when I began writing, social media didn’t exist. No matter, I was still an early adopter to social media, signing up for both Facebook and Twitter in 2007.) Obviously, this is true: the sooner you start using social media the sooner you’ll have a following, which is what you will definitely need if you want to use it to sell books. (Except: you shouldn’t be using social media to sell books, at least not overtly. That’s called promoting, and no one likes it. Unless, we find out later, your readers prefer to watch QVC instead of NPR. Then you should promote away!)
2. Segment social media: Again, this is obvious. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Pinterest are all different. They have different purposes and should be used differently. Yes, but then he loses me when he says he loves Google Plus (see above). He doesn’t think Facebook is effective, since your network there is only people you know. (He makes no distinction between Facebook Pages and Profiles, which are two different things. I suspect he doesn’t use Facebook at all, and based on later comments, I’m pretty sure that’s the case.) He thinks Twitter is all about people who comment about the above-mentioned cats and the “long lines at Starbucks.” Obviously he doesn’t follow the people I do. LinkedIn he likes a lot, especially for non-fiction authors and people looking for a job. (Personally I rarely use LinkedIn; again, I find it rather soulless.) Pinterest is for photos. And for girls.
After this, most of what he has to say applies to Google Plus, as does the demo he walks us through later.
3. Make a great profile, he says. I agree with this. People take a few seconds to decide if they want to follow you. I’ve seen some really catchy profiles on Twitter that have compelled me to click the Follow button. I also follow people who reply to me, and otherwise interact with me, which brings us to number 8—later. He doesn’t mention that being the former chief evangelist at Apple is not something just anyone can include in their profile, which brings us indirectly to:
4. You need a lot of followers. Again, no mention that having a name that is recognized around the world, especially by techies, is a tremendous help here. He says you need to “curate,” which is advice I’d agree with. I love to follow people who post links I’m interested in. I love to follow people who are “gurus,” who know something about a topic and share their thoughts. He says to use your creative ability to write your book, and your “curating” ability to increase your followers on social media. His tip? Use his website Alltop, where you can find all sorts of links to interesting topics. I went there, and saw mostly techie news. Plus some adverts, which helps Alltop pay its bills. Nothing wrong with this, though, because this is, after all, a webinar about selling.
Again, here’s a clue that Guy doesn’t really use the social media he’s lecturing us on: I get almost all my “curated” links from Twitter, and a few from Facebook. I also share links from news media I read anyway, since I’m a real, actual person. Every time I’ve gone to a curating site like Alltop I find tons of links I’m not interested in, much less would bother sharing. This is part of the “touchy feely” part of Twitter, which I don’t think Guy knows about. His latest Twitter update: “Bladder function restored in paralyzed rats.” Yeah, like I’m gonna retweet that.
5. Cheat, he advises. (This is about curating again, so really it’s 4.1.) Check out what’s hot, most emailed, etc., and share that, since that’s obviously what people want to read. This sounds a bit newbie to me, but if people want to do that, go ahead. Chances are I’ve already seen that link, probably yesterday. (Although, I have to admit, rat bladders clearly escaped my notice.) He also advices you to be cognizant of your genre, which is good advice. If you write sci-fi, share stories that are about science. If you write romance, share “the 50 best places for a honeymoon.” I’m not making that up, he actually said that. If I ever share a link to the 50 best places to honeymoon, just shoot me. Please.
Another plug for Alltop here. Plus he gets bonus points for advising people to give credit, or a “hat tip,” to whoever it was who discovered the link you’re sharing, unless it was you who discovered it, say on Alltop.
6. Restrain yourself: Don’t promote your book all the time. Absolutely he’s right here. I unfollow people who do nothing but promote their own books. I forgive them for promoting other people’s books, but only if they’re not doing it all the time, and also offer other goodies: like cookies. I really like when people tweet about cookies. Guy probably doesn’t tweet about cookies. Except the internet kind, and who wants to eat those? Anyway, he suggests a ratio of 20/1, meaning after you’ve offered 19 non-promo posts/tweets, it’s okay to promo your book. Your mileage may vary, says I.
7. Add bling: by this he means include a picture from the story you’re linking to. This confused me, since on Facebook it’s difficult to control the image that appears with the link. But he’s strictly talking about Google Plus, which lets you include another image other than the small one it automatically loads up. (See? I told you the tools were better.) Good advice, though I’m not sure how many books you will sell simply by adding a photo of a dog countersurfing, as per his example. I get the impression that we’re veering away from selling books by this point, anyway. (But I will readily admit I’m all about the cute dog photos, so please take that advice home with you. And if you have a photo of a dog countersurfing cookies, by all means, run with that.)
8. You have to respond, not just link. Finally, some excellent advice! This is what I preach. Respond to people who are having a delicious chocolate chip cookie! Tell them how jealous you are, and that it’s too bad you’re on a diet, and ask for the recipe. Tell them “Photo, or it didn’t happen!” Tease them about that cookie, make them happy they tweeted about it. But then I went to Guy’s Twitter profile, and it turns out he never responds, nor does he get much response. I guess people aren’t really that interested in how rat bladders work after all. Who knew?
9. Stay positive, or stay silent. Again, this is good advice, but I wouldn’t always follow it. It’s okay to rant, to register your anger, occasionally. You’re a real person, after all. At least you should be…that’s the whole point of social media, in my mind: to convince people you’re a real writer, with real emotions, and sometimes those emotions include anger. I mostly get angry with Microsoft Word, and with Google Plus; occasionally with the weather. Or my lack of cookies. That’s fine; use that anger to sell your book. (See? This is supposed to be about selling your book!)
10. Tap the crowd. It turns out that Guy uses his followers to edit his books! Really! He sends out PDFs to people who request after he asks if anyone wants to help him copyedit, and he gets responses. He claims he gets plenty of useful tidbits here. I believe him. I think this is an excellent idea, but I’m not sure fiction writers want to follow this advice. And if you don’t have 4.5 million Google Plus followers (circlers?) don’t expect to get many people who take you up on this. But still an idea worth investigating, for self-published authors.
11. Repeat posts. This is controversial, but he’s right that not everyone on your Twitter feed will see your link, especially if you post at 6 am UK time and no one in the US is awake except a few night owls. (This is my number one problem, by the way, since I refuse to autotweet. It’s all about that warm fuzzy feeling, which you don’t get when you auto-tweet.) He says he posts tweets four times, eight hours apart. That’s probably not a bad idea, since it would be a shame if someone missed that tweet about rat bladders.
Coming up: World’s Techiest Guy Uses Virtual Assistant!
Next, there’s a demo about how to post on Google Plus. I almost clicked away at this point, afraid I would toss a brick at my iMac in frustration, but there were a couple tips here I really liked. Not about promoting your book, but about some neat utilities and Chrome extensions I intend to check out. One is a clipboard manager, Jump Cut; another is a utility called Snaps Pro; and the third was an extension called DoShare. I’ll get back to you on those.
Then came the Q&A period. Frankly, I wished Guy had pointed out that it’s really, really easy to get followers when you’ve been known in the tech world (and even beyond—I don’t consider myself a techie yet I’ve known who he was since around 1986). But no, he gave the usual advice: start out by interacting with people who are well-known “thought leaders” in the niche you write about. Easier said than done, but he wouldn’t know that, since he is the very definition of a thought leader.
He was asked about using a penname, and here he completely whiffed the ball. He’d never use a penname, for obvious reasons. So he mumbled something about sharing your penname with your friends and relatives on Facebook. He also assumed the only reason you’d want to use a penname is if you write sadomasochistic sex novels. Clearly he needs to expand his genre reading.
Then the clincher: someone asked about how much time it takes to do all this social media. Here is where everything he said earlier went kablooey. He hires people to do his social media. He has a “ghost” who tweets for him, and a virtual assistant (no explanation of the difference between a “ghost” and a “virtual assistant”) who posts to Facebook and Google Plus. Pinterest is also “done by someone else.”
And yet he still spends two to three hours on social media. Every day.
Aha! Taking a look at Guy’s Twitter feed, I see that tweets appear approximately every ten minutes. They’re automated. He gets few, if any, responses, and anywhere from 1-5 retweets on each tweet. Not very many at all, especially for someone who has 4.5 million followers.
But then who needs retweets if you have 4.5 million followers?
Let me share my advice on social media—I have, after all, used it since 2007, and I have three different Twitter accounts. I also know the difference between a Facebook Profile and a Page. I don’t have a lot of followers, but I enjoy the hell out of it.
You should not approach social media simply as a tool to sell your book. If you do, and your potential readers are not all QVC shoppers (QVC is a shopping channel on TV, for readers outside the US), you will not be very popular. You may get a lot of followers—many people follow other people simply in the hope that they will follow back, and never bother to read their Twitter stream at all. This means you will not sell many books.
The purpose of social media lies in the word “social.” Use social media to socialize with your potential readers, post content that interests YOU first of all and you will then find followers who are also interested in that content, and thus, are interested in you, and potentially will be interested in what you write.
That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.
Now I’m off to research those 50 best places to honeymoon…JUST KIDDING! I’m actually going to eat a cookie.