From the third season of the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, this classic interchange:
Car Rental Agent: I’m sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.
A classic example of the importance of both parties in any relationship needing to be on the same page!
In this social media-driven world, it has never been more true that, “it doesn’t matter who you know, but who knows you.” You can follow the lives and exploits of any number of well-known people. You know everything about them, but if you were standing next to a bale of hay, they wouldn’t know you.
The issue of who knows you, is the secret ingredient of an effective author marketing platform, the all-important issue that keeps coming up with every agent, every publisher and at every writer’s conference.
A spiritual example of this is in that horrifying passage from Matthew 7:23 where Jesus said, ”I never knew you.” I often wonder why we ask others if they know Jesus when we should probably be asking them if Jesus knows them!
Back to social media. Getting a website, Facebook page or Twitter handle is no more “social” than driving down Main Street in your town waving at people. They might wave back because you waved, but they aren’t going to agree to help you move furniture. Friends do that. It is said, ”Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies”. (Sorry, I just had to find a way to force that quote into a blog post)
Using any of the techniques to pump up your social media numbers other than a slow, methodical climb up the mountain will yield disappointing results when it comes time to ask those “friends” to promote your book.
Years ago, non-profit organizations used “premiums” to get people to send donations to the organization. Some still do.
The use of premiums declined markedly over the years when it became clear that purchasers of premiums were not necessarily concerned with the mission and goals of the organization, but in getting a product for a tax deductible donation. (Tax law changes also affected the decline, as donors could only count as a donation that part of the gift over and above the actual cost of the premium)
To show how easy, or complicated (as the case may be) it is to make devoted followers in social media, let’s explore how you make a real human friend.
- You care about them.
- You listen more than you talk.
- You know stuff about them.
- You pray for them.
- You serve them.
- You share your heart
All of this takes time and there are no shortcuts.
In your blog, website and in-person connections, filter every “author platform marketing strategy” through the above list. You should be translating those principles into tangible social media interaction.
I can almost guarantee that the quicker you move to convert your social media “friends” into people who buy or recommend your books, the less success you will have doing just that. It’s like asking a person you just met to help you move a piano. They might do it once to be nice, but good luck getting them to pick up the phone when you call again next week. Caller-ID lets you know who your real friends are.
This is why I have stated before that you should take as much time building your author platform as you write.
Social media friend-building is only complicated if you think it is a scientific pursuit of “market segments” or “demographic groupings”.
If you look at it from the perspective of how a person might grow real friendships, anyone can be a social media guru.
Thanks for these challenging thoughts. I find it easier to talk about this than to actually do it. I think there’s somthing in us that still wants to believe that good writing alone will carry us. This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Ultimately we all want to be known by others and this is a two way street.
Dan – Good words to remind us just what we’re doing on this social media stuff. Behind every thumbprint is a person. That thumbprint on the keyboard is a person reaching out. In the reaching out we interact with each other. A hidden agenda, like sin, will be found out.
Oh and just so you know I took to heart these powerful words: I often wonder why we ask others if they know Jesus when we should probably be asking them if Jesus knows them!
At the Marketing panel at Realm Makers, they said our social media posts should have a 20:1 ratio. For every 20 posts we make, only one of those should be about me and my books.
Thank you for speaking the tough truth about this. I have struggled in this area for some time. Many of us hopeful authors listened to all the hype about numbers and panicked, thinking we had to conjure up triple digits of Facebook followers or have our tweets retweeted so many times. It’s not about numbers, it’s about relationships. The competition for a spot on the bookstore shelves has stiffened over the years and we bow to the pressure of that competition, forgetting that a slow steady climb up the publication hill is less exhausting than a race. It’s nice to have strangers cheering you on at the finish line, but I’d rather have those special people in my journey who will climb alongside me.
Thanks again for a thought provoking post.
Dan, what a great, challenging post. I’ve seen more and more the necessity of building relationships. And not just the sort where people help me out with stuff, but genuine caring relationships. Of course, there’s only so much I as one person can do, but the value of investing in others goes so much further than getting those thousands of Twitter followers, or Facebook “friends.” Your examples hit home with me.
Investing in relationships is essential. My hope is that, when I do get published (speaking optimistically), that my book will speak to others’ hearts. My heart will reflect in my interactions with people long before any book I wrote appears on bookshelves. May the two be consistent in showing my concern for people who cross my path.
I loved your guidelines for relationships. Thanks for this!
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Dan, I don’t think the information in this post can be said enough. Writers spamming others is not good use of social media. Would we phone our friends and play a pre-recorded message asking them to buy our book?
But that brings me to one of my favorite pet peeves—“e-blasts.” Who came up with this concept, and why do PR people think it’s a good idea?
Is the type of marketing/promotion that a publisher gives an author ever negotiable?
So simple, so true, so refreshing. I’ve been on the receiving end of hype to build the social media connections ASAP. And I’ve been on the receiving end of fellow writers who send me friend request in the morning, and by lunchtime they’re urging me to buy their ebook. I’m persuaded that any approach that smacks of “using” people will fall flat. But good old-fashioned friendships… Now that is a person whose book I might buy, whether I want to read it or not.
This is such an excellent reminder. So much so, I’ve printed out the key points and want to set a reminder on my computer to read it at least twice a week. As an introvert, social media often feels like a chore with all of my buffer queues constantly screaming “feed me, feed me!” In truth, I don’t want to personally engage with so many people. But if I focus on engaging with those who truly support me (a much smaller number ;), the task becomes less monumental and my approach sincerely thankful. Great post, Dan, thank you!
Amen! (and again I say, Amen!)
I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, Dan, and will proclaim this from the rooftops. if we don’t take time to truly ‘connect with folks through our social platforms, we degrade ourselves as well as our industry peers! Relationships = the seed seed from which life grows.
It’s not wise for us to believe everything we think, but I think you would enjoy a book titled, The Fall of Advertising And The Rise of PR by Al and Laura Ries (I think). I am a programmer at Goodyear. I have read the book three times and enjoyed it each time. Their thesis is that you cannot build a brand with advertising; you build it with Public Relations. Advertising is how you defend a brand once it is made. Advertising fails at building a brand because audiences don’t believe what we tell them about ourselves, and they don’t believe what paid agents tell them about us either. At the risk of seeming like a paid agent, let me say that I am not a paid agent for those authors.
Having read the previous sentence about not being a paid agent, did you feel a twinge of doubt about the truth of what I said earlier? Did you begin to wonder whether I was a paid agent for any other author? I’ll bet you did. That’s their point.
I’ve said–I’ve written–all of that in the hope that those who rely on social-media will note the distinction when selecting and producing their promotional materials.
And read the book. You’ll be glad I did.
Thanks for the book suggestion. I read the Ries book after it came out ten years ago or more. I’ll pull it out again!