Got your attention? Good! Because I have more than one secret. Don’t be too disappointed, okay?
(There are actually six or seven secrets here, but I share the main one at the end of this article so keep your pants on.)
Whether you’re a businessperson, author, or artist (or all three), social media is a wonderful option for you to connect with readers or product users. It’s not the only option of course, but one of the most critical planks of your marketing platform (along with a fully optimized website, regular blogging, and advertising).
When I built my own Twitter author stream (now approaching almost 100K), I knew that I wanted to:
How to do both? Not that hard.
At all times, I keep this in mind: it’s not about me. It’s about them, you, my followers, friends and fans. People use Twitter and other social media because something is in it for them.
For those who mistakenly believe that repeatedly spamming the same links to your books is helping with sales (I can guarantee it’s not), I ask this: what is in it for your followers? I can see why you think it’s good for you, but is that what ‘social’ media is all about? No. Are you selling a lot because of it? Doubtful.
1) Keywords: I often feel like a broken record about branding and keywords, but it truly is the foundation of your entire platform. This confuses people who are unfamiliar with the concept of branding or platform, so I review this concept as often as I can.
A real-life example: When you upload your book to Amazon, they want you to enter seven keywords or key phrases. This is one of the most obvious uses I’ve seen of keywords in recent history. Why bother? Because Amazon wants people to find you so they can make money.
I recently read a famous writer discuss how authors should avoid branding because we should fight against the desire the industry has to categorize us.
2) BISAC categories (i.e., nonfiction, fiction, YA, Romance, etc., plus subgenres) exist because books need to be categorized in order for people to find them, and so companies know how to market them. If you say your book about random musings on nothing in particular has no genre, good luck to you. Conversely, say you write humor nonfiction essays about men and women (like I do), people can make a buy decision just like that. Or not.
Your book will not be stocked anywhere without you assigning BISAC categories. In fact, you can’t even complete the uploading process to Amazon or B&N without choosing at least one category.
Why is this important? If you have any hope of being ranked on a list, you’ll choose your categories wisely. But it’s not set in stone – you can always change them if you find your book isn’t resonating for whatever reason.
3) Algorithms: And finally, part of Amazon’s (and other) mysterious algorithms are no doubt directly related to your keywords, categories, and tags. Sales are the ultimate deciding factor, but all that stuff contributes to visibility and exposure.
4) Search: So, back to keywords. The same categories you choose for your book should also carry over to your keywords or key phrases. These choices are very important, so you can represent your work to your readers. You wouldn’t say science fiction if your book is YA, for example (unless of course it’s YA sci-fi, which is kinda weird but whatever).
Think about how people search for books. Think about how you search for books. Having a consistent presence across your platform will create a higher rank for you (SEO).
Bottom line: keywords and branding is what you are, what you write about, what interests you.
5) Foundation: Now that you have identified your words/phrases, this forms the basis of what you will tweet, message, share, blog, and write about in all forms. Which isn’t to say that you can’t deviate from those words – not at all. It is simply a foundation for you to build on.
Now, back to it not being about me. Think about the most interesting people you follow – do they constantly talk about themselves or only provide links to their own book/music/art repeatedly? How is that even interesting? It’s not. And it’s so obvious as to be off-putting.
6) WIIFM: The people who use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to be a broken record about their own stuff are usually the ones whose sales are low, if not nonexistent (the only exception being some superstar celebs where readers are desperate to see inside their ‘real’ life. Cough cough.).
I help people discover their categories, keywords, and tags for their books constantly, via my company BadRedhead Media. There’s no guarantee that the investment will pay off without all the follow up activities I recommend as part of that service, and even then, it’s up to the author to have a consistent message.
7) Product: See, here’s the rub: we are selling art. There’s a satisfaction to having people interested in our books, music, pictures, films, etc. The best recommendation for your work is word of mouth. That’s been proven time and time again.
And social media is where that happens. Social is our word of mouth.
So get over your fear of branding and figure out what you’re all about (at least in terms of your work). Set up Google Alerts on your topics of interest. Use Pluggio (they have a drip-feed of news searches you set for keywords plus lots of other amazingly cool features — and they’re not even paying me to say that), search for targeted readers, reviewers, bloggers, and others who will make up your audience (try Twitter’s Advanced Search, Goodreads, Facebook book clubs, even Google!)
My success formula? My big secret?
Share stuff that’s not just about you.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? Please share your comments and questions below.
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Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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