Even today, many publishers seem not to understand what social media can do for their businesses. They fear it’s nothing but the ultimate time suck, and until they grasp the mechanics of social media, they’re right; it’s hard to imagine return on investment until you have an idea of what that investment might yield. In other words, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?
Truth is, it’s pretty much just common sense. Social media on a personal level is about reaching your friends and family 24/7, if that’s what you want to do, and reaching into that social pool less frequently if that’s how you roll. And personally, you can take it or leave it with no major repercussions (unless you have an extremely connected social network, in which case you likely will face pressure to join and participate).
But for business, the stakes are higher. There’s money to be made or lost. And social media constitute a no-cost tool that’s widely responsible for leveling the playing field among solopreneurs, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies. So you really do need to learn what you can realistically expect it to do for you and your business efforts. Different businesses use social media slightly differently but overall, the structure and the process stay the same.
Think of your online presence as a large metaphorical wheel that’s turning all the time, rolling you toward your business goals. Then think of your website as the hub, with all social channels as spokes that radiate from the hub. These spokes reach into your various pools of potential customers, or the top of your sales funnel. Ideally, they will eventually lead prospects back to that hub, the center of your company’s virtual existence.
So—in business—every social media channel has but one ultimate goal: To send people back to the business’s website. Why? Because your website is:
- Where you showcase stuff to “sell,” whether your stuff is physical, downloadable, or just ideas
- A 24/7 interactivity hive that allows you to build a mailing list and offer discussion forums and other value-added functions to keep customers interested and loyal
- Your long-form information bank, where you can pretty much take as much time and room as you wish to make your points You design and build your website to be this main platform, including your blog, if you have one (and I certainly hope you do). This is where you turn interested people into your tribe of followers.
Relatively long-form information that can be accommodated on an entire website and freshened regularly through a blog is most useful, because it offers the most breadth and depth about your topic and keeps your search engine rankings high. But not everyone has the time to spend reading fairly lengthy stuff anymore. In fact, most people don’t, so you must also offer briefer channels.
On the low end of the length spectrum, there’s Twitter. That’s your ultra-short-form channel (140 characters or less), used mainly for breaking news and things you want people to respond to immediately. For instance, if your tribe is mostly local, let’s say you see a traffic jam somewhere on your route. Tweet it! Your followers will love you for the heads-up that kept them from being late for an important meeting or from having to spend another half hour in a van full of screaming kids.
If you’re tweeting to a business crowd and you’re an author with a following, you may tweet that your new e-book just got posted on Amazon for free for the next 24 hours, and watch the downloads (and your sales ranking) ratchet up. As long as what you tweet is useful and valuable, your tweeps will begin to count on you for this kind of information. Tweeting is a credibility/visibility builder, and you need it. So, keep thinking about what you could tweet that’s relevant to your expertise, and—most important—of value to your tweeps.
In between the long website and short Twitter channels lie the two major medium-form social media streams: Facebook if you’re trolling primarily for consumer eyes, and LinkedIn if your primary customers are other business owners. You can write more on these sites than you can on Twitter, but not as much as you can on your blog and site. They are good for sharing more developed details about breaking news, attracting people to upcoming events, and driving people to your YouTube channel if you have videos to show. (And yes, also use Twitter to drive traffic to those places.)
Of Time and Tips
One thing not to expect: A quick return. The reason most beginners never reach the payoff point with their social media efforts is simply that they don’t have enough patience. Creating and maintaining a presence long enough to build a meaningful following isn’t hard, but it may feel hard because the process can take years.
For example, Joanna Penn of www.TheCreativePenn.com struggled mightily for the first six months with her blog, and didn’t fare much better by the end of a year of regular blogging, when it had maybe just a few hundred subscribers.
But four years later, after simply staying the course and making sure her topics were on message and valuable to readers, she now regularly reaches in excess of 20,000 subscribers (and those are just the ones measurements can show).
You need to budget time for learning effective social media strategies and tactics before you embark on your social media journey. Usually, there’s no need to spend money, although it’s easy enough to find paid courses and books that can help you if that’s what suits your learning comfort zone.
The goal is to bring yourself up to speed not just on what you need to do, but how you need to do it. It’s a small investment to make for a large, long-term payoff.
Here are some great places to get started:
• 16 Social Media Marketing Tips: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/16-social-media-marketing-tips-from-the-pros/
• 14 Social Media Tools the Pros Use: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-tools-used-by-pros-today/
• 26 More Social Media Marketing Tips: http://www. socialmediaexaminer.com/26-social-media-marketing- tips-from-the-pros/
• 6 Social Media Success Strategies: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-strategy/6-success-tips-from-experienced-social-pros/
Not all of them will apply directly to you, but you’re a creative person. Use your imagination to figure out how to put these tips to work for your business and its books.
Mary Shafer, an independent publisher, is also an award-winning author and a marketing consultant with more than 20 years in the industry. Formerly president of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association, she provides guidance for authors considering self-publishing and for indie publishers seeking greater success. To learn more: IndieNavigator.com, @indienavigator on Twitter, Indie Navigator on Facebook, and LinkedIn.com/in/maryshafer.