Friday, October 7, 2011

Putting the Social Back In Social Media

For various reasons, I’ve been hitting the social media a lot lately, Tweeting manically, posting on Facebook two or three times a day. But I’ve noticed something about the social networks where I’m a member—they’re frequently not very social. A lot of the posts seem to be aimed exclusively at sending me to Amazon links where I can buy the authors’ books.

The thing is, though, I understand those posts. I’ve put a few of them up there myself.

Which leads me to my basic question: why exactly are we part of these social networks in the first place? To make contact with other people, certainly. That’s supposedly the basic purpose of a social network. But we authors are also out there to try to get people interested in our books, and that requires a certain amount of judiciously phrased promo.

But it can be tough to walk that line between promo and social contact. If all you do is flog your books, chances are people are going to unfollow or unfriend you. Because frankly, constant promo is a bore. I’m sure Author A’s books are great, but I want to hear about something else occasionally when she posts her status. I’ve seen all the jokes about compulsive Twitterers posting what they had for breakfast, but I’d really rather see that than the fifteenth repetition of a book ad.

One example of someone who gets this right (IMHO) is the singer Rosanne Cash. I love Cash’s music and I started following her on Twitter last year after she did her hilarious Jane Austen At the Superbowl Tweet series. Cash Tweets about her tours and her records, but she also talks about her husband and her children and, occasionally, about the joys and annoyances of living in New York. And I’ve actually bought two of her albums since I began following largely because of her restrained promo.

It’s true that the principle reason most of us hit Twitter several times a day is to stir up interest in out books. Otherwise, we’d probably spent the time writing (or anyway, that’s what I tell myself). So we’ve got to mention what we’re working on or the book that’s coming out next month or the one that came out last month or last year. If I’m blogging somewhere, I want you to know. And all of that is promo.

But the thing is, along with all this clearly promotional stuff, I’ll also tell you about what my cats did or a decent restaurant I visited in Denver. I’ll mention the weird thing that happened this morning, or the minor annoyance that’s, well, annoying me. In other words, not everything I post will be selling you something. And I think that’s important.

Yes, tell me about your books, but also tell me about you. If you don’t, I’ll probably skip your Tweet, and eventually, I’ll probably clear you off my Tweet stream.

So what’s your take on authors and social media? Hate Follow Fridays? Love links to cat pictures? What can we do to make you happy with us while selling you a book or two?


Kelly Jamieson said...

This is so hard to hit the right balance isn't it? Yes, we all hope that social networking will help sell our books but yet we can't go overboard with the promo for fear of alienating people. Sometimes I fear I've gone too much the other way, and not enough promo, for that very reason. I guess in the end it should be fun, or why do it, because that kind of promotion is impossible to quantify. Who knows how many books it sells? So you might as well just have fun with it.

Meg Benjamin said...