After many years of being active on social media, and having accumulated reasonable followings, I’d have to say that the answer to this question is no, not directly.
I don’t know how many times a day I see, ‘Check out my book’, ‘You’re invited to an event’, or ‘Download my book for free.’ My reaction to these messages, which for me number in their hundreds every day, is to ignore them completely. Exactly the same as most people do I think.
However, social media offers the logical temptation to sell stuff, especially to those who are new or inexperienced. After all, there is a whole world out there and it’s just so darn easy to send a little message out to millions of people saying, ‘Buy my stuff because I’m really so cool’.
My own experience has been that direct selling like this doesn’t work at all. After many experiments, misadventures and missteps, I can honestly say that sending out hundreds of messages with a buy link to your book on Amazon is a complete waste of time. Not only that, it is a sure fire way to create a negative image of yourself, which results in annoying people and therefore losing followers.
Of course I try to promote my own books and would love to sell thousands of copies each month, but it’s just not going to happen by simply sending out thousands of messages saying,’ Buy my fantastic books’.
What does work though, is the slower process of building your name recognition and reputation as a provider of relevant, useful and perhaps entertaining information relevant to your domain as an author. A well written and maintained blog linked to social media is the logical means to do this, as is intelligent posting of articles from around the Internet.
Commenting on other blogs is another great way of leveraging social media and building your profile. One means I use to take this even further, is to share some of my blog’s comments on Twitter. This serves a few useful purposes. Firstly it creates great content on Twitter and of course directs new readers to my blog, and at the same time it gives exposure to my commenters and their blogs to my followers. Every commenter on my blog can add a link to their latest blog post. Share and share alike as the saying goes. It also helps start a conversation, which is what social media is all about. I did try this on Facebook, but it was a failure, bordering on counterproductive. It proved that there are ‘horses for courses’ on social networks, so you do need to think about how you use each platform.
A Facebook Page I believe is a necessity. The power of the ‘Like’ button and 800 million users means there is unlimited potential. While it may seem slow at first to build an audience on Facebook, it is worth the effort. While my own blog may get only a few ‘Likes’ on each post, every now and then one post will attract many more and my following increases. But again, this is a platform where trying to sell directly simply doesn’t work. It’s very much about building your reputation and profile.
Stumbleupon and Pinterest are useful platforms, but they don’t create a conversation. They are helpful however in gaining exposure for your books and reviews. While you do need to post other content so you don’t look like you’re simply flogging books, they allow people to discover your books and take a look. There are many other useful networks such as Goodreads, Shelfari and Author’s Den, and these are sites that lend themselves to promoting your titles a little more directly.
As with everything it comes down to balance. While you do want to let the world know about what you do, and what you have to offer, social media is more about marketing and reputation building rather than selling. By all means, post the occasional buy link to your books on your website, Amazon, B&N or Smashwords and links to reviews you receive. But make sure there is a lot of informative information and intelligent conversation in between.
My advice is to be patient with social media, and as your reputation and name become better known, people will find your books when they are ready and sales will follow.