From time to time, my author friends get tired of the endless treadmill of marketing their work on social media and start asking if it’s worth doing.
I wrote an article on this very subject awhile back. The title was “What’s Social Media Good For?” and I published it in the November 2016 issue of my Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. This blog post is a light revision of the article I wrote then.
Let’s start by defining the problem we’re trying to solve.
The problem is to figure out whether it’s worth putting time, money, and energy into marketing on social media.
Remember that social media is widely alleged to be a powerful marketing tool for novelists. (Some even claim it’s THE most powerful marketing tool.)
But is this claim true? How would you know if social media is a powerful marketing tool? What does it mean to say that something is a powerful marketing tool?
Let’s take these questions in reverse order.
What is a Powerful Marketing Tool?
Marketing is about selling your books. If social media is a powerful marketing tool, then using social media in the right way would get you lots of sales.
This isn’t complicated. Marketing leads to sales. A powerful marketing tool leads to strong sales.
How Do You Recognize a Powerful Marketing Tool?
You know you have a powerful marketing tool when you can trace the connection from your marketing to the sales numbers it generates.
So if you can’t trace the connection, then your marketing is not very powerful. And if you can trace the connection, it is. Simple as that.
Whenever I put things this way, I quickly hear from people claiming that the world doesn’t work that way, because you can’t trace the connections between marketing and sales, because things are complicated, because … um, because.
My response is that if you step on the gas pedal and you don’t feel the car accelerate even a little, that wasn’t the gas pedal you stepped on.
Which sounds like I’m raining on the parade. But I don’t think it’s raining on the parade to say that a parade is not a parade if nobody can detect it.
How Powerful is Social Media?
Let’s look at a case study done several years ago by Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.com. Darren is one of the best bloggers in the world and he had a new product to launch. He used several different marketing tools and standard tracking methods to trace the connection between his marketing and his sales. You can read his article here.
Darren found that only 3% of his sales came from all his combined social media marketing efforts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus. That is not a typo. 3%. Three percent. You may be wondering how it could only be three percent? Where did all the rest of his sales come from? Here’s where:
- 3% came from Darren’s affiliates—people who actively promoted his products in exchange for a percentage of sales.
- 7% came from Darren’s blog posts. That is shockingly low, considering that Darren is one of the most famous and successful bloggers in the world.
- 87% of Darren’s sales came from email Darren sent out.
That’s right. Darren made the overwhelming majority of his money from email, even though email was just a small part of his marketing efforts.
In Darren’s blog post where he reported these results, he faced up to the obvious question: If social media doesn’t generate sales, then what’s it good for?
You can read his article to see what he thinks on the matter. I have an opinion which I’ll give you a bit further down in this article.
But first a little marketing theory so we have the vocabulary we need.
Basic Marketing Theory
Any working marketing strategy needs to achieve three things. If you do all three of these things well, you succeed. If you fail on any one of these three things, you fail. Here are the three phases of marketing:
“Attract” means that you find a way to make people learn that you exist. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Most of them have never heard of you.
“Engage” means that you provide enough information to the people you attracted so that they know you’re a person worth listening to.
“Convert” means that you motivate somebody you have attracted and engaged to finally pull out their credit card and buy your stuff.
You can’t convert people you haven’t engaged.
You can’t engage people you haven’t attracted.
Attraction, engagement, and conversion can happen very quickly. It’s possible to take somebody through all three of these phases in 5 minutes, as long as you do them in the right order and do them well.
What Social Media is For
Now let’s look at what Darren measured in his experiment. Darren was exclusively measuring conversion. He emailed, blogged, tweeted, FaceBooked, and more—all in an attempt to get people to pull out their credit cards and buy his product. He found that email worked best for conversion, by a huge margin.
And if you look at Darren’s explanation of what he thinks social media is for, it all comes down to attracting and engaging. Darren is a smart guy. I think he’s right.
So if you’re going to use social media, then focus your efforts on those two things.
- Attract people to your website, where they can sign up for your email list.
- Engage them so they know you’re a person worth listening to.
That’s what social media is for.
And by the way, you can measure attraction. You can measure engagement. You can measure conversion.
But the important thing to keep in mind is that these three things don’t ADD.
They multiply, because they happen in sequence:
Marketing Success = Attraction x Engagement x Conversion.
So if any of these is zero, then your marketing amounts to zero.
And if all of them are maxed out, then your marketing efforts are maxed out.
- What’s your marketing strategy? What do you do to attract? What do you do to engage? What do you do to convert?
- How are you measuring your attraction? How are you measuring your engagement? How are you measuring your conversions?
- Which of these phases is working well for you and which isn’t?