Is caring about people a waste of time? (AKA, is social media marketing worth it?)

Is caring about people a waste of time? (AKA, is social media marketing worth it?)

assholeI’m at a writing conference, and during just about every session, authors keep asking the same questions.

And they aren’t looking for answers.

They are looking for permission not to give a damn about their readers.

They ask stuff like “I know I’m supposed to use Facebook/Twitter… but do I have to?”

They say stuff like “I just want to write, I don’t want to do any marketing. Can’t I just pay someone else to do all that for me? Can’t I pay someone else to manage social media or write blog posts?”

Or “But in terms of interacting with readers on Facebook, how effective is it? Is it really worth my time and effort?”

What I hear is:

“I don’t want to get to know any of my readers. I’m not interested in them. I don’t want to have to fake caring about them. I don’t want to give up my time talking with them.”

Blogging and posting content is for sharing cool stuff you think your readers will like.

Social media is for chatting with readers and getting to know them.

Building an author platform means being approachable enough that you can form a solid bond between you and your readers, so that they become your champions and fans. That doesn’t happen if you are paying someone to do marketing for you, or hiring someone to do your social media (which just shows readers that you’re lazy and you don’t care about them, which makes them unlikely to support or rave about you even if they liked your books).

Marketing is not complicated or difficult or confusing.

Marketing means producing quality content that people enjoy or find interesting, that’s separate from what you’re selling. This can just be a link to an interesting article you read recently, or a provocative question. But it won’t work if you honestly don’t give a shit about your readers and don’t want to get to know them.

And if that’s you (and it seems to be about 80% of the writers I’ve met this weekend) then you don’t have a marketing problem. You have an ideology problem. You want to be a celebrity writer that lives in a golden palace, cut off from the rabble you write for.

That might have worked 30 years ago, but business has changed.

You want to focus on producing art, without actually asking people to read it. If so – burn your book and get a real job.

There are enough selfish writers in the world already. Success is reserved for the exceptional human beings who are willing to share themselves, their time, their love, their advice, their knowledge, joy and sorrow with other people rather than hiding behind the pages of their books.

Is it worth it? Yes – forming relationships with lots of other human beings who like your work by being nice and caring about them is worth it. Maybe not in terms of immediate book sales. But it’s certainly more effective than being an asshole.

UPDATE: I intentionally made this blog post a little strong and confrontational. But it’s not very helpful. So I’d like to expand the topic. Do you have to spend time on social media? In my opinion, yes. And that may sound exhausting – except that it really doesn’t take more than 15 minutes a day. So while you may defend the rigor of artistic solitude, there’s really no way to justify not having 15 minutes to spare for your fans and supporters.

How to do social media marketing.

Make a Twitter account and link it to your site so people can follow you.

Once a day, check Twitter and see if anybody mentioned you or your books, or shared something you wrote. If so, reply and thank them.

If you write a blog post, share it on Twitter – with a nice picture if you can and some hashtags (keywords so people can find you).

Make a Facebook page or use your personal Facebook page (if you don’t use Facebook, start. Just make a personal page).

Check in once a day and see if anybody posted anything. If so, reply.

Facebook isn’t very powerful for marketing, but it is a good way for people to feel like they’ve become friends. It’s a good way for people to get to know you.

If you want to spend more than 15 minutes, you could also use Reddit or LinkedIn. Answer people’s questions. Engage. Be helpful.

You don’t have to talk about your book, or share excerpts or promotions or anything, although you can share stuff you’re working on, your thoughts, challenges you’re facing, things you’re excited about. Treat Twitter and Facebook like your best friends and share stuff that’s important to you (not stuff you’re trying to sell).

If you like taking pictures, take them and share them on instagram and pinterest. Why? No reason, you’re just sharing beautiful things with other people who also appreciate beautiful things.

Will it make a huge difference in sales? No – not right away. But over time it will build up traffic to your site, and connect you with more people.

That’s 30 minutes a day. If you are as helpful as I am, you’ll also get a lot of email. I spend over an hour a day answering email – and yes that’s not the best use of my time… or is it? Producing more work won’t matter much if I don’t have a platform to promote it from.

I feel like spending an hour and a half a day connecting with people now will help me do big things (like buy a castle) when I want to. But that’s because I know what I’m talking about – this is how the internet works. This is how marketing works these days. This is what people mean when they say you need to build a platform. Would I rather be sitting on beach in Portugal sipping rum and painting landscapes? Sure. On the other hand, spending an hour and a half each day doing something a little tedious, which allows me to sell a lot of books and write full-time without having to work for someone else and wake up early in the morning to go to work, is pretty amazing.