Is Social Media a HUGE Waste of Time for Authors?

As a book publisher, I’ve seen a boatload of creative promotional methods for driving book sales. Some methods are ingenious and highly effective. Others methods… not so much.

The fact is there are many ways to spend your time to promote a book. Some of these are a great spend of time, others… not so much. If you’re going to do social media you need to be investing your time, not just spending it.

In my career of promoting best sellers, I’ve developed a book marketing resource with 107 effective marketing tactics to support a book launch. Knowing that there are thousands of marketing options to choose from, I felt it important to build a database of knowledge on what is actually working today. All of these ideas are not for everyone because all of them take either time or money to implement.

The question then becomes, which method offers the most bang for your buck? In other words, where can you get the highest return for the time or money you apply?

Without a doubt, one of the obvious answers to successfully promote a book is using social media to generate awareness. From Facebook to YouTube, Pinterest to Instagram, marketing with social media is the new normal. In fact, it’s so prevalent that even Presidential candidates relentlessly use networks like Twitter for engaging their constituents. Often, their results are impressive when used in such a manner that is consistent with the social network. For instance, what works on LinkedIn will not work on Pinterest.

When Social Media Works (and When It Doesn’t)

Let’s face it: social media is powerful. Social networks have allowed us to connect with friends and family around the world, discover innovative products, support cherished causes, and promote our ideas like never before. Whatever your fan base, you can get the word out about your most recent developments and reach a massive amount of people in seconds—if you use the right tactics.

Many pundits suggest using social media to promote books, but the rules keep changing in the industry. As the social media platforms focus more on profits, the opportunities to leverage these networks for low-cost exposure is shrinking. You just can’t reach as many people as you used to as the rules for posting content are changing rapidly.

For instance, Facebook will not circulate your posts to all your LIKES unless you pay them to BOOST your Post. Some experts estimate that only 2% to 5% of your LIKES will see your posts. If you want to reach the rest, you need to pay Facebook to advertise (or Boost) your post to your fan base.

And what about the quality of that message? Whatever you post needs to be a) in-line with your message; b) an enhancement to your reputation; c) unique enough to inspire sharing. Anything less could be the kiss of death.

For example, if your book is about wildlife photography, you could turn off your fan base by posting a dinnertime pic of the wild elk special you are trying in Park City at Robert Redford’s restaurant. Think before you post, and make it count. You won’t get a second chance if you screw it up.

What is Your Time Worth?

If you are already in motion using social media and love it, then this is a great tool to promote your book. Go for it, and use the medium to showcase your writing, post images, and share video. There’s every reason to take advantage of this ubiquitous tool.

However, the reality is that social media can be pretty time consuming. Making the most of social media marketing means being consistent with your scheduling and your topics. If you’re posting comments, images and videos at off-peak hours for your fan base, you’re singing in the wind. Use one of the many apps available to analyze your fan base and see when your friends and followers are online. Post your most valuable pieces during those times.

Likewise, look at the best use of your time as an author working towards building a platform for your book release, namely your fan base as an author. If you’re committed to accessing your platform with social media, consider hiring an assistant or social media manager to help you stay in stride.

Video is hugely effective, so don’t ignore this opportunity. Video posts get phenomenal circulation, and they are rapidly taking over social media sites such as Facebook. It goes without saying that YouTube is the monster in the room here, with billions of hours of new video posted each month. The funnier your video, the better the circulation you can expect.

In the end, all that counts is that you push your message to your public by whatever means you have at your disposal. Every day I encounter authors who have written successful books but do not even have a Facebook account. They confide in me that they read articles telling them they must use social media to promote their books. However, they use other methods to promote their work successfully.

Is this true? Will your writing career tank if you don’t feed the social media monster at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Is the only path to success to climb on the bandwagon and do what everyone else is doing?

Absolutely not! There are so many ways to invest your time and promote your book. Social media is just one of the many marketing tactics I’ve documented to support a book launch. It’s true that all of them take time or money to implement. As an author, you can let your inherent creativity guide you to your best marketing options.

However, one truism holds fast: unless you get the word out, no one will know what gems of knowledge your book holds. Start beating your own drum today, and reap the rewards tomorrow.

Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.