February 2, 2016 by Rachel Rueben
Last time I shared an excerpt from my latest project: Social Media Hacks No One Tells You About” and today, I want to share a bit more. This post involves bots, slackers and a billionaire that rescues several foolish celebrities. So let’s get into it…
Why is Social Media Important Again?
Last year, an author on Wattpad was given a six figure deal after writing 3 fan fiction stories about the member of a boy band which got over 1 billion views. So publishers love big numbers, go figure! So if you’re an author wanting to go hybrid, (meaning self-publish as well as traditionally publish) you are going to have to grow your social media following. There’s no way around it.
Keeping Your Followers Legit!
When Twitter was still in its infancy, the advice was to follow those who followed you, in order to build up your following. In fact several companies popped up offering “automatic follow back” services to help you get those numbers up. However, times have changed and it’s just not wise to do this anymore because you’ll only wind up with spammers, porn and gibberish in your feed.
Rise Of The Bots
Case in point, years ago it was discovered that spammers were creating social bots (software) to avoid detection on Twitter. That doesn’t sound like a big deal because back then bots usually just followed or liked an account and when that person followed back they were often bombarded with either porn, sales pleas or gibberish. However today’s bots are different, much different. Today’s social bot has taken things to the next level with more sophisticated programming such as data mining and more lifelike interaction. For example, back in 2011, a group of security specialists decided to create a social bot and programmed it to mimic human interaction. By the end of the experiment, the bot: James M Titus, had over 700 followers and successfully evaded detection by Twitter’s algorithms. The creators did this by programming the bot to retweet other users and ask them randomly vague questions like: Name three places you’d like to visit?, What experience has changed your outlook on life?, and my favorite, Was it something I said? Amazingly, people responded to this robot tweeter even though there was something quite odd about this James fellow. This particular bot was harmless but others are not.
This is why it’s so important to check out people before you like or follow them otherwise, you could inviting spam onto your social media feeds. If you get any bad vibes from an account, walk away.
Why You Shouldn’t Stress Out Over Your Numbers
It’s story time again and yes, I’m including celebrities in this one. In December 2010, Twitter Superstars Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest and Lady Gaga as well as several other celebrities declared they wouldn’t tweet anymore unless their followers donated $1 million dollars to an AIDS charity. Guess what? They only raised half of that and a billionaire from a pharmaceutical company had to come to their aid and donate the rest of the $500,000. The social media stunt was quickly brushed under the rug and never mentioned again. Can you say #TwitterFail?
It’s sad but only 3,600 people are reported to have donated to the AIDS charity even though these celebrities had millions of followers. So what happened?
Why Was This Such An #EpicFailure?
As you can see, even fame and social media doesn’t move products. Social media is about socializing not shilling a product. I’m not telling you not to talk about your book, just don’t make it the only thing you talk about. Also, don’t build yourself up so much that no one wants to buy anything from you like the airheads oops, I mean superstars of Twitter. 😉
It Wasn’t All Their Fault
Though many celebrities are well educated in the science of promoting products they aren’t experts at nonprofit work. There are people who spend years in school learning that stuff and it’s a lot more complicated than selling a service or product. You have to make people care and that’s hard to do just ask anyone in the nonprofit sector. There are so many worthwhile charities as well as many fraudulent ones out there that it sometimes makes people paralyzed. Also, remember what I said about people being lazy when it comes to responding to posts? This is especially true of online charity work.
Recently, UNICEF Sweden released a video geared towards “slacktivists” people who like their page but never cut a check. UNICEF isn’t the only group to notice the apathy of social media users. Indie authors as well have complained about people liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter only to receive no engagement whatsoever.
On Twitter I have around 2,100 followers and 1,200 Facebook likes but did I sell 3,300 books? Ah, nope. That’s because these people may have simply stumbled upon my page/account and found me interesting. Some of them may not even be readers, let alone, fans. The amount of followers, subscribers or likes a person has is considered vanity metrics and is often confused with social proof.
You can have the biggest following on Twitter, and millions of subscribers on your blog, but if no one isn’t buying your book or responding to your posts, then it’s pointless. You win at social media by leveraging your connections, that’s means finding out what can you get from these likes, follows and pluses. Personally, I’ve found freelance work, career advice and new friends. Sometimes this can be way better than a book sale.
Incest or a Relationship?
It’s been preached for a while that authors shouldn’t follow other authors on social media, in fact, it’s been called incestuous but that’s total nonsense. Social media is about mingling, sharing news, and asking questions. For example, this week, an author in one of my Facebook groups asked, about free images she could use for her book. Immediately, several of us gave our input which ended up saving her big money. If all you want to do is sell, sell, sell then social media isn’t going to work for you.
Social media can be helpful for promoting, but you have to connect with the right people. I started networking online almost 5 years ago, without even realizing it. I started joining groups and asking questions about writing but most importantly, I listened. Many authors are under the impression that they can sell books to a complete stranger. When in fact, people who don’t know you have no obligation to help you let alone give you their money. So in closing, if it feels weird asking for help, you may not be as well connected as you thought. Asking for help only feels weird when you’re asking complete strangers like UNICEF.
Rachel Rueben is author of the bestselling YA novel “Hag” and “The Eternal Bond Series” both available on Wattpad. To keep up with Rachel, you can sign up for her frighteningly entertaining newsletter here.