Does Social Media Work?

Ten years ago, we used to talk about how to take your book viral through social media, but recently I was at a convention where authors got to talking about how Facebook is really becoming rather useless.

You see, years ago when I started advertising on Facebook, it really worked! I would put up an ad, then send it out, pay a small fee to have it promoted to my target audience, and for a few cents per person, I’d actually sell books.

Not anymore. The road now curves away from my destination.

Facebook makes sure that my posts to friends are seen by fewer and fewer people, and if they think that you’re putting up an ad, forget it! They’ll “suppress” the ad completely, so that no one sees it, unless, of course, you pay Facebook handsomely for the privilege.

Even the official ads don’t work. I have a little workshop coming up on Saturday. Facebook made a nice offer to run a campaign, send it to 40,000 authors, and I gave it a try. Not one sale came through that channel.

Sigh, in case you can’t tell, I’m about to abandon Facebook as a platform, just as I’ve given up on several other platforms—Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, and so on. The costs don’t justify the expenditures of time and money.

In fact, if I started a social platform, I’d go out and make sure that early users showed great success. Then, if I were evil, I’d begin rigging things so that I charged the users a lot of money.

So, as an author, what are the alternatives? That’s the perennial question.

Every few months I look at the new platforms and ask myself, “Will this help?”

If you do find one that works, it seems that some mega-corp like Amazon will soon buy up the site and begin making sure that you can’t promote your books unless you proceed in an orderly fashion through their ticket office (a pay-for-play proposition) that turns out to be a bad deal, when you look at it closely.

This is what publishers are—whether they are traditional publishers or electronic publishers. They’re people who make sure that if your work is seen, they get their cut.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. I’m trying to show you how the system works.

I’m trying to point out that the world is controlled by a few media conglomerates. The people who own the movie companies own the television networks and the magazines, and the book publishers are the same ones who control the politicians and the social media sites. Ultimately, no matter how you choose to advertise, which corral chute you try to press through, they will try to take a big chunk of any profits you make. (I could talk about how the distribution systems for movies, games, and books all fall prey to the same difficulties, but I suspect that you get the point.)

So what do you do?

First, I think that you have to understand your social platforms and how they work, and to recognize when the rules change—when the road no longer can take you where you want to go.

If you really do want to advertise a new book, you need to be creative in how you approach it, look for opportunities that others don’t see. Instead of taking the road, try a helicopter.

Don’t always hope for a free lunch. Everyone nowadays wants to “go viral,” “pick the low-hanging fruit,” and do a bunch of other idiotic buzzwords. Recognize that those don’t exist.

Promoting yourself as an author is usually going to require some investment of money. So you need to understand what opportunities are available, how much to invest where, how to create a truly innovative campaign, and then move forward.

Live Writing Workshop THIS Saturday

I am teaching a live writing workshop this Saturday in Provo, Utah. We still have some space if you would like to join us. Register and learn more here.

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