One of things about this brave new world of modern publishing is that we are always learning: learning from each other; learning from our mistakes; learning from the things we have done right.
I accidentally did something right in the social media/publicity department the other day. Now you can learn one little thing from me.
However, before I go there, I want to share a small piece of my mind. I agree with those in modern publishing who say that you should not overuse your real friends or overtax your fans. In other words, no hounding, no nagging, no spammy-type bombs, and minimal mixing personal with professional life. Yeah, my friends and family want to know when my new book hits the shelf and when I get interviewed by the New York Times. They don’t necessarily want to know every time I post a blog or update my book cover. Constant promotion of yourself to your friends and family is going to get you un-followed, un-liked, blocked, excommunicated. Likewise, being obnoxious to your followers and fans is going to result in a loss in numbers, not an increase. In other words, if you are a professional, act like it. And always, always, always be classy about it. For Pete’s sake.
And other thing: if you are an author or other type of artist and don’t know the head from the butt of social media, I strongly suggest you get proficient at it, even if it is only one or two platforms. I have never truly understood or excelled at Twitter. On the other hand, I have blogging down, do pretty well with Facebook and GoodReads, and am likely going to branch out into an author Pinterest page. Sure, it’s true that the more social media you cover, the broader your base will be. But I imagine that each new media comes with diminishing returns, and you only have so many hours in the day and so many things you can be good at or enjoy (or tolerate, even) doing. Plus, each media you enter needs to be kept up. Like a garden, you will need to feed into it at least weekly, keep it professional and up to date, etc. It is going to get increasingly difficult for most authors to market their books without using these avenues of publicity. As they say, build your platform. This particular blog entry is about Facebook.
That said, I will occasionally communicate with my real friends about my professional life, even on social media. It had been a long time… months, at least… since I had said anything professional on my personal Facebook. So when I broke 600 on The Starving Artist, I noticed that my Author Facebook Fan Page had never broken that 100 Like barrier. So with a publication coming this fall and another in the winter, I decided–in honor of the 600 followers mile-marker–it was about time I got my own Facebook domain name (which you get by hitting 100 Likes). Therefore, I went to my personal page, and did a status asking friends who wanted to get updates in their feed to Like my Fan Page.
Ehn. It went alright. I hadn’t had like a bazillion statuses or lots of interactions on Facebook lately, so few people even saw the request. I thought of “Promoting” it, which means spending something like $7 to have it pop to the top of friends’ feeds. But I tried that last year, and it was not very impressive, at all. Definitely not worth seven bucks.
That evening, on a fluke, I decided to Invite friends to Like Devon Trevarrow Flaherty’s Facebook page. I did it as me, the personal Devon. I started clicking on each person I wanted to invite as I went down my line of a few hundred friends. I admit, I felt a little guilty, because I don’t love it when people Invite me to play games I’ve never heard of, or whatever. But after I hit about the tenth Invite and realized that there was already another two Likes on the Fan Page, I started talking myself into it: obviously, people would see that they had an invitation from me, it was almost unignorable; I hadn’t done anything like it in awhile, actually I had never done any invites; of course, this was as important to me as someone else’s house party or playing out at the local bar; and, as the numbers mounted ridiculously fast, I knew it was working. Well.
So that’s what I learned. Don’t status it. Don’t promote it. Invite it. But make it special: only do it when it’s very important, few and far between. I won’t be using it again until the book launch in the fall. And you can bet that this advice will change in about thirty seconds, due to the speed of technology. But then there’s an underlying lesson (and without breaking the cardinal rules of best practices): if it ain’t working, try something else.