I was hoping you could help guide me on an academic question. As part of my summer project work with my professor, I am involved in developing a marketing plan for his new book on business management. Your blog has been a wonderful resource to get insights into the publishing world for fiction writers. It seems to me that fiction has an easier time using social media for promotion. Would you say that educational books (which are relevant to audiences outside academic circles too) have a viable avenue in being promoting via social media? Or will that dilute its aura of ‘seriousness’ and ‘authority’? Or does it depend entirely on the direction the campaign takes (which should be what though?)?Swati
“As part of my summer project work with my professor, I am involved in developing a marketing plan for his new book on business management.”
Hahaha, free labor.
Would you say that educational books (which are relevant to audiences outside academic circles too) have a viable avenue in being promoting via social media?
Or will that dilute its aura of ‘seriousness’ and ‘authority’?
This reminds me of a graduate student I used to know. Many years ago – I am old! – when I worked in a lab as a grunt, he was working on his Masters, I think, and he was so concerned with how he looked. He wore jeans and a leather jacket, he kept his hair long, and he had a huge man crush on my professor’s husband, who was a Botany PhD because “you can’t even tell that guy is a scientist.” This dude spent so much time worrying that someone might mistake him for a nerd based on his Biology major.
I couldn’t wrap my head around it. To me, choosing science as your major was about research. About making a difference. It was so much bigger than worrying about your supposed “nerdness.”
Does your professor want to make a difference with his book? Is it important for him to be read? Does he want to be financially rewarded for his efforts? Then he needs to get his book in front of people who might read it.
Or does it depend entirely on the direction the campaign takes (which should be what though?)
Let’s talk about direction. What is promotion? Promotion is making your target audience aware of your product. The key to success of the social media promotion is to identify your audience, find that audience, and then advertise to it. Finding it is the most difficult part.
If you post your advertisement on social media without doing the crucial legwork, it will fail. It’s like screaming into the void. To effectively advertise, you have to understand the social media you are using and learn where to find your audience.
Let’s dissect a failing social media strategy.
If you go on Twitter right now and type in “fans of Ilona Andrews” in the search window, you will come to a slew of advertisements for urban fantasy novels. They go something like this:
And there is always a caption: Fans of Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs can’t get enough of this hot, gritty, addicting new series.
These writers have identified their audience. They are advertising to the readers who like urban fantasy and paranormal romance. On Facebook, these would be good, effective ads, because Facebook allows you to target your audience better. It also makes you pay for the ads because it knows it’s at least somewhat effective.
But how do you find these specific readers out of the millions of people on Twitter? There is no Paranormal Fantasy Page on Twitter. Twitter audience self-segregates based on individual accounts. So they choose to “borrow” an audience from someone who already has it, namely me and Patty. The idea is that if you like our books, you will surely love theirs.
BTW, I don’t have an issue with these ads. I’m using them as an academic example of why stuff sometimes seems like a good idea and works on one platform but doesn’t work somewhere else.
On Twitter, this strategy is flawed and if you examine the number of responses, likes, retweets, and clicks these ads generate, you will see that the advertisement isn’t producing a significant response among the targeted audience, namely Ilona Andrews and Patty Briggs followers.
First, notice that they don’t actually tag the authors. Patricia and I worked very hard to build our brands and obtain our audiences. Popping into someone else’s feed uninvited with the advertisement based on that author’s name might generate negative publicity instead of positive publicity.
But not tagging the author for whose audience they are aiming means that discoverability of these ads is very low. Nobody searches the Twitter for “Ilona Andrews” to find books by other authors. Actually nobody except our assistant searches for Ilona Andrews, period, and she only does it to find ebook pirates. We are not that famous. If anyone does type Ilona Andrews into that search window, they are usually looking for the official account. In the context of reaching Ilona Andrews or Patty Briggs audiences specifically, these ads are basically invisible. Usually they are only seen by the audience of the author who is posting them. That audience is already committed to that author, so saying “Hey, here is my new book!” will be just as effective.
Second, the structure of such advertisements opens the person who wrote them to liability. You never see a commercial advertisement that says, “This is the best toothpaste.” Why? Because someone might take you to court and make you prove your claim. Instead toothpaste commercials say things like “Voted Best by Hot Dentist Magazine” or “Three out of four dentists prefer it*” and the little * is going to point you to fine print where it is explained what study they conducted to back up this claim.
When the author of advertisement states that someone else’s readers can’t get enough, can’t put down, devour, etc., they are stating something as fact. It’s like standing on a legal landmine. This is also why you almost never see an author blurb a book and say “My fans will love Author B.” Instead you say “I love Book X. Author B is a fresh new voice!” You are limiting the blurb to your opinion only. It’s safer that way.
The question then becomes how to ethically and effectively advertise on Twitter? The answer is, you can’t. You can buy ads, but who knows who sees them. Even if you use the tags effectively, you are still kind of screaming into the wind, because most people browse their feed, not particular tags, unless something big happens like RWA imploding.
Just about the only way to advertise on Twitter is this: you create funny content that goes viral, cross your fingers, and hope enough of your people see it, or you can send your book/product to one of the people who have a large audience that matches yours and hope they mention it.
So to reiterate:
- Identify your audience. To whom are you marketing this book?
- Where are these people hanging out? Do they have a Reddit? Do they have a Facebook Group? Learn the particulars of each social platform. Don’t use advertisement designed for Facebook on Twitter, etc.
- Gain access to that specific social media. Can you target your ads toward that specific group? Can you buy ads on the message boards, blogs, or pages?
- Collect endorsements. Who are the particular people prominent in their community or field of study? Do those experts read books? Can you send a book to them and ask for a mention? If I had a history book about Modern American History, I would send it to Heather Cox Richardson and cross my fingers she reads it. If she talks about it, I gain access to 340,000 people who like her page.
- Be memorable. Be funny, be vivid, entertain, and leave a good impression. The best advertisement is a joke that you and your reader get. Show them that you are part of their crowd and you get them. Why did Starbucks adopted weird names for their cup sizes? Because knowing the names meant you were “in.” Or the baby Darth Vader using the force to start a car. These ads made you feel special, like you were a part of a secret club with its own language. That’s what you’re aiming for.
- Above all, make sure your ads and your social strategies pass the ethical sniff test. You don’t want to get your professor into hot water.
Swati, I’m going to tell you something to take some stress off your shoulders. Unless your professor is famous or he knows someone who is famous in the business management community, no matter what you do, you won’t be able to generate significant number of sales. These are people who flock to “millionaire” in the bio. What is most likely going to happen is that the book will come out and then he will make it required reading for every student who takes his course for years to come. So don’t fret too much. He is going to get a certain number of copies sold each semester. 😉