20. Jun, 2017

To PR or Not to PR? Part 2 - Social Media

Last week, I shared the limited results of my traditional media PR campaign, for my self-published picture book. The feedback I’ve received from readers, many of whom are independent authors, has been encouraging. This is a topic ‘indies’ want to know more about and not just the success stories.

I’m learning more in this author journey from the obstacles I’ve faced, than the boosts I’ve had along the way. If you hit pay dirt from the outset with self-publishing, kudos but does this mean everyone can replicate your path to success?

What problems do ‘indies’ face with online marketing?

There are themes that arise frequently in discussion threads in Facebook groups for independent authors. Do the sample queries (below) sound familiar?

Hi, I’m just starting out in self-publishing and I have no idea how to market my work. How do I get my book out there on social media? I only use Facebook and I don’t really know how to use Twitter or anything else. Do I have to blog? Advice please.

Hi, I don’t really know how to use social media and I don’t have much time to promote my work. Any recommendation on people who don’t charge much to do your social media for you?

Social Media Public Relations (PR) and Marketing

I paid for a six-week professional social media PR campaign, to run alongside a six-week traditional media campaign.

It. Was. Not. Cheap.

I may never recoup this cost from royalties for the book aligned to the campaign. I realised this going in, though I hoped it might be the catalyst for putting my book ‘on the map’. At the time, I did not have the necessary social media skills, nor a developed author platform, to market the book myself, to a wider audience than Facebook friends and family.

So, if I had my time over again, I would do what the canny self-publishers do and build my online author platform, well in advance of publishing.

What if you don’t have the time or the skills for social media?

You need to somehow make time, i.e. build a manageable weekly schedule for interacting online professionally, whether 30 mins a week, or 30mins a day.

You also need to upskill yourself in the effective usage of some social media platforms, if not all.

Now, here’s the kicker for indies. If you don’t have social media and marketing skills from your day job and you can’t see a way forward, then:

a) you may have to pay for training, and/or

b) you may have to invest in some targeted third-party social media promotions for your book. Examples include a Goodreads giveaway or a boosted/sponsored post on Facebook.

Remember, if you are in business (or a commercial hobby), where you expect to make money off the sale of your work, I’m not sure if you can ever avoid spending money to make money. The degree to which you apply this is entirely up to you.

What can you expect from a social media campaign?

From my own experiences with a book PR campaign, I could have refrained from paying for traditional media approaches and concentrated my efforts (and funds) on social media promotion. The online space offers legitimate, visible channels for marketing and selling your work these days, even if you are an unknown. It is about finding your target audience (and I'm not pretending that is always easy).

To my initial surprise, the PR manager for my social media campaign did not blog, create my Facebook author page, or tweet anything for me.

She advised a schedule of weekly book blog topics and spent one hour each week in a video call, training me in social media platforms, tools and marketing strategies.

In other words, she taught me how to run my own social media campaign in the short-term and strategies for maintaining and building my long-term author presence online.

I asked sheepishly if she would post or blog for me, as part of the service. Response: this was not the firm's policy. There wasn't time or resource to devote to this level of service, within the confines of the package I had purchased.

What this meant in real terms is, you would need to pay more, a lot more, for a professional PR manager to execute your social media presence. Does this answer the question whether there is a cheap option for someone to do your social media for you?

What was the objective of the social media campaign? Was it met?

The point of the social media campaign service was to empower me as a writer and independent publisher, to manage and execute my own schedule of strategic social media interactions. It was also to understand how to blog as a promotional tool.

After all, I’m a writer, so shouldn’t I be able to frame creative posts on social media and put together a regular, coherent blog piece? And who better to know what I want to say to my audience than me?

What I may not understand as a writer, unless I’ve worked in this field, is how to effectively market my product and how to use social media tools, to at least an intermediate level.This is why I sought professional assistance.

After a six-week paid campaign, I have been professionally trained in how to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Hootsuite and Google+. I have also been taught blogging strategies for building audience engagement. This for me, has been worth its weight in gold, though I am not advocating that every indie should pay for a professional PR campaign.

My advice is to acknowledge you need a social media marketing strategy. You need to skill yourself to execute this, within your means, time and budget.

I have broken the first rule of my blogging training (keep it to about 500 words or less), so if you are still reading and caring, thank you.

Next week, I’ll share some specific tips and examples from my campaign, that may provide you with a starting point for planning your own approach.

Have a productive week! 🙂