social media bookSome people seemingly spend far too much time on social media. I am probably one of those people.

I get stressed if I don’t have useful links scheduled to go out on Twitter a day in advance, and worry about whether I’m updating my Facebook page too much/not enough. Yes, social media is a pain in the ass, but it’s worth it for the rewards, right?

Well, it depends how you define those ‘rewards’. If you’re looking for an instant sales boost, then probably not.

Shock horror: spamming sales links on social media doesn’t work. I’ve covered it several times in the past, and at risk of repeating myself, I’ll keep this simple: there is rarely any boost in sales by posting Amazon links several times per day. You’ll likely turn off potential new fans rather than attract them if you’re telling them to buy your book every half an hour, so don’t bother.

In an ideal world, where everyone could take what they wanted without having to give anything back, that would be how it worked. We’d post a link, and people would purchase, just as robotically as our regular updates. It’s not an ideal world, though, so that method is a naive waste of time and reputation.

Aside from the sales link overkill, just how effective is social media for boosting sales if you’re adhering to all the etiquette rules?

Again, that depends on your definition of ‘effective’.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I probably don’t sell many books through social media, if any. Perhaps a few to friends who ‘like’ my Facebook page, and the odd one here and there. But that does not make Twitter a waste of time. In fact, exactly the opposite: it allows us to signpost our work to the world, rather than point directly to it.

For example, I tend to share links to my own blog a couple of times a day on Twitter. By drawing you to my blog, you can make your mind up whether you love or hate what you’re reading.

If you hate, then you’ll leave. If you love, you might subscribe to the RSS feed, sign up for email updates, or leave a comment. You might also buy my short story release, nicely priced at 99c over on the right. So, I’ve drawn you in to buying a copy without actually asking you to buy a copy, making the blog the ultimate sales pitch.

Social media might not gain me loads of sales, but social media signposting absolutely does. Joanna Penn recently blogged about effective ways of signposting, so do check it out for an in-depth guide on how to tweet, update, etc.

That’s why you need a blog, but blogging doesn’t necessarily have to be the only way you signpost your work. You need a way to bring the readers in without actually saying the words, ‘on sale now’. In fact, I offer you a challenge: try to come up with as many alternative ways to signpost your releases as possible, and share them in the comments.

My answer to the initial question? Yes, social media can be a frustrating, formulaic, inconsistent, sales-dry place, but when used correctly, it’s absolutely invaluable. Effective? Understatement of the year.

How do you use social media to spread word of your work? Are there any other ‘signposting’ methods you would recommend, and how effective are they?

Image courtesy of Scott Beale via Flickr