For Writers

Social Media: Two Common Questions from Authors

Mary Wiley

Apr 8th

Social Media Social Networking Technology Connection Concept

“Is social media worth my time?”

If you haven’t asked this question yet, you likely will at some point in the future when it seems more frustrating than fruitful.
If you haven’t grown up as the digital era has emerged, social media can be as intimidating as learning a new language. Or, if you are active on social media, but you’ve had any number of bad experiences (mean people, privacy breaches, etc.), it may feel more risky than worthwhile.

Here are two of the most common questions I have heard authors ask about social media:

1. “What’s the return on investment of social media?”

The question is common because it is often difficult to draw a clear line between social media activity and increased sales of any product, books included. Social media and marketing professional Gary Vaynerchuk says that asking, “What’s the return on investment of social media?” is like asking “What’s the return on investment of buying a piano?” For Vaynerchuk, buying a piano has made him virtually no money, but for Elton John, it’s made hundreds of millions of dollars. Vaynerchuk’s point is this: social media is a neutral tool, and its return on investment is wholly dependent on how well you use the tool.

Social media is only as useful as you are able to make it. It’s not a magic machine that sells your books. It’s a tool that will become more and more worthwhile the more you learn how to optimize it. But, another, related question remains:

2. “Which platform is best?”

Ultimately, it matters less which platform is best equipped to sell books and matters more where your audience is engaging and where you are most effective.

Facebook has been shown to sell more books than Twitter or Instagram, which makes sense. The way Facebook is set up lends itself to selling products more than Twitter or Instagram, especially when it comes to books.

But if your target audience is, for instance, younger than 25, you may be better off investing more time and effort in Instagram than Facebook. These platforms aren’t book-selling machines. They’re websites made up of people, and the types of people on each platform vary. So, while Facebook has demonstrated the best return on investment at a general level, that may not necessarily be true for you if your audience is largely absent from Facebook and primarily engaging on another platform.

Social media can be tricky, and it can definitely be frustrating when it seems like a waste of time and energy. But, engaging with your audience is a valuable step toward serving them and, in turn, selling more books.

headshotChris Martin is an Author Development Specialist at Lifeway. He helps authors engage with their readers through blogs, social media, and other digital platforms. He blogs at Catch him on Twitter or Snapchat @ChrisMartin17.