My friend, Scott, and I had quite a few conversations recently about artists vs social media. And by discussions, I mean I obsessively read countless articles and courses, stalked accounts, and then at the end of the day blurted what I had concluded all over his chat.
If you don’t know Scott—and you really should; you can meet him here—then it’s worth noting that he has the remarkable ability to poke at your Jenga tower of thoughts and see if it topples. So after rebuilding my tower a few times, here is what I concluded. Whether you are an artist—author, musician, unicycle rider—or a consumer of art—you’re awesome!—I think this is an important question:
What do you want from your social media, and are you doing it?
This is all a reflection based on my thoughts about me, not others, so I am not casting stones. The truth is, I had not truly and fully considered those questions before.
Here’s the thing: authors are told or at least gently nudged with a pitchfork to sell, sell, sell. I mean, of course we need to sell books. The electric company doesn’t take flash fiction for payment (I checked.)
But does it make sense to sell, sell, sell on our Facebook pages or blog? It can! But am I doing it? And do I want to?
I used to run another blog some years ago. It started mostly as a hobby to experiment with SEO tactics, something I have always had an interest in, and with that, yes, you can sell books. But SEO isn’t a small task. This is a long-term commitment to content creation, analyzing data, following trends, researching pain points, etc.
But most of us come at our blogs with the intent to sell but without the time or knowledge how to sell. If you want to sell your books via a blog, you are probably going to have to develop and maintain an SEO driven website. Welcome to your new job.
So well-intentioned authors throw some samples up and then abandon their blog because it’s “not working.” And I totally get that. My previous blog did relatively well in my opinion, with some years garnering over one million page reads. A lot of giveaways were run on other sites too, so this isn’t counting most of those.
Break down of 2014 and 2015:
Considering I wasn’t spending all my time and making a career out of it, I was pleased to see which tactics worked. As an experiment, I deem it a success.
BUT—there’s always a but—things change. The truth was, I really didn’t care that much about page reads for long, in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t even care about selling my book through my blog, and I’m not sure I was anyway, because I had not counted that into my plan (go figure).
What I genuinely enjoyed most about my time on that blog was making new connections. Just blogging opened those doors, but after I published Summoned, I began receiving PMs from readers, and from those chats I had the pleasure of meeting so many great people. Great in their own right, not just because they liked Summoned (though, really, that is totally an extra chocolate square).
Due to relatively serious health problems, I eventually stopped blogging (and writing) and mostly dropped off social media. I returned on occasion when I thought I could do it again, but then nope-d right back out. Instead, I had to focus on getting better. In that time, my blog domain expired and some opportunistic waffle scooped it up.
Yes, they did offer to sell it back to me. Bad investment, my friend.
I registered a new domain (three, actually; I’m indecisive). I could have just pointed it back to the old blog, but I had no desire to come back to that, so I wiped it all.
That said, I did still have an inclination to blog, but I didn’t know about what. Just throw up some excerpts and then abandon it? Tempting, but no. Reinvent the wheel by writing about writing? Meh.
So for about a year and a half, I simmered on the back burner what I would want a blog about, should I create a new one.
In the meantime, I restarted most of my social media, pretty much everything except Twitter because not even Twitter cares about Twitter anymore 😉
When I returned to social media, two points became clear:
1. I still have the very best people in my network. I expected to have lost everyone in my intermittent absence, but again and again I saw familiar faces pop up on my social media, liking, commenting, saying hi. After a rough few years, it meant everything.
2. Social media actually does engage with long form posting, despite conventional belief, but it’s not for me. I don’t like the lack of formatting, and I don’t like how once a post falls below the ‘more’ line, it may as well have disappeared. I don’t mind posting a few paragraphs at a time, but this post alone is coming up on a thousand words and I’m not done—now is a good time to get some coffee, by the way—and I can’t imagine dropping all this on Facebook or the ‘Gram. Twitter is right out (1/534).
Also, as it turns out, blogging is not dead.
For not quite a year, I’ve been re-engaging with Facebook, and recently again with Instagram. In that time, I was brought to that question: What do I want from social media, and am I doing it?
I know I’m supposed to be selling but that is not what I want from my social accounts. And I’m not certain that those are the best platform for it anyway unless using their paid features. We already know Facebook restricts promo posts, so that you have to pay to be seen. I’m not going either direction on that—it’s their platform, their rules, and I will happily pay for Facebook ads for my books.
But the thing is, once you use a Facebook page (vs a profile) all your posts are more or less restricted. As a primary account, profiles don’t make a lot of sense for my case either (I tried it).
What this all comes down to for me is that I don’t want to sell via my social media pages—I have a marketing guru working on selling my books—but go back to the basics: making connections. Utilizing the ‘social’ in ‘social media’ and other trite expressions. Besides, some research states that roughly 80% of followers on social media are already familiar with you, so selling to people who already like you enough to click the button seems a bit redundant and dull for everyone.
Still, since my books are an enormous part of my life, it is inevitable I am always going to be under Facebook’s pay to play rules. And that’s fine—except without boosting every post, it’s difficult to do what I actually hoped for, and that is to connect with people.
Now, before I continue here, let me clarify that I’m discussing the difficulty of reaching people you want to reach (people who want to hear from you), not undervaluing quality over quantity. More is not always better. That’s a separate post for a different day.
I’ve watched my social media posts for about a year now. My reactions/interactions are decently high based on what I have read, and yet…Well, let me demonstrate:
I had 123 engagements (none negative) including 29 comments on this post, yet I reached only 413 of the 2,700+ people on my page (the page likes may have been slightly fewer at that time, but not by much). Other posts are 110/322, 47/197, etc. Out of closing in on 3k people, that’s really not that big of a reach.
Again, it’s not about the number itself, but the way social media has backed us into a corner where we have to play ball to reach the same people—our community. The people who I want to engage repeatedly, not just throw a book at every few months. This would be an issue to me if I had 10 followers and could only reach 1 or if I had 400,000 followers and could only reach 10,000. This is Facebook’s playground, but for the purpose of maintaining connections as also a businessperson—per them; I’m still in my pajamas—I think there is a better way.
So, here we come, back to blogging.
Of course, blogging isn’t a perfect system either, but I do think it takes back some of the control that social media has on reaching the people we want to engage with. The main downside is it has always been harder to get people to comment on blog posts than social media posts, despite higher page reads—it’s just the nature of the big hairy beast—but I am hoping that this will overcome itself in time. I’m not against social media. I just rather try to use the right tools for the job, as it were. I want to write long form, but I’m not feeling it on social media. That’s the summary of it all.
Once I started building the blog, I kept hanging at adding categories. I had done a lot of research on lifestyle blogging, which seemed closest to what I had in mind, but lifestyle bloggers usually have a niche, often with a few categories that tie together. Mom bloggers and all things mom are one of the largest lifestyle niches. That is not for me. Travel is another, but I often don’t go farther than letting the dogs outside, so that’s out, at least for having regular content. The other heavy hitter is fashion blogging and I think we may have established that is not my forte. I can sum up everything I know about fashion in two lines:
- Black clothes go with black clothes.
- If it smells nice and looks clean, you’re good.
Done! That’s the beginning and end of my fashion blog.
I added and removed categories several time before coming to terms with the fact I simply don’t want well-defined topics. I don’t want to ‘niche down.’ If I were blogging for SEO, this would be crucial. But what is it that I want from my blog? A place to put those long posts that don’t work on social media, and hopefully forge connections with people who have already found me. That’s not to say someone discovering my books by reading my blog first wouldn’t be a perk, but for me, it’s about knowing intention.
At the end of the day, this will be more a personal blog than anything else. I really don’t think the world needs another opinion shouted into the madness, but I do believe that the only way to build a community (or maintain it) is to be willing to put yourself out there—and there is a difference between the two.
As it currently stands, some topics I intend to write about:
- My upcoming books, including detailed case studies with—yep—figures. No holds barred juicy stuff!
- More artists topics
- Travel and misadventures as they occur
- Productivity and organization
- My imperfect journey of going plant based and attempting ethical living
- Remodeling a house (Rainy with power tools? This isn’t going to go well.)
- Day to day life and observations
- The zoo
In short, anything that keeps me up until 2 am.
I doubt I will adhere to a schedule (oh, no!). Instead, I will be posting when I have something to say, not just to stick to a content planner. As you can see, I do not have intentions to write a lot of quick snappy posts either. Long form or bust!
I won’t be writing primarily for authors, but I will share resources and insight through the above. There are tons of dedicated marketing and writing sites so I don’t feel any reason to regurgitate what people have already done so well; this will be more ‘seeing it in real time’ than another listicle.
Will it be worth it? I think so. I won’t be abandoning social media in the least, but I am already happy to have my own space again. Later, after I have more content, I’ll spend some time or hire someone to give the site a little more flair but for now there’s this one that coffee created.
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