Social Media Fail #1: Tools Without A Toolbox

My daughter and I have many lively social media discussions. No, she’s not a teen learning to use her smart phone responsibly. She’s a 30-something romance writer with a background that includes marketing experience in a couple different sectors. She’s helping educate me on the challenge authors face with social media marketing.

social media toolboxYesterday, after I read the umpteenth article in so many days of bad social media advice for authors, I shared my frustrations. Of all the sectors I have worked with–athletics, higher ed, nonprofit, book publishing—authors are by far the toughest nut to crack. They are, as a group, the most susceptible to snake oil social media marketing practices. Surprising, as there are many expert voices out there in author land that know their social media stuff way better than I ever will.

My daughter claims this phenomenon has myriad roots: authors are independent creatives, pressed for time, more likely to mimic the success of others, less likely to give credence to social media as a viable marketing channel, and more susceptible to book titles like “How To Be Successful On Every Social Media Channel Known To Mankind.”

The proliferation of successful indie authors and their need to understand how to market their own books has opened the door for anyone who knows how to set up a Facebook page to label themselves a marketing expert. Oh yes, they know the tools backwards and forwards. But what about the toolbox? Show me the toolbox!

A lack of strategic approach to social media marketing is not proprietary to authors. But tools without a toolbox will have the same result in the publishing sector as anywhere else: frustration and discouragement. Here are five reasons why indie authors, or anyone else for that matter, need to own a good toolbox before you fill it up. Strategy first, tactics follow.

  1. Every social media channel you use must fit a goal. Being present on every social media channel will result in ultimate failure, not success. Social media isn’t a grab bag and it isn’t a magic pill. You choose a channel because it helps you reach a specific marketing goal, and the way you use the channel is dictated by that goal as well. Yes, there is more to Pinterest than just putting up “50 boards that every author should have now.”
  2. Social media strategy is not rocket science. Social media strategy can be learned. If you can learn how to set up a Facebook page, you can learn to use it strategically. But be warned, a strategic approach to social media requires two things, and these two things will save you time and money in the long run: there is a learning curve that requires a time investment and you also have to invest some time (and maybe a few bucks) in ongoing learning. This can be as simple as following the right blogs or taking an online course.
  3. You need a “why” before you can have a “how.” I often get emails from people asking for advice about using a particular social media tool. The first question I always ask is “why do you want to do that?” When they say, “because everybody else is using it,” I know they aren’t ready. I need you to tell me why you should use it. Do you know your audience? What need does it fill? What goal will it help you reach? I am never shocked anymore, but always sorry, to learn many people don’t have any marketing goals.
  4. Marketing is not a Sunday drive, it’s a planned journey. I know many people who love to fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to social media marketing. And they can have some success throwing things up against the wall to see if they stick. You can also have success copying what others are doing—it’s called best practices. But best practices need to be sifted through your goals and scaled to fit in your toolbox. Luckily, we already have a variety of successful road maps to help guide the journey.
  5. Know thyself. Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all. You may have small children or an older parent to care for. You may have a part-time job, or no extra income to devote to marketing. The thought of tackling social media may scare you to death. Maybe you’re not a social person. Maybe you think Twitter is stupid (hint: don’t use it then). You have to find your own stroke. Strategy is a personalized plan built on the time, resources, and people you have to work with.

Bonus point: Social media marketing will help you be discovered by new fans and keep you top-of-mind with your current fans. If that’s not a big deal to you, then don’t worry about it. Just don’t enter an exercise in frustration by relying on tools alone to get you where you want to go. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be tackling this tool box question in my brand-building series. It’s all about the toolbox.  Be sure and email me with your questions or comments at What social media dilemma do you have?