Love it or hate it, collectively all of the various forms of social media are a critical part of marketing. They are a way of connecting, not only with potential readers, but also with people who can be resources to help you meet your goals, as long as you remember that it is a two way street. You need to be prepared to put as much or more energy (or money) into other peoples’ goals as you would like them to put towards yours. Why is this important? Go back to my mantra: You sell your book by getting people to tell OTHER people to buy it, and read it.
Think of social media as a way to fill a bucket that has the potential to contain good will. You will need that good will to sell your book. But you have to fill it first, and you do that by helping others. BUT DON’T START HELPING OTHERS ON THE SAME DAY YOU WANT TO DRAW SOME GOOD WILL OUT FOR YOURSELF, or the bucket will remain empty.
The good news is that it is really not very hard to fill your bucket. People are grateful to accept help. If you get out and establish a presence and help people promote whatever it is they are trying to sell/distribute/raise for charity (whatever is driving them), they will be 100 times more likely to do the same for you when the time comes.
The bad news is the bucket has a leak. If you fill it up, and then get busy doing other things for a few months, you will come back and find that the bucket drained itself while you were away. This is why everyone says that social media is hard. It’s not hard to get the bucket full, it is hard to keep it that way while you are trying to do all the other things you have to do.
The other critical reason to be active in social media is so that there is a way for people to learn about you, like you, and care about what you have to say. Think about that every time you use it. The people that you meet in your social media world know you only by the snippets you give them, and they will likely only see a fraction of what you do put out. Make sure what you put out there is the you that you want people to see. Be interesting, be funny, be smart, be scientific, be creepy, be yourself but with lots of colors. And be careful, don’t be reckless. For example if you write Christian-themed children’s stories, you probably don’t want to go off on a rant about how you want to kill everyone at your local grocery store when you have had a bad experience.
A few words of caution: do not fool yourself into thinking that what you put out on the internet is only accessible to your circle of friends. You better be sure you want to put it out there, all the way out there, before you hit enter. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE CONTROL YOU THINK YOU DO. If you are taking cracks at your spouse on Facebook, if you want to post those great pictures of you doing tequila body shots during your Mexico vacation, just know that you will NEVER be able to pull them back. Be mindful of this even when you are leaving comments on blogs. Choose your name wisely and your words carefully. If someone Googles you, your comments under your real name may all come up.
Also, if you are using social media to actively push a social, political or religious agenda, this may work for you and fit your goal, just remember it is narrowing your list of potential readers. And that may be FINE with you, just be realistic. For example: you write general mystery fiction which should have a broad audience, however, your social media presence is rabidly over-the-top Republican (I am not taking a position here folks, I’m just making up an example; relax). You have cut your market in HALF. Do you really NOT want to sell your book to those crazy Democrats, even when they use the same currency you do?
Social media is a necessary part of promotion in indie publishing, with Twitter, Facebook, and blogging still in the lead as far as usefulness goes, but with Pinterest, Google Plus, and many others on their heels. Use whichever work for you, but use them thoughtfully and consistently if you want to see them impact your book sales and success.