While waiting to speak at a regional science fiction and fantasy convention this past weekend, I sat in on the panel preceding mine. The topic, using social media in promotion, is one that always holds my interest, as social media optimization is more a part of my job than ever before. I took away from the discussion a better sense of using networks like Facebook and Twitter with regards to promoting products and services. What I learned at this panel could be applied to anybody new to SMO who is not sure how to use these networks to their advantage.

Avoiding the Hustle

So let’s say you set up a Twitter account, and slowly but surely people are following what you have to say. That’s great, that’s what you want to happen. Once you establish this captive audience, however, you want to keep them in place and perhaps get them to “re-tweet” your posts and spread the love. It’s important to do this in a way that doesn’t lead followers to think you are constantly trying to sell to them. If every tweet you post implores people to buy this or buy that or hire me, you risk losing followers. The point of social media networks like Twitter and Facebooks is the social aspect of them. To keep people tuned into you, you must engage them directly.

So what does this mean? Well, if you’re an author and readers follow your social profiles, talk to them via the medium. If you receive a note complimenting your work, return with a thank you but don’t feel pressured to deliver a hard sell of your other works. You would be amazed with how your name or brand can stick in someone’s mind just by being yourself. In talking to some authors this past weekend, I discovered how well this tactic could work. One author trading tweets with a reader found that person bought his entire backlist, while another author noted that hits to her website spike when she posts about a new book cover or pictures from a con, not necessarily a new book release. You may think this is not productive, but visitors come to the site. They just might return to buy.

Maybe you operate a business catering to local markets – talk about the weather, what is going on in the city. Reply to a follower’s remarks about favorite television shows and music…let people know there is an actual human being behind the social avatars, lest anyone suspect the profiles are there merely to regurgitate sales copy. If a follower enjoys your content enough to click through to your site, your profile has served its purpose and may just attract new followers through word of mouth.

Give it a try. You just might find you can build trust among your online following…and customers.