Thursday, 19 March 2009

Social Media Marketing - does it work?

A little while ago I was browsing a blog which advises authors about marketing and promoting their books online - in other words using all the latest Social Networking or Media sites and applications to best advantage.

Among the guest posts was one from a clearly exhausted and distressed author. Her book - a novel - had been published a year before by wholly traditional methods: hardcopy; hardback; bricks & mortar publisher; supervising editor; agreed print-run; publicist in charge of post publication promotion. So far so good.

However, the author, apparently disillusioned with the effort, or lack of it, from the publicist, decided to promote her book herself - online - employing all the latest buzzy social media applications now available to you and me. And when I say all, I mean all, and she clearly went at it 24/7 with immense stamina and dedication. Alhough she didn't describe her expectations, her very obvious disappointment at the end of the year was explicit in her post. She considered her efforts to have been an almost complete failure. She had spent hours every day blogging and tweeting and joining discussion groups for authors and groups for bloggers and groups for bloggers about books and blogs about book reviews and blogs for book reviews - where she earnestly reviewed other people's books and implored them to review hers. And in the end she realised that her audience had in reality been tiny and all her sweat and dedication probably hadn't affected her book sales one iota.

Now, you may say, promoting a book through SMM is likely to be a very different kettle of fish to promoting a business. Despite the obvious difference that the target audiences will almost certainly have little in common, I believe that in a couple of fundamental respects there are clear parallels. I am currently doing both - promoting a book and a couple of businesses online. The parallels are in understanding what you are doing and what the limitations are, and time management. Don't be trapped like the distressed author into wasting hours and hours engaging with tiny audiences who aren't going to buy the 'book' anyway.

The bottom line is that there are two quite distinct business approaches to Social Media and it is important not to muddle them - although there may well be some bonus overlaps.

1)Internal: how can this myriad of new applications help make your business run better and be more efficient?

2)External: can the same apps be used to reinforce brand, and market your business?

In my next post I am going to jump right in and get my hands dirty and look at Facebook, which is never out of the news because of its eccentric behaviour, apparently continually stirring the cauldron in the hope of producing the perfect potion (ie income stream). Right now some of the top opinion-formers in the Web 2.0 ether are suggesting they have finally got it right - for business. I am not so sure...

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