What is the truth about social networking? Is it the ‘key’ to your success, whatever endeavor you may be participating in or whatever dream you may be chasing? Is it truly the keystone to your realization of that dream as many so-called marketing experts would have you believe? Is it cause enough for you to then pay these alleged experts or even listen to their so-called sage advice about how to build a social networking empire that will all but guarantee your success?
The truth about social networking is a hard pill to swallow for most of us, especially those of us who have to go out the door every day to earn an actual productive, bill-paying living while simultaneously pursuing a private, personal dream.
The impetus for this particular piece came about when I received multiple email newsletters from a marketing firm, (despite the fact that I rarely sign up for newsletters.) This email usually had the same ‘top ten’ list of the most profound and productive things you could do to be successful in marketing yourself through social networking and media.
One day I decided to take a really close look at this list to see if I wasn’t doing something that would turn out to be the key factor. To my chagrin, I discovered that I had either done or at least tried every single thing the writer/marketer wrote. Subsequently I wrote an item by item reply to the writer/marketer, asking for her thoughts on my thoughts about what she wrote. I received no reply whatever, so I decided to publish the list and my responses to it to see if this is just all me without my medication or whether anyone agrees with my assessment concerning the truth about social networking.
So without further ado, here is my ‘list’ of responses to these so-called keys to success.
1- “Publish a blog post.” I have had a blog for nearly a year and a half now. I am ‘blogging’ to no one and it has been my experience that blogs don’t get much attention unless you put really stupid, outrageous or inane content in them. Blogging does no good unless you go in with at least a base following. With no following, you write to no one. In addition, you must keep in mind you are also joining a giant ‘swimming pool’ of millions of other blogs all clamoring for the same attention you want. Good luck with that.
2- “Get on Twitter.” Twitter is a joke for authors. First, if you are not already known for something stupid, violent or involving Hollywood/Sports fame, (preferably taking your clothes off, sticking your tongue out or worse, twerking,) it is nearly impossible to develop a following. Following others does absolutely no good as there is an inherent selfishness in so-called social networking. People get on social networking primarily to GET attention, not GIVE it. (Example; I recently received a follower on Twitter. When I didn’t immediately reciprocate, she un-followed. When I followed her the next day within three minutes she followed again. (What, are we all still in kindergarten???) People on Twitter, especially authors looking for attention, will find little else except millions of others looking for the same attention for various other sundry, personal reasons.
3- “Join the discussion on social media.” First, try to find an intelligent ‘discussion’ on social media. Most of the discussions on social media across the board involve inane, meaningless and trivial things. That’s what seems to cut it out there. Second, joining a discussion here or there does nothing to significantly or profoundly affect the ‘visibility’ of an author seeking to sell books. Authors are looking for the attention and notice of thousands and perhaps millions of people. You’re not going to get that cyber-sitting in a discussion room with eight other people.
4- “Add your comments to other blog posts.” See number 3 as this is rather redundant and so would be the response.
5- “Make your blog post viral.” Actually, you, the writer, cannot ‘make’ the post viral unless, of course, you write the blog and then go to the mall with a semi-automatic weapon and begin indiscriminately spraying Spencer’s, Macy’s and Sears. (Then your post and everything else about you will ‘go viral’. Congratulations, you’ve achieved success but you’ll have to figure out how to enjoy it from jail.) Posting to your other social network connections, as the writer suggests, does not make your post ‘viral’, particularly if you have the problem addressed in number 1, no following.
6- “Contact your local media.” If you happen to be unfortunate enough not to live in a really big city, contacting local media again becomes a big joke. In fact, even if you live in a big city, few local media reps want to have anything to do with you unless you’ve done something newsworthy. (See number 5.) As for the local media in the small towns around me, they are not the least bit interested in a local author trying to get attention. In fact, it is not the attention of small towns that authors need. It is the attention of millions. A million people cannot buy your books if a million people don’t know you exist.
7- “Pitch national media.” Again redundant to number 6 with all the same answers.
8- “Subscribe to HARO, (help a reporter).” Helping a reporter is NOT what authors are looking for and writing a book does not necessarily make one an ‘expert’ in anything.
9- “Think long term.” All authors who strive for success must be prepared to do this anyway, just not in the terms originally meant. Those of us with half a properly functioning brain don’t take long to catch on to the fact that this is a long term investment in our future. You have to plug at it on the days you want to give up and trash it all, just like an exercise training program. You have to immediately understand that overnight success comes to a very few and you usually have to write about transvestite, cross-dressing, lesbian vampire zombies to get it.
10- “Sign up for media alerts.” Again, a completely useless function for an author seeking the attention of millions of potential readers. As an author, I don’t want other media bombarding me with alerts, twitters, instant messages, blog posts, Facebook posts, text messages, emails or any of the other dozens of methods that are now out there. I am seeking a reader’s attention, not the attention of thousands of companies and other individuals trying to sell me their thing or product.
Of course, none of this addresses the simple fact that most of us face on a day to day, week to week basis. The vast majority of us have to direct most of our ‘awake’ hours and efforts toward making an actual, viable, bill-paying living. In the real world most independent and self-published authors do not earn a living from selling books. On top of this, we must maintain our focus, energy, state of mind, and yes, even our emotional state so that we may effectively create things, like, I don’t know, good books.
Many of the marketing plans and, yes, even schemes, automatically and rather foolishly assume that we have nothing else to do but sit around the house on a full time basis anxiously awaiting or sending our next tweet, instant message, news feed, Facebook post. For most authors this is entirely untrue. (I would like to point out here that I don’t think anyone cares, or should care a flying pile of donkey poo if I “just joined a gym, my dog peed on the floor, my cat ate my pillow, my grandma had a stroke, my car blew up, I just went shopping for new shoes or ‘here’s a selfie of me eating gelato in front of a fountain'”.) How is any of that going to get me the notoriety I would need as a best-selling author?
I would also look forward to anyone directing me toward any more than a very minute few out there who have found truly profound and life-changing success by using any or all of the methods involving social media and so-called networking. I would be willing to bet ten dollars to a stale doughnut they were one of those few who literally had nothing else to do with their time due to some rather unique set of circumstances.
I have come to the realization that so-called marketing experts won’t tell you the truth about social networking. They will, in fact, tell you what you want to hear. Follow their ten easy steps and you will be a rich, famous whatever. Personally, I think it’s all a pile of mule fritters.
My membership on the social networking sites has not influenced my notoriety, fame, status as an author or sales one bit. Don’t misinterpret, this is not me being bitter. I sell books, always have, always will. I just don’t sell millions and I don’t sell enough to quit my day job. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the others have had no influence on this in any significant way whatever.
It’s ironic that it can be compared to placing an ad on an internet dating site. It doesn’t really matter what you write. I have written blogs that are witty, humorous, profound, intelligent, serious, poetic and a hundred other adjectives. None of them gets the notoriety that I need in order to make a living as an author. Now, on the other hand, if I strip down naked, go ‘twerking’ on a highway overpass with my Ruger in one hand and a copy of my first novel in the other, I stone guarantee I will indeed go ‘viral’ immediately and the You Tube video taken by twelve teenagers whose phones never leave their hands will get 3 million hits within the next twenty four hours. Ah, success at last!
What do you think about author Ethan Holmes’ take on the truth about social networking?
Ethan Holmes is the author of five books; Earth’s Blood, The Keystone, Live Your Life In A Crap Free Zone, Shorts and Other Laundry and A Multi-Pack of Brain Flakes.