Ryan Holmes, CONTRIBUTOR Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Entrepreneurs - First appeared in Forbes Magazine Jan 2, 2018
Just how dominant a business tool was social media in 2017? Despite being involved in an investigation by Congress, Facebook reported its highest earnings ever in Q3, up nearly 50% from a year ago. Its mobile ads are so popular that the platform is actually starting to run out of space for them, even though they’re charging more than ever. Meanwhile, the network eclipsed the 2-billion-user mark, now counting nearly one-third of the planet among its user base.
Behind these numbers is a growing realization among businesses that social media is the single most effective way to reach audiences, with teens (i.e. tomorrow’s consumers) now spending up to nine hours a day on social platforms. An insatiable appetite for video among users, paired with better technology for making, posting and targeting social updates, sees companies now spending more money on social and digital ads than on TV advertising. These trends show little sign of slowing up in 2018. Here’s a glimpse into five key factors that will impact how businesses use social media in the year ahead:
Goodbye free reach on social media (for real). For years, companies’ organic reach on Facebook (the percentage of their followers who see company updates that aren’t “boosted” with ad money) has been dwindling, dipping as low as 2%. Now it seems Facebook may finally kill organic reach on the News Feed entirely. This fall, the network rolled out a new “Explore Feed,” a kind of second-class stream just for company updates. Testing has already begun in some countries to banish all company social posts from the all important (and increasingly crowded) News Feed over to Explore.
Unless, of course, you pony up. These latest developments are a final, firm reminder that Facebook is now a paid platform for companies, little different in this respect from traditional pay-to-play advertising channels like TV, radio, print or billboards. To reach an audience via the News Feed—any audience, at all—it’s going to cost you. Considering that 51% of companies currently struggle with lack of a social media ads budget, this may prove a harsh wake-up call in 2018. One silver lining: Facebook has pioneered some of the most precise ad targeting tools ever. (Wanna pitch to twenty-something soccer fans living in Phoenix who work in retail and like dogs? No problem.) So, at the least, ad money promises to be well spent.
Make more videos (but don’t worry about going viral). It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that video is the future, not just of social media but of the Internet in general. By 2018, Cisco forecasts that 82% of all consumer Internet traffic will be video. Live and recorded video and video ads increasingly dominate our feeds across Facebook and Snapchat and are surging on Instagram, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Nearly half of businesses are already implementing social videos, with another 26% planning to implement in 2018.
Just one problem. In the race to earn video views and clicks, too many companies are missing the bigger picture. Ultimately, who’s watching your videos—and what they do after they watch—is far more important than how many people are watching. Going “viral” doesn’t mean much, after all, if you’re not reaching actual customers who want to buy something. One antidote to fixating on video vanity metrics in 2018: analytics tools that track conversions and highlight how video actually leads to the acquisition and retention of customers.
Those funny QR codes make a comeback (with a social media twist). This fall, Apple snuck an unexpected update into its newly released iOS 11: a native QR code reader. (You might remember QR codes—essentially, fancy barcodes that do things like open websites when scanned—from the ‘00s, when they were supposed to be the next big thing.) Now, all you have to do is point your iPhone camera at a code, and it’s automatically activated. Codes can be used to log into wifi networks (no more typing out passwords), make a purchase with PayPal and even send pre-populated Tweets and texts.
On a separate front, major networks like Snapchat, Facebook and even Spotify are increasingly pushing their own proprietary code technology onto users. Scan a Facebook Messenger Code, for instance, and a handy bot or customer service agent automatically pops up on your phone. Considering that QR codes are still one of the easiest ways to bridge the real world and the online one, don’t be surprised if you start seeing them everywhere in 2018—especially now that 700 million iPhone users have a scanner in their pockets.
Here comes the era of “millisecond marketing” (ready or not). Lots of basic social media tasks—from scheduling the optimal time to post something to finding catchy content to share—have already been automated. But in 2018, expect to see AI and related tools play an ever more important behind-the-scenes role in sharing messages. Case in point—emerging technology that enables testing hundreds of social media ad variations, simultaneously. Rather than having to “guess” which images and text will get the most clicks, users can automate campaigns so that the best-performing posts are instantly boosted to the biggest audience.
This is part of a larger transformation that’s seeing the cycle for creating, distributing and optimizing social media radically compressed. Inside the latest AI-powered tools, ever more complex algorithms are calling the shots and removing the guesswork about what marketing materials will lead to what results—and they’re doing so nearly in real time. For better or worse, what once took creative teams days (or weeks), is now being accomplished in a matter of milliseconds. In 2018, these tools should enable companies to reach bigger audiences with better targeted and more personalized messages than ever before—fulfilling the dream of truly “scalable” social media, provided you can keep up.
Business software clouds boost their social media game (finally). Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for $26 billion set off a quiet arms race among big software sellers to integrate and upgrade social media features. Microsoft has already pushed ahead with integrating LinkedIn’s massive professional listings into Outlook and Dynamics 365, meaning businesses can instantly tap into social data about prospects and customers to personalize emails and messages.
Not to be outdone, Adobe, Salesforce, IBM and Oracle have all embarked on a flurry of purchases and integrations to improve their marketing clouds with social media features. Underlying these improvements is a dawning understanding that social media provides businesses with a rich, real-time source of customer information—exactly the kind of data needed to power AI engines, like Salesforce’s Einstein, that lie at the heart of these clouds. In 2018, business users stand to be the big beneficiary of this software arms race, as marketing platforms find better ways to weave social media data and social media tools into their offerings.
The easiest prediction of all for 2018: change. Fueled by intense competition between networks to capture advertising dollars, social media tools and tactics will continue to evolve at a breakneck pace in the year ahead. Expect plenty of new features, new ad tools and brand new ways to watch video. For companies already fatigued by the onslaught of new technology and strategies, relief, unfortunately, is nowhere in sight. But for those that can keep up, social media may promise bigger audiences and more return on investment than ever.
Ryan Holmes is Founder and CEO of Hootsuite
by LEONARD TILLERMAN: Author, Book Blogger, Book Reviewer and Shared by M.J. Rocissono
You have just completed writing a virtual masterpiece! The words flow beautifully and seamlessly throughout the story. The setting description is truly magnificent and your characters are developed so well that they actually feel as if they are part of the family! There is no doubt about it…you have a winner on your hands! Or do you? The cruel truth is that writing that wonderful story is only part of what an indie author must do. To be successful and self-sufficient in this industry, they need to be expert book marketers as well. Otherwise their masterpiece will remain buried in boxes only seeing the light of day when a sympathetic family member picks it up for a read.
So how does an indie author most effectively market their book? Marketing is not most writers’ strong suit, after all, for it is not writing! This is why it is especially hard for indie authors to market their own books seeing as they have to take advantage of their own book promotion and marketing skills as well as their social connections. However, in reality your book is as good as useless if you do not promote and market it accordingly. Marketing involves interacting with potential readers for an author and this means you will have to put your book out there first. Your biggest possible fan might never know about your book if you do not market it for him or her to discover and share with others. So how do you actually do this?
First, make sure you have covered the basics when it comes to your book writing.
Is Your Book Any Good?
This is definitely subjective but the question is in reference to the topic or story at hand. Is it worth reading? Is your book interesting? Did you make use of beta readers to offer feedback on whether concerning the question? If not, then there is no way to know whether your book is any good. As an indie author, you also need to have independent feedback about your book because you cannot be the judge of your own work. A good book should develop with time following the first draft and this process only works with criticism and external suggestions. Although it is usually a good idea, you do not always need to spend money on a professional editor. However, for your book to be any good, you do absolutely require external input to help you refine and polish your manuscript before publishing it. If your draft is riddled with mistakes and is still in rough then the chances are it will not sell and if it does then it will not something to write home about.
Can the Book Bring In Potential Readers?
If you made your own book cover or attempted to do so, it probably will not look as attractive as you expected unless you are skilled in Photoshop and Book cover design. If this is not the case then you are better off hiring a professional to do it. Your book cover is one of the main promotional instruments at your disposal so you should make sure it is one of your best features. Your book does not stand a chance without an awesome cover because an amateur, boring, dull, and flat cover will kill your sales.
How is Your Book Description? Can it Attract Buyers?
The book description is another critical element of your book marketing strategy following your book cover. It will help to drive sales by attracting potential readers. If it is written poorly then this will hurt your chances of gaining buyers. Dedicate sufficient time to writing a genuinely sensational book description. Research on the features of an efficient book description and get to work on creating a few versions. Get external feedback to determine the best one and go with that one.
After covering these three sections, then you can start thinking further about your marketing strategy.
Determining Your Target Readers and Where They Are
Each book has its own target reader, which is why marketing your book generically and widely is a waste of your much-needed money and time. Instead of doing this focus on narrowing down on your target audience by determining shared demographic profiles, interests, and values. Write up a profile describing your ideal reader. Determine where they spend most of their time, the groups they associate with, the websites they visit most, the movies they like, and the magazines or books they read. A list of these things will be useful to you later. Next, try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes at each point of your marketing strategy. Every marketing action or decision you take should be preceded by asking yourself how it will be taken by your target reader. Marketing decisions should never be considered elements of your artistic self-expression but the communication of values in an effective manner. You will need to channel your work into the interests and values of the target consumer.
Maintain Professionalism Throughout
Stay away from anything that appears amateurish in your production values, editing, and writing. Essentially, your book is going up against many other books from popular authors backed by major publishers to gain your target reader’s purchasing dollars, consideration, and attention. For this reason, you should make your readers feel like you are equally as professional as your adversaries are. This goes back to the 3 elements of book writing mentioned above. Make sure your writing is impeccable by working to keep learning and improving. Take the time to do things the right way instead of rushing to publish your work. Making Sure Your Blog/ Website Gains Traffic
One of the best ways to market your book is by obtaining traffic from Bing or Google searches. Readers who land on your site via search engine results have a higher likelihood of showing interest in your themes, genre, or book topic. After all, these will be the factors they are looking for and thus how they locate you. In order to get significant search traffic, your blog or website needs to have a .com address. Having a website is almost as important as making sure it is updated regularly, and well-designed in an effort to promote your book. If your blog posts are well-written, they will be indexed by Google and hopefully, this will bring most visitors to your site organically. This is very beneficial for book promotion because this way people will get to discover your books and you as an author. Social Media
You simply must use social media to promote your work for your own good. However, being the significant time consumer it is, you must take care to use it appropriately if you want to write books and sell them. Restrict social media exposure to a few popular sites like Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook. Most authors only need a Goodreads page, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page as the main social media platforms to promote their books. Google Plus, Medium, and Instagram are also popular. Spending most of your time posting links for people to buy your books will only end up repelling people. Instead, use your social media platforms to inform people, reply to comments or questions, and connect with your audience. If you do it right, you will attract followers in the process. Use it as a means of spreading your name and not advertising your books continually. Make your social media network bigger every day by expanding your reach, making friends, and following people. Building your social media presence on a couple of sites is better than doing so on every single one out there. Using image links frequently can also bring about an improved click-through rate on social media for your blog post and book promotion.
Get to Know How to Link Properly
As an Indie author, you should master how to create links and use them. This includes learning how to use Book promotion links, using Book Buy links in the best way, and embedding Links into images and text. Proper use of links to your blog articles and your books is imperative in effectively promoting your work and your content.
Use Amazon to Your Advantage
As a self-publishing author, a big chunk of the income from your sales will come initially from Kindle eBooks and Amazon. Amazon can be a very effective tool in helping to promote your book so you should take advantage of this by choosing and using the best keywords and categories to make sure your book can be discovered easily. To increase your chances of search exposure, you may want to publish in both Kindle eBook and paperback so that you can use various keywords and categories for both versions. Should you enroll in KDP select then ensure you make use of the extra promotional advantages allowed by Amazon. Use the free book days, put up countdown deals, and use Amazon Ads if your budget allows it. Pricing Your Book Strategically Several Indie authors have gained success by running sales on their eBooks on a temporary basis and even setting their book price at free for a certain period. This approach can help to create significant visibility for your work and develop your fan base quickly. If you apply this to one book in a continuing series of books, you can bring in more readers who will be prompted to buy the rest of the books. Think again like the target reader. If you price your book too low then the reader will probably assume it is cheap because the quality is low and if the pricing is too high and you are not a household name then you will lose out on sales. Consider that eBook pricing also influences your royalties based on which platform you are using to distribute it.
Spreading the Word
Look for services or sites that can help you promote your book. However, you may get free sites that do not offer worthwhile services that you would have gotten by spending just a bit elsewhere. The best way to approach it is by using both means, but ensuring you are selective in the book promotion services you opt to use. Just because an author spends a lot of money on their book promotion, it does not necessarily mean they will gain sales especially if their content is not any good as highlighted above.
Reach Out to Book Reviews and Book Bloggers
I have saved what I personally consider one of the best strategies for last. Obtaining good book reviews for your work is an imperative part of successful book marketing. Book reviews help to establish an author’s overall reputation. An author’s book will benefit significantly from book reviews in addition to their author status. A book review, and a positive one at that, is proof and reassurance for anyone looking to buy an author’s book that it is the best quality and worth buying. Most readers trust third-party reviews more than other sources because they usually have more credibility. This is something an author should place highly in their book sale process. Book reviews are a form of organic marketing for an author’s books. Word of mouth as a form of promotion is quite effective. A positive, or better yet a glowing book review, can make one reader recommend it to others. You can trust a typical reader to buy a book, particularly from an independent or first-time author, if they see that it has been bought and reviewed positively by other readers. If a book has more satisfied readers, there is a higher likelihood that it will be recommended to new readers. Book marketing at its best!
There can be little doubt that book marketing is no easy feat! It requires a lot of effort, time and perseverance. It also demands that a sound strategy be in place. It is critically important that this plan has started before your book is completed. You will need to spread the word and get potential customers excited about your upcoming work. Does the term “Coming Soon” ring a bell? Marketers and advertisers use this all the time when promoting products, films and books! Yes… book marketing can take a lot of time away from your actual writing. However, you are an indie author…you have chosen this path. Make sure that you are successfully marketing your book so others can see how great an author you really are!
Does Giving Away Free Books Build Your Audience?
Published by Rick Lite on October 1, 2017
When most authors think about giving away free books, they do so in hopes of increasing their following and reviews. This topic has become an interesting debate within the book community, especially for indie authors. While some authors have experienced success with this strategy, others have suggested it’s a waste of time.
Without long-term research performed on the benefits, authors should be open to trying any strategy that will help them promote and sell their book. Having said this, there is a time and place for using this strategy and hopefully, this article can help you decide if giving away free books is a strategy you want to try.
Here are 6 reasons why authors should be giving away free books
Galley Copies- During the writing process giving away galley copies to reviewers or editors is a common practice.
Book Reviews- one of the first steps in any book marketing campaign should be getting reviews. This process should start while the author is still writing the book and will continue well after the book is released. Using Kindle’s KDP program, for example, allows authors to give away free eBooks. A properly run giveaway will generate activity, give you a reason to communicate with your growing list of followers and should lead to book reviews.
Getting help with marketing- If authors hire anyone to help them with book marketing they should insist on having them read the book. It’s also a good idea for them to understand what the message is, why the book was written and the author’s goals.
Distributors or Resellers- when you are trying to create a relationship with resellers or distributors most will want a copy of the book along with a sell sheet and sales history. Your Genre- If you are releasing a book in a popular genre, you might want to try giving away free books to see if you can build a following, get reviews and spread the word. The more crowded a genre is, the more you will need to stand out.
Your family- getting the emotional support of your family is helpful and goes a long way. Authors should be proud of what they have created and share this journey with those that love them.
Here are 5 reasons why authors should not be giving away free books
• Most people love the idea of getting something for free. Giving away free books does not translate into expanding your audience and getting book reviews. In fact, a high percentage of free books don’t even get read.
• Giveaway programs usually cost money and take time and resources to set up properly. With any promotional opportunity, the author needs to generate a ‘buzz’ with their followers and target audience to get the proper response.
• While Goodreads and Amazon are popular platforms to promote books, both offer giveaways that require the author to mail a free, physical copy of the book. This can be costly and might not result in achieving the goals you set up.
• Giving away free books hurts the industry and dilutes the goal of being an author. Imagine if every author gave away their books for free.
• Having your book priced for free can lower the intrinsic value of the book. For example, if you have a self-help book that helps children control anger and manage stress, keeping the price of the book in line with other popular/strong selling titles makes this book seem more attractive than the one that is for free.
• When marketing a book, the author should be willing to try anything to help them achieve their goals. Giving away free books is just one of many marketing tools authors have at their disposal, however, taking full advantage of these tools is the key to a successful campaign.
If you decide to take advantage of a free giveaway, you should start with a low-cost one, experience what is involved with running a successful campaign and learn how it works. Talk to other authors, read about how to run a successful promotion and go for it! Rick Lite of Stress Free Book Marketing, stands at the forefront of the ever-changing book industry. He is a seasoned book marketing professional with over 13 years of experience in the industry. Rick’s expertise comes from tirelessly working on new and innovative ways to market his own books and CDs with his company and parent company, Stress Free Kids. Embracing the core values of integrity, innovation, and growth, Rick works closely with authors to create custom, robust book marketing programs. His easy-going manner provides “stress-free” support and comfort to authors going through the book marketing process for the first time. Rick is quick to share his knowledge and “insider tips” for a successful marketing campaign that will lead to increased exposure, awareness and most importantly, sales.