Author friends and casual acquaintances often express to me a reluctance to wade into the Bloggy Facebooky Twittery waters. I hear many reasons, but the top one is usually:
“But shouldn’t I wait for when I need to promote something/when my book comes out/when my book is popular/when I already have a following/some arbitrary point in the distant future?”
Nope, nope and nope. There’s no such thing as too early.
Seth Godin famously said (the things Seth Godin says usually become famous) that for authors, the best time to start your promotional efforts is three years before your book comes out.
Why? Because it takes “three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.”
If you start when your book comes out you’re way, way too late.
Promotion vs. Social
Seth’s bit of (famous) advice is often applied to social media. It’s great advice, and even Seth’s explanation has a social component, but note that Seth is talking about promotional efforts. Not social media as a whole, which to me has no timeline at all. You should just start now.
Because if you’re using social media solely to promote, well, chances are you’re doing it wrong.
My new favorite catch phrase, which I have trademarked, patented, and have paid to have etched into the moon, is this: Social media is social.
It’s not about promotion, it’s not about broadcasting, it’s not about you you you. It’s about connecting with people.
Do you need to be famous to connect with people? Do you need to have a book to connect with people? No! You just need an Internet connection, dedication, an open-mind, and a willingness to reach out.
It takes time to build up those connections, and eventually, if you’re providing good content or a good experience, those one-to-one connections transition into a following.
But make no mistake: It’s still about making a personal connection with your audience and being a part of real lives. It’s still social.
In our hyper-connected time, social media is not only increasingly how word of mouth spreads and how we connect with one another, it’s almost becoming a new kind of currency.
In Cory Doctorow’s uber-prescient novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, money has been replaced with “whuffie,” a reputation-based currency that rises and falls based on what people think of you. Basically, if people like you you’re rich and you can get all the best tables in restaurants. If they don’t like you, an unfortunate scandal can send you to the poor house.
We’re obviously not there yet (and thank goodness), but just look at the measures of “influencers” (social media buzz word for someone with a high following) that are cropping up right and left. Sites like Klout and Peer Index are hard at work trying to quantify online popularity and influence, and the idea of offering special perks to people with high influence scores is starting to percolate. The Sacramento Kings, for instance, invited 25 fans and business leaders with top Klout scores for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Now, the idea that you’re going to be objectively judged someday on your Twitter presence may well send a chill down your spine, but I wouldn’t read that much into it. It’s more of a sign of the omnipresence and future of social media and how the ability to broadcast is a kind of currency.
Blogs and Twitter and Facebook… those are just the tools. What we’re building is a network. And what was once ephemeral (reputation) can now be sort of kinda quantified.
Whuffie has basically become real.
What are you waiting for?
But aside from all that buzz about influencers and reputational analysis, let’s not forget that whole social is social thing. And the thing about being social is that it’s fun!
Sure, you may be an introvert like me, but you can pick and choose your experiences. You can make reach out to people, and soon enough those virtual friends may become your real friends. This is increasingly how we connect with like-minded people, and the best part is that it works.
It’s really fun to do, and you can make the experience whatever you want. If you like Twitter, do that. If you like blogging, do that. If you are a Facebook maven, go for it. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it and you can invent your own way if it doesn’t exist.
But what it all comes down to is this: Social media is the future, and the time to start is now.