Give ‘Em What They Want, Not What You THINK They Want

shop-vac-10-gallon-industrial-wet-dry-vacuum-925-40-100After fumbling around with social networking and reading every marketing article about it that I could get my hands on for the last year or so, I’ve distilled my promotional strategy down to a simple directive: give readers what they want.

I know that sounds obvious, but the tricky part is understanding the ‘what,’ especially once you realize that ‘what’ your readers want may not be the same ‘what’ that you THINK they want.  The key is taking ‘you’ out of the picture, so you can clearly see your reader without your own perspective distorting your vision.

It’s like reflective listening – you want to reflect back what the other person is saying without putting your own spin on his words, so you hear clearly what he said, and not what you think he said. Quick example of doing it wrong: my husband said he wished he’d taken music lessons when he was a kid, so I got him music lessons for Christmas. Two weeks into the lessons, he told me he didn’t want to continue.

“But you said you wished you’d taken lessons as a kid,” I reminded him.

“As a kid, yes,” he said. “But now I have other interests that I’d rather spend my time on. You interpreted my comment as a current wish, which it isn’t.”

Ouch. I should have gotten him the shop-vac he said he needed, which I thought was boring.

Same idea applies to your readers.

Pay careful attention to what they say, or in the case of social media, what they really like to see and with what they engage.

For instance, I thought that as an author, I should be posting on Facebook about my WIP or upcoming events. Those posts, I’ve found, get little notice.

But if I post a photo of me getting kissed by a French bulldog, or a goofy homemade video of me singing (badly) about the cold weather, I get comments galore. Clearly, on Facebook, at least, my writing news is not very interesting to my readers.

Writing news is appreciated very much, however, by my newsletter subscribers, so that’s where it now goes, along with on my website. As for LinkedIn, I post both events and business-related material, such as when my books get a rave review or included in an industry-recognized blogger’s post.

For Twitter, I post quick links to interesting material in my subject areas (birds, nature, dogs, humor) or retweet entertaining posts, because I’ve found that those kinds of communications are most appreciated by my followers. Because it’s a fast and short exposure, I tend to use Twitter more than any other social media platform as more of a shotgun approach – post and hope it spreads wide and far to get my name in front of a greater number of people, because that’s the first step to finding new readers.

My experience has convinced me that connecting with readers, followers, and networks is a necessary piece of expanding my readership, but once I’ve reached new folks, it’s time to shift gears and use social media to build relationships, not solicit sales.

That’s why it’s called social media, and not the shopping channel. Remembering to give the reader what they want is easy when it’s the same thing you want to give your friends.

How do you use the various social network platforms?

9 Replies to “Give ‘Em What They Want, Not What You THINK They Want”

  1. I estimate I spend 50% of my time on social media now that I have 11 non-fic MG chn’s books out– the last 2 just recently. I’ve beefed up on Twitter which I used to hate but have begun following (and being followed) by major pub’rs. I try to follow the 80/20 rule– 80% of my tweets are not about my writing; 20% are about my writing. It’s like being at a party and flitting between guests. I’m also picking up Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, asking for help anywhere I can find it to navigate! I work in a school so I ask kids for help too!

    1. Kay, I like that 80/20 rule – it’s a clear guide for building those online relationships. And your likening it to a party is so spot-on; the fun interaction is the addictive characteristic of social networks especially for those of us who work from home and miss that interaction. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Good article, Jan! Deciding what to put where based on reader/audience reaction has taken me a while to sort out. I’ve come to some of the same conclusions as you, but hadn’t codified it yet by writing it down. 🙂 Thank you for doing it for me! Now I’m off to blast you shotgun-style onto Twitter.

  3. oh I loved this and needed it. I am feeling a bit “sunked” by all the ways to get my stuff out there, when really, i just wanna write good stuff. but i get it – we live in a social media world. it’s a balance. lately, the balance was getting off, and so your article was God saying ‘get back on track.’ Thank you. 🙂

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