Social Media For Writers 3: Selling Through Social Media

Confession: I sold makeup online. And I was good at it!! I made it into the top 15% of an international company. Guess what? My friends still tell me they miss my makeup posts! My friends who don’t even wear makeup tell me they miss my makeup posts, and I haven’t sold makeup in two years!

What?!?! People actually miss my sales posts? Yup!

I was not one of those super annoying, honking, pushy salespeople. I constantly had people in my messages telling me, “I never wear makeup, but I need to have those three eye shadows you just put on in your video! I don’t know what’s come over me, but I need it!”

I’d have people message me out of the blue, “I never wear makeup, but I have an event coming up and I didn’t want to talk to anyone else but you because I know you won’t talk me into anything I’m not comfortable with!”

And, yes, I would message people to talk to them about products, but because of the way I went about things, I frequently heard this in our conversations, “Can I just thank you for not being like those other people who sell stuff?”

I still made it into the top 15% of an international company. It is a myth that you have to be aggressive and pushy to succeed in sales! People first. Relationships first.

1. Let’s talk sales basics. I’ve done sales in various forms and sales are essentially the same regardless of your platform. All sales are based in… wait for it… relationships! Surprised? If you’ve been following our series, you shouldn’t be. Even when you’re in the mall and looking at puzzles in a quirky shop, a good salesperson is going to start developing the bare minimum of a relationship with you. I know because I’ve done it. People before product. You need to get to know your customer before you can do a good job of selling your product to them.

You need to customize your discussion to what your customer wants and needs.

I had a complete stranger cold message* me recently to push their book and it was about all sorts of very dark, gory, slasher stuff with some assault mixed in. Some people love that stuff! However. If they’d taken two seconds to read the brief bio at the top of my Twitter profile, they’d see I have PTSD. While I don’t disclose what that PTSD is about, common sense would say someone with PTSD is probably not the ideal candidate to pitch that book to.

A good salesperson is going to sniff out your tastes, your personality, your budget, etc.

At the same time, stay out of their wallet!! It is never your job to decide whether or not someone can or cannot afford something. Always offer the product. Always. You want a lesson from a social media sales legend? Watch this video from a social media sales millionaire. Stay out of their wallet!! Now this video is makeup and skincare related, but this translates to book sales. Do not hesitate to offer someone all of your books! All of them. By “sniff out their budget” I mean a good salesperson is going to be ready with less expensive options. A good salesperson never pushes an all-or-nothing approach. Example: If you only have one book to sell and someone who wants to support you can’t afford it, “I totally understand living on a tight budget! If you still want to check out some of my writing, would you like a link to my blog?” Boom. They get to support you for free, you get more traffic on your blog. It’s a win-win!

2. THE CARDINAL SIN OF SOCIAL MEDIA SALES. If someone friends you or you friend someone else, don’t you dare send them a message right away with a link to your website, product, book, etc. They will know instantly that you aren’t interested in them as a person: You’re interested in them as a number or a dollar sign (pound sign or whatever your currency is). Don’t do it. It’s icky and it makes people feel like less of a person. Not okay.

Remember that cold message from a complete stranger I mentioned? Don’t do it. People act like it’s “hustle” and “the hard part of sales.” Cold messaging strangers feels hard because you’re going to get so much rejection and angry responses. You know what it really is? It’s lazy sales work. If you can even call it work. Anyone can copy-paste the same message to 3 dozen people, sit back, and wait for responses. What even is that? Are you fishing off a dock on a lazy Saturday? Pretty much. I bet you could teach a bot to do that. Some people probably do! L.A.Z.Y. That is not hustle. Don’t you dare call it that. Social media gives you plenty of options to get out there and invest in your friends’ lives long before you ever put a product in front of them and ask them to invest in you. Cold pushing product is upside-down, backwards, and lazy. Hard pass!

3. Show don’t sell. I’m going to repeat a lot of what I said in my first post because it cannot be said enough: Do. Not. Sales pitch. Don’t do it. People aren’t on social media to shop. They’re on social media for what? Relationships! Now, if their friend loves something? Well then they might buy it! What does this mean for selling on social media? If you’re trying to promote a product, show it to people and let them see how excited you are about it. Don’t push. If they want it, they’ll buy it. But leave it up to them. Don’t sales pitch it to them. It’s a turnoff.

Showing: OMGs! I just got this pizza and I am obsessed with it! It’s so amazing! I asked Bruno about it and he said he uses 5 different authentic Italian cheeses, hand tosses his homemade dough, and makes the sauce from scratch with fresh tomatoes. What?! I didn’t know anyone did that anymore! I seriously could not stop eating it. And my pizza guy said I can help some of my friends get discounts! Let me know if you want in! 

Selling: ***PIZZA DEAL*** Who doesn’t love #pizza? I know you do! Order through me for a great price! Limited time offer. Act now! If you can buy pizza from Domino’s, you can support your friends! 

Disclaimer: Yes, Bruno is my pizza guy. Yes, that really is how he makes his pizza (not sure on the number of cheeses). No, he’s not really offering discounts. Sorry!

Do you see how the one is relational and the other is all about money? Relationships first. A lot of your friends probably do want to support you, but they want to support their friendWhen you sales pitch, you stop being their friend and turn into someone they don’t know. Sales pitch speak is not how we normally talk to our friends! But here’s the thing: to successfully do a show-don’t-sell, you have to really believe that what you have to offer is truly going to benefit your friends. If not, why are you selling it to your friends? And, yes, things like art benefit other people! Art and entertainment enriches lives. It doesn’t have to be something functional to benefit someone else.

So… how do you do that as a writer? Thankfully, one of my friends recently nailed it right when I was putting this series together!

Boom. Get your two-sentence synopsis down and use that to show your friends that you’ve got something great for them! I saw that post and immediately got in a fight with my Amazon app to buy her book. I don’t usually read romance! And here’s the link to Liana’s book if you, too, need to have it now!

4. Don’t make your profile all about promotion! You are not a faceless corporation. People want to engage with you as a person! They want to know there is a real person there. They want to be your friend! Relationships first. Don’t be a robotic, ad-generating machine with no personality and no sense of humanity. This is where content comes in! Vary your posts. Yes, you want to mostly keep it focused on writing so you develop a reputation as a writer. But vary your posts so that your online friends aren’t numbed and fatigued by constant promotional pitches. People don’t buy products. They buy into relationships. You have to be a real person for them to develop a relationship with you! You have to be out there chatting with them on their posts. You need to be varying your own posts to show different aspects of your own life and personality. Relationships first! This is where I need you to trust me. It might feel like constantly posting ads is stacking the statistical odds in your favor. It’s not. I’ll say it again: People don’t buy products. They buy into relationships.

5. But where’s the hustle? Here’s the hustle: When you finally do make that promotional post about your book, followup with every single person who likes, comments, or retweets. Make this your own, but you want to say something like, “Hey, (name)! Thank you so much for liking/retweeting/chatting on my post about my book! That really means a lot! I’m so excited about it!” Wait for them to comment back and get into a genuine conversation! Do not keep the conversation focused on your book. Just have a fun chat with your supportive friend. Talk with them about life… whatever! They just supported you. Be a good friend and hang out with them for a bit.

As things are winding down… If they haven’t mentioned buying your book, “Hey, before we go, did you want the link to the book again?” Don’t worry about being pushy. By liking, commenting, or retweeting, they’ve shown interest in you and possibly your book. When you contacted them, you engaged in genuine conversation (you did, didn’t you?) so you’ve shown that they’re not just money to you. Asking them if they want the link again is actually being considerate! Sometimes people genuinely forget to grab something they’re interested in. After two years of asking that question on an almost daily basis, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll get one of two responses:
1. “Yes! Thank you!! I forgot to save it earlier and now I can’t find it!”
2. “No, thanks! I was just liking to be supportive!” (answer: “Thank you SO much!! I can’t even tell you how much that means to me!! I really appreciate friends like you.”)

Now, do either of those responses sound like someone who was offended by your question? Nope! Plus, you’re asking, not patronizingly reminding, “Don’t forget to check out my book!” Ew. See how different that feels than, “Did you want the link to the book again?”

And what do we do if someone says, “Oh, I wish I could buy it but it’s just not in the budget right now”?

Give them a second, lower cost or free option! “No worries! I totally get tight budgets! There’s a reason I buy ramen from Costco 😂 If you still wanted to look at some of my other writing, I‘ve got some stuff up on my blog if you want to pop over there.” I know some of you are going to be afraid that this sounds pushy, but if someone wants to support you and can’t buy your book, they will be very grateful for a free option to show their support! I’m not kidding. This is not at all like those people who randomly pop in your DMs with “Thanks for following me! Go check out my blog!” Completely different.

If it’s a fellow writer, see if you can reciprocate! You might not always be able to do this, but one of the great things with the writing community that we don’t have in pretty much any other sales gig is that we can support each other! They say yes to wanting your blog link, you say, “Yay! Here’s my blog! Do you have a blog I can check out?” Actually, I shouldn’t say we don’t have this in any other sales gig. When I was in makeup sales, I was friends with someone from our number one competitor. Whenever one of us was going for a major sales goal, we would always buy from each other. See? Sales is about relationships, not aggressiveness and competition!

6. More hustle: If you are an independent seller, have fun with sales! Hold a sale on your birthday as a “reverse birthday present.” Have “Christmas in July.” Find a random holiday and celebrate that. Celebrate your half birthday! Find a holiday that relates to your book and have a sale for that!

7. Facebook Live. If you’re okay with the camera, never underestimate the power of Facebook live for connecting with your followers! People love it! Did your book just come out? Hold a Q&A… but try not to give away spoilers! Offer to give away one signed book by pulling a random name from the comments! This will encourage a lot of chatter during the Q&A, which will bump up the algorithm for the live. Holding up a physical book in front of people (if you have one) is a powerful draw! That creates the thing we salespeople love to generate: FOMO. Fear of missing out!

8. The advanced hustle. This isn’t something I do, but it is something you can do if you really feel the need to hustle a bit more. Start chatting with your friends more. Make it a point to message 3-5 friends every day and just talk to them. Do not bring up your book or blog!! At all. This isn’t about sales pitching – this is intentional relationship building. At some point, your book may come up naturally in the conversation because that’s how things go between friends, but don’t you dare look at your friends as dollar signs and start sales pitching to them.

Relationships first and always.

I would only do “the advanced hustle” if you feel like the visibility of your promotional posts is low and not a lot of people are seeing your posts. However, if that is what’s happening, I want you to go back to Part 1 and Part 2 first to do a quick check up on your general social media behavior. Are you engaging with your friend on their posts? Are you giving your friends quality content? Are your friends getting what they need from you? Are you being a good friend in general? If you’re pretty confident that you’re doing everything you should be doing and it seems like your promotional posts are still floundering, then move on to the advanced hustle. And again, I cannot emphasize this enough, keep the conversation focused on your lives and friendship. If your book never comes up in the conversation between one friend or another, then it never comes up. It’s not something they’re interested in, and that’s okay. Not all of your friends are going to be interested in your book.

If it does come up, be cool! Be cool.

Do not immediately jump all over them. Just talk to them about your book. Listen to their actual questions and answer those instead of steering the conversation to where you want it to go. Let things happen naturally because they’re your friend, not dollar signs (pound signs or whatever your currency is). If it seems like things are moving in the right direction, it’s okay to ask, “Do you want a link?”

If you do ask that question, for the love of all that is good… leave it there and wait.

I know, the waiting is going to kill you, but wait. For all you know, as soon as they sent their last text, their dog jumped all over them and they had to go for a 3 hour walk and accidentally left their phone at home. It’s super tempting to leave a thousand texts explaining things or telling them the link just has a preview of the book or “Sorry, I hope that doesn’t come off as pushy!” or a thousand other things. It’s easy to imagine that your friend is now super angry at you! They’re not.

Just. Leave it. Leave the question as it is.

It’s a very simple, honest, natural question. It’s okay! Deep, slow, steady breaths. Patiently wait for your friend to respond. They’re going to give you one of three responses:
1. “Sure!”
2. “No, thanks!”
3. “The link to what?”

So how do you answer?
1. “Okay! Here it is! Let me know if you have any issues bringing it up and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for taking a look at my book!”
2. “Okay!” and pivot back to something else you were talking about with the book.
3. “The link to my book? I wasn’t sure if you were interested in checking it out.”

Did you notice that, in #1, I preemptively offered help if anything potentially went wrong? I have zero control over online book buying, but I am the only human connection my friend has while purchasing this book right now. If anything goes wrong, I at least want them to know that I’ll be with them to do whatever I can to try to help them work through it. People are much more likely to work through issues while making a purchase if they don’t feel alone. It’s good customer service!

We’re going to be taking a bit of a break in our series for a while because next weekend is November 2, and I’ll be in the thick of NaNoWriMo! The next few blog posts – if I pause from NaNo to write any – will be NaNoWriMo updates! But next up in our Social Media For Writers series is “Getting Into Your Twitter Analytics.” As much as I talk about not navel gazing at your own account, there are times it’s helpful to look at things to learn what’s going well and what isn’t. With most social media platforms, you kind of have to just learn as you go with watching how different posts perform. Twitter is glorious in that they give you several pages of analytics! Bless them. I’m going to walk you through how to get to your analytics, what different things mean, which analytics really matter, and what you want to really pay attention to.

It’s going to be so much fun! But until then, what are our golden rules? Be real. Relationships first. People matter more than numbers!

Now get out there and go be a good friend!
Emlyn

*Cold messaging or cold calling is when you make unsolicited contact with a complete stranger in an attempt to sell something.

8 thoughts on “Social Media For Writers 3: Selling Through Social Media

  1. I think im a good social media friend but im terrible at sales through social media! I will probably should leave it to amazon ads. My book is on free promo and i did post it a few days ago, then i just let it be. I will read your related posts on social media, and look at how many things i got to know about you! Ps what if you have time for only one social media outlet?
    Im also a uni student so building meaningful content for my blog, engaging on Twitter and writing books , I would need more than 24hours a day! Anyway 😊 great post ! I will be following for more.

      • Oh, it’s okay! Please don’t worry. I may be a writer and an English teacher, but I’m an anthropologist first. I’m not looking at your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I’m looking for what you’re communicating!

      • Thank you Emlyn for your quick reply!i appreciate it 😊
        I’m learning all these things from you , and it’s really exciting! It’s a side of you i didn’t know. I’m definitely going to check out your other posts and i already have some food for thought and things i could improve right now. I could save some posts as drafts and polish them when I’m ready , and i should definitely upgrade so i can have my own domain – looks more professional. I see some authors that have 10 published books already and I’m just wondering how they do it !( i know , they probably have a team working with them ) Keep up the good work! Great post!

    • If you only have time for one social media platform, as a writer, I would stick with Twitter! As for your blog, figure out a posting schedule that you can keep up with consistently. If that just means you only post every so often because you’re so busy, that’s okay! It just means your blog isn’t a priority for you. Think of it as laying a foundation of content so that when you are ready to fire up your blog and regularly turn out content, there’s already some stuff there for your readers to check out if they want to. As far as social media sales go, it really comes down to this: Whenever you DO post a promotion or a sales post, followup with anyone who likes, comments, or retweets. Thank them for their support! Get into a normal, friendly conversation with them. Before the conversation ends, ask, “Before we go, did you want the link to my book again?” That’s it! It’s really that simple. You build a very strong foundation of relationship and friendship. And then that’s where the sales comes in.

  2. Sometimes i think i come off too strong on social media , that’s just my nature , but i feel that people might are withdrawn for that reason. I had my share of medical history too, so I’m pretty passionate about surviving and motivational posts, often cause i might be going through something , and i end up like a walking motivational add!
    But i have toned things down lately, and i definitely enjoy supporting others too. Anyway, lots to think about ! It was a great opportunity to re evaluate thinks.Thank you !🌹

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