Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wanted: Tribe - No Spam

A few weeks ago I posted an article on my "Stuff I Wish I Knew when I was 20" blog about hanging out with the people who will lift you up, who are most like the person you want to be. Another similar post discussed pursuing those who have succeeded where you would like to succeed. Not to be a stalker, but to seek their council and advice.

For the writer, this is difficult. At least it used to be, way back in the dark ages before facebook and twitter. Now we can jump online and find a group of like-minded folks, what Seth Godin calls a "Tribe." Heck, you can decide one day to be a Christian Boston Terrier Mystery Novelist and find a group of people within five minutes who share your passion for Christianity, Mysteries, and hyper-bouncy dogs. Indeed, the age of social media has made finding and joining a tribe as easy as finding a re-run of MASH on satellite TV. Friend an author Edie Melson even wrote a book on the subject (writers must write a book on every subject, it's just what we do). Check out Edie's post and book over yonder at Novel Rocket.

What Seth or Edie don't bring up is that we may have come full circle. Where once anyone calling herself a novelist would have had a lonely existence anywhere outside of New York, now this same aspiring author will find a dozen facebook groups, twitter hashtags, and Google+ Communities just full of folks who share her passion.

This is where the trouble begins. So many people have figured out that social media opens up a whole new world for marketing that they do nothing but that--market. I can go onto twitter right now, type #acfw, and find the same three people posting the same one line sales pitch for their latest romance. Over. And over. And over. I wonder if these folks sit down for a cup of coffee with their BFFs and say, every two minutes, "She's from the wrong side of the tracks and he's a billionaire. What can they possibly have in common? Everything!" Then plop down a book order form.

Seriously guys? What part of the "social" in social media are you missing?

One of my friends over on Google+ coined the phrase "#linktoilet." I find it fitting. It's as if the ability to copy and paste a link has given us all license to turn our facebook walls into the Times Square of the internet. Really, I'd much rather know what you had for dinner than to see a constant advertisement for your latest book. And so would your readers.

Social media is not a place for advertising. The new marketplace demands, more than ever before, that you establish relationships. We are the most marketed to generation in world history. Just like the survivors of the Bubonic Plague developed an immunity to the disease in Europe, 21st century Americans have developed a very strong immunity to marketing tactics.

You've got to be their friend before they'll be your customer, or in our case, your reader. People are looking for tribes to join, not billboards to read.

I've probably hurt some feelings. You're a writer, you should be used to it. Your marketing approach demands the same tough criticism as your prose. Once you've received the label "Spammer," you would have been better off if you'd never started a facebook or twitter account. It's an easy trap to fall into. Don't let it happen to you.

Start now. Go onto your favorite social network, resist the temptation to post a link to your book, and say "Hello" to someone. No links. No self-promotion. Just socializing. You can do this, people. Be strong. Go find your tribe.

1 comment:

Robert Jones said...

This is, and has been true for some time now. What writers are experiencing in terms of marketing strategies that aren't working, is the same thing most people have been experiencing since the moment you couldn't talk to a real person when calling any business any longer. Technology is a great thing, but it's a dish most serve cold and inhuman.

Taken in conjunction with the fact that most of our lives seem to have become cluttered with the sort of constant activity that won't allow some people to even spend time with their family--a myth that many seem to busy their lives up with BTW--and you have a society that has nearly been segragated by the propaganda spread by media, and the ethics of corporate thinking.

In short, everyone is hungry for a little old-fashioned human kindness. To be connected to more than a machine. And incidently, that's exactly why so many ARE connecting through technology. The average person who is looking for either a community to join, or a book to read, doesn't know marketing. They can, however, sense a hard sell, or a lack of effort. More importantly, they won't feel a real attraction without the human factor.

I think it's okay to talk about your work. So long as you are willing to allow that conversation to be a two-way street. Other writers are seeking helpful tid-bits of information. And costomers are looking for commonality, or answers to their questions that come across with a note of being more personal that the three sylables, or less, reply they might expect from an ebay seller.

And yeah, as stupid as it may sound, some people really do want to know what you had for breakfast. And as sorry as that seems, isn't it really just a cry to understand you're human and have a life just like they do? Why? Because the general consensus of what they hear elswhere is that not one has time to live, or that they should be afraid to. All based on on what? Because the media exacerbates a world filled with dread. And the best marketing plot--in fact, the best escape you can give them as a writer--is to show the world still exists, that human kindness hasn't been put to sleep, and that we all create our own lives minute by minute.

Isn't that what good fiction is supposed to do, help people escape their daily problems? Isn't that what every good marketing strategy promises in some way? Relief, and release, from that wich people really shouldn't be dwelling on in the first place.

And if given a choice between heartless and heartfelt, which tribe do you suppose people will want to flock to?