Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Social Media Marketing: Interview with Stephanie Black

by Robison Wells

It's been a while since I've interviewed anyone, and it's also been a while since I wrote about marketing. For those of you who are new to my blogging, here's the quick recap: in addition to being a mediocre author, I also have my MBA in marketing. We authors spend a lot of time marketing our books, but I think that we often do a really terrible job at it. Consequently, I will occassionally offer a little marketing instruction (meaning: I rant about my pet peeves).

If you'd like to see some of my other marketing posts, here's one about branding, and another about positioning.

Today, I'm going to be talking with Stephanie Black, the Wednesday blogger here at the Frog Blog. As you may have heard, Stephanie Black is really really old, and I recently had the opportunity to visit her rest home. It's nice, as rest homes go. Her room is full of afghans and pictures of cats, but she was kind enough to offer me some hard candy.

ROB: Thanks for having me today.

STEPHANIE: [in a decrepit, quivering voice] My pleasure, young man.

ROB: I hear you have a question for me about marketing?

S: That I do. You're sharp as a whip! As you know, I write books. And I do my best to sell them--I have a website, and I printed up some bookmarks, and I make all my grandchildren buy a couple copies. But now I hear that I have to get involved in social media? What the heck?

ROB: What the heck indeed, Stephanie Black.

S: First of all, what is social media?

ROB: Examples of social media are blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

S: Well, those are examples, but what's the actual definition?

ROB: For being old, you're quite astute. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about social media. (I suppose I could rephrase this, but why?) Wikipedia says: "Social media is content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information."

S: Wikipedia? That can't be trusted! Anyone can add content!

ROB: Stephanie Black, that's what old people say. If you're nervous about anonymous internet users adding content, then you have no business dabbling in social media.

S: Wha?

ROB: Perhaps it will help if I tell you what social media is NOT. It is not a newspaper. It is not a mailing list. It is not a billboard. For crying out loud, it is NOT A BILLBOARD.

S: That's a lot of caps. Be gentle with me; I'm old. Why are you freaking about calling social media a billboard?

ROB: Because, if you go back to that definition above, social media is about transforming monologues into dialogues. You can't have a dialogue with a billboard. A billboard advertises shouts its message into the wind. Social media engages people, causing them to interact.

S: So, what you mean is that instead of posting my press release on my website, I should post it on a blog so that people can leave comments?

ROB: NO. That is definitely not what I mean.

S: Why not? It's a blog isn't it? People can interact with it?

ROB: Well, the key is to create a dialogue. People do not have dialogues with advertisments and press releases. They have dialogues with people.

S: Meaning: if people comment on my blog, I should reply to their comments? So it's a dialogue?

ROB: At the very least. But, more importantly, you should not think of your blog as a free place to post advertisements.

S: So I shouldn't post my press release? But aren't I marketing? That's crazy.

ROB: You can post your press release, but that should be rare and only after you've gained your readers' trust.

S: What do you mean?

ROB: Are you familiar with the Commitment Pattern?

S: Vaguely. I think I remember hearing something about that back during the Great War.

ROB: You are so old. Basically, the Commitment Pattern explains how to get people to commit to something. And before you ever start to tell them about the thing they'll eventually commit to, you Build A Relationship of Trust. Why? Because if they don't trust then the odds of commitment drop terribly.

S: I just wish you had another example.

ROB: As a matter of fact I do! And it's an old one, so you'll probably relate. Are you familiar with Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People"? It was written way back in 1934.

S: We used to date.

ROB: I bet you did. Anyway, when you're doing self-promotion for your book, you're basically trying to get people to like you. And Carnegie gave six rules for getting people to like you. Among them are: Become genuinely interested in other people. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Talk in terms of the other person's interest. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

S: He always had such good ideas.

ROB: The key is to remember that social media is social. That's the whole benefit of it. If you're not interested in being social, then just buy a billboard.

S: But why do I care? Lots of people use billboards and make a lot of money doing it.

ROB: Well, there are two reasons. First, can you afford a billboard?

S: Not with the price of afghans what it is.

ROB: Well, social media is cheap. But the second reason is more important, though: If you have a website that is nothing but a billboard, no one will ever visit it.

S: Why not? Haven't you ever seen Field of Dreams? If you build it, they will come.

ROB: That has been the motto of a great many bankrupt small businesses. If you build it, they won't come. Do people like to watch commercials?

S: They watch the funny, awesome ones.

ROB: Is your press release funny and/or awesome?

S: I guess not.

ROB: Dang straight. Unless someone is extremely invested in you and your books, then they could care less about reading your ads. People on the internet don't want a promise of future value (assuming they pay for); they want content.

S: Meaning, I need to give people a reason to come to my website other than to show them ads.

ROB: If you take away nothing else from this discussion, you should remember that.

S: So, let's talk specifics. What about Facebook?

ROB: Okay. First, if you're going to create a Facebook profile, then you need to maintain it. If you create an account--a personal profile or a company page--then you need to visit and visit often. Again, this is social media and you must be social.

S: But what do I say? I'm only there to advertise.

ROB: You participate. You make friends. You update your status, even if it's just to announce your current wordcount or your writer's block. You comment on other people's status.

S: That seems like a lot of work.

ROB: It is, if you treat it like work. But do you think that millions of people use Facebook every day because they hate it? Have fun. Get to know people and let them get to know you.

S: And then sell them something.

ROB: Ugh... Yes, then you can sell them something. Just remember that most people on Facebook are there to socialize, not to make purchase decisions. Your ads should be few and far between. BUT--you'll notice that they're more effective when they're rare.

S: Makes sense. What about Twitter?

ROB: Same thing. Twitter is being overrun by salespeople, and it drives the tweeting community crazy. If you have a Twitter account, then act like other tweeters. Talk about stuff, link to articles, and tell jokes. And, in very very rare circumstances, send out an advertisement.

S: This is all very silly. I'm trying to sell, and you're telling me to sell very infrequently.

ROB: That's because this isn't about mass selling, it's about personal selling. Social media allows you to talk to individuals, and you have to use different tactics.

S: So what about blogs? That's the big one.

ROB: Well, we could talk about blogs for a long time, but here are a couple of suggestions. First--and I know this is controversial--don't pre-emptively moderate your comments. It smacks of paranoia, and absolutely destroys that "build relationships of trust" thing.

S: But what if there's a crazy guy who swears a lot!

ROB: Then advise him to stop, and if he doesn't then block him. But you have to be constantly aware of the perceptions you're spreading. If I go to a blog that will not let me post unless I use my real name, then I will immediately think "This is a paranoid blogger who is afraid of comments that contradict their own." So I won't comment (even though I always comment with my real name anyway). And I'm not alone in this--new articles on social media come out every day that confirm it.

S: I simply don't know if I dare. I've been burned before by anonymous commenters.

ROB: Anonymous commenters are often those fringe customers--people who are just getting interested and taking that first step into interaction with you. Disallowing them is a terrible idea.

S: But what if this happens repeatedly?

ROB: Here's a case study. A company that I am involved in was recently under attack on a blog. I immediately wanted to jump in and defend the company, but I refrained.

S: Why?

ROB: Because I knew that open discussion is healthy. And, before long, someone else--a customer--jumped in and did the defending. What do you think is more persuasive: That the company defends itself? Or that a customer, who is not monetarily-invested, defends the company?

S: Social media scares me.

ROB: That's because you're old.

S: I certainly am.

ROB: There are more things that I could say about blogs, but I've rambled too long already. However, here are a bunch of great links that have awesome information.

The Road To Success is Paved with Blogs
Ten Common Social Media Mistakes
Ten Reasons Why Your Company Should Not Have a Blog
Three Kisses of Death in Social Media

S: Hooray. Now get off my lawn.


At 6/09/2009 4:18 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Great info! I know I get tired of the advertising blasts on Facebook when they are coming every day. I'm happy with the "new release" stuff, but things like--there's a contest on my blog--if I want to know, then I'd follow the blog.

At 6/09/2009 4:34 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Amen, amen, amen.

Except the part about Stephanie being old.

At 6/09/2009 10:41 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Oh my, young people today are so very astute, aren't they? Such clever ideas! I must tell the gals at my shuffleboard club about this newfangled Tweetling and Facebrooking.

(And thanks, Annette! I knew I liked you.)

At 6/09/2009 11:23 PM, Blogger David J. West said...

Funny cuz its true.

Except the part about Stephanie being old. Ditto.

Im glad I instinctively got some of these right.

At 6/10/2009 12:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm impressed - Stephanie is very with-it and coherent for an old lady.

At 6/10/2009 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dialouge needs a little work. Too much information not enough crazy fool Rob. I don't think Rob or Stephanie actually talk like that. They usually do a lot more jargon talk. Memory. Ram. ISP on the down low. Couldn't we get a little more humor? Rob does a really good blogger rap. Stephanie could get down in her red and black go to Whitney stylin' dress.

Stephanie is funnier when she is an older person.

Rob is getting all professorial on us. He gets a degree and now this? BYU MBA? Really?

Would someone find both of them a real job?

At 6/10/2009 2:32 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Twitter is hardly a dialogue - it's more of the one-to-many communication techniques. Maybe I'm just griping because I have so few followers, but then I've only made one 'tweet', so why bother?

(I recommend following:

I think that really the best way to utilize social media to get sales is to have your readers/fans/worshipers rave about your books on their own accounts. You shouldn't be tweeting your own, um, kazoo or whatever. If I see that a friend has read some book and put a recommendation on GoodReads, I'm more likely to want to read it myself.

(BTW, I'm in the middle of reading a book by one of the Six today, but I'm not saying which one!)

At 6/10/2009 5:15 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Okay, so apparently you CAN write back to people who use Twitter - I just found this out. Sorry, I guess it is more of a dialogue.

I find it hard to imagine that I could just send a message to @Jeffrey_Donovan and have the Bum Notice actor see it.

At 7/31/2009 4:48 PM, Anonymous Chas Hathaway said...

Ha, haaaa! That's hilarious.

I don't know what's funnier, the way it's all worded, or the fact that we are all so guilty of making these same stupid mistakes. I'd like to see a label chart of all the things I've done wrong on my blogs, with commentary on each mistake. You know, I might just do that! Lol!

- Chas


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