I enjoy reading uplifting stories and am a sucker for comedy. So I occasionally indulge in reading e-mail forwards. However, I usually only forward them on days of a major solar eclipse – if I remember to.
So I’m the dead-end for most of them.
Why? Because I hate being manipulated.
Correction…I hate being manipulated by cheap shots. You know, methods that require very little effort or risk by the other party. Guilt-trips by dismal statistics, death threats, absurd promises of monetary gifts from celebrities/businessmen or superstitious guarantees of spectacular luck (or instant death) put such a bad taste in my mouth that even if I loved the story, once I hit that last paragraph I’m more likely to let it rot in my inbox.
Can you guess the ones I hate the most? The ones that have the gall to imply that the question of my faith in Christ hangs in the balance and that if I truly believe, I would spam my entire contact list. In other words, if I don’t send it on, then I’m just a hypocrite. As if one’s testimony can be measured or proved by addresses stuffed into the cc box.
Like-wise, as much as I love my friends, I don’t appreciate regular challenges to prove it through doing this or that. Sadly, I’ve found that those that use such tactics either:
A) will always be skeptical of your sincerity, no matter what you do
B) are far more concerned with the ends justifying the means thus will continue to challenge people as a tool of manipulation to get them to do what they want as the end result – regardless of the quality of the relationship
Don’t get me wrong – as a struggling small-time writer feeling quite behind the eight ball on marketing, I understand the temptation of the last one. Numbers are powerful, no?
In unabashed sympathy, I watch fellow writers provoke, plead, goad and beg their friends to visit their site, read their samples and “like” their fan pages. We feel we must be doing a dozen+ different things and parade them in front of everyone to drive traffic to where ever our platform is in dire need.
I must confess, I find it painful to watch and do so with some degree of dread. Am I destined to follow the same path or remain in utter obscurity? Are those my only choices?
Being one of those that hates cheap manipulation, when one of those confrontations come (even with good friends that I want to support) the rebel inside rises with a boatload of responses/reactions that I’m sure are not what the sender would appreciate.
Apparently it’s a pretty common problem, wired into basic human nature.
In Brian Klemmer’s If How-To’s Were Enough, We Would All Be Skinny, Rich and Happy! he talks about the natural tendency to resist and the trouble it brings. He uses a demonstration of sitting facing a random volunteer, placing raised hands against each other. Without instructions, as soon as he applies pressure on the hands, the volunteer predictably pushes back. The knee-jerk reflex is to resist.
But surely it has some level of success, considering how many people resort to it, right? I mean, what would I know? I’m not even published yet. So I tried to keep my mouth shut, watch and learn.
Then, over the last week, two things happened.
One: I e-mail subscribed to a blog.
Now, I’m sure in this day and age this might seem trivial. However, as someone who gets far more e-mails that I could possibly read, I rarely ever sign up for more unless they’re offering a free gift I want. Because, for all my good intentions, I know that I end up deleting far more than I read, simply for survival’s sake.
Kristen Lamb’s blog didn’t offer any gift. It offered wit and advice that resonated with me. You have to admit the guts of anyone who starts with:
“I have repeatedly claimed that I am not a social media expert. Rather, I am THE social media expert for writers. There is a HUGE difference.”
Of course, me being an aspiring author anxious about making it work, she had me. As I read her definitions of Spam Toad vs. Author Brand, I was thrilled to learn that I wasn’t as off-base as I feared. She said that if you have to beg people to “like” your fan page on Facebook, then you probably aren’t ready for one. In other words, focus on marketing through your profile or blog rather than try and run too many things at the same time.
This reassurance is particularly priceless to me since I sometimes feel like the “only one” who doesn’t have a fan page – the temptation to take the dive has really been gnawing at me. But then I see others struggle with them, begging for numbers and limping along with too many projects and not enough time.
I loved the message that I got from Kristen’s blog to not sacrifice being a writer for shot-gun marketing. I’ve often felt torn between all the time and work invested in marketing and “getting my name out” that sometimes it does feel like my writing suffers.
Two: I attended a webinar on Effective Author Websites
Okay, I admit – it was my first “webinar” period. Because of my Husband, I’ve been to business seminars (major and minor) and other motivational events. He’s even done on-line ones before, but this was my first.
Thomas Umstattd from AuthorTechTips.com taught and gave a ton of priceless advice. And it was wonderful that not only were they good business advice (like I was used to), but geared toward writers and relevant to me! I totally recommend visiting the site and reading some of their wonderful articles. When I stumbled on the place a while back, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people I knew who followed the site, including “gurus” like Jeff Gerke.
In the webinar, Thomas specifically said that begging doesn’t work. People (even our friends) should “like” and follow our stuff because they actually like what they find there.
A “fan” is not the same as “friend” and vice versa. It’s really about the content! For most people, their mom and best friend will “like” whatever we do, no matter the quality, but simply to support. He said to aim to provide exclusive content that people would be willing to pay for – but don’t.
Dragging people to our site totally misses the beauty of social media. Not only that, but it takes vast amounts of time and energy. However, if we focus on what we do best and provide quality content that appeals to, and targets, our niche market, then won’t they naturally want to share the really cool site/story/image/etc with their friends? Do they really get any particular value out of us reaching a particular number of “fans”?
I have plenty to learn still, and in no way claiming any authority in this. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and am bound to make a ton more. I am trying to do better and will continue to learn and mend my ways.
However, if you ever hear me begging or badgering, do me a favor. Slap me upside the head and remind me of this post.
Meanwhile, “experts” aside, what do YOU say really pulls you to a totally new website? What sort of goodies do YOU love to find? What sort of stuff is just too cool to not share with others? What drives you nuts and you would rather strap yourself to a horse, upside down, for a couple miles through dry sagebrush than go back to the site?