Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

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Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1 through #3 here.

So, on to Principle #4…  Repeated contact through social networks drives sales.

What do I mean by social marketing? If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to the myriad of social sites that have sprung up (for example: MySpace, Facebook, Shoutlife) and the associated applications like Twitter that go along with them. People are using these sites to connect with others from all parts of their life, to keep up with what friends and family are doing, and to follow the activities of people who interest them.

So what does this have to do with writing? It’s a great way to connect with readers! A website can be tedious to continually update, and perhaps a blog feels like too much effort. But sites like Facebook allow you to give occasional updates, post pictures of things like research trips, booksignings, and new book covers, and even converse with readers. 

In last month’s post I stated that repeated contact drives sales, and explained how I believe my retail craft and hobby supply sites have grown primarily through the repeated contact of email promotions.  As a writer, you don’t have a different product to promote every week. So while regular newsletters and book announcements are essential, social marketing gives you an extra point of contact with readers, in between those more time-intensive emails with important announcements.

If you’re looking to use Facebook, you will need to make a choice between setting up a personal Profile, a Group, or a Page to connect with readers.  Personal profiles are generally used to connect with family and friends, while Groups and Pages are more for business use, but you may decide that you don’t mind combining your family, friends, and fans onto one page for the sake of simplicity.  If you decide to go with a Group or a Page, here are the main differences that I’ve discovered between the two:  1) People “join” a Group, but become “Fans” of a page. 2) A Group allows you to send messages to the members which will get sent as an email (if they’re set up to get emails from Facebook, and most people are), while a Page only allows you to send updates that are posted in your fan’s “Updates” section on their own Facebook page. This means that if they don’t check their Updates, they won’t see your message. 3) When people interact with a Group (joining a Group, posting a message there, uploading a picture, etc.), it does not show up on their page, for their friends to see that they are interacting with the Group. But when people interact as fans with a Page, it does show up on their own page, and their friends can see that they’ve “Become a Fan” of your Page, or posted a comment there, etc. 

So there are pros and cons of each, and you’ll have to decide which best suits your needs. You’ll find that making that decision is about the hardest part.  Facebook is very easy to set up, but also has features that can make it more customized if you choose to pursue them.  For an example of customization, if you’ve already joined Facebook, visit my Facebook Page here:  T.L. Higley, and you can see that I’ve customized one of my tabs to show my “Latest Newsletter” and invite people to subscribe to it.  Hey, while you’re there, become a Fan of my Page! J

Remember, the point of social networking is to follow our general principle: Repeated contact drives sales.  Use social networking to connect with your readers often, establishing a relationship there. When you have a new book to announce, they’ll be the first to run out and buy it!

I plan to get more active on my Facebook Page in the coming months, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

One more word of advice: Do what you can to capture the email addresses of the people who join your Group, or become your Friends or Fans.  Facebook, and other sites like it, will eventually each be replaced with the latest and greatest site of their kind. If your only contact with these fans is through the social sites, then as these fans slip away from using the site regularly, they will slip away from you. Make sure you’ve got them on your email list as well, so you can keep contacting them.

I’d love for you to share ideas about how you’re using social networking. Post a comment if you’ve got a great idea!

Coming up next month… Making an offer they can’t refuse.