Is There Such a Thing as Free Promotion? Using Social Media to Market Your Art or Product

If you have decided to self-publish a book, or if you have created any product independent of large corporations, one of the initial snags you’re going to hit is having a lack of visibility for your creation. When I first put my book The Madness of Art Short Stories up for sale online, it didn’t appear anywhere on the web. It was even hard to find on Amazon. If you have a decent amount of money, you can pay for promotion. Some independent writers will pay to have their book reviewed, but that can be expensive (the most common source of reviews for new books are Kirkus reviews, but those cost upwards of $450). There are also some blogging sites that will allow you to put up ads for your work on their page, but this usually costs at least $30 a month (usually more) and it’s hard to say how effective that really is. For instance, how do you know if anyone even views their blog? So if you are independent and don’t have much cash, something you’ll want to do right away is establish internet presence, and make sure your product can be found online.

In the six months that have elapsed since I released my first book The Madness of Art Short Stories (I’ve recently released a second book titled A Rapturous Occasion), I have tried using just about every free social media site there is, with varying results. Here’s a list of all of the sites I have utilized, with descriptions of how helpful they really were. Hopefully, reading this guide will give you some good ideasand show you where not to waste your time.

Social Media Sites:

Myspace:

Myspace is free but no one uses it anymore. If you visit Myspace, you’ll see it’s just a dump. I made the mistake of creating a myspace page for The Madness of Art Short Stories and was chagrined to see that Myspace automatically ran ads for dating services on the page for my book. That’s shameless. Then, my Myspace site never got any views. It was useless.

Facebook:

Facebook allows you to make pages for whatever your product is. These are free to create and aren’t very hard to put together. If you’re advertising something, you’ll want to make sure your page is marked as public, not private (your own Facebook page should be kept as private though). By making it public, it means no friend requests are required. People can find your page with relative ease. It will also show up on search engines if people search for your art. While not that many people have clicked ‘like’ on my Facebook pages for my books, I know those pages have contributed at least a few sales. If you’d like, you can check out the pages I made for my books The Madness of Art Short Stories and A Rapturous Occasion.

WordPress:

WordPress is time consuming and never seems to get as many views as I would hope. I kind of thought my wordpress blogs would start getting a lot more views as time went on, but it’s been six months now and my daily views have more or less plateaued. That being said, I know at least a few people have disocovered my work through my blogs, and I have had some success. Blogs are a good way to get your product showing up online. For example, if you put up pictures of your art on your blog, those will also show up on Google image searches. I have also met some interesting people through using wordpress, so I wouldn’t say it’s been a waste of time at all, but it’s not as helpful as I had hoped. If you have time, create a blog, but I’d create a Facebook page first (the FB page takes very little time to maintain).

Flickr:

I love having a Flickr page. This is a site used primarily for sharing pictures with the public (as opposed to FB which is mostly sharing with friends). I’ve drawn up dozens of illustrations for my two books, all of which I’ve posted on Flickr. I can then put up links to my Flickr account on FB, wordpress, and on Twitter. I can also include links on Flickr to my Amazon page. You might as well use Flickr. It doesn’t take very long at all. The nice part is, it also tells you how many people have viewed each individual image, so you can have immediate input on what advertising methods are effective vs. what are not. If you’d like to see my Flickr site, click here.

Tumblr:

I created a Tumblr site although I barely use it. Tumblr’s good if you want to create a blog but don’t want to learn everything that’s associated with wordpress. It’s a blogging site for people who are on the go. Your options are limited though as your Tumblr will show up as one long stream of every post you put on there instead of individual posts like with wordpress. Tumblr’s good if you want something to link to, and the main perk is that it doesn’t eat up much time or effort. It’s hard to say how effective it is though.

Twitter:

Twitter is the social media site I’ve had the most success with. I wish I had set up twitter months ago. Instead, I’m fairly new at it. My main twitter account @Coreypung already has about 650 followers, whereas this wordpress page only has about 30. Granted, a lot of my twitter followers are just spammers (there’s no shortage of shameless self-promoters on twitter). The nice part about Twitter is that it takes up little time and has immediate results. With blogs, you have to wait forever for your posts to show up on search engines, and even then they get little views. With twitter, you can put info online and instantaneously have people see it. The other nice part is, you can put links onto twitter, so if you’ve created multiple social media sites like I have, you can put up links to them frequently, and hopefully call attention to posts you wrote months ago or ones you wrote minutes ago. You can also put up direct links to your Amazon page, but I think if you do this too much people will think you’re spamming. I’ve also met some interesting people on twitter (and blocked some as well).

You can follow me on twitter:
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Link Sharing Sites:

Digg:

I have had almost no success with digg. I don’t really understand how to use it, for one thing. digg is a program you can use to submit links, which people then vote on, and positive votes will create visibility. I think to succeed with digg you have to focus on things that are already trending. Most of the popular posts on digg seem to be celebrity or news related. If you’re like me and mostly post about old films or literary fiction, you shouldn’t really bother with digg. I’ve received a few views from digg, but really not that many.

Reddit:

Every once in a blue moon I’ll have success with reddit. I think reddit is basically the same as digg but it’s less mainstream, more in touch with slackers and hipsters. That being said, so much of my posts are still too mired in the past to appeal to people on reddit. I did however share my humorous post of “Short Circuit in the Style of Twilight” on reddit and it got fifty-five views the first day. My other posts weren’t so lucky.

My Method:

What I mostly do now online is utilize a method of promotion that essentially links my seperate social media sites together. My combination is basically

WordPress>>>Flickr>>>Twitter.

By that, I mean I will create posts and images for my wordpress account, then I’ll load the images onto flickr, and finally I’ll put links to everything on twitter. Using twitter usually keeps my wordpress and flickr accounts getting views. Sometimes I’ll integrate my other sites into the mix, specifically facebook. While my sites don’t get tons of views, they do usually get views around the clock now, except after midnight until about 7 am.

You can also try integrating youtube videos into your method, but it’s hard to say if these are worth your time. So much of what’s successful on youtube is either mind-numbingly stupid or borderline pornography. If you’re trying to promote a book, it’s hard to say if you’ll get any views. For instance, when I first published The Madness of Art: Short Stories, I created a hand drawn video that took me all day and put it on youtube only to get around 41 views total, most of those from my family and friends, not prospective customers. Later on, just for a laugh, I put a video on youtube that’s a parody of an LL Cool J song that took me about 15 minutes to make, and that one has now had 784 views. I’ve seen some websites that say they’ll make slideshow videos for your book on youtube for $150 but there’s no way you should pay for such a service. Slideshows are the easiest things to make. iMovie has templates where the computer will do most of the work for you.

Also, make sure that if you’re paying someone to promote your book that it’s worth your money. For example, I paid a local magazine based in Portland to review my book and include the review in their quarterly publication. 10,000 copies of the magazine were printed, and yet, much to my horror, my book got absolutely no sales from it. The review was for the most part positive too! If someone wants to take your money to promote something, make sure people actually read their site or publication. Otherwise, you could be wasting your money and setting yourself up for a let-down (I seriously thought having my book reviewed in a publication would bring in at least a dozen sales right away, little did I expect zero).

If you’re at all interested in my books The Madness of Art Short Stories or A Rapturous Occasion, please visit my Amazon author page.

So just to review, in my opinion, don’t waste your time with myspace, definitely make a facebook page, consider making a wordpress blog, don’t expect much from digg or reddit, create a tumblr site if you feel like it, and get started on twitter as soon as possible. I hope you found this guide to social media helpful–if you have suggestions, please write it in the comments box below.

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