Marketing services that specialize in social media promotion are everywhere. These often involve a company publishing ads to their website, mailing list, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. It's an inexpensive way to promote your book.
But while the cost of these services is generally low, they do add up. How can the indie author determine if a service deserves a piece of their marketing budget?
First, know what to ignore
Marketing companies exist to sell products — including their own. Authors must take special care to sift through the hype of the sales pitch to find verifiable information, information they can use to evaluate the service objectively.
When considering a marketing service, skip over these marketing tactics:
While client feedback can be useful, the cherry-picked reviews featured on a company website present the service in the best possible light. These are always the most positive comments, and they don't represent an accurate, unbiased cross-section of client reactions.
Learn to filter out meaningless claims about the quality of the service. You don't need the company to tell you how great their service is, or how happy their clients are, or how you'll sell more books if you hire them. These things should be evident from the metrics they provide.
Limited time offers.
Limited time only! Act now! 50% off if you order in the next 30 minutes!
Marketers know that creating a sense of urgency — a fear of missing out on a great deal — can push through the hesitation of a potential buyer. The longer a customer deliberates over a purchase, the greater the chances that they may back out of the sale.
The savvy consumer knows that time is not the enemy: it's one of their greatest assets. Time allows you to consider your options, weigh the evidence, and make a smart choice. When a company tries to rush you into a decision, that's when you need to put on the brakes.
Then, pay attention to the details
When you've skipped over the fluff, you can home in on the important elements. And for social media marketing, this nearly always comes down to cold, hard numbers.
Here's what to look for.
A company that refuses to disclose exactly how it will deliver its ads to your audience is probably hiding that information for a reason. Will it be displayed on Facebook? On what pages? Twitter? On what accounts? Find out exactly where your ad will be displayed so you can investigate it personally.
A marketing company you hire will represent you, your books, and your brand to the world. Make sure they're able to do so professionally.
Sign up for the company's newsletters and browse through their social media channels. Do you like what you see? Do they use attractive images that catch the eye? Do they use fluent, well-edited language in their ad copy?
Or are their promotions a mess of broken English and broken images?
How many people will your ad potentially reach? This is one of several important metrics you'll need to determine if the service will pay for itself. It's particularly important for ads on gallery-style websites, where the number of visitors is rarely sufficient to generate sales.
Claims of “thousands of subscribers” are meaningless if they can't be verified, so demand details. If the company can't or won't provide those figures, walk away.
On average, social media ads have a conversion rate of less than 1%. That means that for every 1,000 people who see your ad, fewer than 10 will theoretically go on to buy your book.
Now, if a company has 1,000,000 followers on Twitter, your eyes may be lighting up with thoughts of 10,000 sales. But the reality is that only a small fraction of those followers will actually see the ad. Of those, only a few will stop to read it. And of that tiny number, only a small fraction will make a purchase.
Engagement is an excellent indicator of whether people are actually seeing and interacting with the marketing company's ads. Are people liking, sharing, and commenting on those posts? Or are those ads simply tossed into the void of the internet, unseen and un-clicked?
Quality is more important than quantity. Having thousands of followers is irrelevant if they're all romance readers and you're trying to sell them hard sci-fi.
The best social media marketing services target their audience by genre to maximize engagement and sales. Watch for this practice, and be wary of services that use a shotgun approach. The number of readers who will be interested in your book may be far lower than the total number of subscribers or followers.
Concrete numbers like audience reach, open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates are essential for judging the value of a service.
Metrics let you objectively evaluate the effectiveness of a service, which in turn will help you decide whether you'll earn a return on your investment. Unfortunately, most companies provide only the size of their audience. As we discussed above, having 1,000,000 followers is irrelevant if only a dozen of them see or are interested in what you post.
Ask for more detailed metrics. What kind of engagement do these social media posts receive? How many newsletter subscribers actually open that email? How many click through the ad to the sale page? And on average, how many of those actually buy the book?
Over to you
You now have a basic idea of what to look for in book promotion services. By filtering out the fluff and focusing on real, quantifiable statistics, you can select the best marketing services to help you promote your book.
What qualities do you look for in a social media promoter? Let us know in the comments below!#IndieAuthors must shop carefully for social media marketing services. — @johndopp Click To Tweet