Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Use Text Posts and Comments To Avoid Getting Your Self-Promotion Labeled as Spam

Creative professionals of all stripes are told that if they want to be successful then they have to get out there, and get themselves noticed. Post up fliers, attend events, shake hands, pass out cards, get reviews... whatever it takes to get your name, and your work, in front of people's eyeballs. And, since we live in the Age of the Internet, this means there are a lot of authors out there who are trying to leverage a following on social media as a way to get their work noticed.

However, there's a Catch-22 when it comes to posting on social media sites. Because on forums, Facebook groups, and other online gathering places where people talk about books, blogs, and other creative projects, no one wants to hear you talk about your work; the second you do, you tend to get labeled as a spammer, and either have your posts removed, or limited. If someone else shared a post about your latest release, that would be fine and good... of course, if you had other people boosting your signal, then you wouldn't need to promote yourself in the first place!

So people are pissed at the messenger, not the message?
This attitude of, "if you're talking about yourself, then you are a spammer," is one of the most common things online. Even if the piece you're sharing is relevant to the group's interests, even if it's free (like a blog, a story sample, etc.), you'll still get tagged for bigging-up your own signal.

However, there are still ways you can draw attention to yourself, while avoiding much of this criticism. It requires being a bit crafty, though.

Links, Texts, and Comments

Let's take Reddit as an example, though you can translate this advice to practically any social media platform. You login, and decide you want to make some posts to let interested communities know about your latest book release. So you go to the subreddit for fantasy, sci-fi, noir, or whatever genre you're writing in, and post a link to a free sample.

Now, it's possible you'll get a hundred up votes, and a slew of people telling you how awesome your book sounds. What's more likely is that your post will be up for all of 10 minutes before a moderator takes it down, and chastises you for using their group for self-promotion. Even though what you're promoting is clearly in their wheelhouse, and free to anyone who wants to take a look at it.

So what do you do? You want to get eyes on your work, and these groups have thousands (sometimes millions) of members... one lucky break there could be the start of a career landslide. But you can't do anything if every time you put up a link it gets hammered down where no one will see it.

That's where text posts and comments come in.

You see, instead of just dropping a link and moving on (something that requires no effort, and gives very little context), you can instead make a text post. This post opens discussion, and gives a fuller explanation of what it is you want to say. All you have to do is find a place in the text to add your link so that people who are interested in what you have to say will follow it.

Sometimes, though, you don't have time for that. You just want to hop on someone else's coattails, and get a free ride (or as free as such things can be on the Internet). When that happens you need to scroll through the subreddits, and look for popular topics. Places where people are discussing something, asking questions, or giving advice. What you need to do is swoop in, give an answer that is eye-catching and noticeable, and include a link to a blog post you've written, a book you published, etc. that fits into the context of the discussion in question.

Both of these options have their pros and cons. Text posts take more time, and you're starting a conversation, but if someone clicks in to see what all the fuss is about then you are always on center stage. However, text posts might be shut down, too, if you are too blatantly pushing your own content as the sole thing you're offering. Comments, on the other hand, tend to be much more open about links. As long as you contributed something in the comment other than your link, you'll typically be okay. However, comments are more difficult to get noticed, so the topic you're leaving the comment on needs to be something that's getting a lot of attention, and a lot of engagement.

Becoming Part of The Community

The whole thing about how no one wants you promoting your stuff in their community has one caveat to it... if you're recognized as a member of the community, you can get away with it.

So... huh?
The basic idea is that you don't want strangers just coming in, posting their promo, and leaving. However, if you know someone, they're familiar to the community, and they make posts/leave comments on the regular, then they aren't strangers. They're part of the community, so of course you're going to be more lax about them posting about their new book, or blog post, or YouTube video, or whatever. Because that's Geoff, and we all know him round these parts.

The key is that you have to get your foot in the door by proving you're valuable to the community. That you have good insights, that you talk about things other than yourself, and that you're trying to answer questions, contribute to conversations, etc. The longer you do that (even if you're slipping in self-promo along with your posts, like a spoonful of sugar to get the medicine to go down), the easier it is to avoid someone simply tarring you with the spammer label.

Mileage will vary, of course, but if you can't batter down the gates then it might be time to pack your message into a wooden horse, and see if they'll pull you inside of their own volition.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. Hopefully it helps some folks out there who are tired of making futile charges, and want some way to get over those gates. If you'd like to support me and my work, head on over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, and toss a little change in my jar. $1 a month is all I ask, and everyone who contributes at least that much gets a free book! Lastly, if you want to keep up with all my latest updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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