As is usual in this website, this topic is being considered from an author’s perspective. In the past, with traditional publishing, an author’s primary responsibility was to write and to occasionally turn up at social, promotional, events and book signings. However, the world has changed and publishing companies are no exception. In modern days the author is not only responsible for the writing but also has a principle role in the publicity and marketing of their books. Apparently many new publishing contracts now include terms to this effect. That is how matters have changed for those authors. However, when it comes to independent authors, there is no change: they have always been responsible for their own publicity and marketing. It should be born in mind, although not universally recognised as such in the past, independent authoring is in fact a business and all activity needs to be viewed and enacted from that perspective. Nevertheless, most authors are reluctant to think of themselves in such a way. Many are introverts who shy away from public exposure and a majority just wish to get on with the writing, without having to dedicate time to other activities. This is no longer an option for them, if they wish to get their books noticed and sold. At the very least, they need to undertake some interaction with their readers, fans, followers and the general public (to expand their readership). In the modern world Social Media is the recognised means for engaging with people and, bearing in mind many authors have constrained resources, the most cost effective.
A high percentage find utilising the free personal profile accounts available in most social media sites sufficient for their purposes. Nevertheless, there may be those who would like to consider the more robust business accounts provided by some. For them, this article will consider some of the benefits, disadvantages, responsibilities, and issues of such accounts.
A few statistics first:
- It is estimated over three billion people use social media.
- More people follow brands rather than celebrities on social media.
- Eighty percent of Instagram users follow at least one business account.
- Sixty percent of Instagram users state they discover new products through the site. (It is understood some Pinterest users also imply the same.)
- Inexpensive (mostly free to set up and post to).
- Provides increased brand awareness.
- Displays the human side of the business. (Many users want to see this.)
- Enables meaningful relationships to be built. (Users value the human connection.)
- Keeps business in front of users. (Most log-in at least once a day.)
- Potential for increased traffic to website. (By sharing relative content from website/blog.)
- Helps gain insight into audience traits. (‘Likes’, comments, sharing, etc.)
- Enables customer (reader) feedback. (Through ‘likes’, comments, sharing, etc.)
- Helps sales. (Potentially expands reach to friends, family and contacts of those who ‘like’, comment, and share.)
- Eases networking. (With other authors as well as readers, fans, and followers.)
- Platform for organic (natural not paid for) posting.
- Gives automatic access to advertising services.
- Establishing a ‘Go-to’ resource for information and guidance. (Posts need to be relevant.)
Note: Authors should bear in mind contacts through these business accounts are essentially ‘personal’ (as far as social media connections can be). Therefore, to gain the best possible outcome, their sharing needs to be more conversational (chatty) than promotional.
- Demands time and effort. (Must be constantly managed, fresh, and up to date.)
- Needs continual monitoring. (Should respond to customer questions and enquiries quickly.)
- Requires financial investment. (Posts are not organically shared. Have to be promoted if to reach wider audience.)
- May require experienced management. (A salary will have to be paid.)
- Slow return on investment. (Takes time for people to become clients.)
- Enables all types of comment. (Includes negative ones which will be seen by all.)
- Exposes to hackers. (These may take over page or post false information.)
- Makes vulnerable to trolling. (Trolls are people who are deliberately offensive or provocative.)
- May embarrass the brand. (Where information is not kept up to date or relevant.)
The following applies to all businesses no matter how, or where, they operate. (Remember in this scenario, authoring is considered a business.)
Note: There has been considerable discussion about what social media management should be responsible for and where they should intervene, or not (not a topic for discussion in this article). In the scenario under discussion here it has to be acknowledged site management is unlikely, except in extremes circumstances, to become involved in the author’s business. However, if for no other reason than reputation, authors should encompass the following principles.
- Must be offering high quality products. (Books or products must be the best the author can make them.);
- No prohibited products. (E.g. usually refers to: non-physical goods; live animals; alcohol; etc.);
- Products must have authenticity. (Promoted goods should express what the company or person is and what they offer.);
- Content must not comprise spam or anything similar;
- Must comply with laws and regulations.(Local and International.);
Content must be appropriate. (No: explicit material; self-harm promotion; discriminatory statements; etc.);
- Content must not infringe intellectual property rights or any other rights;
- Must not suggest the social media company or organisation sponsors or endorses them or their products;
- Must have a clear purchase process. (Authors should ensure the retailer from which a purchase will be made has clear, accurate, and up to date information.)
- Acknowledge they are responsible for dealing with any dispute regarding content. (Where the received product (book) is faulty it is usually the retailer’s responsibility to sort. Nevertheless, the author should be aware of the issue.)
Note: Where an author chooses to sell products from their own site there are many other legal and customer service requirements which are not the subject for this article.
The majority of issues surround security and privacy.
Address: Most business accounts require a postal address that, in most instances, has to be viewable. For authors this may prove a serious problem because their business address is often their personal home address.
Telephone: Business accounts by their nature, require easy contact facilities for customers and clients. Consequently, any telephone number provided will be on public display. Unfortunately, this can expose it to nuisance (and sometimes malicious) calls. It is suggested, rather than expose personal numbers, anyone intending to fully utilise a business account may be wise to obtain a second, business dedicated, number.
E-mail: As part of adequate customer service, business owners are required to provide a valid, active, e-mail address. Again, similar to telephone numbers, this will be on public display and will be just as vulnerable as those. Hopefully, authors will already not be using their personal e-mail addresses for their author and book business. If they are, then it would be sensible to obtain a different e-mail address for such purposes.
Business accounts are not for everyone. Beside the necessary additional time commitment required the potential disadvantages, responsibilities and issues need to be taken into account. Many authors find the personal profile accounts available more than sufficient for their authoring and book purposes.
With the additional public exposure business accounts bring, authors need to very carefully consider whether the benefits are sufficient to justify the establishment of such an account. In addition they need to honestly decide if they are able to dedicate the time and effort necessary to make it viable.
Just a quick note about trolling, mentioned under disadvantages: Trolls are people who are deliberately offensive or provocative with the aim of upsetting or eliciting angry responses. They may also start quarrels, sow discord and post off-topic messages. All the with intent to provoke. What drives these people is anyones guess nonetheless, they exist and have to be dealt with somehow.