When Less Is More on Social Media

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Today’s guest post is from social media expert Chris Syme (@cksyme). Learn about her June master class.


Social media boasts some pretty staggering numbers: nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media. And 70 percent of those users ages thirteen and up are on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.

Authors feel the steady pressure to be on social media channels promoting themselves, promoting their books, and searching for those ever-elusive readers. Some marketers tout it like it’s a magic pill, encouraging authors to be in every possible corner of the social media universe. After all, you don’t want to miss anybody, right?

The trouble with this advice is that it is antithetical to the present marketing culture. Marketing in this day and age is not about casting a wide net to get all the fish. It’s about knowing who your audience is, understanding where the best spots to find them are, and going narrow with the best channels for optimum results. If you want maximum results from your social media channels, less is more.

Fewer Channels Means More Engagement

I have long been an advocate of being on fewer social media channels to maximize engagement. There are several reasons for that, but I’ll give you the main three:

  • Finding where your audience members spend the most time makes it easier to target them.
  • Spending time on channels that grab less than 25 percent of the users online is a waste unless it is a niche channel specific to your audience.
  • Every channel is not conducive to selling. Choose channels where you can engage and sell.

When you take the time to really focus on who your audience members are, what their engagement patterns are, where they engage, and where they are buying, you get a pretty good idea of where you should be.

Because people are inundated with information on social media—much of it the same on all channels—they are looking for places where a culture of connection and sharing has been established. They do not want to wade through endless posts that sell books or products.

Amy Porterfield, a Facebook marketing expert, analyzed over a million high-engaging Facebook posts and found these six content types were most engaging:

  1. Posts that give: offers, deals, and contests that everyone can benefit from
  2. Posts that advise: tips, especially about problems everyone encounters
  3. Posts that warn: dangers that everyone faces (scams and the like)
  4. Posts that amuse: funny or entertaining pictures or quotes
  5. Posts that inspire: quotes, videos, and images that make people feel good and valued for who they are
  6. Posts that amaze: pictures, stories, and videos of amazing people and events

According to Porterfield’s research, people want to feel one of four things when they engage with social media: happy, informed, inspired, or supported.

If the majority of your social media content hits on all those cylinders, you don’t need to worry about being everywhere or asking people to buy your book.  As Mark Schaefer teaches in his book The Content Code, the law of internet marketing reciprocity will earn you the right to sell your products if you offer enough value to your fans.

The bottom line: social media is not about getting everybody’s attention everywhere. It’s about engaging potential and current fans in one or two spots where they are consistently present and interacting. Those are your primary social media channels. All the rest are secondary channels and only require an outpost strategy that aims people to the channels where the action is.

What Is an Outpost Channel?

An outpost channel has some of the following characteristics:

  • It is populated by people you are already effectively reaching on another channel.
  • It does not foster a commerce culture, or does not offer tools such as ads and apps that help you sell books or capture emails.
  • Less than 25 percent of the adult population uses the channel (see Pew Internet for latest numbers).
  • It is a channel where you post or interact less than the prescribed amount for ideal engagement.

There are some exceptions to these guidelines. Two major ones:

  • Genre-specific guidelines: LinkedIn can be a must for nonfiction writers selling courses or trying to establish an expertise. It is an unnecessary channel for fiction writers.
  • Demographic exceptions: If you are a YA or New Adult writer, you should consider the top channels in that demographic (such as Tumblr or Instagram) when you are looking to establish primary channels.

What Is a Primary Channel?

To identify your one or two primary channels to engage, consider:

  • audience demographics that match your books
  • the channel’s ability to sell
  • your skill set to implement the content that spells success on that channel.

For example, even though YouTube has the potential to sell books, if you don’t know how to produce good videos, use YouTube to establish sales channels, or have a detailed plan for gaining subscribers (YouTube’s magic formula), you will fail there.

You should identify one or two channels and work to establish a community—that means a community that you interact with as people, not as sales figures. Once you’ve identified your primary channels, you can set up a plan for maximum engagement. Use an 80-20 content formula for giving value (80 percent) to selling (20 percent). Yes, you still want to sell, but because you have loyal fans, you don’t need a constant parade of sales messages. Also, if you are engaging on a channel such as Facebook, you can rely somewhat on the presence of commerce tools to present an “opportunity” for fans to buy when they are ready.


Note from Jane: Chris Syme is offering a June master class that teaches you how to set up an outpost strategy. Find out more.

"Marketing in this day and age is about knowing who your audience is, understanding where the best spots to find them are, and going narrow with the best channels for optimum results. If you want maximum results... less is more." -Chris Syme, social media expert

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Chris Syme is a 20-year veteran of the communications and marketing industry and is the founder of  CKSyme Media Group. She is an author and speaker on the topics of social media marketing and reputation management. She is a former university media relations professional and crisis management consultant for college athletic departments, businesses, and sports event venues.  Chris also co-hosts the popular Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast with her daughter, USA Today bestselling author R.L. (Becca) Syme.

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