Jane Friedman

When Less Is More on Social Media

Photo via Visual hunt

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:

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:

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

What Is a Primary Channel?

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

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.