The problem with just saying, “I wrote this, now read it/RT it!” is that it implies that just because you wrote it, the world is now supposed to recognize it and get excited about it. The world is not your mom.

The quote above is from this blog post from YA author Maureen Johnson. The whole post is a great perspective on social networking and marketing and, even though she’s targeted it specifically to writers since that’s her demographic, everything she says absolutely applies to anyone with something to market and sell online. But I want to zero in specifically on this one idea she’s hit on for this post. Namely…

This is me looking at your content.

Just because you have something to share or for sale doesn’t mean I care. You’re going to have to work a harder to get my interest or money. 

I’ve seen this. You’ve seen this. People do it while promoting their books, their stores, their blog posts. They’ll tweet “New Blog Post” and a link with no context. They’ll say, “Check out my store!” on Facebook like the mere fact that they’ve got a store is supposed to make us swoon. They blog “Buy my book” with no sense of irony of just how tacky that is.

It doesn’t work.


Let me clarify.

It doesn’t work for you or me. Would it work for Beyonce or Justin Beiber? Yeah, it would. They’ve already got a massive following and a network of tabloids ready to spread whatever they’ve got from pole to pole. They could share a link with no context whatsoever and because their fans are so numerous and hungry for anything of theirs that they’ll happily buy or share it all over the place. Stars like this have already proven themselves to be interesting, entertaining and engaging in other mediums and earn the sales and shares of their fans with the barest minimum of online effort.

You and I have many millions of followers to go before we can pull that off. We need to earn attention.

Be honest with yourself. Who actually cares that you posted a new blog post or listed a new product? My parents, for instance, are lovely and supportive in a general way but could not possibly give less of a crud about the majority of what I do online. My brother, with whom I am extremely close, has never read a single one of my plays or novels. You’ve probably got examples just like this with your loved ones… now imagine how little a stranger cares.

Here’s the thing you need to remember about marketing: everyone is wrapped up in their own lives. Even the people who care… don’t really care as much as you wish they did. That sounds horribly harsh but, as soon as you force yourself to come to terms with this, the better you’ll be at both social networking and marketing online because you’ll understand that you need to take that extra effort to make people really consider what you’ve got to offer.

It’s a rare person that will share or purchase something just because you asked them to. Even the nicest of us still want to know, “What’s in it for me?” So if you want to earn sales and shares, you’ll need to do two main things:

  • Generate a quality product in the first place (be that a truly interesting blog post, a store filled with high quality products and great customer service, a really good book, etc) and then…
  • Be someone interesting and likable enough online that people want to buy what you have to sell and help you by sharing your stuff

You need both of these things in order to succeed with online marketing. It’s a two staged process and you can’t skip one. You need to start off by making sure you have a quality product (be that a website, a great service, a novel, etc) and then bring in your audience in by being interesting and engaging.

  • I’m not going to share your blog post just because you have a new blog post. But if I found it entertaining or informative and it helped me out, I will probably share it all over the place.
  • I’m not going to visit your store just because you told me to but if you’re always sharing fascinating things online, I’ll almost always check out your business to see if the stuff there is just as cool.
  • A new book doesn’t matter to me worth a damn. But a new book from that guy that always makes me laugh on Twitter? His I’ll buy in a heartbeat.
Are you starting to see what I mean? Successful online marketing and social networking is about creating a dynamic and interesting online presence that draws people into your quality product. And, while that may sound incredibly difficult, often just being yourself (within reason) is enough to get people interested in what you have to offer.
So when you see sellers and other marketers blindly asking for attention for attention’s sake, turn instead to those that are doing it right and learn from them. You’ll notice that the people with the most sales and followers across the networks are the ones who consistently provide value for their networks by being interesting, entertaining or engaging, and that they rarely resort to the garish demand to buy or share their stuff. And yet their stuff is still sold and shared… all on the strength of their network.

A part of me can’t help but wonder if this “buy my stuff just because it’s my stuff” thing some extension of the “everything my little angel does is perfect and I never criticize him!” parenting philosophy. Do people who’ve been nothing but praised as little kids grow up into people like this who think the world should be amazed by every little thing they do? That they are due sales and shares without having to earn them? This is just a random musing based on nothing but my own thoughts but I do wonder…

What do you think?