*originally post 2016
There are certain humble (and not so humble) brags that beg questions.
- I have 30,000 Twitter followers.
- I’m a member of five, six, seven, etc. writing/professional groups.
- I’m a best-selling author.
When I was in college one of my professors would write on my papers, “What’s your point?”
Her point was to force me to identify my point and why my statement(s) mattered. Why was it important?
When we hear or read the personal stats listed above (or are tempted to throw some of our own out), we should be asking the follow-up question, “So what? Why does it matter?”
Social Media Numbers Lie
Let’s say we tell someone we’re trying to impress that we’ve got umpteenbazillion followers on social media.
That begs some questions:
- How many of them did we buy?
- How many of them are in our target market?
- How many of them do we engage with regularly?
- How many of them have ever purchased our book, product, or services?
- Further, how many of them are even in need/want of our book, products, and services?
The point of being on social media is to create a platform that will help (among other things): secure a contract with a literary agent, find a publisher, and ultimately leverage that platform to sell our products (books), and services.
Regardless of our short-term goals, the purpose of social media marketing is to drive sales!
If our followers are not interested in what we have to say and, therefore, aren’t our target market, they do not count.
And, if we aren’t making an effort to engage the remaining social media followers by providing interesting, timely, and valuable information that supports our mutual goals then we can’t expect them to seek us out for our products and services.
We can brag about numbers all day, but what matters is the outcome. Our numbers can mean that we spent fifty bucks and five minutes to do something to look better, or they can mean that we are dedicating our time and effort to building a platform that produces meaningful results.
Membership is Meaningless
Another oft-cited number is a list of all of the writing groups, professional organizations, et cetera to which we belong: as if membership in and of itself has meaning.
The real question is, in how many of those groups and organizations do we actively participate?
I serve as the leader of the Boise Chapter of the Nonfiction Authors Association.* I send a personal welcome email to each new member of our Meetup group (the platform on which we organize local meetings). Recently I noticed that one of our new members is also a member of over fifty other groups. Fifty!
I debated whether I should even bother sending an email. I did because it's what I do.
But, there is no way that person is actively and meaningfully involved in all of those groups-not most, not many, probably not even some. If that person ever shows up for a single meeting, I will be flabbergasted.
Non-participants do not benefit from the group nor can the group benefit from them.
“Member of,” like so many labels, has lost almost all meaning.
What matters is how that organization makes you a better writer, editor, salesperson, etc. And, for those of us who value professionals who give back to their communities, how your participation makes the group better is also important.
(By the way, being a member of many organizations sends a latent message that you haven't identified what matters to you and that you are, therefore, unfocused.)
The Overused “Best-Selling Author” Label
Amazon has arguably done a lot of good things for our industry, however (and I mean no disrespect to those of you who are legitimate Amazon best-selling authors), it’s relatively easy to get that label by manipulating genres and purchase timing.
Whenever I hear that phrase I want to ask:
- How many books has that author actually sold?
- How much money have they actually made?
It’s unfortunate that the term has been so watered down. There are authors out there whose books have sold well but for whom the “best-selling author” label has lost its meaning and therefore any real value.
Although, the authors who've earned it are laughing all the way to the bank because while the label may be shared, the results are not.
I also know several authors of excellent books who have large platforms and regularly speak at events across the country and whose writing is published in publications that exercise editorial discretion but have yet to make Amazon's best-seller list.
The professional is recognized by other professionals. --Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro
If we throw out a statistic or a label to impress and persuade, do we fear the follow-up questions, or would we be proud to quantify and defend them because they represent meaningful results?
If we are proud and can defend, we need to set ourselves apart by answering the follow-up questions before they’re asked.
Set Yourself Apart: Show, Don't Tell
Rather than say: “I have 50,000 social media followers,” we might say, “I have __X#___ of newsletter subscribers with a ___%___ open rate,” or “I have 50,000 social media followers, none of them purchased and all of them gained through the execution of a long-term strategic plan to build a platform in front of my ideal audience.”
Or, you might say, “I am an active member of ______group/association, attending monthly meetings and volunteering as a _______ in the organization,” or “I’ve been an active member of _________for _____years. They’ve helped me ____________________.”
The phrase "show, don't tell" extends beyond the craft of writing. It is central to business strategies that sell products and launch careers.
Say something meaningful. People will pay attention.
*The group has moved to Meridian, Idaho and is led by Renee Settle.