Everybody wants those fifteen minutes of fame. Whether it is waving a bright yellow sign frantically behind the hosts of the Today Show or turning your taxidermy cat into a helicopter, it is a natural human desire to leave something of yourself behind. Now, that residual trail may not always be grand or end up leaving you in a positive light, but nevertheless, it allows you to be seen. Those desires for being noticed may vary, but in the end we all want the same thing: to make an impact in some way.
Since the advent of the Internet, a grand stage has formed and with it the ability to get noticed has been amplified. It has given each of us an audience, but the real question that you have to answer is, “What do you want to do with it?” While visibility is important, it only makes a difference if it leads to something more and invokes a sense of participation. This battle between gaining visibility and also sparking some kind of involvement is one that every Internet user goes through. It isn’t a challenge that just big brands and conglomerate corporations deal with, but rather one that each of us face, whether it is a blog post we write or a painting we are trying to sell.
Taking Control of Your Own Fate
More people are realizing the growing amount of opportunities the Internet offers, but the real mystery is how we can have a hand in our own fate. One industry that has really taken an interest in this is the self-publishing world. The indie author market is exploding, writers now turning away from the traditional route of submitting endless queries to agencies and instead publishing their work themselves. Part of the appeal lies in writers’ having control of the entire creative process as well as deciding on price points for their books. What once was a “last-resort” is now considered a practical and lucrative option, but this has also created a much more competitive landscape.
Being an indie author requires you to step onto that grand stage whether you like it or not. Writers can’t just be writers anymore; they have to be marketers, promoters, and advocates, all trying to sell the same thing: themselves. It becomes more than just selling a book. It is about selling a connection to an audience, about giving back to a community and maybe not getting anything back in return.
A major concern among indie authors is, “Well this is great and all, but how can I turn that visibility into book sales?” David Gaughran, a prominent self-published author, took a stab at answering this question by highlighting a situation where visibility didn’t exactly lead to the type of participation that was intended. He shared the experience of indie author Genevieve Pearson who appeared on the reality TV show, King of the Nerds, with the hope that she would gain more exposure for her books. Once the show aired, her social media accounts started blowing up, giving her a much larger and more diverse fan base than before. However, when that exposure didn’t lead to increased book sales, she realized her TV stint might have done more for her social presence than it did for her bottom line.
So What Went Wrong? Exposure = Sales, Right?
While social media is a great platform to promote and market, it has yet to be established as a viable sales platform. Social media is just that: social. It is designed to share and connect the issues with the people that care about them. Pearson thought there was a disconnect between her books’ target audience and her fans, but I believe that is only partly true. Working in the digital marketing industry has taught me that connections can be made if you find the right message. It’s not about beating a system or tricking the algorithm, but it’s about finding the common ground that connects different kinds of demographics. While her fans aren’t her ideal readers, there is a great chance that someone they know is. Pearson should ask herself what she has in common with her new fans and how those commonalities relate to her books. It could be a shared interest in science fiction or a passion for figuring out the unknown––it’s just about finding those things that bring us together. By utilizing social media to start these conversations, it will spark social engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.) and allow Pearson to reach those extended layers of connections who just might be her next customer. Earning visibility is only a small part of it; how you use that visibility to bridge those gaps is what matters most.
It all comes back to this idea of “fifteen minutes of fame”. While a two week craze does have the power to get you visibility in front of millions, it is up to you to decide where to go from there. This grand stage is only getting bigger but the curtain is falling even quicker. However, I believe that those fifteen minutes are only the beginning. Digital marketing is about taking a fleeting impression and turning it into something more. If you find a way to ignite something in an audience––sparking that need for participation––you can leave something behind that will last.