The Hard Truth About Book Blogging And Social Media

Blogger Bashing

So, it’s not been a great few weeks for Book Bloggers. Between various Facebook groups requiring them to file their reviews in designated threads, getting thrown in Twitter jail and certain users even saying book bloggers are NOT ‘real readers’, it’s easy to see why they’ve become despondent with social media of late. After all, unlike most bloggers – such as lifestyle, make-up and entrepreneurial types – book bloggers are NOT paid to share reviews. Most are simply book lovers, looking to share the book love.

Before we begin, I should mention – I love book bloggers. Not only am I an author – so book bloggers’ support is crucial to me and my books – I am literally a book blogger myself. I love blog tours and read them daily. I have bought books directly BECAUSE OF blog tours, too.

On this basis, so we’re clear: book bloggers and blog tours have my full sympathy and support. I offer these thoughts and tips solely to try and help. Ready? Then let’s go!

Marketing Online

But now let’s take a look at the flip-side of the disagreement. It would seem certain users on social media believe Book Bloggers are not impartial or even untruthful, because bloggers are ‘marketers’. This has lead to some of them calling for Book Bloggers to have threads or even groups of their own, calling non-bloggers ‘real readers’ in contrast.

Now, obviously book bloggers ARE real readers, who DO love books and CAN be trusted (all of which goes without saying). However, when it comes to marketing, this is where it gets a little hazy (and where I think some of the confusion is coming from).

Whilst individual bloggers may not be paid marketeers, blog tours do come under the banner of ‘content marketing’, hence publishers arranging them to help spread the word about them (and ultimately sell more books!).

This is also why authors are encouraged by their publishers to have a persona online. In marketing theory, it’s said that the average customer will need exposure to a product a minimum of four times before they buy it. This means the internet – especially social media – has become a potential goldmine for every kind of marketer (including authors and publishers) for obvious reasons.

Social Media and User Preferences

But like anything, how social media users prefer to engage with marketing also changes. On a giant scale, this is why Facebook changes its algorithm and presentation every year or so. Even on a tiny scale, as an author and content marketer myself, I discover every single year I have to change my approach to stay ‘fresh’ and ensure my hits and conversion rates stay up-to-date.

So, whilst Book Bloggers ARE taking part in blog tours because they genuinely love books (and even love the book they are promoting), they ARE also still part of the bigger process of content marketing … But only in the sense that EVERYONE online does overtly or covertly, if they want people to take action of any kind (whether that’s clicking on a link, buying a book, sharing book/film/TV love or something else).

Real Readers??

So, as mentioned: calling a book blogger ‘not a real reader’ is a totally unfair misnomer. However, during the course of my research, I believe I may have isolated some of the thoughts/reasons from those blogger bashers on why we have arrived here and what we may want to do about it:

1) Book Bloggers seem to LOVE all the books they read??

Now, if you *are* a book blogger, you know that generally speaking, book bloggers prioritise book LOVE, so they invariably withdraw from tours when they don’t like the book. But for the uninitiated, they might think Book Bloggers are simply saying they love ‘everything’ (and may not even be reading said book).

Now, of course the above isn’t true, but maybe Book Bloggers (including me!) should be wondering how to correct this assumption in non-book bloggers through other user engagement on social media? Some would say yes. Personally, I think life is too short for this (see below).

POTENTIAL SOLUTION: If non-bloggers don’t believe Book Bloggers regarding their ‘book love’, I believe that’s personally their issue, not ours. I would recommend Book Bloggers leave hostile groups, since there are loads of great Facebook groups out there with good engagement who are not hostile. As book bloggers I think we sometimes worry too much about individual groups and other online spaces … In all my years social media marketing my own sites, I can tell you that I have NEVER ‘suffered’ in reach from not being part of a particular group. Being Facebook, always plenty more where they came from!

2) Facebook & Twitter Jail

Cross-posting is when a blogger, brand, individual etc posts their link in multiple Facebook groups and pages. This is a good practice and Facebook ensures people don’t get the multiple notifications as standard they used to (so if they’re members of the same groups where the same link is posted, notifications will be reduced).

On this basis then, it’s actually pretty difficult to get flung in ‘Facebook Jail’ from cross-posting alone, so this likely means:

a) the Blogger has been cross-posting waaaaaay too much (i.e.. 20+ groups seems to be the cut-off point I’ve noticed, with about 10 groups maximum ‘the sweet spot’ for engagement) OR

b)other user(s) have decided said Blogger is a spammer and flagged them with Facebook. Boo!

Twitter however has not followed suit regarding Facebook and multiple shares. As a result, Book Bloggers will do multiple shares of theirs and their friends’ postings – sometimes as much as 100 links a day – which ends up flagging the user as a spammer automatically. This Blogger will then end up in ‘Twitter Jail’.

POTENTIAL SOLUTION: Perhaps Bloggers should be cross posting LESS on Facebook (10 groups/pages maximum in one go), with different pictures and headings wherever possible … and sharing links on Twitter 5-10 times a day with links maximum, especially when clickthru there is much lesser anyway? This would avoid any Facebook or Twitter jail-time, plus we wouldn’t get flagged by any malicious users. If bloggers love to post on Twitter, I recommend pictures over links, especially of books, which Twitter users seem to love. Also cross-posting from instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr also works well.

3) Non-Book Bloggers don’t tend to CLICK on links on social media

These are the facts: in 2017, clickthru from social media (especially Twitter) is riiiiiiiight down. In fact, even though you might get loads of retweets and multiple shares, your content links STILL might not get clicked on!

It would seem that people prefer to use social media for ‘brand awareness’ at the moment, rather than follow a link – and sadly, this includes book reviews too.This has lead to some non-bloggers complaining some groups and TLs *feel* as they’re ‘filled up’ with ‘samey’ content, because they’re looking for interaction ON social media itself, rather than an ‘outside’ site.

Whilst book bloggers are quite right when they suggest simply skimming over posts that are not of interest, those same non-blogging users will report they LIKE to see reviews on Amazon on Goodreads (and read them there, instead). So could the be a question of being in the ‘wrong’ place?

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: If this is the case, maybe us Bloggers should be thinking about engaging non-Book Bloggers in the ways they prefer FIRST – by prioritising content links and book discussions on social media … Then sending reviews over to Amazon/Goodreads instead?

Alternatively, perhaps it’s about changing the presentation of reviews on social media, so they have different graphics, headlines and introductions? This would mean reviews – even for the same book – would not look ‘the same’ to skimmers on social media. We wouldn’t have to check with each other either, we’d just use our own visual branding (photos, graphics or both), so it would be inevitably different. Check out my own visual branding in *this* post (or the rest of my site) to see what I mean. Again, pictures without links, plus cross-posting between platforms (like instagram to Facebook pages and/or Twitter and so on) should satisfy the Twitter junkies amongst us and help us avoid jail too!

4) Non-Book Bloggers really LIKE content & graphics on social media 

Despite being a book blogger myself, I don’t actually carry reviews on my actual blog. Instead, I post my thoughts to Goodreads and Amazon. On my blog, I write about stuff like reading recommendations (note: not reviews), crime writer Q&As, reading round-ups (fave genres etc) and other stuff to do with the subject of reading generally.

I don’t think it’s any accident I don’t tend to get told to put my stuff in the blogger threads in FB groups. My blog is ‘differentiated’ enough from the usual blog tours to not get counted as such and it more often than not flies under admins’ radar, even in the strictest groups. It’s not foolproof – and occasionally someone will call me a spammer regardless – but I do seem to ‘get away’ with my posts generally on a daily basis, plus I’ve never been to Twitter Jail.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: Whilst reviews are crucial to authors, content posts and graphics seem to be more popular, thus more likely to engage to potential readers to buy the book via social media. Perhaps reviews and content need more segregation in the outreach online … ie. prioritising content on social media, with reviews going up on Amazon and Goodreads instead?

Concluding

So, I believe that it’s not that book reviews are a problem, or that book blogging is a dying art, or even that blog tours are pointless. It’s simply about figuring out how to ENGAGE users on social media, in the way they seem to prefer, to tempt them to click on our links.

Based on my own experiments, this appears to be (at the moment!):

  • Prioritising links to content on social media (Q&As, round ups, etc)
  • Photos/graphics (especially of book covers)
  • Thinking about repositioning ‘reading recommendations’ over reviews
  • Cross-posting between platforms (ie. instagram to Twitter; Facebook to Twitter, etc)
  • Or having reviews, but with various different intros, pics, graphics etc
  • Other stuff like quotes from authors / books
  • Cross-posting to fewer groups and pages *within* Facebook
  • Questions for readers (especially with accompanying pictures)
  • Opinion Polls/ Quizzes

As it currently stands in the blogger-bashing climate, I want to stress: this post is not saying you can’t post your reviews on social media! But rather, think about how you’re going to TEMPT people to CLICK, especially on Facebook. With Twitter, you may want to prioritise pictures over links, like instagram.

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

You need to TEMPT people to click on your links on social media. You need some kind of strategy to do this. Also, think about engaging people between platforms via cross-posting. Want more on this subject? Then check out my blog post on How To Build Your Own Online Platform.

Good luck!

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15 Comments

  1. Abbie

    Great post Lucy with lots of food for thought. It’s so difficult, for me at least, to think of different ways of engaging when life is so busy but this is something I’m going to mull over next month. I can see why non-book bloggers get sick of seeing posts for the same books over and over again and I guess it’s down to us to add further interest and draw people in. Thanks for this post, it’s very useful!

  2. Jen

    Spot on and makes perfect sense. Given me a few ideas on how to approach social media, especially Twitter. I never really liked sharing on FB groups and only handle a few I know welcome all folk. Twitter is a mine field but only visible in short bursts so really does need a different approach.

    Although, tbf, my blog is for me and I don’t care about hits, traffic etc. That matters to authors for publicity purposes, especially if doing a tour, but I genuinely don’t care if the author is the k key person to read my review as I write it for them. The blog is just like keeping them all in one big online journal.

  3. Rose Alexander

    Really interesting. I personally would like a scrapping of star ratings. They are utterly meaningless and encourage a kind of tit for tat mentality – why are we obsessed in this world with ranking everything? I much prefer to read an intelligent and thoughtful review and then make my own mind up about whether I will buy and read a book – I don’t need a star rating to do it. I think it’s demeaning.

  4. carol hedges

    I love book bloggers ..esp when they chat about my books….and I have read some great stuff as a result of following aome of them. Book bloggers also tend to review Indie/self-published writers, who NEVER get reviewed in mainstream, as it is a closed shop. So thanks all of you!

  5. Andy Lawrence

    Book bloggers are not marketers. Blogging is a form of citizen journalism. Reasons why people post content are many and varied. Have yet to meet one person who wakes up and decides to set up a page in order to help a publishing house shift copies of their latest text.

    Blog tours are a fundamentally corrupt practice. It’s the reviewing communities equivalent of payola and fake news. It represents an attempt to restrict and regulate reviews. Ethically unsound activity. Blog tour organisers are making a comfortable living exploiting the work of those who review. A bloggers duty is to provide honest commentary and they should feel free to do so without fear of bullying

    1. Lucy Hay

      You know journalism is a form of content marketing, right? You want people to take action as a result of your content, you’re a content marketer. As for blog tours being ‘ethically unsound’, perhaps you feel the same way about NetGalley and Arcs generally … Blimey. You better delete your own blog, STAT.

  6. Sue

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with you on the ‘love’ issue. I review books on my blog, some I like and some I don’t – but I still post the review. I suggest the solution is to offer balanced reviews on books and accept that not everyone likes everything. Bloggers should feel free to review all the books that they read, to share their positive and negative thoughts and not be part of a marketing programme for which they’re not being given any credit.

    1. Lucy Hay

      By the same token, if we’re to accept not everyone likes everything, then others need to accept others’ reasoning re: prioritising book love. Also, who says book bloggers get ‘no’ credit? I’ve lost count of the number of times i have seen bloggers thanked and credited by auuthors and publishers alike, especially on social media but also in book acknowledgements.

      1. Sue

        I meant credit in both terms of thanks as well as finance. I know that often the publicists press people for blog posts then don’t go to the trouble of saying thank you or RTing etc but also as you say there is no financial credit. Publicists use blogs / bloggers as part of their marketing plan for which they have a budget. I’ve been asked to post content which would be given to me direct from a publisher with no need for me to read a book – that’s just plain advertising, using my blog as their platform. Different publishers take different approaches – some good and some not so good.

        1. Lucy Hay

          You’re conflating a lot of issues here. Payment means the review is literally bought; these are not allowed by Amazon, plus real book bloggers – of which I am one, rmbr – read books theyre genuinely interested in for the love of it, not for payment. Also the ‘advertising’ you mention can include content (Q&As, giveaways etc) too – hence the term ‘content marketing’. But the solution is very simple – don’t take part in blog tours if you don’t like them

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