When you were a kid at the amusement park, did you want to ride the roller coaster with no line or the one with the line zig-zagged five rows deep?
As an adult, do you want to vote for the third-party candidate who lines up with your values, or the candidate who has the best chance to win?
People want to do what they see other people doing. The technical term used in marketing psychology for this phenomenon is “Social Proof.”
Since customers are unlikely to choose an empty restaurant they have never been to before, some restaurants hire temporary employees to eat there during the opening weeks to generate interest.
“Wow! That place is crowded! It must be good.”
Which is not that different from: “Wow, that book has 10,000 reviews. It must be good!”
Customers want social proof.
We’ve explored the social triggers of Urgency (Episode 223) and Scarcity & Ubiquity (Episode 225). The better you understand what motivates readers, the better you can motivate them to read your book. This is the heart of marketing. Please use it for good.
Why do I need social proof?
Social proof creates a cycle.
To loosely paraphrase a parable of Jesus, “To him who has reviews, more will be given. But to him who does not have reviews, what few reviews he does have will be taken away by Amazon’s algorithm.”
Social proof is why you see metallic stickers touting, “USA Today Bestselling Author.” People are more likely to buy a book if they know other people are buying it too.
But you don’t need to be a USA Today bestselling author to use social proof.
Before we talk about how to demonstrate social proof, let’s talk about how to gain a following in the first place.
The key to social proof is to have a social following worth following.
How do I gain a following?
Here are four general tips on how to generate a following and become more popular.
Tip #1 Focus
Pick one area to demonstrate lots of popularity rather than dabbling in lots of places. Dig one deep well rather than two shallow wells. If you have multiple genres, cut all but the most popular and focus on more books in that genre.
You also want to focus your writing and marketing on the individual. Find a real-life human in your target demographic and then focus on thrilling that specific person. Then grow the number of real humans in that representative sample. Ideally, you want to make these people your beta readers.
On my Novel Marketing podcast, I focus on my patrons, and more specifically, the people in my mastermind groups. Most of the new episodes I’m creating come from questions asked by people from the Facebook group, Patreon page, or premium mastermind groups.
The result of focusing on fewer people is that the content has improved, and the podcast has become more popular. Let me say that again. By focusing on fewer people, more people listen.
The same holds true for books.
Crowds are gatherings of individuals. To grow a crowd, thrill the individual.
Tip #2 Undershare on Social Media
On social media, celebrities often leave people wanting to hear more about their personal lives. Once fans have all their questions answered about the people they are following, they stop feeling interested, and they move on. This is the secret that the English Royal family uses to stay on the throne despite having no real power.
Give people just enough information about yourself to keep them interested. Oversharing on social media is the path to obscurity.
Tip #3 Get Good
This is a catchphrase from the video game community. It is a response often given to someone complaining about a video game being too hard.
“The game Dark Souls is too hard.”
“No, you just need to get good.”
Authors need to get good at writing and get good at marketing.
For novelists going through our Five Year Plan, we spend the first two years focused on the craft of writing. Many authors are only a dozen craft books away from success.
Tip #4 Partner with a Celebrity
Teaming up with a celebrity is the fastest way to garner social proof. You get to skip the platform building process and borrow the work someone else has already done.
Seth Godin’s first book was Guerrilla Marketing for the Home Based Business which he wrote with then-famous author Jay Conrad Levinson. Seth Godin is now one of the biggest names in marketing.
Jerry Jenkins wrote dozens of books in obscurity. It wasn’t until he teamed up with celebrity pastor Tim LaHaye that he had the epic hit Left Behind that sold over 80,000,000 books. That is around a billion dollars in book sales.
The key to partnering with a celebrity is to be willing to do most of the work yourself. You will do the writing, and the celebrity will work to generate social proof. Jay Conrad Levinson and Tim LaHaye did very little writing for the books bearing their names. Their contribution to the project was the work they had already done to become famous.
There are many more ways to get famous!
There are many ways to grow your following, and we talk about it at Novel Marketing all the time! So, listen to the Novel Marketing Podcast, read our blog, and continue to read books on craft. Focus on improvement.
Once you’ve got some traction growing a following, you can begin to demonstrate social proof.
How do I demonstrate social proof?
Chances are you are more popular than you realize. The key is to put your best foot forward and lead with your most compelling proof.
Method #1 Best Seller Badge
The most powerful form of social proof is to have bestseller status bestowed upon you by a major newspaper. When USA Today attaches their publication’s name to your status as an author, it is powerful. Because large groups of people trust those major newspapers, it lends third-party validation to you.
Readers don’t have to trust you. They just need to trust USA Today.
While it’s great to hit bestseller status, not all lists are equally valuable. The following lists are ranked from most to least valuable.
- International Bestseller
- #1 New York Times Bestseller
- New York Times Bestseller
- USA Today Bestseller
- Wall Street Journal Bestseller
- Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (or other trade association) Bestseller
- Amazon Bestseller (only valuable when Amazon says it.)
The New York Times is losing influence among some readers due to snubbing Jordan Peterson, pro-life books, and indie authors. These are books with enough sales to earn a spot on the list, but they have been specifically excluded by the New York Time’s curation committee whose protocol for curation is somewhat undefined.
Depending on the political preferences of your readers, it may be wiser to mention your USA Today or Wall Street Journal bestseller status since they are perceived to be more politically neutral than the New York Times.
How do I hit the bestseller list?
Most bestseller lists are published weekly, so your best shot at landing on a bestseller list is to concentrate your marketing efforts and push sales during one particular week.
While 10,000 books sales each week for two weeks won’t likely land you on the New York Times list, 20,000 sales in one week might. Sales numbers are the same, but sales that occur within a concentrated period will be more likely to secure your spot on the list.
The best strategy to hit a bestseller list is to have a strong launch. You want your readers motivated and ready to buy your book as soon as it releases.
After your strong launch, you can use the social proof from the launch to attract new readers. Nearly every traditionally published book employs this strategy hoping to land on a bestseller list.
To help you facilitate a strong book launch, we’ve recorded several podcast episodes that will point you in the direction of bestseller status.
- 150 – A Blueprint on How to Launch Your Book
- 174 – How to Create a Written Book Launch Plan
- Bonus Book Launch Q&A
Method #2 Feature Celebrity Endorsements
When it comes to social proof, not everyone is equal. People are more influenced by people they like than by strangers.
Jerry Seinfeld is influential even if he’s selling toothpaste because people like Jerry Seinfeld. The fact that he has no dental education doesn’t matter. If Seinfeld likes Crest toothpaste, and I like Seinfeld, then I am more likely to like Crest too.
The mystery and the magic of social proof is that people imitate celebrities they like, whether it’s logical or not.
Books often feature blurbs from other well-known authors or notable people. But the blurbs only work if the potential reader already knows who the endorser is.
There is one exception to this rule. If the endorser has earned a title or won an award people are familiar with, their endorsement is valuable even if their name is unknown.
For example, if a Nobel Prize winner in economics endorses your business book, that endorsement is valuable even if no one has heard of the winner. Because even though don’t know the name, they do know of the prestigious Nobel Prize.
Think outside the box. Consider approaching your congressperson for an endorsement. It takes very little political involvement to be on a first-name basis with your local politicians.
Endorsements are all about a human connection with the endorser, and relationship are built through networking.
We’ve talked about how to network in the following episodes:
- 007 – The Secret to Getting People to Love You
- 063 – Six Proven Methods for Creating Maximum Impact at Writing Conferences
- 127 – How to Connect with Anyone in the World
Method #3 Ask for Reviews
It’s a shock to most authors to learn that the number of reviews is more important than the number of stars. This is not to say the number of stars doesn’t matter, but the more reviews a book has, the more popular it appears.
So how do you get reviews? You ask!
Quick Tips for Getting More Reviews:
- Create a launch team of people who will buy and review your book on release day.
- In the back matter of your book (Episode 182), include a letter to readers asking them to review it.
- Indie authors can free pulse their book (Episode 108) to get lots of people reading and reviewing it.
- Ask people individually. Respond to fan mail by asking the reader to cut and paste the kind words in their email as a review.
- Be controversial. Books with a controversial angle will get more reviews than a tepid book.
- Email your subscribers to request reviews.
- Mention negative reviews on social media.
- Guilt trip your fans.
You must ask for reviews often. This podcast has hundreds of thousands of downloads and only around one hundred reviews. Authors who know the value of a review still don’t review the podcast despite listening to dozens of hours of free help.
To leave a review, go to RateThisPodcast.com/novelmarketing.
See what I did there? 🙂
Method #4 Mention Other Books You’ve Sold
There are several ways to mention your previous books to demonstrate social proof.
Your Bestselling Book
You can include your bestselling book in your author or speaker bio rather than your most recent book. For example, “Sally, author of the bestselling Book One, has recently released Book Two.”
Number of Books Sold
You can highlight the total number of copies sold. This is a common strategy used by genre indies like Chris Fox. He often mentions that he’s sold more than 250,000 books.
Number of Books Written
You can also mention the total number of books you’ve written. “John Doe, author of 20 books, releases his next epic thriller.”
Method #5 Feature Awards You’ve Won
Readers don’t generally care about awards, but awards still offer social proof. It’s better to mention them than to have no social proof at all. In episode 66, we talk about when and how to enter contests.
I also encourage you to listen to episode 146 – How to Spot a Publishing Scam since many of the writing contests out there are fraudulent.
Method #6 Feature Credibility Numbers
The problem with big numbers is that people can’t quickly comprehend them. Thousand, million, billion all have the same eye-watering effect on most people.
See for yourself.
What’s the difference between a million, a billion and a trillion seconds?
- 1 million seconds is roughly 11 days.
- 1 billion seconds is roughly 32 years.
- 1 trillion seconds roughly 31,710 years.
Big numbers aren’t your only option. Smaller numbers can still help you demonstrate social proof.
Think outside the box:
- How many languages has it been translated into?
- How many books have you published?
- How many copies are in print?
- How many copies sold in a certain year or country?
- How many people do you speak to annually? “Tom speaks to over 100,000 high school students each year.”
Method #7 Feature Your “EST”
Commonly known amongst writers as “superlatives,” these “est” words help distinguish you from others. I demonstrate social proof for Novel Marketing by saying we are the longest-running book marketing podcast in the world.
When we switched to that intro, people started paying more attention, and our listenership has grown.
Consider which of the following “est” words would best describe your book or career.
- More Superlatives
How do you demonstrate social proof?
Leave a comment in the Novel Marketing Facebook Group. It is the nicest, friendliest, safest author Facebook group around.
Persuasion is one of the most important things we do as authors. Not only is persuasion part of the selling process for fiction, but it is also the heart of good nonfiction writing.
Yet, persuasion is hard to implement and easy to botch. In this video course, I break down the science of how to help your readers to change their minds for good. This is one of my most popular and enduring classes.
This course is ideal for:
- Bloggers wanting to make a difference in the world.
- Nonfiction writers wanting to change minds.
- Authors who want to persuade readers to buy their book.
This course sells for $49, but through the end of February, patrons of the podcast get it for free.
In the frozen north, children link hands in a ritual circle and sing a song they never learned to summon a primordial enemy they never knew existed. Frosty is just a fairytale, they say. They are wrong.
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