Rule #1: You Must Have a Call To Action
As a writer, whether you recognize it or not, you have certain actions you want your potential readers to take when they engage with you on social media. For example: follow your blog, follow you on twitter, friend you on Facebook, add your book to Goodreads, buy your book, enter a contest, leave a comment, etc. In the marketing world, asking a consumer to take a certain action via digital media is called a Call To Action, or CTA.
When you get to the stage in your career where you are marketing your book, every digital engagement opportunity you have with potential readers should have an easy to follow call to action.
I don't mean that everything you do in the social media space should have a "buy my book" message. I just mean that you need to make it as easy as possible for potential readers to engage with you further should they have that desire. That can be as simple as including a link to follow you on twitter or join your blog, or adding a link so they can add your book to their Goodreads "to-read" shelf. Never assume that potential readers will take the next step on their own.
This is true even if you aren't yet selling a book. If you want people to engage with you, you have to give them a clear and compelling way to do so.
Here's an example. Have you ever been on a blog and decided you wanted to receive future posts (either via email or by following the blog), only to find that there was no visible sign-up button? This has happened to me on multiple occasions, and I'm sorry to say that I ultimately left the blog and didn't come back. Not only did the blogger miss getting a new follower, but they missed having repeat opportunities to engage with me via future posts. This can easily be remedied by having a clear and easy to find CTA button on the page.
Rule #2: Make It Easy
This gets me to the second part of the CTA equation: it has to be as easy for the potential reader to engage with you as possible. The more clicks or steps you add to a desired action, the more likely you are to lose that person's interest.
To use the blog example, I could have written down the URL for the blog I wanted to follow, or even emailed the blogger to ask how I could receive regular blog posts. But that's difficult and time consuming. I wanted a one-step button to click so the blog would be added to my regular Blogger listing, because that's how I read blogs. Sure, there are some people who will take that extra step. But most people won't.
Let's use the query forums from last month's WriteOnCon as another example. As you hopefully all know, the best way to get people to comment on your query is to comment on their queries, so that they in turn will pay it forward.
Some forum posters make it super easy for you to find their query by adding a link in the signature of their comment. After you've read their comment, all you have to do to pay it forward is click the link and poof - you're reading their query.
Here's an example of the signature I used during WriteOn to get people to comment on my first 250 words (the "First 250 ~ First 5 Pages" lines are active hyperlinks that jump to my post):
I received return comments from ~80% of the posts I commented on, and the high return rate has everything to do with the fact that I made it super easy for them to find my info. Otherwise, they would have had to search through the hundreds of other forum posts to find my post. Who has time for that?
Rule #3: Apply Rules #1 & #2 Everywhere You Can
This post was inspired by several recent cover release blog posts I read that did not include a single way to engage with the author. Had they included a link to their Goodreads page, or even twitter, I probably would have engaged further. But they didn't, and I'm sad to say that I didn't take that next step.
Take a look at the places you are posting and marketing yourself. Have you made it easy for potential readers to engage with you? Contact you? Buy your book?
In a perfect world, every potential reader would remember your posts, tweets, pictures, messages, book blurbs, book name, and cover reveal you put out into the world. But the reality is we're busy people with a lot on our plates. Make it easy. Make it simple. You'll have a higher level of engagement with potential readers as a result.