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'Drop and Run': the Ancient Myth of Marketing


If there was one idea which I could get rid of in the minds of writers trying to market their work on social media, it would probably be the notion that dropping a link on a massive number of sites and then moving on is the right thing to do.

I call it ‘drop and run’. It’s based on an ancient idea that probably stems from when human beings first learned about agriculture: the idea that you scatter volumes of seeds around and only some of them grow into a crop of wheat or whatever it is you’re trying to grow, while many fall by the wayside and end up being barren for one reason or another - eaten by birds, choked by thorns, parched from lack of water, and so on. One of the sources of this is the Bible segment that goes something like this:

Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

(Mark 4; 1 - 9)

You get the picture. You drop enough seeds and move on, and those seeds which fall on ‘good ground’ yield a harvest. It’s such an ingrained (apologies for the pun) concept for good reasons, because of course it applies in many areas of our lives. And so we take it into the field of social media marketing, believing that our main task is to hit as many websites and forums and groups and pages and comments threads as we possibly can, blitzing them with our links, in the desperate hope that some will fall on ‘good ground’.

What makes this worse is that a tiny amount of our spam does indeed fall on good ground, and we get a few sales. That only encourages us to triple our efforts, drop and run, drop and run, drop and run, in the hope of magnifying that result.

But there’s another, much more fruitful and far more efficient method of achieving results with social media. It boils down to one alliterative line:

Find the fertile fields first.

If you can find the places where your particular seed is going to flourish, it takes far less effort on your part to get some kind of positive response. Forget about the ‘fowls of the air’, or the ‘stony ground’: focus on the areas where you know your work will be well received. This might be a tiny area if your work is fairly eclectic in nature. If you write stories involving young train-spotter detectives in India, your readership is probably going to be quite small compared to the market size for someone writing a traditional crime thriller. Instead of spamming every site you can find with your train-spotter detective novel for children, zoom in on those places where the fans of such a thing might lurk: perhaps there’s even a Facebook group or two based on young trainspotting, who knows? Or detective stories involving railways? Or Indian detective tales for children? You won’t know until you look - and what’s more pertinent, perhaps, is that you almost certainly won’t sell unless you find something along those lines (again, apologies for the pun).

‘Drop and run’ is exhausting; ‘drop and run’ is inefficient; ‘drop and run’ is outmoded. Back in the days when humanity knew almost nothing about agriculture, casting seeds into the air in the hope that they landed somewhere fertile was fair enough - some would bear fruit. But as more and more was understood about agriculture, it became more and more possible to determine a result rather than just hope for one. And that’s now the case with social media marketing. Don’t throw your seeds away, day after day - apart from anything else, it consumes time you’d rather spend writing, I bet. Seek out the rich soil and plant carefully.

This approach still requires some patience. All seeds take time to turn into fully-bloomed plants. But you can have some assurance that your efforts will be rewarded when you don’t waste time and energy spamming and instead look after each seedling until it yields what you desire.

For more, see my book on marketing for writers, here.

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