We humans are creatures of habit. We eat at restaurants that are familiar to us. We go to entertainment facilities we are most aware of. We associate with people we know.
Seriously, when was the last time you walked up to a total stranger and said, "Hey, let's hang out!"
Let's face it--we don't. Our first interactions with someone new are hesitant. Guarded. It's only after a period of sharing 'safe' data, i.e. general things like weather, recent sporting events, community news, do we make a decision to stretch into more personal information and start building a relationship with that person.
What does this have to do with book marketing?
Well, there's a large number of marketing research reports, some commissioned by Fortune 500 companies, that claim social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter do not provide any measurable return in the form of customers. I've seen a great many writers cling to these reports and claim that social networking is a total waste of time.
Now, these writers are correct if all you're doing is shouting, "Buy my book!" This is where the familiarity comes into the contempt equation. These writers have forgotten the basic rules of human interaction--general to specific.
What social networking and other forms of communication can do is provide the writer with name recognition. This is why those same Fortune 500 companies that say social networking sites have no measurable correlation to sales still have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. The more you repeat something, the more likely it is to stick in a person's head.
I believe it was the Wharton School of Business that said a person needs to see/hear a message seven times before it registers in a human brain. This is why any publicity is considered good publicity. You the Writer want your name to stick in someone's brain.
A couple of friends hit the NYT Bestsellers List in the last month, which is why the topic came up for me lately. I was on the phone with one of them, discussing the rash of interview requests she'd received. She questioned whether it was worth her time doing the interviews rather than working on her next book.
Please remember, this was not her ego talking. Her health is a precarious balancing act. Does she use her precious minutes on the computer writing or dealing with reporters?
I told her to select a few and do the interview. When she asked why, I said, "Name recognition." A few articles about her will sink her name into folks who haven't read her before.
As a writer's name is repeated, whteher through social interactions or new reports, she becomes "familiar" to the public. Folks are more likely to try her product (i.e. her book) because of that familiarity. Trust in a certain level of quality engenders the likelihood of repeated buying.
I look at it this way--if this method has worked for McDonald's for the last fifty years, why can't it work for us writers?