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How Book Author Rohit Bhargava Uses Social Media

Continuing my series of how book authors use social media successfully, this week, I interview how Rohit Bhargava. Rohit is the author of the book, Personality Not Included. As the tagline suggest, the book is about “Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get it Back.”

The goal of this series is to share best practices in social media and help other aspiring book authors learn to use this medium to increase book sales and exposure of their work. Let’s begin.

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1. What was or is the biggest challenge that you found when you started to use various form of social media as a marketing tool?

I think the biggest challenge is that to use social media well, you really need to invest the time to participate and share your real voice. For example, when I first launched the book – I asked bloggers to send me 5 questions as a virtual interview that they could run on their blogs. I got 55 responses, which meant I had to respond individually to more than 250 questions. The buzz resulting from that one activity was extremely high, but I had to spend quite a bit of time initially to do it well, and additional time to follow up and try to comment on those posts and continue the conversations. When you use social media as a marketing tool, you are making a commitment to start AND CONTINUE a conversation, and that can be challenging.

2. What is your preferred social media-marketing tool?

I am a big believer in not letting the tools define what you do, but rather getting smarter about your strategy for what you want the tools to do. I am alternately using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dopplr, and del.icio.us to promote my book. They each have a role and I find them useful for different things. I can’t really choose one favourite.

3. What was the most unexpected result or surprise that you got when you started using social media applications?

I think the biggest surprise that anyone who starts actively using social media tools will find (and what I found when I first started) is just how accessible people are. I left a comment on John Mackey’s blog (CEO of Whole Foods) and he responded. I was able to get interviews with unreachable people to profile in my book. When Mark Cuban was competing on Dancing with the Stars, I could see his updates about how he was feeling five minutes before air time. That’s a pretty powerful idea. In part, that was why I felt my book was so necessary … because as social media offers more direct access to the individuals in your company (at any level), your personality becomes even more important.

4. What types of SM tools are you currently using? Please list the urls of your profiles for these sites.

www.personalitynotincluded.com – the official site for the book
www.thepersonalityproject.com – The Personality Project (a group blog companion to the book site)
http://www.twitter.com/rohit – my Twitter ID
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7995589118&ref=ts – the official readers group on Facebook
http://del.icio.us/pnibook – my delicious account where I am tagging all the reviews and buzz about the book
http://rohitbhargava.typepad.com – my marketing blog

5. What’s the best advice that you could give to other book authors who want to explore how social media can help them and the promotion of their books?

The best thing social media can offer any author is a way to connect with influential voices who are currently talking about your subject, and letting people share your content and ideas with one another. The first point is about connecting your book with the people that can spread the word to all the right audiences. The second is about letting your readers and people who like the book spread the word about it. I would say that for any author, the trick is to try and focus on both of these pieces.

6. Can you quantify the results from using SM?

For me, the biggest benefit was obviously landing a six figure book deal … but more than that has been the ability to connect with more people and share the authentic story behind my book. I have never accepted advertising on my personal blog, so the results are more about reputation, speaking invitations and big things like the book deal. Putting all of those things together, I would say that starting my blog over three years ago was a best decision of my career.

7. What’s the problem with most blogs by book authors today? Do you think many of them lack a personality?

I wouldn’t say they lack a personality, but I think the temptation for many authors is to think about a book website and blog a bit more logically than they probably need to. My book site, for example, does have a blog and the general book information, but I also have a “Making of PNI” section where I share rejected cover designs, my original book proposal that I used to sell the deal, sketches of drawings that made it into the book and even a photo of me holding my week old baby in one hand while he was sleeping and making final edits on my book on the laptop with the other. All of it is meant to give people an inside look at the book and let them know that it is not faceless (and neither am I). I’m a real person that spent time writing the book and I’m approachable. Ideally, a blog should do that, and combine it with more current commentary that can help to keep your book fresh.

8. Before the PNI Book was ever released, you had a personal blog. How much did that blog help you in the creation of the book itself?

The blog was of great benefit in getting the book deal, as I shared above … but when it came to writing the book, I used surprisingly little of my blog content. Readers of my blog will find that there is only one thing repeated from my blog in the book, and that’s the well trafficked Social Media Optimization post. When it came to writing the book and the flow of it, I found that my blog content didn’t naturally fit and wrote most of the book from scratch.

9. I see you are using WordPress for the PNI website as opposed to Typepad for your personal blog? I recently wrote a primer on why I believe authors should use WP as their web publishing platform of choice so I’m glad to see that you are using it.

I am a fan of both, actually … and I use Typepad for my personal blog. To be honest, the main reason for choosing WordPress was that with the customization I wanted, the designer I was working with was going to have an easier time getting WordPress to work. I think that’s the main advantage that most developers and creators of sites and blogs are finding with WordPress – its flexibility.

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