Don’t Chase Follower Counts, Says Author Ashwin Sanghi

An interview with bestselling author Ashwin Sanghi where he shares about the benefits of using social media

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Ashwin Sanghi, the bestselling author of historical thrillers Rozabal Line and Chanakya’s Chant with a third one coming up – The Krishna Key, shares with us the merits of social media and how it has been handy for him as an author.

After self-publishing The Rozabal Line and then promoting Chanakya’s Chant on social media, Ashwin Sanghi seems to have cracked the code for social media success even as his third thriller ‘The Krishna Key’ is awaiting to hit bookstores soon. Here’s a video trailer of The Krishna Key:

Early last year in an interview with Lighthouse Insights, Ashwin had shared his initial experiences with social media and how experimenting with it on a continuous basis, led to some useful insights and learnings for him. To quote a simple but rather misinterpreted one, when talking about the effectiveness of social media, he had stated that  social media only works if you are willing to embrace it entirely and not use it simply like a megaphone from which you routinely shout out your promotional messages.

Indeed Ashwin has managed to build a robust community on most of the popular social networks. On Facebook alone, there are 444K fans and on Twitter, it’s a massive 1,21,040 followers to be precise. He could have banked on this community and gone the self-publishing route with ‘The Krishna Key’ instead of going to his regular publishers. But online success might not translate into offline sales, at least for the time being.

“It will be a very long time before any author in India can expect to be a self-published bestseller. Even initially self-published authors such as Amish Tripathi and myself eventually had to go to traditional publishers to achieve volumes.”

In the West, one has high penetration levels of eReaders such as the Kindle, Nook, iPad and the like. This is certainly not the case in India till date. The biggest sale volumes still come from paperbacks sold at low prices by brick-and-mortar stores. These stores never buy self-published works, only material from established distributors. Most distributors are reluctant to source material from anyone other than traditional publishers.

[pullquote id = “lhipull’ class=”center_lhi”]Self-publishing success can only happen when eBooks become the main form of literary consumption in India.[/pullquote]

Although Ashwin has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Slideshare, Pinterest and Google+, he is only active on the first three. He is of the opinion that having a mere presence on several social networks is of very little relevance, what is important is to be actively engaging on a few of them. Ashwin cites several benefits for creative people –

“First, it allows one to communicate with one’s friends and followers in a relaxed and casual way. Second, it helps one examine and absorb ideas and views that are being shared by people interested in similar topics.  Third, it helps one market one’s work via informal word of mouth rather than expensive advertising.”

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With such an extensive social media presence, purely focusing towards engaging with the community, I was certain there is a team behind this. But I was absolutely taken aback when I learnt he has no team. Ashwin is a one-man army, except for a consultant to help with graphics, HTML and coding.

“My interactions—including posted content—on social media are entirely and exclusively by me. I do not foresee this changing in the future either.”

When most of us are in a dilemma whether to outsource our social media or not, here’s a clear warning from the author on the problems of delegation. Ashwin believes that it is impossible to control the tone, tenor and content of interactions when one delegates.

“Instead of becoming an asset, social media can turn into a nightmarish liability…a platform where one starts putting off people instead of building up a fan following.”

Besides active engagement, one needs to also monitor and measure her social media activities. Ashwin regularly tracks his with Klout, PeerIndex and Kred. However, these should not be chased for ‘scores’, he warns. Instead they should be used as a means to stay involved and monitors one’s engagement level.

“I see too many people actively “chasing” scores. That seems to defeat the very purpose of such tools. “

For an author, who learned about social media merely with experimentation and dedication, Ashwin has come a long way in discovering the power of social media. He may not claim to be the much sought social media guru but these words of wisdom surely come from someone much wiser.

Don’t chase follower counts but also do not box yourself into a niche. Social media is about making new friends and relationships, not about creating an exclusive club.

Be accessible but not overly so. Social media cannot be allowed to take over your life. There are people who send me material to read and expect that I will read it and get back to them almost immediately! One has to differentiate between being accessible and being foolish.

Use every opportunity for interaction. I see many Facebook pages where page owners do not reply to comments. I wonder why? It’s ridiculous to invest time and money in creating and marketing a Facebook page only to ignore comments of participants.

Find a formula that works for you personally. If you are a voracious reader like me, you might find it more interesting to share stuff that you have been reading online, like a curator. There are others who like to actively participate in discussions and conversations. There is no right or wrong formula—the formula is that there is no formula!”

Indeed, there is no formula! We are thankful to Ashwin for having spilled all the beans to achieve social media success, without charging us a rupee!