Many articles and blog posts will tell you that having a presence on social media is important. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and (for writers) Goodreads are highlighted as the tools to success for any creative professional. Just published your book? Trying to sell your first painting? Your band released their debut album? Everyone tells you to go straight to social media to find your buyers.
But, that advice is incomplete. What they sometimes forget to tell you is that making an account on one or more of these sites is just the beginning. Next, you need to show people that you are worth their time. Sure, you are an author, so are thousands of other people on Twitter, all promoting their newest novel or short story. What makes you different? Why should other people care?
The key to making them actually want to pay attention is to establish a relationship with your followers. Don't just shamelessly self-promote with every post. Post links to articles that relate to your work, reference other people's blog posts that you find interesting, and make yourself interesting to your target audience.
For example, say you just released a sci-fi novel set in outer space. Browse scientific articles about space debris and share it with your audience. Read and promote a blog post from a fellow writer about how they came up with a new alien race in their work-in-progress. Tweet quotes from well-known Area 51 researchers. Make your page all about your story and your reader will already be itching to know what you have in store for them.
Don't forget to reach out, beyond just posting and moving on. Interact with other people in the field on an active level, having public discussions and asking questions. Take an interest in the individuals within your audience and don't forget to respond to them. If they post a comment on your Facebook Fan Page and you get back to them with an answer, you just built a relationship that will leave a lasting impression. And things like that spread quickly in the the age of digital technology, so soon enough they will have told their friends about the positive encounter and more people will show an interest.
The bottom line is, if you want to succeed on the internet by using social media, you can't just log in, post, and log back out. You have to spend some time making your presence known and getting to know your followers. Put in the effort and it will pay you back.