In PART I of our social media guide, we looked at some ways you can lay the foundation for your online author platform. Even if you’ve only just begun gearing up your social media accounts, you may already have accumulated some followers, likes, and comments.
Now comes the fun part: increasing your reach and engagement. Keeping in mind that social media is a marketing tool and delightful distraction—not simply a vehicle to make sales—you’re ready to start exploring different approaches to finding new followers, promoting your writing, and making sure that your pages and profiles draw the right readers.
1. Check out your favorite authors.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—so go see what works for other authors! Take a look at some of your favorite authors’ social media pages, especially the ones who are highly active. What are they talking about? What posts get the most likes and comments? Who are they chatting with and what are they commenting on? This is a great way to see how other people are using social media, and to adjust your strategy if necessary. Just remember that much of your social media success will come from a combination of factors that all work for you, and not necessarily for someone else.
2. Give more than you take.
Many people and businesses use social media as a tool to achieve a purpose—this is no secret. But an agenda is rarely attractive. You look a little too self-interested if the focus of all your posts and comments is yourself. So make an effort to support other users thoughtfully and without a purpose other than giving advice, buying other authors’ books, and interacting naturally. (Remember, social media is about community.) Try to avoid seeing every comment or post as a potential sales opportunity.
3. Crowdsource when you’re stuck.
Need help with a chapter title or a character name? Can’t decide between two plot twists? These are great opportunities to take to social media and ask for help. Create a voting option, and consider offering a copy of your book to the winner. (Or offer to purchase theirs if it’s $10 or less!) One of the great things about social media is that you have access to a large network of people, many of whom are excited to interact and share their own ideas and experiences. If you're facing a problem or obstacle, people are happy to help out wherever they can.
4. Tie your book to current events and trends.
Keep an eye on what topics are trending on social media and what is happening in the news. If it’s something that’s closely related (far more often for nonfiction authors), these are moments you can highlight and discuss your work, creating opportunities for promotion. If your book is already published and for sale (or there is a pre-sale), remember to include a link to the bookseller. Remember that while this kind of attention might result in book sales, it’s more likely to win you media exposure or an interview, which can increase your profile visibility.
5. Use hashtags thoughtfully.
For some social media pages, using too many hashtags (which help identify your post as belonging to a specific topic) can actually be a bad thing. Try to keep your hashtags related to the conversation and the people you want to reach (think #amwriting or #writingcommunity on Twitter). A good rule of thumb is to treat them like adjectives and adverbs: use them effectively when they’re needed, and never, ever go overboard.
6. Use social media as part of Your Bigger Marketing Strategy.
One of the most effective ways to use social media is as part of a wheel of promotion that includes your website or blog, your newsletter, and a bookseller page. Your social media profile pages should direct followers to your website or blog, as well as your books (should you have any for sale). In turn, your website/blog and newsletter should also drive readers to your social media pages. If you write blogs or articles for other sites or get a mention in someone's article or review, you can use your social media to share links to them as well as your other accomplishments.
7. Don’t be afraid to use images.
Rather than relying on impersonal emojis, gifs, and memes, many authors take to Instagram to show interesting promotional images of their book (merchandised up with props), photos of themselves writing (or the current state of their desk), and even posts of other people reading their book(s). Videos, live streaming, promotional images, pull quotes of your work—all these can be used to create a more visually based presence.
8. Get involved in publishing and book-related conversations and events.
Whether you're up-voting, sharing, retweeting, or commenting, don’t shy away from interacting with other authors and promoting their local book events. Highlighting book birthdays, speaking engagments, book events and fairs, library happenings, and even silly “This day in history” book trivia gems are all fun ways to engage with other members of the writing community. And don't forget to engage bookstores, publishers, editors, and other book professionals; they always love to feel extra support—and they’re usually happy to reciprocate when they can. Industry friends (even virtual ones) can be good news for you, your book, and your followers.
9. Take a break when you need it.
Maintaining even one social media account can be hugely time-consuming if you’re not careful. After all, they’re designed to continually call you back and keep you hooked on the comments, likes, new followers, and all the other gorgeous chaos. They can also be an incredibly effective tool if you dabble in procrastination. Make sure you monitor how much you’re using your accounts. You may find yourself becoming stressed out, frustrated, and even unhappy when things aren’t going well—or when you run into a troll or two. Don’t be afraid to take a break and unplug for a few days. (You have writing to do, after all.)
10. Don’t forget to HAVE FUN.
Lots of authors are reluctant to use social media, and if it becomes too much of a chore, you’ll resent it. When you resent it, that will come through in your communication. While it’s easy enough for us to say, “Hey, it’s cool, just go in with zero expectations,” the truth is that using social media doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It takes time and patience. And much like writing, your enjoyment of these platforms will come through in the way you interact—and your followers will respond accordingly. By monitoring and protecting how you use your social media platforms—and how often—you should be able to prevent your online activity from becoming a daily nuisance. More important, it will allow you to enjoy a sense of community, as well as support other authors and writers.
Social media gives back the most when you expect the least from it.So sit back with a mug of your favorite caffeine, keep a few funny gifs handy, and let yourself enjoy this fascinating and sometimes ridiculously addictive journey.