When you’re building your social media strategy, it’s a bad idea to focus on self-promotion. That’s not why readers — and people in general — use social media. They do it for connection, not for commerce. When it comes to social media, you need to be authentic.
Many modern authors view social media as something of a necessary evil or a distraction that takes time away from their art but that they nevertheless have to engage in and pretend to care about.
But, when done well, social media is much more than a distraction: it’s a means of connecting with fans and readers.
Yes, your author Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts can serve as a window into who you are as an author. But your presence on social media can cultivate a community with your readers, and those fans who have that kind of access — who feel as if they know you as a person — are more likely to buy and recommend your book.
Not only that, but social media accounts serve as vehicles for getting noticed by bloggers, journalists, and other content producers, all of whom are looking for interesting people to interview and feature.
Simply put, creating a presence on social media might just be the thing that helps you break through — to help your name and your ideas gain the sort of attention that propels books up the bestseller charts.
Social media absolutely needs to be a component of your outreach strategy and marketing platform — but there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage, and if you’re like me, penning witty tweets or otherwise sustaining an interesting personality on social media isn’t exactly second nature.
Luckily, there are several authors you can use as examples.
- Jamie Ford. Jamie has a must-read Twitter feed where he chronicles his writing adventures and his human experiences with humility and good-humored goofiness.
- Harlan Coben. Harlan Coben is the author of more than 30 novels, including the gripping Myron Bolitar series. But Coben shows off his personal side by sharing photos of his dogs, Laszlo and Jersey, on Twitter. A lot of his posts reflect on his college days or expose his affinity for dad jokes.
- Kash Bhattacharya. Kash has been recognized both for his travel writing and his great Instagram account. His fabulous photos complement his blog, Budget Traveler, which includes stories about his destinations and tips for traveling on a budget.
- Jennifer Weiner. Jennifer’s memoir, Hungry Heart, is witty and refreshing, and she exhibits that same kind of tone in her Twitter feed. She posts on a variety of topics, from conversations with fellow writers to behind-the-scenes photos of her adventures in the kitchen.
So, what do these authors have in common? If you peruse their social media profiles, you’ll notice they all showcase what makes them unique as people, not just as writers. Readers and fans follow these writers on social media to learn interesting details about them as people and to seek community and conversation.
That’s why, when you’re building your social media strategy, it’s a bad idea to devote tons of time to self-promotion. Far too often, authors attempting to engage on social media do so by relentlessly pitching their books. That’s not why readers, and people in general, use social media. They do it for connection — not for commerce.
Sure, social media is a way to help authors promote books and other projects, and a well-run Twitter account will help you do that. But social media is most certainly not the place for a hard sell.
When it comes to social media, you need to be authentic. You need to open up, introduce yourself, and share content that’s important, funny, and relatable. Make it personal! Is there a squirrel waging war against the bird feeder in your garden? Let your followers know. That’s funny, and you can bet many of your readers are engaged in similar battles.
This sort of content needs to make up at least 70–80% of what you share. The goal is to generate interest in and familiarity with the person behind the pen.
If you’re still stuck…
- Share short videos. It has never been easier to create engaging videos to post on social media. Take the time to write a script and shoot a well-planned video that relates to your subject matter. Or take viewers behind-the-scenes to where you write or to the places that inspired your writing.
- Create a quiz. Games and quizzes are like a magnet for your website and email list. They can also be a great method of connecting with readers.
- Add commentary to current events. One way to get more attention and traffic is to go where traffic already exists. That might mean popular blogs or sites where you can add your own commentary. I follow several regular contributors on sites like Medium and Quora. If I like and admire their opinions and insights, I’ll seek more of their content. This is how many readers operate.
There are a variety of strategies you can use to cultivate a following on social media. It might feel difficult at first, but the key is to be personable and honest. At the end of the day, social media is an opportunity to connect with readers in a way that’s never been possible before. And that can be very good for your writing career.
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