It’s inevitable: The instant you release a book or decide you’re going to be an author, you start finding articles and advice everywhere about social media. And then the questions start:
“What’s your Facebook strategy?”
“How many times do you tweet per day?”
“Do you have a Pinterest board for each book?”
If you’ve made any attempt to think about social media as an author, you’ve probably just made your head hurt. The cloud of advice is thick and vast, and it’s generally confusing and contradictory to boot. And that leaves you wondering what you’re really supposed to do with social media.
Well, fear not. Today, we’re going to take a look at social media and find out if an author really needs it.
What is it?
As we’ve done throughout this series on what stuff an author really needs, let’s begin by asking what social media is and how it can benefit you as an author.
Most people’s perception of how social media can be used by an author goes something like this: Every social media site is concerned with some version of making sure that your friends or followers see great content. Therefore, if you can get your content into the news feeds of most people, your content will spread (“go viral”), more people will find out about your books, and you will be a successful author.
Where’s that game-show buzzer sound effect when I need it?
In reality, social media works more like this: People follow you because they are already your fans. They are interested in seeing the things that you share. If you get lucky and your content is shared a lot or if you pay for advertising, your content is seen by more than just your faithful fans and you find new readers as a result.
What this means in a nutshell is that social media is a platform for keeping your current fans engaged, not for finding a bevy of new readers. Now, to be sure, you can successfully reach new fans with some well-placed advertising on social media. But for the most part, your presence on social media is for those who already know about you.
So… Is social media necessary for an author?
In general, an author doesn’t need to be on social media. But let me follow that up by saying that if you enjoy using a certain social network, you might want to be there.
It’s always beneficial to engage with your current fans. Having a celebrity interact with you always feels special, so if you can use a social network you enjoy to give your readers the experience of chatting with a celebrity (and you are one if you have fans), that’s great! But if, on the other hand, you don’t care for a particular social network, it’s fine to forget about it.
Most people I know who are asking what social network to be on are already using and enjoying at least one. So use the ones you’re already familiar with and let your faithful fans seek you out there. If you enjoy tweeting, go for it! If Instagram makes you happy, make an author account and post pictures! But don’t get your knickers in a twist and feel guilty because you’ve heard that you can’t succeed without a certain social network.
As I said earlier in this post, social media isn’t really about getting new followers or spreading the word about yourself to your fans. Your mailing list is a much more reliable way to do that, especially since social networks change their algorithms frequently, making it difficult to keep up with what type of content bubbles to the top this month. For your social media strategy, focus on forming relationships and having fun with readers who already like you.
What should an author post on social media?
If you’ve decide to use social media as part of your author platform, chances are good that you’re now wondering what to post. While it’s hard to give specifics because each author account will be different, I can give you some general guidelines.
First, decide if your account is going to be all about author stuff or if this account will also be about who you are as a person. In other words, will you share pictures of your sandwich? Or is this account solely for updates on your books, live events, sales, and so on? Neither is wrong, but in my opinion, I prefer the more human approach of letting your author social media profile reflect a “day in the life” of the author. Remember the celebrity aspect of this—we love to hear what stars are doing. You’re a celebrity in the eyes of your readers, so giving them a peek into your life is a thrill for them.
Once you’ve got that question settled, take a look at these four guidelines for authors on social media:
- Even if you’re going for a more human approach, be professional. That means you don’t tweet about how much you’re making from book sales or lack thereof and you don’t feed the trolls.
- Don’t flood. Posting massive amounts of updates in a short period of time only overwhelms your fans and makes them think about unfollowing you. Remember that they are following other people besides you, and they want to see that content as much as they want to see yours. (At the same time, don’t stress out about posting too much. Rule of thumb: If you’re posting more than you would like to see from somebody else, you should back it off.)
- Do reply to your fans. You don’t have to reply to everybody, but you can make a reader’s day by responding to their question, liking their post, or anything that shows your account isn’t run by a robot.
- Don’t disappear. If your followers have engaged with you on your chosen social network, don’t stop posting without notice. It’s fine to announce that you’re “going dark” or crawling into a hole for a little while to get some important writing done, but don’t just leave without saying goodbye.
So, what did you decide? Is social media right for your author platform? I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments.