Social Media for Authors - how to best use the different platforms as a writer

Where do you start?

Stop!

Ha, that got your attention, didn’t it?

I’m going to start off this blog post on how authors can use social media by going completely arse about face and telling you that, before you get started with ANY social media platform, the most important thing you can do marketing-wise is start an email list. I’ll be doing another blog post and video on how you can actually do this soon, but you can also read my friend Joanna Penn’s fine post on the subject here.

If you take anything away from this blog post, know that you have to start a mailing list before you worry about social media. Why? Essentially because you own your mailing list and that’s your way to communicate with your readers. You can build a following of thousands, even millions on social media but all those followers don’t belong to you, they belong to Facebook or Twitter or whomever. A single change of the algorithm and you can lose your social reach almost overnight (is it just me or does anyone else find algorithm impossible to spell?)

Right now that I’ve just told you why social media isn’t as important as an email list, we’ll move onto why social media is still worth bothering with. Everyone on board? Oh, good 🙂

WHY YOU NEED TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA

There seems to be a bit of a myth floating around the traditional publishing world that indie authors and self-publishers apparently have to spend as much time on social media as they do on writing. I was at CrimeFest in Bristol last year and had quite a few conversations with traditionally published authors where they asked things like ‘but, don’t you have to be on Facebook all the time?’ and ‘don’t you have to have a million Twitter followers to get anywhere?’ I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the majority of my time on social media is spent much as everyone else’s is; watching funny cat videos, forwarding on sarcastic memes and occasionally crafting the odd bon mot that you always secretly hope might go viral…

How to use social media as an author

Feel free to make this one go viral 😉

Anyway, I do actually use social media a bit as an author and for those of you just starting out and taking those first tentative steps on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and so forth, I hope you find the following tips useful.

BASIC RULES FOR ALL SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

Funnily enough, how you behave on social media is really how you should behave in all social situations. Basically, don’t be the sort of antisocial fool who shouts down other people, starts arguments or, in the authorial sphere, spams people by constantly asking (or demanding) that they buy your book. This will get you no sales. None. None at all.

I find that old piece of advice is one of the most valuable on social media: “If in doubt, say nowt.”

However, the whole point of social media is to be, you know, social. Converse with people, share your thoughts, ask questions, forward on things that you find inspiring or helpful.

So, now a quick run-down of the main social media platforms and how best to use them as an author:

TWITTER

The one where you post 140 character tweets. You follow people and then you see their tweets in your timeline. Twitter is fast-moving and great for real-time interaction.

Top tips for using Twitter:

  • Find an author you admire or see as a contemporary (use the search bar at the top right hand side of the screen) and have a look at their followers. Follow the ones you like. Chances are good that at least some of them will follow you back.
  • Make full use of hashtags. Great ones for authors are #amwriting #amreading and #WriterWednesday.
  • Tweets with images really stand out. You can make Twitter-friendly images for free using programs like Canva and Picmonkey.
  • I like to do much more retweeting of other people’s tweets than I do tweeting my own stuff. Pay it forward!
  • Make use of tweet scheduling apps (some free like Hootsuite, some paid like Meet Edgar) to pre-schedule your tweets to save time (also useful during a book promotion)
How to use social media as a writer

First rule of social media=Don’t talk about Fight Club. Oh wait, sorry, that’s not right…

FACEBOOK

As an author, you’ll need a Facebook Page, rather than use your personal profile. The effectiveness of organic reach on Facebook (i.e. how many people will see your posts naturally, rather than from a paid advert) has declined sharply over the last few years and I’m not entirely sure it’s worth spending a good deal of time building up your Page without spending money on Facebook adverts (Mark Dawson has an excellent course on using Facebook ads as an author although as it’s quite technical, it’s probably not for the very beginner).

However, to use Facebook most effectively:

  • Make sure you use images and videos as well as text
  • Use links to drive traffic to your Author Page or website
  • Make sure you spend equal time liking, commenting and sharing other people’s posts as well as your own

PINTEREST

Pinterest is my new favourite social media platform. It’s very visual and so it’s great for sharing book covers and book marketing graphics. You use it like a virtual pin board and pin (or save) the images that you like to various digital boards. Like all social media sites, it’s also search engine so be sure to include plenty of good searchable keywords in the description of your ‘pins’.

Top tips for Pinterest:

  • Use it to create vision boards for your novels or books – you can then share the link with your readers (see here for a video tutorial on how to create a vision board)
  • Pin your book images from actual sales pages such as Amazon or iBooks
  • Create boards that complement the theme or genre of your books – for example, I have a board about 1930s fashion that ties in with my historical mystery series Miss Hart and Miss Hunter Investigate

 

Instagram is another very visual social media platform which I’m just taking my first tentative steps onto. There are some good articles about how to use Instagram as a writer here and here.

What about you? Do you have any favourite social media platforms? Don’t forget to follow me and I’ll follow you back 🙂

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