By Kim Littler
If you’ve clicked on this post then you’ve probably accepted that, like it or not, social media is a key element to any author’s book marketing process — and it’s here to stay. It’s great that you’re ready to start utilizing your online profiles, but you wouldn’t be the first to feel a little bit lost after the initial set-up!
In an online ocean, teeming with swathes of users, hashtags, and content, where do you fit in? The constant flow of data and information can be overwhelming. That’s why I’m here, to offer five essential tips that are guaranteed to help you navigate these busy waters and boost your social media presence.
1. Narrow your focus
Any social media can prove lucrative if you utilize it correctly so it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to push your presence on every platform all at once. If you got a bit carried away and already created a whole gamut of profiles (we’ve all been there), there’s no need to go back and delete them, but neither is it sustainable to try to master every single one of them simultaneously. To avoid burnout from juggling everything, you just need to ensure that your strongest social media efforts are focused in one place at a time.
Research is your best friend for this step: figure out which platform suits you best. Look where the most popular authors in your genre spend their time. Consider, too, which platforms you enjoy spending time on. Your enjoyment is likely to lead to better results.
Here’s a rundown of the most popular social media platorms:
● Twitter: This platform is primarily text-based and used for sharing ideas in short form (tweets are limited to 280 characters.) #WritingCommunity is just one very active authors group on the site.
● Facebook: This is a very visual platform where images accompany text. As the most popular social network in the world, it goes well beyond connecting with old high school friends. Over half of its users interact and share within topic-specific groups, making this great for connecting with fellow authors and readers.
● Pinterest: This platform is completely image-based. 30.4% of the user base are female between 25 and 34. The platform automatically spaces your content out for viewers, so you never have to worry about posting too often.
● TikTok: This platform is all about video. And, its #BookTok community is growing rapidly. If you’re not camera shy, this may be the platform for you. Need an example of what author TikToks can look like? Check out this one, by author Liz Lawson.
2. Utilize community hashtags and trends
Once you’ve zoned in on your platform of choice, it’s time to work out your angle of attack. A good mantra throughout this is that ‘community trumps sales’. People go to social media to interact with their favorite authors and personalities and not for sales pitches, so it’s important to get involved in the community without treating it like you’re there solely to plug a product.
A great way to do this is to first identify which hashtags or groups similar authors with sizable followings are utilizing. Look for your genre specific hashtags (like #amwritingfiction or #amreadingromance). Finding these groups will help establish you in the community or your own fellow authors and readers. It will also give you clues about what kind of content works.
Be sure to make use of general widely used hashtags like #MondayMotivation and #TuesdayThoughts to increase your reach and while also using the more targeted hashtags for the communities you’re trying to appeal to most. Got an inspiring quotation from your WIP? Go ahead and share it as your #MondayMotivation. Figured out a writing hack? Share it as your #TuesdayThoughts! And so on. (But, however tempting, don’t use these tags on irrelevant content — most social media platforms can tell when you’re doing this, and your post may end up hidden from people’s feeds!)
3. Post quotations and excerpts from your book
Many an author before you has made the mistake of leaving too much of their content to the imagination, so don’t follow in their footsteps. Ever spotted an interesting cover design scrolling through Amazon, only to be disappointed by a description that gives no sense of what the book is actually about? Or picked up a book because you liked the blurb, only to find the content was completely different? If so, you’ll understand why posting your work matters.
I’m not advocating that you post your entire manuscript in tweets. The idea is just to tantalize viewers and give them an idea of your writing.
● Hook readers in by posting intriguing quotations, witty lines of dialogue, prose you’re particularly proud of or anything else that showcases your style enough to draw in your target readers.
● Get aesthetically creative, especially on image-based social media. You can try crafting visual representations of scenes and characters, or scrawling out quotations in elaborate calligraphy — anything that draws eyes and scratches your creative itch should do the trick! Once you’re done, snap a picture, post it with relevant hashtags, and you’re bound to get some attention.
4. Show readers behind-the-scenes
Whether they’re avid fans, or writers looking for some inspiration, you can guarantee users usually enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes process. Like most things in the world, there’s an extra joy that comes with watching something small or abstract grow into a tangible thing — in this case, a book.
● What can you cover? You can discuss anything from your work-flow, the scenes you’re writing or editing at the time, and even share tips (or frustrations) with like-minded writers.
● For visual platforms, it might be as simple as taking a photo of your morning coffee and your laptop booting up (or your notepad and pen, if you’re really old school), or as chaotic as your office floor covered in an assortment of notes. The choice is yours, but try to be true to what you actually do, or you’ll get caught out on it later!
● For primarily text-based platforms like Twitter, also consider sending out regular written updates. Try just telling followers when you’re on a coffee break, or back on the grind, or struggling with writer’s block, followed by a hashtag or two. There’s something so relatable (and, thus, shareable) about the everyday working process.
If you need an example of this, here’s bestselling author Jennifer Saint posting about her NaNoWriMo progress on Twitter:
The benefit of this is that, while raising awareness of you and your work, you’re also opening the platform to conversations with your followers. The slight emotional risk of putting yourself and your work out there is far outweighed by the reward!
5. Host virtual events
If you have more than a passing interest in books you’ve probably scoped out a literary event before. And you probably know that they can help you connect with readers, expand your audience, and get your book into readers’ hands. Virtual events are important for the same reasons; plus, you’ll reach readers who might not be able to attend in-person events.
Social media offers a simple way to host events, and easy views when followers are notified about them. Broadcasting functions — like Twitter Live, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live — require just a click of a button to share real-time video. That said, this simplicity means it’s easy to forget why you’re there, so make a plan first.
● Decide the type of event you’re planning (e.g. Q&A or a reading) and spread the word early.
● If it’s a Q&A session, ask followers and friends to send questions in advance.
● If it’s a reading, tease that you’ll be performing a few days prior to build some curiosity. While it’s part of the process of growing, it’s still disheartening if your first events have few attendees, so notify people in good time (and make sure that you have a street team to show up for you too).
Worry not if you’re camera shy; there’s still plenty to do. Don’t think you can face streaming a Q&A? No problem, it’s not the only way.
● On Instagram, you can post a ‘question sticker’ to your story allowing readers to submit questions, the answers to which you can reshare and then save to your profile. Even a simple post like “I’ll be running a Q&A all afternoon. DM me your questions” works.
● You can run giveaways too if you have spare merchandise — such as signed ARCs, bookmarks, posters, etc. — to generate interest. You may have already seen other social media giveaways before but, if you’ve not, here’s how it works: post a picture of what you’re offering, give an end date and any giveaway terms, and then specify that users need to follow/like/share to enter the running. This will broaden your reach exponentially through new entries and shares. After all, everyone loves the opportunity for free gear!
Social media is a constantly changing sea that can baffle even experts but, once you have the basics down, you can’t go too far wrong. With that said, look forward to seeing your content out there!
Kim Littler is a writer and social media creator with Reedsy, a marketplace that helps authors publish their books by connecting them with the world’s best publishing professionals.