Social Media-ing for Authors
I was recently asked by Metamorphosis agent Amy Brewer to write a bit on what I think makes for a good social media post, particularly on either Twitter or Facebook.
She may have used flattery.
I may have accepted.
Regardless, it's a big question! First off, as an author or writer, you do have a social media presence, right?
Not everyone does. It's a big time-suck to do it right and have active fresh content on there on a regular basis. Not long ago, I was trying to land a marketing deal with a local bookstore chain that shall remain nameless. Instead of being able to get in touch via chat or tweet or even the now ancient and venerable medium of email, I had to call multiple times just to be able to talk with the president.
After giving my proposal with all the basics, I was blown off because, 'Social media isn't worth our money or time.'
I was flabbergasted. I still am. If you want to exist as a business (Yes, as an author/writer are a business...) you must have an active social media presence. If you don't, you're not only not being seen by upwards of tens of thousands of potential fans, you're not relevant. (Yes, but your book is soooo good... Yes, but your Mom loves you writing... etc).
Did you know that even if you land with your dream publisher, the odds are that at best, the publisher will give you only six months of marketing help? After that, you're on your own.
So, if you're on your own, what do you already have going for you besides your six best friends and maybe your cat (maybe)?
Your first step is to have a separate author presence on social media. At this moment (because, let's face it, nothing on the Internet is immortal - besides maybe the Amazon AI...), I'm talking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, and maybe Youtube and Tumblr, plus a professional author website.
Next, be active on all of them. Actually, you know, talk to other people. (It's that pesky SOCIAL part of social media...) It's simply not enough to have an outdated website from five years ago that you never go on. It's not enough to have a Facebook page and simply expect people to go to it and engage with you (unless you're like, Neil Gaiman, and you pity all the mere mortals far below you). Most importantly, you need to be smart about how you communicate via social media. Don't be afraid to comment. Know what Gifs are (and how it's pronounced) and how to communicate with them. Be aware of events happening in real life, because those events have a bearing on internet life as well.
On being active specifically, with any media (even traditional radio and TV), remember that they are tools. You don't bring out your sledgehammer to change your car's oil (Just don't, okay?) The longer you're actively a part of the online conversation, the greater number of readers your voice reaches and the more it matters. Posting is about being relevant. It's not about BUYMYBOOK BUYMYBOOK BUYMYBOOK!!! It's actually about making relationships with fans and other professionals. Ergo, be yourself online - unless you have a pen name - then be that pen name. Once your various platforms and author site have been on for at least a year or so, hook Google Analytics into your site too - that way you can learn even more habits and specifics of your audience.
The next thing I'd highly recommend (and no, I didn't get a payoff for suggesting it, but I wish I did...) is check out an online service called Buffer. Buffer logs into all of your social media, so you can post to all of them simultaneously. I use it for myself and it's a wonderful thing. I can do an entire month's worth of posts in about three days or so. (SSHHHHH! It's my lovely little secret!)
Another bread-and-butter tip is to make sure your various author social media all point back to your professional author website by including your website link in your bio and in your posts. On websites, I like to use WIX. Feel free to check out my own (http://ryanpfreeman.com) as a design example. You want all of your various platform audiences knowing where to go because, in actuality, the end goal is have them sign up for your email list. Then you can promote all of your book releases and author events right to their inboxes. AND, since they went through all that effort to sign themselves up, you know they're, you know, actually interested in what you do. Another great way to promote yourself online (You are the Brand) is through blogging (you're reading one right now, you know). Don't just limit yourself to writing about writing either - talk about your other hobbies, interests, and life experiences. When possible, invite guest bloggers on to vary your content (and network), too!
One of the roadblocks authors and even business owners can run into at times is the proverbial creative dry spell. Similar to writer's block, it leaves you stumped on what to crank out next. With social media, content is king. Statistically, you're much more likely to engage people with pictures or videos than just plain old words. Hashtags (you know, pound signs) are essential too. For writers, good examples of #'s are things like #amreading #books #writercommunity #fantasy (or whatever genre) - you can also hashtag major cities if you know where your readers tend to live, too. Here's where having a presence on Pintrest helps! Make boards on Pintrest for your books - then, whenever you need a cool image, just pop on and Buffer it. Now, I can already hear a few of you cringing about the all-sacred copyright infringement laws... here's the thing, so long as you are not claiming it as your own or attempting to sell the image, it's easy-come easy-go. If it really bothers you, credit the artist - or heck, even invite them to do a guest blog on your author website because you adore them so much. Feel free to check out my own Pintrest (https://www.pinterest.com/ryanpfreeman/) for ideas and examples.
Other ways to have great posts include making soundtracks to your books with playlists on Youtube (here's mine: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC842rl532nDJIudFcjwcqw/playlists?view_as=subscriber), you can always like and grab quotes off Goodreads too; or update us with whatever you're #currentlyreading... and look around at what others are doing. Find ways to share real-life events - like the first time you get your new book's physical proofs in or live updates from signings or writing cons like Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention. People like to share the moment with you - so let them!
Lastly and most importantly, being on social media is not about being rude. It's not about rotting your brain or ignoring people. Social media is a relatively new way for human beings to communicate with each other - share life with each other - live together with one another despite distance or international time zones. Being on social media is about relationships. And in our case, we're writing because it's what we love to do - and more often than not, other people are just waiting to love our author journey shotgun right along with us.