How to Follow the Social Media Rule of Thirds

Thursday, July 21, 2016

People seeking to connect with you will be quick to find your social media profiles and eagerly expect new content. This may create a dilemma, however: what should you post? How much content from your book should you share? How much related news? Is it okay to share purely personal updates? Can you share the same content across all of the different social media platforms? Here’s what you need to know about what to post and the social media rule of thirds. 

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What Is the Social Media Rule of Thirds?

The social media rule of thirds recommends that you promote your book or brand one third of the time, curate content another third of the time, and use the final third to express yourself by offering personal thoughts, updates, or content unrelated to your book or brand.

A good analogy is that of a social gathering. Think of Facebook as a family reunion, Twitter as a cocktail party, and LinkedIn as a business meeting. The rules of social courtesy in each case are similar, but each setting differs in the level of intimacy and amount of information revealed. However, across all platforms (and in real life), know that it’s impolite to enter a room only talking about yourself and asking people to buy your book.

It’s also worth mentioning that people like talking to people who are positive and energetic. Even if you’ve written a nonfiction book about the next zombie apocalypse, try to be humorous or upbeat, finding more positive things to share than negative.

1/3 of Your Posts Are About Your Book or Brand

If someone has made the commitment to follow you on social media, they are most likely a fan of yours which allows you to talk about and promote your books. Your fans really want to know if you’ve won an award, if an article or story has been published in a magazine about you or your book, or if they can read a portion of your next book in progress. They’d like to find out how a particular character was inspired or if you’ve spent a lot of time in the place you’ve written about. Sharing these details helps them connect with your book and your brand.

1/3 of Your Posts Are Personal

Write about your personal life. (Which does not necessarily have to include your “private” life.) Do you do yoga or like to garden or is World of Warcraft your guilty pleasure? The more personal you get the more universal your appeal. The most potential for connection happens when you share intimate details. It’s more rewarding to allow people to see you as a whole person.

1/3 of Your Posts Are Curation

What are you reading now? Goodreads is a social media platform and you can link to your account and reading list in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Pinterest. Cross promoting similar writers is a great way to build community and it makes you a resource for fans seeking other authors they might enjoy. Making your social media platform a trusted resource builds word-of-mouth traffic. I created a Goodreads group for Best Adventure Books because I really wanted more recommendations. Got a recommendation? Be my guest!

For example, recently I shared on Facebook that I really loved the movie The Way (2010, by Emilio Estevez, featuring his father Martin Sheen). Many of my friends commented on it and recommended other movies like it. I was inspired then to share my favorite three travel movies in my adventure travel e-mail newsletter, and asked readers to reply to the e-mail with their favorites. More subscribers replied than any e-mail I’ve ever sent! The e-mail was also shared around a lot (because I included social media share buttons at the bottom of the e-mail, and specifically asked readers to share). So I got many new signups, too! Now I’m gathering the most popular recommendations into another e-mail and a blog post, which I’m pretty sure will get even more word-of-mouth attention, creating more signups for my newsletter and future direct marketing opportunities for my next travel memoir.

Is Cross-Posting Okay?

It’s possible to cross post, for example, between Twitter and Facebook, but people know when you’ve automatically posted tweets to a Facebook account. They won’t resonate because Facebook encourages longer, more personal sharing. Twitter uses hashtags (#) and profile (@) symbols, and they look just plain weird on Facebook. And with a limited character count of under 140 characters, recycled tweets really aren’t the kind of thing people come to Facebook to find.

Recycling a tweet on Facebook is also often perceived as laziness. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t promote the same link on each platform, but take an extra few seconds to tailor the message so that your fans in each place will see its relevance.

Tools to Help You Manage

I have used a few different tools to make it easier. For example, Bitly provides an extension for my browser that lets me share any web page with fans on Twitter and Facebook in just one click of the little “b” button at the top of my browser. Here’s what it looks like.

Whenever I come across something that will be of interest to authors who are self-publishing, I send a tweet to my @selfpubbootcamp followers. Something on travel writing? To @carlaking followers and also to my Facebook page, with a longer note.

A Pinterest button on my browser shows me all the images on the web pages I’m looking at and lets me choose one to share on any of the boards I’ve created in that network.

Social media is a fun way to communicate with friends and fans, and is a true conversation, whether about books and movies or about business and writing. Instead of stressing about the best way to use social media, use the social media rule of thirds to provide a scaffold for your content. The variety and balance of material will create a well-rounded virtual version of yourself.

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Carla King

Carla King is a publishing coach and the founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp educational program of books, workshops, and online courses. Her books include the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, 4th Edition, the Consumer’s Guide for Self-Publishers, which reviews the products, tools, and services you use to write, publish, and promote your books, and IngramSpark’s Book Formatting Guide. Carla started self-publishing in 1995 with her travel guide, Cycling the French Riviera, followed by a memoir titled American Borders and a collection called Stories from Elsewhere. She runs the Indie Publishing track at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and hosts the Author Friendly Podcast. Find the podcast, along with her books, courses, free resources and advice at