Social media is one of the best ways to connect with readers. But, where do you start? In this post, I'll share tips for branding on social media, choosing what social media platforms to use, and following the social media "rule of thirds."
Now’s the time to create consistent branding across all your social media properties (even the ones you don’t use). You need an author bio, photo, and a header image for each site. I recommend Canva, a free service that provides templates for each of the social media and e-mail headers you need. Try to adhere to a set of colors, fonts, and graphic elements that you use everywhere, so your followers will know it’s you right away when they see your brand.
Which Social Media Platform to Choose?
While you might be overwhelmed by all the various social media platforms, I recommend registering for all of them, if only to create bios that point to your website. Then choose one or two to focus your activities.
Facebook for Authors
With more than 1 billion daily users, Facebook offers the potential to reach a readership. Here are a few tips to help you get the best results from your Facebook presence.
- Create both a personal page and an author page. Facebook sorts pages into different categories: personal pages, business pages, virtual events, etc. You cannot create a business (author) page without first signing up for a personal Facebook page.
- Provide updates on your writing. Let your readers know what you’re publishing and where. Along with your books, offer updates on guest blogs, articles, stories, and any other recently or soon-to-be published work. You might even publish excerpts of your writing, or experiment with new writing published just to your fans, using Facebook Notes.
- Offer freebies. Along with updates on your writing, Facebook for authors can be a wonderful resource for promoting contests, sales, and offering freebies to hook new readers.
- Link Facebook to your website. Place a Facebook “like” widget or button on your author website for readers to “like” your Facebook page and see posts in their newsfeeds.
- Consider “Promote this Post” and other Facebook ads. Facebook ads are a very inexpensive way to achieve visibility to a large, targeted audience. I’ve found Facebook ads to be an effective use of my time and money.
Instagram for Authors
Instagram has become tremendously popular, especially among younger people. So if you want to reach a younger audience, concentrate your efforts here. The mobile photo app lets you share and comment on photos. You can use Instagram to give your true fans a little peek into your life and your writing process.
Again, make sure to use hashtags to identify threads and follow conversations. Sharing (curating) photos from other authors or interests you follow is also a great way to grow your audience.
Twitter for Authors
Twitter is the cocktail party of social media, a place you can quickly get to know readers and influencers, and to offer and receive up-to-the-minute news and information. Tweets are limited to 280 characters, so this is not the place for authors to share in-depth content (but you can link to it).
There are a number of ways to get creative with Twitter that capitalize on its easy interface and news-sharing features. For example, share links to new articles or related content. Tweet a few sentences from an upcoming book as a teaser. Use hashtags (google it!) to participate in conversations.
Because many journalists and other media professionals use Twitter, it provides authors the opportunity to stand out as a notable person in your field. Getting retweeted by a person with thousands of followers can boost your profile immediately. Stay active on Twitter, post the same tweet at different times of the day (using HootSuite or Buffer to automate them) and participate in as many relevant conversations as possible.
LinkedIn for Authors
If you’re a nonfiction author who writes on topics like business, finance, politics, technology, or medicine, LinkedIn is an important place to connect with the professionals and public who are looking for the information in your book.
LinkedIn also provides a virtual resume to connect with other professionals in the industry you write about, other writers, and publishers. Because LinkedIn is a professional social site, your profile must be polished and well-written. You can also join LinkedIn interest groups to post advice, ask and answer questions, and connect with other authors and professionals like you.
You’ll find a lot of influencers on LinkedIn—people whose words reach hundreds and perhaps thousands of others.
Other Social Media Platforms for Authors
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn Twitter are generally seen as the four most important social media sites for authors but consider other platforms as well.
- Pinterest. Pinterest lets users create a virtual bulletin board by “pinning” images from pages onto a virtual bulletin board. Be sure to place an image on every page of your website so that readers will have something to pin.
- Tumblr. Tumblr is a hosted visual blog interface. If you write books that include images, Tumblr can be an effective way to promote your work.
- YouTube. Video is an increasingly important marketing tool for all industries. Consider creating short, entertaining YouTube videos about your books, your writing process, or other topics that may be interesting to your readers.
Have fun! Once you find your tribe on these sites, you’ll open up a world of new friends, new ideas, and new readers.
Following the Social Media Rule of Thirds
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.
The social media rule of thirds recommends that you:
- Promote your book or brand 1/3 of the time
- Curate content 1/3 of the time
- Express yourself by offering personal thoughts 1/3 of the time
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), you already know that it’s impolite to enter a room only talking about yourself and asking people to buy your book.
Make 1/3 of Your Posts Are About Your Book or Brand
Your social media followers want to know when your book is coming out, what the cover looks like, if you’ve won a book award, if an article or story has been published in a magazine, or if they can read a portion of your next book in progress. They might want 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.
Make 1/3 of Your Posts Curation (Recommendations)
Being a curator of interesting books, events, movies, activities, recipes, solutions, facts, quotes, or anything that catches your eye, is another great way to build community. Making your social media platform a trusted resource builds word-of-mouth traffic. I created a Goodreads group for Best Adventure Books because I wanted to read more books on adventure travel. Got a recommendation? Be my guest!
For example, when I shared on Facebook that I loved the movie The Way (2010, by Emilio Estevez, featuring his father Martin Sheen), many of my “friends” commented that they also liked the movie and recommended other movies like it. I became inspired to include a list of favorite adventure movies in my newsletter, and asked readers to reply with their favorites. More subscribers replied than any e-mail I’ve ever sent! I noticed it was also shared more than any other emails. (I included social media share buttons at the bottom of the e-mail, and specifically asked readers to share.)
I got a lot of new subscribers from that email because of all the sharing, which translates into more future direct marketing opportunities for my next travel memoir.
Make 1/3 of Your Posts Personal
Write about your personal life. This 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? I write about motorcycle adventure travel, but I have gained fans by posting words and pictures about my love for yoga, paddleboarding, gardening, and my forays into veganism and meditation.
Tools to Help You Manage
I have used a few different tools to make it posting 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.
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.