Social media has become increasingly more important to all businesses. Consumers (in our case, readers) often look to brands’ (in our case, authors’) Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram accounts before going to their actual websites.
Why do they do this? Numerous reasons.
Partially, it is much more convenient to do research on a site they are already on. At the same time, they are looking for social proof — How many likes does this business have? Do any of my friends like it? What are the ratings? What are people saying? And maybe, they could simply be searching for relevance. After all, if a company isn’t on social media, are they even really trying?
As an author, especially as an independent author, social media is an important part of your author platform. However, it is important to understand why you should be on social media and how you should use it. Contrary to many authors’ beliefs, social media is NOT the place to sell your books.
Now, before I explain, let me add my fail-safe caveat. Might thousands of readers stumble upon your book in their Twitter feeds or hashtag searches and buy, buy, buy? Sure, it could happen. But for most authors, it doesn’t, and spamming followers with their buy link only makes them run for the hills.
So, if social media isn’t a selling platform, what is it and why is it useful?
1. Branding and networking
For authors looking to go the traditional publishing route, social media is a great place to begin crafting your brand and gaining a following. Often, agents and publishers will not even consider taking you on as a client until you have proven that you can market yourself and your writing on your own.
For independent authors, the same is true. Social media is a perfect place to establish your author brand (more on what this means later) as well as start gathering your readership. Likewise, social media is a fantastic place to network with other authors, podcasters, designers, editors, and anyone else who could help you grow your author business.
To begin, start following the “big names” in your field. This could be your favorite authors, publishing houses, literary agents, podcasts, etc. See how they run their social media platforms. What do they share? What do their biographies say? More than likely, they won’t have time to interact with you. But their followers will. Who are their followers? What do they talk about? What hashtags can you use to engage them?
Social media is a place to have conversations. At first, you will need to join in conversations with others. This can be done by getting active on others’ pages and joining in common hashtags (#amwriting, #amrevising, #writerslife, etc. for writers and #bookworm, #bookwormproblems, and #amreading, etc. for readers).
Once you get a decent following, you are more likely to receive responses for the conversations you start. Make sure to reciprocate engagement with responses, likes, favorites, shares, etc. To make your content even more alluring, you can follow the five “I’s” of social media, which I outline in this post for my previous employer.
No matter how often or with whom you engage, make sure you are genuine. If you sound like a salesperson or magically wiggle your book into every third comment, people are going to get tired of talking to you and delete you. Absolutely make it known that you are an author and have a fantastic book (or books) published (or in the works), but don’t bring it up constantly and don’t start conversations with a link to your sales page.
Perhaps the most useful purpose of social media is to funnel prospective readers into the markets that do sell. Think of social media like a net — you cast it wide, put a little bait on the fringes, and wait for the readers to swim deeper down for more. Your social media is your gateway drug, beyond which lies your author website and your email newsletter — the latter of which is your best sales tool of all.
So how can you move readers through this funnel? First and foremost, make sure that your author website and/or email newsletter sign up are clearly displayed on your social media accounts. Second, offer FREE content that will attract readers to visit your author website or sign up for your email list. If you blog, this could be as simple as linking to your blog posts. If you don’t blog, this could be a short story, a giveaway, or an interview or guest post you did. Last, offer your readers something they need. If you are a nonfiction writer, answer their questions about your topic. If you are a fiction writer, be that burst of entertainment and relief from the daily grind. As Tim Grahl says in Your First 1,000 Copies, the best marketing is being relentlessly helpful.
Remember — social media is not the place to sell your books. It is a place to demonstrate your brand, network with industry peers, engage with readers, and funnel readers into more effective parts of your author platform. Be genuine, be helpful, and eventually, your follower count with grow. And if you happen to be one of the dozens of indie authors who I follow on social media and who happens to post about his/her book every hour on the hour, please stop.
In my next “Building Your Author Platform” post, I will discuss ways authors can use the most common social media sites as well as helpful social media management tools.
To read the entire “Building Your Author Platform” series, click here.