Let Your Characters Engage with Fans Online

by | Jan 20, 2020

By Sandra Beckwith

Elmo has a Twitter account.

Superman has a Facebook Page.

Barbie is on Instagram.

If these big brand fictional characters are active on social media, shouldn’t your characters use social media, too?

Five reasons why I recommend it

  • It supports your writing process by helping you create a character with great depth.
     
  • You will be able to use material you had to cut from the book in social media posts.
     
  • Giving your characters a “home” outside the pages of your book helps readers understand them better and become more attached.
     
  • You’ll have more fun tweeting as a character than as yourself.
     
  • It offers more creative and innovative content to schedule into your social media calendar.

Sure, you’ll want to keep using your author accounts, but adding even one new character account to your social media mix could make a positive difference in your writing and social network success.

How should you do it?

What works best with your “regular” social media accounts applies to your characters’ online activity, too. Keep these best practices in mind as you create and use profiles for your fictional companions:

1. Ditch the marketing. Focus on connection.

Stop trying to sell books. Instead, focus on connecting with readers by bringing your characters to life.

If your character is sharing details about book signings or reminding people about a $.99 sale, then you’re just trying to sell . . . and you aren’t fooling anyone. Think about it: Isn’t this type of post “out of character” for your book’s personalities?

Readers want to learn what their favorite character thinks about what’s happening in the world around them. They want to see photos from their life.

  • Where do they work out?
  • What do they watch on TV?
  • What’s their favorite musical group?

2. Become the character when you post.

Too many people use their character’s Facebook page to post content that they post on their author page, too. You know — the standard “If you loved my book, please tell a friend about it!” or “Squee!!! We just got another five-star review on Amazon!”

Is that really what your character would be sharing on social media? Your character’s status updates or Instagram images should be created from their perspective, not yours.

Have a little fun with it!

  • It’s winter right now in the U.S. Does your character have any favorite cold-weather activities?
  • The Oscars are coming up. Would she live tweet about the fashions during the broadcast?
  • Is he a college basketball fan looking forward to March Madness in the U.S.?

3. Be careful about profile photos.

Make sure the profile image you use doesn’t violate any artist’s or photographer’s copyright. Check royalty free photography sites but consider paying for a photo, too, just to be safe.

Here’s just a sample of what I found when I searched for “female teenager” on free image site Pixabay.com. (Support the creators by using the “say thanks to the image author” option to contribute via PayPal.)

4. Look for real ways to engage readers with your characters.

Let your character:

  • ask questions
  • comment on current events
  • talk about what happened today
  • request movie recommendations
  • whatever makes sense

When you know what your audience is interested in, you can make sure that your character shares information, ask questions, or leads discussions on those topics, issues, or activities, too.

For example, one of my favorite fictional characters is Stephanie Plum, star of the Janet Evanovich numbered series. Stephanie would share her mother’s recipe for pineapple upside down cake or ask for opinions about where sidekick Lula might be able to find her kind of fashions online.

Character profile resources

Not sure about the mechanics of a fictional character’s social media profile? Consider using resources popular with educators. Teachers like how they help bring fictional characters to life for today’s social media savvy students.

Fakebook” is one, but there are others. Start by completing the Fakebook template. It will help you get a handle on how you might want to approach this and give you a safe place to experiment.

My favorite tool is “ifaketext,” which lets you create images of fake iPhone messages — messages that, of course, might have been sent between your characters. Here’s one I created for Stephanie Plum and her hot cop boyfriend Joe Morelli:

Think about how much fun you’ll have creating opportunities for your fans to learn more about the stars of your book – and vice versa. You might enjoy it as much as you enjoyed writing your novel!

Could you create a social media profile for at least one of your characters? Why or why not? Tell us in a comment.
 
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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6 Comments

  1. Vivienne Sang

    What a brilliant idea. My characters can’t really discuss current events as they are either long dead (in my historical fiction) or from another world (in my fantasy), but I’m getting ideas.
    I thought that I could set up a Facebook account for a non-human creature in one of my fantasy series. He’s small, telepathic and rather mischievous. He could be fun, I think. He plays quite a big role in Book 3 of the series, but not much in the other two.

    Reply
    • Sandra Beckwith

      Glad you like it, Vivienne! I have a thought about your characters…what do you think about your historical or fantastical characters commenting on life today by comparing it to their world? Another approach would be for them to simply chronicle and comment on what’s happening in their worlds. For your historical fiction characters, it could be come a quiet history lesson (but with personality). For your non-human friend, it would be a lot of fun to peak into his world!

      Regardless, I can see that you already appreciate how much fun you can have with this. Enjoy!

      Reply
  2. Ticia

    Some of my favorite twitter accounts to follow are spoofs of characters. I’d totally follow a favorite character from a book series.

    Of course, all the ones I know of right now are either spoofs of big movie series (Emo Kylo Ren), or literary tropes (I don’t remember the exact name but YA Protagonist is hilarious).

    Reply
    • Sandra Beckwith

      They’re more fun than the “real” accounts, right, Ticia? I just learned about a Facebook account for a children’s book parrot that’s a hoot!

      Sandra Beckwith

      Reply
  3. Frances Caballo

    I absolutely love this idea, Sandra. I wish I had thought of it. Yes, to be successful on social media, authors need to forget about marketing and focus on connecting with their readers. Connection and engagement are critical on social media if authors wants to build a following of dedicated readers.

    Reply
    • Sandra Beckwith

      Thanks, Frances! I think it might be easier for some authors to post as their characters, too. What do you think?

      Sandra Beckwith

      Reply

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