When Should You Use Social Media as an Author

POSTED ON Nov 2, 2020

Florence Osmund

Written by Florence Osmund

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By Florence Osmund, updated February 2022

Whether or not you currently use any of the many social media sites for your personal life, you may be wondering if it is worth your time to use social media as an author. Will tweeting regularly make you a more relevant author? Will you sell more books if you regularly post photos on Instagram? Will you find new readers if you are active on Facebook?

Plus, if you decide as an author, you should be involved in a social media community, how do you know which one is the right platform for you?

Unfortunately, the return writers see from social media is not always easily measured. Social media sites are not designed as a marketplace for you to sell your books directly to the readers, so you usually will not see many direct sales from your social media work.

So why should authors spend their valuable time on social media sites when they could be spending their time on something that would result in direct sales?

Table of Contents

Why Authors Should be Present on Social Media

Which Social Media Platforms Should Authors Use

How to Get Started as an Author on Social Media

What Kind of Posts Should Authors Create?

How Often Should You Post?

Why Some Authors Might Avoid Social Media

What to do Next

Why Authors Should be Present on Social Media

Social media can be a useful part of an author’s platform by helping to connect with readers, fellow writers, and the publishing community. In the hands of the right audience, this kind of exposure can lead to increased:

  • brand awareness
  • valuable connections
  • e-mail sign-ups
  • relationships
  • raising your profile
  • eventual sales

Social media allows us to become more involved in the community, a huge benefit, especially for those writers who have fallen into a reclusive lifestyle.

Another benefit of being present on social media is that it can serve to humanize you—after all, it’s called social media for a reason. Instead of having just a name and a stock headshot to go by, the right posts on social media can show readers a bit more of what you’re about—your personality, writing environment, challenges, and views on things. When readers can sense an actual human behind the name—someone with whom they can interact and relate to—a relationship is more likely to form, and relationships generate sales.

Many authors will argue they do not have time to spend on social media—they prefer to spend their time writing. That’s all fine and good, but there’s no denying the power of social media in today’s society, and readers who spend hours a day on social media sites may never learn of your existence if you’re not on it.

Lastly, readers expect serious authors to have an online presence. When they Google ‘historical fiction authors,’ for example, they will gravitate toward authors whose names pop up in multiple places—Amazon, social media sites, website pages, and the like. If your only online presence is Amazon, you may get overlooked. While not necessarily fair, the higher number of results appearing from an Internet search on your name, the more successful you will appear to be to some readers, many of whom prefer to read books written by successful authors.

Which Social Media Platforms Should Authors Use?

Even if you follow all the rules on creating meaningful content in your social media posts, if you do not reach your target audience, your efforts will be in vain.

For example, if you write romance novels, and you post the Amazon link to one of your books on your Twitter page, you cannot expect anything to come of it. But posting an excerpt from your romance novel on the Hot Reads Facebook page could have a completely different outcome.

No two social media platforms are exactly alike.

They each have unique features, ones that will not yield the same outcome for every author. So, before committing yourself to one or more of them, it is beneficial to do some prep work by examining the characteristics of each platform to make sure it is right for you and your books.

Check out which social media sites the best-selling authors in your genre are using. They are “best-selling” for a reason.

The goal for your social media is to engage with your target audience.

Most social media platforms have indicators of success—numbers of click-throughs, followers, likes, shares/re-posts, and reader comments—and you can use these indicators to gauge how well your posts are doing. If after a reasonable timeframe, say ninety days or so, you have received no activity on your posts, you might want to consider another platform or rethink your strategy.

The list of social media sites is long—too long to include here in any detail. So, I’ll briefly describe what I believe to be the top five sites for authors. I say ‘briefly’ because there is a lot to know about each of these sites if you want to use them to their fullest extent. (Make sure to check out the links I included for more social media help that is specific to each site.)

1. Goodreads

Boasting more than 20 million members, Goodreads is a social media platform designed specifically for readers and writers—its sole purpose being to help readers find books—an author’s dream!

As an author on Goodreads, you are able to create:

  • a profile
  • develop a bookshelf for the books you have written
  • promote your book
  • communicate with readers
  • join in on discussion groups

Readers on Goodreads can check out:

  • up-to-date information on you and your books
  • see what you look like
  • browse the books you have written
  • join discussion groups
  • read the book reviews

Goodreads also has several paid advertising options for authors.

Looking for more tips to use Goodreads as an author? Check out this article How To Use Goodreads Giveaways to Market Your Book.

2. Facebook

Facebook claims to be the largest of all social media platforms and (in addition to paid advertising) offers three avenues for authors to gain exposure for themselves and their books.

Ways to gain exposure through Facebook:

  • Personal profile page
  • Author page
  • Discussion groups

Facebook is all about creating relationships—once you make connections with people and earn their trust, any resulting sales will come as a side benefit.

Does Facebook resonate with you? We suggest taking a look at Facebook for Authors: Using Facebook to its Full Potential as an Author.

3. Twitter

Twitter provides a fast-paced platform ideal for short messages and visual images—perfect for authors to promote their books.

Some of Twitter’s best features include:

  • ease of building a following
  • use of hashtags to get messages to a select group of people
  • authors supporting each other by retweeting messages
  • the “Who to Follow” feature

J. K. Rowling is known for her dynamic Twitter account where she regularly assumes the persona of one or more of her unforgettable characters, luring people in to read her books.

Twitter also offers paid advertising options.

Twitter is a favorite among many authors. Read through Twitter for Authors: How to Reach & Influence Readers to get started.

4. Instagram

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram focuses on photos and videos. The reason for its popularity is because people—the younger generation in particular—seem to be obsessed with images over words.

What you post in your Instagram news feed will appear in your followers’ own feeds, therefore grabbing someone’s attention with an image and then delivering the message directly to a fan—a strategy that certainly has its advantages.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram offers paid advertising options.

Dive into Instagram by checking out this great article written just for authors Instagram for Authors: Building a Platform to Sell Books.

5. Pinterest

Pinterest is a quasi-social media site that distinguishes itself from others in that it is more of a buyer/seller market than a platform where you seek “likes” and “follows.” It works for authors because people use it as a search engine to find items to buy. Authors can set up posts that link to online sites where users can purchase your book directly.

But like other social media sites, Pinterest allows you to interact with other Pinterest users and build a community, which can add value to your overall platform.

Pinterest works for authors because people use it like a search engine to find items to buy.

How Writers Can Use Pinterest

How to Get Started as an Author on Social Media

Once you determine which social media sites are going to work best for you, start with only one or two social media sites.

If you choose more than that, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin, spending more time on it than you had planned, or worse yet, not spending enough time on any of them, defeating the whole purpose of being on social media in the first place. Think like your biggest fans, and then go with whatever platform(s) you think will do the best job of appealing to their interests.

Create a profile on the social media channel of your choice. Include a well-lit, high-quality photo of yourself that best represents who you are as an author. You may choose to include a photo of one of your recent books as a background picture. Do not leave the places for profile photos blank, a huge part of social media is high-quality images that connect you to the audience.

Include a brief statement summarizing who you are to include as your tagline. It may be something personal to connect with your audience or it might be focussed more on your upcoming book projects. Feel free to include a link to your website.

What Kind of Posts Should Authors Create?

I think most of us would agree that writing social media posts is quite different from writing an 80,000-word novel. So, if social media content does not come naturally for you, know that you are not alone—many authors find it difficult to switch from one writing mode to another.

The good news is that writers have an advantage over other “posters” in that they know the basic rules of writing, how to grab one’s attention with words, and the concepts of voice, tone, and mood. And I would argue that’s a big leg up.

A common mistake authors often make is hopping onto a social media site and begin sharing whatever comes to mind. Or they insert the Amazon link to their latest book and expect something to happen. It takes considerably more than that to engage with the right people, especially with those who have limited time to spend on social media. Creating consistent, relevant content that has a purpose is key.

Every post should have a purpose.

Posting consistent, relevant content for your target audience is fundamental to becoming a successful social media participant. Creating anything less is likely going to be a waste of your time and/or a lesson in futility.

To engage with your target audience, it is important to think like them. Put yourself in their shoes, and then give them what they want. While each author will have to determine what constitutes the right content, I can at a minimum offer this list as a place to start.

Social Media Posts for Connecting with Other Authors

  • Acknowledge other authors who have helped you in your career
  • Conduct a Q&A session
  • Create relevant, sharable content about the craft of writing
  • Disclose important milestones you have reached
  • Post cover reveals and new releases
  • Promote service providers you can recommend
  • Provide a behind-the-scenes look at your writing process
  • Re-post links to interesting articles
  • Share latest industry news
  • Talk about upcoming events (conferences, webinars, workshops, etc.)

Social Media Posts for Connecting with Readers and Fans

  • Answer frequently asked questions
  • Ask for reader opinions
  • Conduct a Q&A session
  • Disclose important milestones you have reached
  • Discuss things that are specific to your genre
  • Engage fans in games and/or contests
  • Host giveaways
  • Include a quote or excerpt from your book
  • Invite people to name a character in your next book
  • Let people see your personal side
  • Post cover reveals
  • Post photos of your workspace
  • Promote other authors’ works
  • Provide a behind-the-scenes look at your writing process
  • Re-post particularly good reviews
  • Reveal your love of books
  • Share a chapter from your book
  • Show off your pets (a little cheesy, but it works)
  • Solicit feedback as to what readers like and dislike
  • Talk about your new releases
  • Tell others what you are reading
  • Update fans on your writing progress

Social Media Posts for Connecting with Influencers and Industry Professionals

  • Disclose important milestones you have reached
  • Let people know who is talking about you
  • Make known your involvement in the writing world (speaking engagements, interviews, articles written, press coverage, book fairs attended, etc.)
  • Post cover reveals and new releases
  • Promote yourself (books published, awards achieved, honors received, etc.)
  • Share a quote or excerpt from your book
  • Thank others for their help in your career

The important thing is to stay consistent with both the content and timing of your posts, so your audience knows what to expect. It is often a slow process to find the right combination, but this is how you build a solid reader/follower base.

How Often Should You Post?

Posting on social media will not work well for you if you only post when something pops into your head, when you have a free minute, or when you feel like it. Your posts need to be more strategic than that, and a good place to start is with a schedule.

I like using an annual posting calendar for each of the three social media sites that I have found to work best for me and my books. Once a year, I create a six-month schedule of posts and then reuse them for the second half of the year.

I try to post on Twitter twice daily, on my Facebook author page weekly, and on my Facebook personal page as needed.

I alternate posts with the following core topics:

  • Industry news
  • Invitation to visit my website
  • Links to relevant articles of interest
  • My new book releases
  • My upcoming events
  • Promotion of my books
  • Promotion of someone else’s book

I will periodically substitute a post with some other subject matter when appropriate, but I find these core topics to be most effective for my “routine” posts.

It takes a while to prepare an annual calendar, but I find it is much more efficient in the long run than trying to come up with posts daily. Another benefit of creating a mass of posts at one time is it reduces repetition. And having an annual calendar makes posting on social media each day a breeze, as most of the posts are just a matter of “cut and paste.”

Why Some Authors Might Avoid Social Media

Be aware of some of the common roadblocks that keep authors off social media and make sure to reach out for help through one of our courses if you are encountering any of these roadblocks!

  • Creating relevant, engaging posts doesn’t come easily for you. If you find yourself struggling for content with each post, you may be afraid to be on social media all together.
  • You can’t depend on social media for sales. While it is true you may not sell many (if any) books from a social media site, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in connecting with readers online.
  • The only time you devote to social media is when you can squeeze it in. With social media, you get what you put into it, so if you don’t set aside time to post you won’t see results.
  • You get too obsessed with and hooked on social media that it starts to consume your author life. Major distractions will interfere with your life as an author. If you are spending more than an hour a day on social media posting “authorly” things, you may be missing out on other, more lucrative opportunities.

What to do Next?

Using social media to get your books out into the world can be an amazing opportunity by helping you to gain valuable exposure, but it takes time and effort. Don’t be surprised if you have to try many different strategies before you find what works, as this is how you learn what resonates with your audience and what does not. Creating an effective social media presence is something that evolves over time.

“Social media is about the people, not about your business.
Provide for the people, and the people will provide for you.”

—Matt Goulart, founder of Ignite Digital

Used effectively, I think you will find that social media has the ability to play an important role in your author platform. And who knows, you might even stop thinking of it as a “necessary evil” and start to like it!

Check out this new training made JUST FOR AUTHORS!

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Click here for more articles by Florence Osmund.
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Florence Osmund

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Florence Osmund

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