Undoubtedly, by now you’ve heard about the virtues of building a social media presence as an author. Maybe you even found this post through Twitter or Facebook. However, the importance of a strong personal brand (perhaps even more for authors than most freelance jobs) cannot be understated.
My friend who works as a social media manager often says, “Your social media is a comparative title for yourself.” What she means is that your posts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. become a way for people to quickly see the type of person you are and what you’re interested in. If your content isn’t tailored to that, it’s more difficult for people to understand where your core values lie.
Social media isn’t just a way to push yourself out into the world, though. It’s also a great resource for you to use for your writing, pitching, or marketing. Hashtags such as #amwriting or #writingtipwednesday (both of which Ex Libris regularly participates in) offer ways for authors to crowdsource their knowledge and to build a community. Hashtag campaigns (#DVpit; #PitMad) and evergreen ones (#MSWL) that focus on pitching allow authors get their work out into the public eye. Social media also helps you stay aware of market trends: Accounts like PublishersLunch (@publisherslunch) and Publishers Weekly (@publishersweekly) post news about happenings in the industry or big book deals. Publishing houses post about their frontlist. Authors post about their current works in progress. Following some of these accounts will give you examples to follow.
So now that you’re up to speed on why social media is essential for authors, here are some tips on how to improve your own social media presence:
Make Use of Visuals
Because social media is often just scrolling through a timeline, it is helpful to have something that is more visual to catch your audience’s eye. Whether it’s a graphic you’ve made to accompany your story, a gif about your feelings during your writing process, or simply some emojis to punctuate your punchline, careful (read: not every post) use of visuals will help your posts stand out.
Watch Trending Topics and Hashtags
Twitter and Facebook have made it very easy to see what topics or hashtags are trending at the current moment—use that to your advantage. Keep an eye on what’s trending, and if there’s something relevant to you and your brand, make a post about it (and be sure to include the trending keyword or hashtag!).
A word of caution: make sure you always check out the types of posts that are among the top viewed before posting yourself to make sure you understand the context and the people who are involved. DiGiorno is one of the more notable examples. In reaction to a public story about domestic abuse, the hashtag #WhyIStayed began trending to fight the victim-blaming criticism surrounding the issue. DiGiorno’s account, responding to the popularity of the hashtag without finding out what it meant, tweeted out “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” While they apologized for it later, it still serves as a cautionary tale.
Make Conversation with Other Professionals
Tagging or replying to other people on social media can be a great way to expand your visibility. While you may only have so many followers, someone else in your industry or in a related field may have a larger audience—an audience of shared interests. Including another person in your own tweets on occasion, such as tagging an author when tweeting about your reaction to their book or replying to an agent’s thread on recommendations for a restaurant, will get others to see you as a participating voice in the profession, and they’ll want to hear more.
It is incredibly obvious when people use a hashtag or tag an author for the sole purpose of promoting themselves. Social media works better as a tool for audience engagement than it does for selling something. The key is to be personable. Rather than using your account to post the link to your book every other day, use it to talk about a personal success you had while writing (Finally hit 50,000 words! #amwriting) or a grievance you’re having (Man, does writing take a lot longer when my cat is covering my keyboard #writerslife). You can even use it as a platform to crowdsource some things (Does anyone know whether this word or this word is more correct in this situation? #askeditor). You can then post the link to your book every once in a while without it seeming like you’re taking advantage of your audience. The difference is subtle, but when you take out the intention of selling your book to people and instead aim to provide something—be it entertainment or conversation—people become a lot more open to engaging with and following your posts.
It’s good to note that you don’t have to take on all of this immediately. A good social media presence takes time to build—especially a cohesive, engaging one. But if you follow these steps and make an effort to post at least once every other day, then you’ll be well on your way to building a strong audience, one that will gladly support you when the time comes.