Reaching Readers via Social Media : Hot Tips for Authors
By Crystal King
The famous Field of Dreams quote, “If you build it, he will come” does not hold much water in the world of social media. You can build a Web site or create a Facebook author page or start a Twitter account but unfortunately, those channels are meaningless without three things: personality, content and engagement. Social media is merely a conduit for you as an author to showcase who you are (personality), what you write (content) and to communicate with your audience and to attract potential readers (engagement).
I work with a lot of writers who are trying to figure out how to wrangle those channels and build an audience for their books. Much of my advice tends to be the same from person to person so without further ado, here are my top social media tips for writers:
- Be yourself.
This is often the hardest thing for authors with whom I work. It’s hard to put oneself out there—much harder for some than writing a book. However, doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up your privacy. If you don’t want to talk about your family, don’t. If you don’t want to mention where you live, don’t. But you can talk about some of the things that fuel you, your writing and your characters. Readers want to know what makes the author tick, and they are very desperate to know more about the characters that they love. Keep that in mind when you are building the content for your social channels. What gets you excited? For example, the novel I am working on is about a first century Roman gourmand. That gives me a lot to talk about! I can share how I researched the book, recipes my character might have eaten, articles about that time period, photos from my trips to Rome, etcetera. I can also discuss the challenges of writing in general, or talk about what inspired me to write. If you feel comfortable talking about your personal life, by all means, go for it. One of the ways that social media is changing the landscape for authors is that readers are more keen than ever to get to know the people behind their favorite books. Giving readers an insight into who you are helps shape how they feel about you. If they like you as a person or identify with you on some level they will be more likely to buy your books in the future.
Some good author blogs who show the various facets of their personality well:
- Schedule your time.
It’s easy to lose track of time on the Web—if you can find time to go there in the first place. Time is one of the main concerns I hear from writers. “How do I find the time?” they wail. The truth is hard to hear; you have to make time. Initially, setting up the various social media channels may take you a bit of time, especially if you have a learning curve in how to use the various tools. However, once you are up and running it becomes a matter of monitoring and engaging. The good thing is that you can do much of it in chunks which makes it easy to slot in between other things you might be doing. Don’t have a lot of time to blog? Schedule your posts to go out once a week (although I suggest more if you can) on a certain day. Slot 20 minutes in to monitor Twitter on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Set up a social media bookmarklet to your browser so that you can easily share things to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Twitter on the fly.
- Connect with readers and potential readers.
This goes back to what I said at the beginning of this article. You need to go beyond building your social media profile. You have to reach out to others and actually engage them. Introverts will find this the most difficult but the rewards for stepping beyond your comfort zone are worth it. What do I mean by engage? It means having Twitter conversations (replying to or mentioning someoneusing @ + their name). It means commenting on other blog posts (Bonus: over and over this is one of the #1 ways to drive traffic back to your own blog). It means having discussions with your followers on Facebook and Google+. When you engage with others, people, in turn, take an interest back in you. And when they are interested in you, they become interested in your books. Engaging with others is the best way to build quality followers.
- Monitor and engage on an industry level.
The world is your oyster! I mean that when I say it. With social media you have the power to go beyond your circle of friends and connect with publishers, agents, bookstores, publicists and others in the industry. If you have a pulse on what is happening in the world of writing and publishing you are a big step ahead when it comes to know where you need to be pointing your attention when it comes to your self-promotion. Writer’s Digest has a couple of good lists on Twitter to get you started:
- 5. Don’t stop!
You don’t have to tweet every day or blog five times a week, although those things do help. But being absent isn’t acceptable. When you stop blogging entirely or only tweet once every six weeks, you lose your audience. Twitter, for example, is a channel where there is a lot of noise so users will use tools like TwitCleaner to clear out the clutter—which might be you if you are absent for too long. Your blog will lose RSS readers. Facebook friends will fall away. If you are having trouble on figuring out what to say, go back to #1 and brainstorm topics. If you are having issues with time, go back to tip #2 and schedule, schedule, schedule. But whatever you do, don’t stop entirely!
Crystal King is a 25-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, and the forthcoming THE CHEF'S SECRET (February 12, 2019, Touchstone Books) about the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi. Currently Crystal works as a social media professor for HubSpot, a leading provider of Inbound marketing software. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website: crystalking.comSee other articles by Crystal King