By Jordyn Kross and Charlotte Black
The August 2019 RWR has an article by Kilby Blades, The Social Media Audit. We highly recommend reading this article for expert advice on social media marketing. But what if you aren’t ready for her advice? You’re pre-published, you don’t have an author platform, and, although you know you need one, what the heck should you post?
We’ve got you covered.
Accept the fact that you will, eventually, have to use social media for marketing. As Kilby said in the article: “…to scale your reader base or to market to a specific demographic, you will be hard-pressed to find better targeting options than you will find on social media platforms.” But in order to leverage these platforms, you have to exist on them. You need connections so that when you are ready to market, in small doses, you have someone to market to.
Social Media Options
Let’s discuss the various platforms that are currently (as of September 2019, anyway) in high use, and concentrate on using them for your writing business, not as a private person.
Since it seems like there’s a new social media platform rising every day (example: TikTok) and just as many dying (RIP, Vine…), to keep things simple we’re going to concentrate on the three most prevalent.
Facebook is probably the most widely-used social media platform. If you’re somehow not familiar with Facebook, it allows you to connect with other people and share status updates, pictures, and other media such as links with your “Facebook friends”, and join groups with people of similar interests. You can use it as a private person with a Facebook profile, or as a business with a business page, people can “like”, though it’s required to have a Facebook profile before you can make a business page.
Twitter is technically a micro-blog—it allows users to share brief status updates of up to 280 characters. Twitter tends to be fast-paced and communications are quick and rapid-fire. Hashtags, which we’ll get to shortly, are commonly used to categorize content.
Instagram is more of a visual medium, where users can share pictures and/or video with their followers, and users can “like” and comment on pictures. A big feature of Instagram is the use of hashtags in order to help categorize content. We should note that Instagram is owned by Facebook.
All of these social media platforms can be accessed through a computer via a website, or through an app on your phone or tablet, and require you to sign up with a free account to use them. Another feature is that they’ll allow you to “tag” a fellow user in a post or content.
It’s also possible to use specific platforms for targeted marketing purposes—for example, an author who writes YA (young adult) or NA (new adult) might want to be more active on a platform where their audience is, so they may post more on Snapchat and TikTok than on Facebook. Keep in mind that your mileage may vary for this strategy, and it will be different for every author and sub-genre.
There are plenty of other social media platforms, of course—YouTube, Pinterest, and Snapchat, to name a few. And you’ll have to figure out through trial and error what works for you and your brand—because if you don’t like a platform, you won’t use it, and it won’t be of any use to you or your business.
Establish Your Social Media Presence
Now that you’ve decided on a few to try, the first thing you have to do to establish your presence on those platforms is create an account. Use a name that is professional and represents your writer-persona and try for consistency across the platforms (see the authors social media links at the bottom of the article for an example). On Twitter, Jordyn is @JKrossWrites and Charlotte is @CharBAuthor. Once you’re logged in, you have some work to do.
Complete your profile information to the extent that you want to, but do include a biographical description. Jordyn uses her author tag line with a link to her website and relevant hashtags. Charlotte has additional likes, such as tea, gin, and a specific fan-fic favorite. These details are like a good introduction: “Adam, I’d like you to meet Eve. She’s into gardening and nude sunbathing.” Adam knows right away what they might have in common. Your bio with pithy details and relevant hashtags provides that brief but informative introduction.
But what’s a hashtag, you might be asking yourself. Hashtags are words used with the # sign to categorize content, and are like badges or labels or flair. When you attend an RWA conference, they have buckets of ribbons that you can add to your name tag: Plotter, Pantser, Contemporary, Debut, First Timer. Adding these to your name tag tells someone something about you that they can use to kick off a conversation. Flair, those pithy little buttons that say things like “Bye, Felicia”, again provide a point of conversation, maybe give a clue about what you find important. The interesting difference with hashtags and a digital world is that you can not only announce who you are, but you can search hashtags and find others who are interested in the same thing.
For example, here are some useful hashtags for writers: #WritingCommunity, #amwriting, #CPMatch, #PitchWars, #LERARWA. The #LERARWA in my bio acts like a pin on my lapel—I belong to this group. This hashtag can also be used in posts, such as announcements around The Writer contest. It flags the person or the post as belonging to the group. Other hashtags like #CPMatch are related to topics, in this case, critique partner matching. People looking to connect to a new writing partner could use this hashtag in a post and others can search the hashtag to find that post. Use hashtags as labels on your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts to help people who are interested in what you’re posting to find you.
Posting to Social Media
So, what should you post and how can you post efficiently?
This is something that’s evolved for the better over the years. It used to be that you had to post individually on each platform, and who has time for that when you’re supposed to be writing? Now, there are ways to integrate and link your various social media accounts so they can cross-post. For example, the LERA Instagram account is set up so it can both tweet on Twitter and post to the LERA Facebook page when someone posts to the Instagram account. Pretty neat, huh?
Here are some good starting points:
And some social media platforms have made internal improvements. Twitter never used to let you be logged into more than one Twitter account at one time, either online or through the apps. You could be logged into one account on your computer and another one on your phone, but that was a pain. Now, Twitter has a feature that allows you to be logged into different accounts and toggle between them. This is especially handy if you have multiple pen names and accounts to go with them.
As for content, you can technically post whatever you want. But be aware that what you post is public and permanent. The internet is forever. Also, some platforms have rules about what you can post. Be familiar with the terms so that you don’t get suspended or banned.
Since you’re using social media as your writerly persona, you’ll want to focus on interests related to your brand—what you write about, what you like to do, what you’re reading, what you include in your stories, etc.
Notice we didn’t say to post a bunch of “Buy my book!” content, though you should absolutely post when you have a new release, or your book is on sale. And that’s because the focus shouldn’t be only on marketing.
Let’s say that again: The focus of your social media posts shouldn’t be only on marketing.
Instead, the focus should be on building relationships between you and other authors—especially authors who write similar content to you—and between you and readers. Even between you and reviewers! The idea is to show people the person behind the writing. But don’t go overboard—pick a few things to share (for example, if you like to cook and feature food in your books, share recipes or tell people what you made for dinner with pictures!) and be consistent.
Readers and other authors want that relationship with you, and that’s what’s going to sell books. Speaking of, how do you build those relationships? And with whom?
To build relationships—and ultimately an audience—is an organic process, just like building a relationship in the physical world. We have some suggestions on ways to jump start this process. But don’t try to do it all in one day. And start with the platform with which you are most comfortable. At first, Jordyn didn’t like Twitter at all, now it’s a daily staple. Go slow, feel free to lurk for a while and read other’s posts. Then when you’re ready, take the first steps.
Like a post or respond to a post. Follow someone who is interesting to you. If someone likes your post or response, follow them. Seek out the big names in your sub-genre and follow them. They likely won’t follow you back, but the people interacting with them probably have some interests in common with you or what you write.
Consider adding an additional membership to an online RWA special interest chapter. The members will, by definition, be interested in the same thing you are and these chapters generally have very reasonable dues. You can see the list of chapters includes everything from Regency to Contemporary and Clean to Erotic. These online chapters generally have private Facebook groups you can join and practice interacting online.
Speaking of Facebook groups, there a gazillion of those. Many are related to readers and writing and other interests related to your brand. Find a couple that sound interesting and join as a participant. Interact by responding to new posts, and posting interesting related information. Refrain from marketing directly and also be aware of the rules for the group. Remember, you are building relationships. If you find yourself interacting with a few members frequently, send them friend requests.
Caveats. “Direct messages” or DMs are the equivalent of knocking on someone’s front door. Expect the level of response you would give to the person at your front door based on the quality of the relationship with that person. And it’s okay not to follow someone back if their bio is blank or sketchy. There are bots (automated spam accounts) and trolls (the antagonistic equivalent of an unfortunate relative who is never invited to the party) and you don’t have to interact with everyone. Also, carefully consider before posting “judgey” posts. You may be yucking someone else’s yum. “I hate all…” or “I will never read…” probably aren’t good representations of you or your brand.
Social media is constantly evolving, but, in a nutshell, you need it in order to further your writing business. It’s invaluable for finding other folks who do what you do, and for interacting with other writers, reviewers, and readers. So find a few platforms that work for you, give them a try, and use them consistently to build good relationships. Good luck, have fun trying, and we’ll see you on the internet.
Jordyn Kross writes unapologetically naughty stories and her debut novel, Winter’s List, is out now on Amazon. She can be found on:
and at http://jordynkross.com/
Charlotte Black is hard at work on her debut novel, a M/M fantasy romance with soulmates, and can be found on:
and at http://charlotteblackauthor.com/