Social Media 101 for DIY Authors
Being successful at social media means putting out great content and engaging with readers.Building a social media following to help promote an indie book takes time and dedication. If an author is joining Twitter the day her book comes out, it’s already too late. Authors should plan to implement a social media strategy at least a year before the book's publication. Being successful at social media means putting out great content and engaging with readers -- so that when a book is released, an author’s followers will care about it, help spread the word, and of course buy the book.
Farnoosh Brock, author and founder of the blog Prolific Living, used social media to successfully promote her book and says “building a credible social media presence is essential to your success as an author, whether you are self-published or going through a traditional publisher. I would recommend using at most two social media platforms to build a loyal following.” While authors can now use a number of social media platforms to promote themselves (Tumblr, Instagram, or even Pinterest) Twitter and Facebook remain the most popular -- and these platforms are a good place to start.
Twitter can be intimidating at first -- but if an author uses it well it can be a great tool. Authors should try and think of social media as a way to promote themselves -- not just their latest book. For example, if an author spends a year just tweeting a countdown to her book's release date, she will have a lot of bored followers (if any).So, where to begin? Authors can start by following people who are interested in books: other writers, book bloggers, book reviewers, librarians, editors, journalists, etc. These users can be found with a few quick keyword searches. A romance author, for example, can follow all her favorite romance authors. She can follow organizations such as Romance Writers of America (@romancewriters), which tweet information about contests, grants, or upcoming events relevant to the genre. The more people an author follows, the more likely it becomes that someone will follow her back -- following people increases a Twitter user’s visibility.
Authors should avoid using Twitter to pester other users about their book. They should avoid tweets like: "Hey, @nytimes check out my new book!" That's considered spamming -- and it's an easy way to lose followers. Tweets should have smart, interesting content that followers can retweet or comment on. Authors can note which tweets get the most retweets and favorites and use them as a model for their own content.
As an example, an author can tweet a congratulations to another author whose book is coming out or who has just received a good review. An author can retweet or favorite things she likes. Authors can post links to articles they enjoy. If an author’s book is set in Louisiana, she might want to tweet 10 interesting facts about the state. If an author did a lot of research about corsets for her book, she might tweet some fun things she learned. Generally people want to be entertained and informed by what they read on Twitter -- not spammed by desperate authors.
Creating a fan page on Facebook should be a part of every author’s social media strategy. The creation of an author page is a better long-term strategy than merely creating a fan page for an individual book. An author page will let authors post updates and news for years to come about all their new endeavors, whereas a fan page for just one book will not encourage repeat visitors once the book is released. When their fan page is created, authors can make sure there are buy links for their books figured prominently on the page, along with an image of the book cover. Authors can extend an invite to all their friends and encourage them to like the page.
Authors should follow the same rules as they do for Twitter -- posting interesting updates as often as they can. Did a local library just get a spiffy new renovation? Post a link. Did you read another author's work that you like? Mention it and tag them in your post. People will come to an author’s page to read interesting posts -- and by doing so will learn a bit more about the author and her work.
Finally, authors can make sure all their social media profiles link to one another -- and link to a place where their followers can buy their books.
Jennifer McCartney is an author and editor.