With the zillions of sites available for people to connect, it’s forgivable for your head to swim when you think about where to focus your social media efforts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and GoodReads have become familiar to most authors. But what about Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, FourSquare, Vimeo, Snapchat, Vine, About.me, Google+, Ello, Periscope, and others? How do you know which ones you should be using?
Most important, is it possible to maintain a platform that doesn’t eat away at your writing time or suck the joy from your life?
I think you can. The strongest platforms are the ones their authors enjoy, ones that are managed within the context of their writing lives.
There are four steps to building this platform:
- Find your audience.
- Build your presence.
- Engage your fans.
- Measure and repeat.
Finding your audience is important. You may have written the greatest business book of all time, but if you’re sharing management tips on Tumblr—a platform known for its meme-loving young audience—you’re probably not going to get enough traction that it’s worth your time. You’re more likely to find your audience if you shift your attention to LinkedIn, a platform focused on professional connections.
Consider your book’s genre and demographics. (The Author Portal has resources to help you; it’s likely your marketer will have ideas too.) Examine the platform, thinking of your own style: will you enjoy the pace and content type? If so, start by looking for people who are using that platform well. What are other authors in your genre doing? Think about people you enjoy following. What are they doing well? Those you admire may have started to engage with influencers, people whose own broad networks believe they have something to say. Make a list of those influencers.
Building your presence is a combination of getting the basics right and doing the work. If you show up for a reading on your publicity tour in scuba gear, you probably won’t be taken seriously. (Unless it’s hosted underwater, of course.) The same is true of social media. Current pictures, relevant descriptions, and interesting posts convince people that you’re worth following. Do the work to polish these, so you can engage with fans and influencers in a meaningful way.
- January–March: Take the time this winter to do the work. Find your audience, discover the influencers, and polish the basics.
The key to engaging your fans is sharing consistently strong content. Post regularly. Have real conversations. Help others: fans, authors, and influencers. Be thoughtful of your audience—what experience are you providing for them? A word of warning: while cover reveals, excerpts, great reviews, and buy links help you sell your books, a constant stream of such posts is not engaging content helpful to your audience—it’s a feed of commercials. Create content that complements your author brand. If you wrote a novel about hiking, it’s more engaging to share a list of your favorite trails or pictures of your camping gear than to post “Buy my amazing book!”
- April–June: Build, build, build. Participate in ways that help. Give your followers strong, consistent content.
Your path to growth is through experimentation and measurement. It’s essential to ask yourself how you’re doing and measure your performance. What types of posts get the most reaction from fans? What posts earn you more fans? Are there posts that cause you to lose fans? Are you engaging the influencers you’ve identified? Go back and look at the analytics—some platforms have sophisticated, deep demographic data available in real-time, while on another platform, you’ll manually count the number of likes or shares. Give yourself goals and experiment with different ways to reach them. Celebrate when you do.
- July–December: Experiment and measure. Set a goal for yourself. Each month, measure what you’re doing in terms of social engagement and book sales. If you’ve met your goal, challenge yourself to a new one. If you’ve fallen behind, what can you do to improve?
Analyzing your results should help you to create content that is enjoyable for you and authentic to your audience.
You don’t want to waste your writing and personal time posting the wrong content on the wrong networks. Using this article as a guide, you can grow your social media platform into an efficient, influential, and joyful presence that expands your author brand.
Brandi Larsen is the Digital Publishing Director for The Berkley Publishing Group, where, along with working on digital strategy, she helps authors expand their reach. For more tips on how to improve your social media, including answers to social media stumbling blocks, check out her webinar “How’s My Social Media? A Checklist,” which Penguin Random House authors can access on the Author Portal.