Every author needs a website and a mailing list—these are two essential digital marketing tools, and they’re fairly straightforward to set up. But another important component of an online author platform is social media, and that’s where things get tricky. If you’re on social media, but using it mainly to connect with family and friends, learning to use it professionally is not always an easy or intuitive shift.
Everybody swarms toward social media, knowing that they have to do it, but not having a clue what they’re supposed to get out of it. The key is to be purposeful about your social media. This isn’t about feeding your ego or killing time. Fundamentally, it’s a place for your fans to learn about you, strengthen their attachment to you, and interact with each other.
Understand your goals for social media
There are some real and measurable results that you can expect to achieve if you are conscious of your goals here. One great goal might be to attract people to your website, blog, or mailing list, where you’ll draw them to another specific action. Other objectives can include:
- Spreading awareness about your book and raising interest in reading it.
- Getting feedback on your ideas and test your book concepts.
- Building your reputation as a smart contributor to your field of expertise.
- Promoting events, offers, and giveaways.
- Using social media as a yardstick to measure your platform growth and engagement.
Think about which of these goals line up with your own priorities. If you set off with a destination in mind, you are far more likely to reach it.
Decide which social media networks are right for you
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of social media—there are so many networks to choose from, with so-called “social media gurus” telling you that you need all of them. Meanwhile, platforms such as Vine are being shut down, wiping out your hard-earned following in an instant.
In this seemingly complex space, you should focus on a few key social media channels that have stood the test of time. Here are some tips to get started:
- Create a Facebook page. Facebook is the most popular social media site in the world, and it’s an easy place for your audience to congregate and engage with you.
- Pick one or two additional social media networks that you are comfortable using. Instead of creating an account on every channel that you know of, keep your platform manageable. Start with two or three total, and then wait until you are comfortable with them before expanding.
Here are some of the most popular social media networks you might consider using:
A social network that focuses on imagery, Instagram allows their users to upload and add filters to photographs, which they then share with their followers. It’s not all just food photos, either; plenty of people use Instagram to promote their brand and engage their audience.
Best for: Those with visually appealing content; especially those with a younger audience.
A primary tool for creating, discovering, and following trends, Twitter is used to share short, 280-character tweets with followers. It also makes it easy to communicate with your audience in real time, allowing you to field questions and feedback quickly and publicly.
Best for: Those prepared to engage in real-time with other users, at least some of the time. Also good for newsy or time-sensitive topics such as live events.
The Facebook of business, LinkedIn is a social network designed to help professionals reach out to other professionals. It has also become a strong stand-alone blogging platform.
Best for: Those with a corporate audience; those with an industry-specific audience.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is another visually focused social network. Through the use of “pins,” users can create walls of inspirational images based on their hobbies, design, architecture, or anything else they choose.
Best for: Those with majority-female audiences; those with visually appealing and inspirational content.
With so many options, how do you choose which platforms to use? Here are some questions to ask yourself before making your decision:
- How much time do I have? If you don’t have half an hour to create interesting graphics for Pinterest, consider using Twitter, which might take 30 seconds out of every hour, or Instagram, which might only take a couple minutes of playing photographer. If you don’t have any free time at all, focus on one or two networks instead of spreading yourself thin, and hold off on adding new platforms for now.
- Which platforms do I enjoy using? You want to develop an author platform that you will both maintain and enjoy! Spend some time on the different platforms to see which are your favourite. If you love taking images, pick Instagram! If you like knocking off pithy thoughts throughout the day or diving into real-time conversations, Twitter is for you.
- Which platforms are my readers using? There’s no point talking to someone who isn’t there, so choose a platform your readers are using! If your audience is mainly stay-at-home moms and dads, the parent-friendly Pinterest will be a better bet than the corporate-focused LinkedIn.
If you’re not keen on the idea of keeping up with all of these social media accounts, remember that they’re not essential for everyone. It’s best to do what works for you, and what you’ll actually enjoy using. If that means you only have a Facebook account, that’s fine. But remember that the less activity you have on the digital channels of your author platform, the more you will have to rely on its other elements. If you are well known to your audience through public appearances, speeches, or seminars, you may be able to do without that Twitter account. But if you’re relying on online engagement to build your following, you’ll want to think carefully before discounting a social media presence.
Figure out how much time to invest in social media
Ideally, you should be posting on social media every day, but the amount will differ from account to account. On Facebook, once a day is a good start, while more than two times a day can dilute your content. Twitter, on the other hand, can be posted on as much as six times a day or more. As always, the important thing is to find an amount of content creation that you’re comfortable with, and remain consistent with your sharing. Experiment with different posting frequencies to see what your audience will respond to, and when the law of diminishing returns kicks in.
Establishing and growing a strong online platform does take time and consistent effort. But it doesn’t have to take over your life—in fact, it mustn’t. The great thing is, as your audience expands, you can serve all those many more people without necessarily increasing the effort required to keep it going and keep it growing.
Not all authors are looking for the same size of author platform, and some take more effort than others. If you think you want to do courses, multimedia content, direct sales, webinars, and more, then you’ll need some help! With this content, your author platform is almost limitless in its potential, but you must make it a deliberate business decision. It’s no small feat to pull off this kind of platform building, so be prepared to invest in its growth and maintenance.
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