Making the most of social networks as a writer

I love social media. Some of this is probably due to the fact that it was my day job prior to writing. In my past life as a web designer, my days consisted of designing gorgeous and useable websites for our clients, as well as coming up with content and marketing plans. Many of these proposals included social media strategies.

I found my past marketing experience immensely helpful when I needed to begin promoting my own books. Now more than ever, writers are expected not only to write the novels, but to promote them as well. We’re told to maintain a blog, sign up for twitter, cross-post to tumblr and facebook and on and on.

It can certainly be overwhelming. For those who aren’t a huge fan of social media, I wish I could say it was all pointless and you don’t need to worry about it as a writer. But I honestly don’t believe that’s  true. The internet is an amazingly powerful tool, and so. many. readers. are online these days. Unless you’re a huge superstar like J.K. Rowling, it would be foolish to completely ignore the marketing opportunities at your disposal.

That said, you do not have to do everything.

I think this is the biggest mistake I see writers making. Some have little to no online presence prior to a book deal (save for maybe a blog), and then after signing a contract, they register for ALL THE NETWORKS. Then they try to keep them all active.

Here’s my number one tip: When it comes to managing social media, only do the things you love.

These outlets should be fun, not chores. So if you hate blogging, stop forcing yourself to maintain a ridiculously unrealistic schedule. If you feel lost every time you sign onto twitter, don’t obsess about tweeting a dozen times a day. If you pour your time into every network evenly, you’ll be stretched too thin. You won’t have quality writing time, let alone a life, and you’ll be grouchy on top of it. So figure out which social networks are your favorites, and make them your primary soap boxes when it comes to connecting with fans. (For me personally, it’s twitter and tumblr. I absolutely adore these outlets, so they are where I spend the most time.)

My second tip: Be yourself.

If you’re putting on your Professional Author Shoes whenever you sit down to tweet or blog or tumble, you’ll face burnout in no time. LinkedIn is where you need to be professional and serious. Most other networks are about making connections and sharing what you love. The more natural you can be in these settings, the less like work they will feel.

At the same time, it’s  important to remember that each network has it’s own niche and can be leveraged by writers in different ways. While I spend most of my time on twitter and tumblr, I do have accounts with most major networks, and tend to jump between them as my needs see fit.

Some thoughts on how you can make each social network work for you:

Twitter

twitter-bird-blue-on-whiteThis is a great platform for making connections within your industry, but remember that twitter is a party, not a podium. Talk too much solely about your own writing/book and people will start tuning you out, so be sure to engage in two-way conversation. My favorite tweeps are users who respond to me and share compelling content/links. Knowing this, I try to do the same in return.

Best for: connecting with publishing professionals (writers, agents, editors, book reviewers, etc)

Authorly tips:

  • Leverage the RT functionality for giveaways. Example: I sometimes tweet a picture of the prize and track RT’s as official entries.
  • Use unique hashtags to host events/games/Q&As, or pair it with a giveaway for added branding. Example: I host #namethatbook several times a year–a fun game for bookish people.
  • Share what you find exciting. (This can be your news, or the news of others, or a fun link about dolphins. Just remember that people will follow you because of what you bring to the table. If you also happen to have a book coming out, that might be an added bonus.)

Facebook

Facebook-Logo-ChangeFacebook is still the reigning king of social networks, drawing the highest number of users. Setting up an author page and taping into this audience can’t hurt. This is the only major network I don’t use for my writing outreach (I’m not a huge fan of facebook, so based on my #1 rule, I avoid using it) but I’ve often wondered if I’m missing out on connecting with a huge chunk of readers. Case in point: If a person isn’t big on social networks and has only one account to stay up-to-date with all his/her friends, chances are it’s a facebook account.

Best for: broadcasting events and news

Authorly tips:

  • Invite friends to “like” your author page once you set it up. (This isn’t just for the vanity purpose of having likes. You want users aware that the page exists, and “liking” it will ensure they see updates when you post news in the future.
  • Utilize facebook events to share and promote your appearances and/or book signings.
  • Many outside networks let you automate cross-posting to facebook, meaning content you post on one site (such as tumblr) will also push to your facebook author page wall. Look into setting this up as you see fit.
EDIT: Since writing this post, facebook changed it’s algorithms and only a small percentage of your likers will actually see your posts. I now suggest skipping an author page and just sharing events via a personal page if you have one. If not, maybe skip facebook for author needs altogether.

Tumblr

tumblr-logo.pg_This is where the teens are*, but this doesn’t mean it’s the place to hard sell your book non-stop. With an energetic and laid back culture, tumblr is about sharing what you love. Since the micro-blogging platform relies heavily on image-based posts, I’ve found this network most useful when I use it as a visual diary. I post things about my book from time to time, but for the most part I share and reblog things I find inspiring and awesome–art, photography, fandom things, and so on. Think of tumblr as a place to show who you are, not what your book is. You’ll naturally gather followers who fangirl/boy over the same things you do.

Best for: fandom goodness and geekery

Authorly tips:

  • Text-based posts are okay in moderation, but for lengthy and frequent ones, move over to your blog.
  • Be sure to set up your “ask box” so users can submit questions and easily reach out to you.
  • Teaser quotes prior to launch are a great way to promote your book within the tumblr framework. (Example: image teasers for my upcoming releases)
  • Always credit posts that are not yours.

Instagram

instagram-logo-hd-wallpaper-----3000--1792-high-definition-wallpaper-serwkplhI like to think of instagram as the mobile, lite version of flickr. This network is all about in-the-moment image sharing. (They added video recently too!) I don’t do too much authorly posting on this site–most of my uploads are nature and landscape shots–but my most popular posts in 2013 were the ones where I shared bookish photos. So rest assured that readers are on this platform, and they will find you! (Especially if you cross post photos to Twitter/Tumblr/etc.)

Best for: photo sharing, especially behind-the-scenes peeks at your writing

Authorly tips:

  • Post first glances at swag or ARCs to stir up reader interest.
  • Be sure to update your profile photo and bio so you are easy to find (Suggestion: pick a photo that matches your twitter avatar, and name your books in your bio line)
  • Give readers a behind-the-scenes look at your process. Post pictures of your writing space, brainstorm notebooks, post-it note outlining, and so on!

Pinterest

branding-pinterest-pathThe demographic for this network skews older and female, but promotional opportunities aside, Pinterest is a fabulous resource for writers. It’s essentially an image bookmarking site, letting users “pin” images to various “corkboards”. I have boards designated to specific story ideas, and others to general needs—potential characters, fantastical settings, useful diagrams, and so on. While Pinterest is a great organizational tool, it also allows readers a peek at how you envision certain characters and locations.

Best for: image bookmarking and visual brainstorming

Authorly tips:

  • Designate a board for each of your books so readers can explore your visualization of the story.
  • Consider making a board for fanart. It’s a nice way to show appreciation for the art readers create for your books while simultaneously establishing a single location for other readers to browse it.
  • Secret” boards can be used to brainstorm new ideas privately. Turn these public when you’re ready to share your image collection with others.
  • When possible, tie pinterest to your giveaways. Example: I hosted a pre-order contest when Taken first launched. Extra entries were earned by sharing a picture of a reader holding their copy of the book, and I collected these on a #TakenWithTAKEN board.

YouTube

youtub_660Naturally, vlogging is the driving force behind YouTube. If blogging is tedious for you and you’d rather talk to your audience, this might be the perfect outlet. I have a youtube channel, but I’ve only used it to post Scrivener tutorials. That said, this is the beauty of youtube. It’s your channel, about anything you want to discuss with your audience.

Best for: vlogging and live-stream events

Authorly tips:

  • Try to brand your channel page. Simple and sweet does the trick. (Examples: Kiera Cass, Jackson Pearce)
  • Host a live stream event and answer viewer questions in real time! (Tutorial here)
  • I honestly don’t have many insights to this network because I use it so infrequently. If you have suggestions and tips, please leave them in the comments!

 

Goodreads

goodreads-iconGoodreads is for readers, but writers are readers too. I don’t rate books with stars (more on that here), but I do like to share my thoughts via text-based reviews. I truly enjoy talking about the books I’ve read and discussing them with others. (Again, it all comes down to doing what you enjoy!) Perhaps even more importantly, goodreads has a few great features available to authors (known as the Goodreads Author Program) to help them connect with their fanbase.

Best for: book discussions and promotional opportunities

Authorly tips:

  • Connect your goodreads author account to your blog. This will ensure your blog posts appear in your followers’s goodreads feed.
  • Host a giveaway for an ARC or finished copy. These are free to create and open to whatever territories you decide. (How-to guide)
  • Be as involved (or uninvolved) in the goodreads network as you feel comfortable. Once your book is out in the world, it can become difficult to navigate any site where reviews and reader comments are in the open. If you’re in the camp that needs to avoid goodreads, that’s perfectly fine, but I do suggest at least having your author profile claimed and up-to-date so readers can find your website, twitter handle, and so on.

A Personal Website/Blog

Your personal website should almost act like a resume. Your books, bio, contact information, events, and links to your presence on other networks should all be available on this site. If you do absolutely nothing else in the way of web presence, a personal website is the one thing I consider a must. It doesn’t have to contain a blog unless you feel up to it. But if someone googles your name, they should be able to come to your website and learn who you are, what books you’ve written, and how to contact you.

Best for: a home base for all information

Authorly tips:

  • Consider creating a page per book, where you can share the premise, highlight reviews, and provide readers buy links. Example: I’ve done this with Taken and the other books in the series.
  • Your blog is your way of communicating with readers. There are no right and wrong rules. Blog as you see fit, and as often as you’re comfortable.
  • Extra content is a great way to entice readers to the site. If you have some, be sure to gather it in one central location.
  • Compile a press kit and make it downloadable via your site. Any time someone ask for your headshot or a cover photo, direct them to the link.
  • Set up a mailing list and invite people to subscribe. As much as you hope readers will visit your site often or read your blog via rss, some won’t. A mailing list is a great way to ensure these people don’t miss out on news. Suggestion: Mail Chimp is a fantastic email marketing service, and it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers.

I realize this is a lot to take in, but hopefully it was helpful and got you thinking about how you can utilize different networks to effectively connect with your audience. I want to reiterate: you do not have to do everything, and you should only do what you enjoy.

Now, I’m curious… What are your favorite social networks, and how do you utilize them to engage with readers and writers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and if you have additional tips to add to my lists, please share those too!

        

35 Responses to Making the most of social networks as a writer

  1. Natalie Aguirre Jan 22 2014 at 7:28 am #

    Great tips, Erin. My favorite social networking is blogging because I can help share awesome author advice and books. It takes so much time that I’m not on Facebook or Twitter as much as I’d like. I know that’s all I can handle so I’m not taking on more.

    I’d like to get on Facebook and Twitter more because so many people are there. But it’s very hard when you also work full-time, have a family, and want to write. I do what I can.

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 9:19 am #

      Thanks, Natalie. And doing what you can is, in my opinion, the perfect way to approach an online presence. If you tried to do everything, you wouldn’t have a life! 😉

  2. tracikenworth Jan 22 2014 at 7:50 am #

    Great tips!!

  3. Liz Blocker (@lizblo Jan 22 2014 at 8:26 am #

    This is a great post – and so helpful for all of us writerly types who bumble around social media (yes, I’m talking about myself). I’m bookmarking this. Thank you!!

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 9:20 am #

      So glad you found it useful, Liz! Bookmark away 🙂

  4. Julie
    Julie Jan 22 2014 at 9:11 am #

    Wow, Erin, this is soooo comprehensive! I have always admired your web presence, so I’m thrilled to have your tips! 🙂 Thanks for putting together so much knowledge! (Sorry for all the !!!’s but I am really excited! haha)

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 9:21 am #

      Thank you, Julie! So glad you found it helpful because boy did this post take forever to draft. I don’t think I realized how wide my web presence is until I started outlining all the networks I utilize. 🙂

  5. Anna Leighton Jan 22 2014 at 9:57 am #

    These are awesome tips! I’ve been wanting to create a web presence for myself for awhile now, but it’s really hard to know where to start. This broke it down perfectly for me. Thank you very much 🙂

    Quick question: how did you gain followers for your blog? Did you ever feel like you were blogging to yourself?

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 10:08 am #

      Hi Anna! Glad you found the content helpful.

      In regards to blogging, the short answer is YES. At the beginning and as you build your platform, you can often feel like you’re talking to yourself. In fact, when I first started my author blog back in 2010, I went in with that very mindset–“I’ll use this as a public diary, documenting my thoughts and experiences in the publishing journey.” Naturally, in time, people began to take notice.

      Growing a following is a slow and steady process regardless of the network and requires patience. I’ve been active online for ages, but only recently do I feel like some of my networks have substantial audiences. Numbers may come a bit easier with great content though. (I’ve always said that ‘Content is King.’) In short, share cool stuff and encourage discussion, and people will join the party.

      Good luck!

  6. Meredith McCardle Jan 22 2014 at 10:25 am #

    Thank you for this, Erin. I especially needed the reminder to only do the things you love. It’s so easy to get sucked into the trap of thinking you need to do ALL THE THINGS, but you’re so right that at the end of the day if you’re doing something that doesn’t resonate with you, it’s going to show and will only bite you in the ass in the long run.

    Really, really great post.

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Yeah, if you do it all you’ll be exhausted and grouchy. (And not writing very much, for that matter!) Thanks for stopping by!

  7. jodimeadows
    jodimeadows Jan 22 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Fantastic list, Erin! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Vincent Schilling Jan 22 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Hello Erin,

    Great tips – I’ll make sure to pass this along. I agree with you about Facebook – I don’t use it either. I also recommend Google+ which has now more registered users than Twitter and is growing every day. It is also a streamline to using Google and paves a way for writers to connect with their readers via Google Hangouts if they are comfortable reaching out to them.

    Google+ also has the ability to create specific communities which authors can create or join to share similar interests – My Native American Community on Google+ has approximately 3,000 members and is growing and well over 7,000 thousand people have me in their circles.

    Google+ also connects you to your YouTube account allowing you to seamlessly post on both YouTube Comments and onto your Google+ Stream at the same time.

    Google+ is growing and believe me will not be going away.

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 11:50 am #

      Vincent, thanks so much for sharing this! I tried Google+ ages ago when it first launched and wasn’t too impressed, but I know they are constantly improving and expanding features. Might be time for me to take a peek at the offerings again.

  9. Susan Dennard
    Susan Dennard Jan 22 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Such an incredibly helpful post, Erin. Thank you so much for all this info and these tips!

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 11:50 am #

      Thanks, Sooz! Happy to compile everything in one place.

  10. Emily Muyskens Jan 22 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    This post came as a relief. I’ve spent too much time fretting over online presence – wondering how I can possibly find the time and energy to write when I’m trying to be active on every platform available. Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay to pick and choose.

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 5:07 pm #

      Happy to serve as a reminder, Emily! Good luck balancing everything 🙂

  11. Stephanie Scott Jan 22 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Nice overview. I have seen a number of comments from writers saying “now I have a tumblr, that’s where the teens are! So what do I do?” And I just wonder if we are all setting ourselves up for failure. I don’t think signing up for tumblr “to reach the teens” is probably the right mindset, though obviously well-intentioned as a YA writer. I think tumblr is effective if you like and enjoy what tumblr offers. Short, microblogs, a mix of media, a more visual, ecclectic twitter. I had a tumblr account for years but mostly lurked; I liked what other people used it for but didn’t really feel I could offer content there.

    I agree it takes time to find what works for you, and determining what you want to accomplish from social media is key. I am not at a point where I am promoting a book, so the outlets I use may change over time. I think being open to how social media is changing can help a lot with feeling overwhelmed. You really don’t have to do everything. Above all, I think writing good books matters more, and choosing one or two social platforms to excel at.

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Stephanie, I completely agree with you on tumblr. Yes, the teens are there, but they’re not there to buy books. They’re there to do what everyone is doing on tumblr–sharing cool things and geeking out over tv shows, movies, books, fandoms, etc, as well as sharing cool art and stories.

      Luckily, as a writer, books at least have a presence on the site. I’ve found that posting things about the books I love, rather than just my books, actually brings more followers. In time, they might discover I have a series and try it. If not, no biggie, I’m still getting what I want out of the site–a fun experience.

      Lastly, “I think being open to how social media is changing can help a lot…Above all, I think writing good books matters more, and choosing one or two social platforms to excel at.” <-- YES. Couldn't agree more! Thanks for commenting.

  12. Mona AlvaradoFrazier Jan 22 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    I love your #1 tip and found helpful advice with #2 tip.

    I’m on most social media sites, but engage in those that are interesting, fun or that share insights. For me that’s blogging, Goodreads, Twitter, and now moving from FB to Google + (I think FB is too cluttered and the stream doesn’t show everything in order).

    SM can be overwhelming but I try to stick to my 30 min’s in morning (only after I’ve written 500-1000 words) and 30 min’s in the evening. Some days I’m successful, others not. It all evens out on the weekends when I can schedule blog posts or tweets.

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      You’re the second commenter to bring up Google+! I haven’t tried it since it first launched (really didn’t like it then), but I might have to poke around and explore it again.

  13. Alexa S. Jan 22 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    I love this post, Erin! All your tips about making the most of social media, including specific ones for each network, are so great. Authors will be able to use them, but bloggers can adapt them and use them as well. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! <3

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      So true, Alexa! There’s a lot of tips in here useful to bloggers, or any individual in the publishing industry, to be honest.

  14. Heather Jan 22 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Thanks for reminding us just to stick with what we love. I tend to unfollow people on Twitter whose tweets are nothing but links to stuff they’ve said on Facebook. If I wanted to visit FB, I would.

    I’m considering taking the plunge into Tumblr, but I’m not sure if I have the time to do it right. Done poorly is worse than not doing at all. I did a FB page poorly. I hated the medium, and I didn’t give it the attention that I should. I dumped it about a year ago, and it really hasn’t hurt me!

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 22 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      If you feel like trying tumblr, I say there’s no hard in registering for an account and poking around on there for a few days. See what it has to offer, see if you jive with the medium. If not, drop it! No biggie! At least you tried and can no rest assured you’re not missing out on anything. (I think this is were people get lost–They try a new network, have no desire to keep using it, and yet force themselves to keep it active.)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Ashley Ndebele Jan 23 2014 at 4:23 am #

    Thanks so much for the tips. I have a tennis blog that’s slowly growing a following and I’m also active on twitter and Facebook. I find it easy to engage since I’m very fluent in tennis 🙂

    When it comes to my “writer” blog, I stumble. I’ve had this blog for over a month but I only have two posts 🙂 Since I’m not yet published, I don’t really know what to write about. Any pointers?

    Cheers,
    Ashley

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 23 2014 at 10:41 am #

      Just because you’re not published yet doesn’t mean your blog won’t be of interest to others! I actually find I blog less now that I’m published than I did before (I simply have less time).

      Before publication, I tended to talk about all things publishing. I shared thoughts on books I was reading, discussed progress I was making on drafts or revisions, talked about YA trends, cover art, you name it. Really, whatever was on my mind, I discussed.

      But I’ll also say this: If you feel you have nothing to say, don’t force yourself to sit down and blog. This is exactly what leads to burnout. My suggestion is to blog when you’re feeling inspired, and when you have something you can’t wait to share.

  16. Kairee-Anne Cooley Jan 23 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post! I bookmarked this so I can go through these tips while I’m attempting to promote myself as a writer. But, normally I usually have a worry about being over cocky and I begin to lose hope about gaining more readers in general. How can someone become more confident in promoting yourself and other fellow writers?

    -Kairee-Anne

    • Erin Bowman
      Erin Bowman Jan 23 2014 at 10:47 am #

      I hear you on the awkwardness of self promotion. I still despise it, nearly a year after my debut. Every time I tweet/blog/talk about my own book, I feel like I’ve lost a small piece of my soul to a Horcrux.

      The good news is that self promotion is a necessary evil and everyone understands that an author HAS to talk about his/her book from time to time. To be honest, most readers are anxious for news and updates. If done in moderation, self promo is often far more bothersome to you, the promoter, than the people receiving the news on the other. And you won’t lose followers if you maintain a balance. Naturally, if you blab about your book nonstop, people might start getting annoyed. So my advice is to talk about your writing when you have news to share. When you don’t, share the news of others and focus on your writing. 🙂

  17. MJ O'Neill Jan 24 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    This was a really helpful post and good timing for me as I’m just climbing back into social media this week after taking some time off.

    Do you have any resources/advice for managing a twitter feed? I love twitter but I’m struggling with how to keep up and make the most out of follower content so that I can engage with folks.

  18. Grace Buchanan Jan 24 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Great article! Thanks especially for the specific explanations and tips for each of the platforms. My head has been spinning as I’ve been trying to figure them all out a little here, a little there. You pulled them all together really well for me. Most surprising of all, you transformed my impression of Pinterest from annoying to inspiring when you suggested making boards for story ideas.

    Another point I would add: only Follow blogs that you love. When I Follow someone’s blog, I do so because I really want to be notified when they post again, because I really want to remember to return for more good reading and interacting. Otherwise, my WordPress Reader just fills with trash, and I can’t find the really good stuff. I understand the desire to return the favor of following, but the brilliance of gems just can’t shine when they are wrapped in junk.

    I’ll throw in my vote for google+. The circle concept lured me: I can specify who is part of each conversation.

    Thanks for sharing!

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