Social media has become essential today for writers to build a platform and connect with readers. But are you getting the most out of it and more importantly, working it correctly so your readers benefit?
Be a Person First
Remember the first word in social media: social! Always be a person first and a marketer last. In between “first” and “last” are all the things that tell readers about who you are. In other words, don’t start off by sharing links about your books. Start off by connecting with readers and getting in on the conversation.
Some of the writers who do social really well have large followings because readers enjoy their personalities. They interact with authors and then (and only then) look for their books. This is the right way to do social, because it allows people to discover and buy your books in their own time.
Follow Some of the Folks Doing It Right
You can learn a lot about how authors are using social by how some of them are using it. Here’s some of my faves.
- Neil Gaiman
- Margaret Atwood
- Maya Angelou
- Judy Blume (Her Twitter bio alone shows you how clever she is. It says, “Are you there, Twitter? It’s me, Judy.”)
- Jhumpa Lahiri (Her touching words about Gabriel García Márquez were especially lovely.)
- Sandie Bricker (She’s got a “Fans of” page that I think is especially smart because it helps distinguish her regular Facebook page)
- Ann Lamont
- Ann Voskamp
I’m finally on Instagram and fairly new at it, but so far... I love it. It's a completely different way to connect with people. I've heard these writers do Instagram right:
- Jon Krakauer (The scenery alone will draw you in, and that’s the point.)
- Marcus Samuelsson (He’s been on Top Chef and one of his pictures is of him and Maya Angelou. I will follow him forever now. Case closed.)
- And Stephen King, of course, for pictures like this.
- Jenny Lawson – The Bloggess (Who is so funny she sometimes makes me cry because I’m laughing so hard)
- Diana Lesire Brandmeyer (I LOVE her board on research.)
- Tosca Lee (Loved her board about the writing of Demon: A Memoir)
One of the coolest things I saw was how Philippa Gregory actually tweeted out the entire thoughts of her character Elizabeth Woodville for her historical fiction novel The White Queen. Gregory took her perspective from the book and boiled it down into individual 140 character tweets for the whole novel.
Then, after the book launched, she put all the tweets in an application that you can read again and again.
Hang Out Where Your Readers Are Hanging Out
One reason Jennifer Weiner has such a successful Twitter following is that she live tweets during her favorite TV shows like The Bachelor. Why? Because that’s where her fans are! (Plus, she really likes the show.) She also answers her fans there and comments on celebrity gossip and things going on in her household. This works for her and her genre.
Know what she doesn’t do? Send out endless links about her books!
Share Some Parts of Your Life
You don’t have to get all TMI on the world, but go ahead and share some things about yourself that people might find interesting. For example, I look forward to the multiple pictures of baked goods on Facebook that author Janice Hanna Thompson creates. I love seeing the things she’s working on, and how she balances it with writing.
We’ve all seen authors who feel obligated to do Twitter or Facebook because someone (their agent, publisher, or another author) told them they need to be on it. As a result, their efforts seem forced and inauthentic.
Never go into social with half the effort because you’ll be wasting your time and turning off readers. The best thing you can do is to embrace social (at least one platform), get comfortable in it, be yourself, own it, and enjoy it. If you don’t, skip it and find another way.
Cherie Burbach has written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, and more. Visit her website, cherieburbach.com.