Social Media 101 for Authors
Social media has become a non-negotiable element of every successful online business. It is doubly important for those of us who make our living creating.
Creative entrepreneurs like writers, YouTubers, photographers, and more need to be regularly sharing their work if they want to turn their passion into a profession. I firmly believe that you can create your way out of any obstacle.
Which is why it can be so frustrating to see many authors feeling overwhelmed by social media or spinning their wheels following bad or outdated advice.
Social media is easier than we make it. That is why I wanted to take the time to present the ideas and practices that have worked for me and other creatives that I know.
Below are a few questions you must ask yourself if you want to grow your brand, your business, and your income with social media.
You can also watch this information presented on this live YouTube video: Social Media 101 for Authors. I create new live videos like this every week geared towards helping indie authors and creatives upgrade their brand so that they can upgrade their income. You can subscribe to my channel here.
Let’s jump right in.
Question 1: WHY use social media?
This might seem like a silly question, but what I often find when I ask other authors this is what I get: I’m supposed to.
Understanding the why behind anything you do is essential to constructing a solid strategy around it.
When it comes to my why behind social media, these are the three biggest ones I keep in mind:
- Deepen the relationship with my readers.
- Promote my work to new readers.
- Show my human side.
The first goal is, what I believe, the primary goal of every author on social media. Our foremost concern should be deepening the connections we’ve already begun forming through our books.
This can be achieved through 1-on-1 conversations, streaming live videos, and sharing personal updates or behind-the-scenes looks at your process.
Talk to your readers. Ask them questions and let them ask you. Show that there is a real human behind your stories and brand.
As you do this, you will develop an army of loyal supporters who will promote your work for you. This feeds into our second why element: promotion.
Don't be afraid to share or "sell" on social media. The key is to do so within the context of sharing entertaining and useful content. If all you post are links to your books and sales pages, of course, no one is going to engage with your content.
I advise people to apply the 80/20 rule to their posts. Share relevant content 80-90% of the time, and then use that last 10% to promote your work. If you follow this proportion, you'll find that your followers won't complain about your selling but will engage with it.
All of this fits under the third point: be human.
Despite what many people believe, the most followed people online are not perfect. They are the ones who show off their flaws and even laugh at them.
The age of false perfection was always going to be short-lived. People want real. They want to feel connected to something and someone that supports them. Create content showing who you really are, and you'll find that not only will you enjoy the process, but it'll get you results too.
Question 2: WHERE to post?
Over the past decade, I've swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other when it comes to this question.
For a while, I followed what Gary Vaynerchuk promoted, which was to be everywhere (extremely wide distribution) and to churn out as much content as possible (albeit, documentation-focused vs. creation-focused).
I found that all of this effort did not translate well into a bigger audience or better book sales. Instead, it left me exhausted and writing less.
So I reacted by going in the complete opposite direction. Cal Newport promotes the ideal of digital minimalism, and I went all in. I deleted most of my accounts and essentially boiled down my entire communication strategy to email.
Even though I was able to focus more on my projects, I found that my community was less lively. There are immeasurable benefits to using social media that you don't understand until you step away.
Fast-forward to 2020, and I've created my own amalgamation of the two principles.
My advice is to choose one or two platforms to go deep on. Then, be findable on the rest.
I am personally choosing to go deep on Facebook and YouTube because a large segment of my audience lives in those environments. But I am also very easy to find on Twitter and Instagram, among others. I post a minimal amount of content on those other sites because my goal is to be present rather than to grow on those platforms.
Depth over breadth will give you a distinct advantage in today’s social media landscape.
Another relevant question to ask is: what kind of content do you enjoy creating?
I love video (even if I’m not great at it…YET!), so working through the process of scripting, recording, and uploading is not a chore for me.
Maybe your preference is to write long-form content (Facebook is great for this). Or perhaps you like to go on tangential rants (Twitter would be your home then).
The goal here is not to change everything about yourself in order to fit a particular platform. Instead, be honest about who you are – what you enjoy – and choose a platform that complements those assets.
Question 3: WHAT to post?
As I mention in the video on this topic, what you post will be determined mainly by two factors:
- What your primary platform is.
- Who your target audience is.
Once you get those two elements figured out, then you’ll be able to strategize the type of content you will create.
However, there are a few principles that will apply regardless of where you are posting or who you are reaching.
First, if you are a non-fiction author: your posts should solve problems.
Non-fiction authors are uniquely positioned to do well on social media because they can use their expertise to direct the types of posts they create. People read non-fiction books because they either have a goal they want to achieve or a problem they want to solve.
Nearly everything you post should satisfy one of those two desires. Ask yourself: what does my audience want from me? How can I give them what they want, even in a small way, through social media?
The next piece of advice is a reminder from question one: use the 80/20 rule when promoting your books and products.
People come to your social media platforms to engage with you, not to be sold to. They won’t mind the sales aspect so long as you are doing it in the context of lots of other, useful content.
As creatives, our audiences are like the goose who laid golden eggs. We might be able to squeeze out a big payday by selling hard, but that short-term win will cost us long-term loyalty. Ultimately, you will get a lot more gold by being patient and taking care of the goose.
Finally, in terms of what to post, I wanted to share one of the most useful items I’ve come across in my research.
A few years ago, a study was done on online virality, and the researchers discovered that nearly every viral post fell into one of five categories:
I cover each in more detail in the live video, but let me give you a quick summary of each here.
Adventure – The audience is able to experience something they never have before (think travel YouTube channels or food Instagram profiles).
Humor – Make people laugh, either at a joke, at themselves, or at some current event (memes are the gold standard here).
Emotion – Items that pull at the heartstrings, tearjerkers (if you've ever seen a video of a soldier coming home and surprising their family, that is this category).
Inspiration – Give people a feeling of motivation, remind them of what is possible (quotes, videos of commencement speeches).
Surprise – Offer people an unexpected twist by engaging with your content (life hacks, cutting things in half, lots of weird ways to accomplish this one, haha).
The underlying element of all of these is that your content should evoke an emotional reaction: positive or negative. If people feel something when they think of you and your brand, then you are on the right track.
Question 4: WHEN / How often to post?
Again, many of these questions will have more definite answers once you know the platform and type of content you plan to create.
In the video, I addressed this question by offering two resources.
First, I walked viewers through a tutorial of the MeetEdgar software. MeetEdgar is a tool that allows you to recycle social media content. That way, you can share older posts and relevant content automatically.
I encourage every author to use this tool not as a replacement for your social media strategy, but as a way to support it.
If your goal online is to connect with real people in real ways, then having a tool like this can free up your time and mental energy to do so. I use MeetEdgar to automatically share my best content so that every week I can spend the bulk of my time and energy developing relationships.
Remember, on the other side of your screen is a real person with real problems, real desires, and a real story. If more people considered this truth, imagine how much healthier the digital space would be.
The second resource I mentioned was a course created by the MeetEdgar team. The online course (normally $200) was recently made free in light of current world events to help support creatives.
The course covers all of the most important questions related to your digital strategy and more. Plus, the team created a treasure trove of useful downloads. If you’re looking to take your social media platforms more seriously, I encourage you to check out the free resource.
Feel free to post a link in the comments below to the primary social media platform where you can be found on. I’d like to see the type of content you are creating.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article! I hope you found it useful on your creative journey. Good luck, take risks, and remember: being yourself is the biggest advantage you have!