Social media isn’t just about learning what Auntie Jude has been knitting or spying on school friends that you haven’t spoken to in years, it’s also about making it work for you. By which I mean using social media platforms to get your books out there and, ultimately, make some money from them.
We’ve had a few social media experts on The Writer’s Mindset podcast and they all agree that social media is a fantastic space to get yourself and your work out there, but that doesn’t mean to say that it works for everyone.
More often than not, people are just doing it wrong.
On the one hand, it’s difficult to get Facebook stalking wrong. I am sure your stalking skills are top notch. (I know mine are!)
But if you want to get yourself, your work, and your author brand out there on social media in an efficient, useful way, there are right and wrong ways to do it.
What is an author brand?
You might be thinking ‘What even is an author brand?’ Trust me, I was too before our guests were educating us on the regular.
In general (and in Oxford Languages) a brand is defined as ‘a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.’
You have a type of product (books) manufactured by a particular company (you!) under a particular name (your author name).
That is not the most elegant way to break it down, but I think it is the best way to understand it.
In order to establish yourself as a manufacturer of, for instance, werewolf erotica, you need people to know that you are making that product and the name you are using to do so.
In the UK, if you want crisps, the most well known brand is Walkers. If you want gravy, it’s Bisto. If you want chocolate, it’s Cadbury’s. They might not be everyone’s favourites, or even the best, but the brands and the products are inextricably linked and they have their die hard fans.
What if you could do that for your author brand?
How can social media help you build your author brand?
According to Statista, people spend up to two and a half hours on social media per day. We want to be on there. It gives us those happy feelings in our brains when someone likes something we post, or comments on a picture of last night’s spag bol.
But we do it to know more, too. (I wasn’t kidding about my Facebook stalking skills…)
I often follow the pages of celebrities, for instance. I want to know what I can see them in next. But I also want to get a glimpse into their lives, who they really are, and what I can learn about them.
The same goes for when you decide to follow an author’s social media account.
It’s not just about knowing the release date for the next in the series, although that has driven me there in the past. It’s also to learn more about them and their process, about their lives outside of writing, maybe the odd bit of information about that upcoming release…
So people will come to find you to find out more about you. And to share what you’re doing with other potential readers.
But it’s more than that.
Once set up, you can use social media to connect with others, too.
Networking is a huge part of social media. So if you can get your name out there, you can connect with other authors, too.
You can connect with authors in similar genres to you and perhaps share each other’s work with your respective followers.
They might be able to offer tips and tricks to help get your book onto certain websites, for instance.
Why do so many authors fail on social media?
Firstly, you don’t know the platform well enough
You can’t post on Twitter the same stuff you’re posting on Instagram or Facebook.
Each platform has its own guidelines and unspoken ways of doing things. For instance, with Instagram you tend to expect lots and lots of hashtags following each description. If you try and copy that post over to Twitter, it’s going to look unprofessional when the hashtags cut off mid-way through one.
Equally, if you try to include any hashtags when you post on Facebook, they’re going to look out of place. They do exist on Facebook, they’re just not used.
Instagram is mostly pictures, Twitter is short bursts of text, Facebook is about lots of different media types… you get the picture.
Knowing what your audience will expect from that platform is key, and making sure you meet their expectations, too.
Secondly, you make it all about you
Social media isn’t about you, your dinner, or your cat. It’s about what your readers want to know and discuss. (Ok, sometimes it’s a little bit about your cat. The internet loves cats.)
While, yes, people do come to your author page on social media to find out more about you, that’s not the only reason.
They don’t necessarily want to know every minute detail of your life, much like some family members would.
Engaging with them is key, and part of that is sharing content that you can discuss with them.
Bear in mind the reasons behind them searching you out, and try to offer some value to them when they find your page.
Thirdly, you give up too soon
If you’re going to invest some time into building an author brand on social media, don’t expect it to turn you into a bestseller overnight. It won’t.
If you can stick with it, you can slowly but surely build those connections and your online fabase, and find yourself surrounded by opportunity.
There’s no set timeframe for how long this takes. It depends on how long you can invest and how regularly you can post.
But aside from a little time each day, there’s no great cost.
What should you be talking about on social media?
As I said, don’t make it all about you.
But what does that leave you with when it comes to planning posts?
Some author pages like to share information they have discovered while researching their book. For example, one author I follow on Facebook, L L Macrae, regularly shares cool pictures of dragons. She has dragons in her book and comes across unique representations of them all the time.
It’s something small and simple, but generally speaking, those who follow her will also like dragons considering that they read and like her books. And, most likely read other fantasy that’s likely to contain dragons.
So she shares it and her and her audience bond over how cool the dragon is.
Stacey Rourke posts a picture on Facebook every Friday of a sign fail, as in a sign that either doesn’t make sense or is wrongly placed. Not necessarily related, but amusing.
Facebook is still the biggest, most widely used platform in the world. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the right for you. Instagram and TikTok are currently massive for writers. You could opt for those instead, of course.
So that’s all stuff that their audiences would enjoy, but more than that, too.
Common posts across multiple pages I’ve seen include:
- Regular reminders about upcoming releases
- Cover reveals
- Animated ads for books
- Written posts
- News articles relating to their book theme
- Links to recent interviews
- News about current works in progress
- Random facts found whilst researching
- Sharing similar books written by other authors
- Community questions to get conversations started
- Upcoming events that they’ll be taking part in
- Videos about related content
The list of things you should try is not exhaustive. And you can generate content ideas way in advance.
Creating your content bucket
A content bucket is basically a collection of carefully selected themes or topics that are best suited for your needs and your audience requirements.
Once you’ve chosen them, you can break them down smaller. For instance, if health is on your list, this includes mental health, physical health, food, exercise, self-care, etc. You can then spend some time putting together a list of post ideas for those individual topics.
This means that not only do you always have content ready to go and you never have to sit down and think about what to post when it’s time, you can also schedule content in advance!
Scheduling content in advance is an absolute LIFE SAVER.
What that means is that you schedule posts on your chosen platform and they release autonomously at the time and date that you specified. Cool, right?
It’s so hard to remember to load the platform and post every day. Life just gets in the way. Even if you do it at the same time every day, which is typically recommended, you’ll forget at some point. And who wants that hassle anyway?
I should probably point out that not all platforms off easy to use scheduling. Facebook and Twitter have their own internal ones, but places like Instagram and LinkedIn require a third-party management tool. But, small hurdles!
But more than that, you can also take some time while filling your bucket to consider what kinds of content you want to share. And, possibly more importantly, what kinds you don’t.
When sharing content on social media, it can be very easy to give all of yourself away. Which is absolutely fine if you want to do that, but setting boundaries ahead of time can save you having to do damage control later down the line.
Set up a list of things you absolutely do not want to share or talk about. For instance, your location, your mental illness, your family details. Even if no one else ever sees the list, it’s important you know where your lines are.
Then you can create a list of all the things you do want to talk about. This might include themes in your book, your dog, character information, books you read, plotting novels, etc.
Once you know the themes, you can brainstorm content ideas for each one and fill your bucket with ease. Make sure that you mix and match between things like questions, imagines, videos, links, text posts, etc.
Do you need a schedule?
For three reasons.
Firstly, as I said, you can schedule things in advance. (And why not do that in the form of repeating on the same day every week?) Simplify things for yourself and for your followers. Most people like routine.
Secondly, if you have a set schedule for when you post every day/week, your followers are more likely to look forwards to that time and your content.
Not only that, but it will also build trust with your followers. If they see the regular posts and know what’s coming, they’ll see you as more reliable and trustworthy. Who doesn’t want that from a potential customer?
Thirdly, it allows you to make the most of popular times to post.
There will be times of the day where your followers are more likely to be online and scrolling through. If they regularly see your posts pop up whenever you’re online, they are going to be more likely to interact with them.
Posting at times that you think your audience will be online is important because it means you’ll get reactions, comments, and shares faster. The more of those that a post gets, the more popular it is deemed, and the more the platform will show that post to other people.
Facebook and Instagram have a special feature that will show you when your audience is online, so you can work out the best times to post.
I recently started a little Facebook experiment on The Writer’s Cookbook’s Facebook page. Nothing nefarious, just more frequent posts to bring engagement back up and damn… I think scheduling is the key to longevity when it comes to social media.
Since I started about a month ago, the engagement alone has increased by almost 300% and the reach by 105%! Come and follow The Writer’s Cookbook facebook page to see what I’ve been getting up to and maybe for some inspiration.
(The fact that Kristina had all but abandoned the page and is using me as free labour is besides the point…)
More on that in a future post, coming in April.
You can build your author brand by engaging with readers, providing them with content that they want, and networking.
If you can create your content bucket and schedule your posts in advance, you’re already halfway towards a successful social media page.
Remember to share posts on the themes you’re comfortable with, and that are relevant to your books and your readers to build your audience.
Your content doesn’t have to be groundbreaking.
Don’t over think what you’re posting. If you’ve planned ahead and know what is relevant and will resonate, that’s all you need.
Just turn up and engage, that’s the most important part. The rest will come.