No I don’t mean you need to get out more.
What I mean is: if you’re a self-published author with a book (or maybe a few books) and you’d like to see sell more copies, you absolutely have to be making use of Social Media.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most popular forms of social media in use right now, but that can and will change over time.
A benefit of this massively heightened means of connecting with people is the opportunity to share your craft with like minded individuals. Thanks to connectivity, what was once a niche hobby can become a profitable side job. Or maybe even a means of full time employment.
Social Media plays a huge role in facilitating the growth of a new industry built around individuals doing what they love to do and sharing it with the world. Lulu was founded on this principle, that people want stories and want to share their stories. And just like a self-published author, we use Social Media in a variety of forms to get the word out about self-publishing.
If you’re a self-published author and you read this blog, you’ve probably read advice about using social media alongside other tools to build interest and spread the word about your work. Let me reiterate how important social media will be for promoting your book.
The channels you choose will have to be tailored to the audience you speak to, so the first real step in crafting a social media plan will be to identify who you think wants to hear about your book. From highly specific forums on Reddit to the Goliath Facebook, it will take a little time to find the audience you want. Luckily, there are a few major social media locations all self-published authors will benefit from developing a presence on.
Today, we’re going to look at three of these platforms and consider best practices for each.
There’s some specific terminology associated with using the various social media platforms. Here’s a quick run down of the terms Facebook uses:
- Like – “Liking” a post is a pretty standard means of saying you approve of or enjoy the content. Likes are a measure of how effective a post is and you should keep an eye on what gets more Likes to determine what kind of content is working.
- Follow – “Following” a page allows you to receive content from that page without having to be “friends” with the page owner. Your friends are generally people with personal pages, while businesses and organizations will have a page that differs from an individual page in a few crucial ways.
- Page – There are two basic kinds of Facebook pages. A personal profile page and a sponsored or business page. As you can see from the image below of Facebook’s Create a Page screen, when you make a non-personal page it requires some information about the purpose of the page.
Facebook is the dominate social media platform. There are 2 billion active users on Facebook in 2017. 2 billion! Yes you’ll only ever reach a portion of those users, but even a small percent of 2 billion is a massive number of potential readers (for example, 0.01% of 2 billion is still 200,000).
Your goal with Facebook is generally going to be in leveraging the followers you already have (friends and family). Facebook does offer a “Page” that you can craft specifically for your author brand, but I would shy away from doing so, at least while you’re getting started with promoting. The personal page most of us use is called a “Profile” and is still a page on Facebook. The author page you could create would be distinct from that personal profile, meaning you would have to spend time asking people to go and Like and Follow your author page. You would essentially be starting from scratch with a new page.
Instead, you can post directly to your personal page and reach everyone you’ve already befriended. One caveat to this is if you have a very distinct niche market, or you have a fairly established email list in place. If you can reasonable direct a majority of your readers to a new page, creating an author specific page can work. And of course, if you value your privacy and want to keep yourself detached from your writing, an author page is a must.
To better understand these options, here is a quick list of pros and cons to consider for each:
- Already connected with your friends and family
- New followers get to know you personally rather than as a business
- Personal profile means it is personal
- Advertising features are not included for personal pages
- Dedicated page to you and your author brand
- Highly specific content, so followers will immediately know what they are getting
- Analytic tracking for views, likes, shares, and comments
- Ad creation and audience targeting features included
- Requires time and work to build following
- Creates an additional channel you will need to monitor
My advice stands that using a personal page is easier and more effective for most self-published authors. There will be a line of course, past which you should switch to a dedicated author page, but the majority will be selling to friends and family at first anyway, so starting on your personal page is a good jumping off point.
One thing to remember if you do opt to use your personal page for promotion of your book is to turn on the “Follow” feature in Facebook’s settings. Your friends automatically follow you and see your content in their news feed, but you want to allow non-friends to follow you as well, so they can see your content without being directly connected to you. This provides flexibility, as you can share personal content with friends only, and make public your author related posts to all followers.
If you really are ready to push your author brand, you will want to seriously consider using a business page and dedicating this page to your author brand. This requires some learning, as the advertising and audience targeting features can be confusing. Again, I think there is a lot of value in starting with your personal page, then transitioning to a business page as your brand grows. When you do begin to use an author page, you’ll want to learn all the ins and outs of running a page like this. We’ll look specifically at Facebook and how to use an author page to it’s fullest potential in a future article.
Once you’ve decided how you’ll be using Facebook, you have to actually start posting! For this, you have to be creative and aside from some broad advice, there isn’t a set strategy that will work. This goes back to the necessity of speaking to your audience. If I had to list the three most important things to remember when crafting your social media Facebook posts, they would be:
- Quality (Visual Appeal)
Being consistent should be nothing new if you’ve done any marketing of your self-published book. Any strategy to drive interest in your work will be based heavily in maintaining a consistent presence online. Facebook (along with a blog) is the strongest social media tool for this consistency. How many posts this entails will vary, but a good number from the onset would be 3-5 author or writing related posts per week. If you have a larger following or are seeing a lot of engagement (likes, shares, and comments are considered engagement) you may want to bump that up and try to post once a day.
If your followers start to see regular posts from you, they grow to expect them. If the posts stop coming regularly, your follower’s attention will drift to other posts. Remember, social media is a bombardment of posts, images, videos, and text. If you let a follower slip away, it will be tough to draw them back. Stay consistent, even when your followers are few and interactions minimal.
While maintaining a consistent frequency for posting, you must also think about whether or not a post is consistent with the brand you’re building. If you write investigative non-fiction, you might confuse your audience if your posted a link to a piece on character development. Think carefully about what readers expect and try to keep your postings in line with those expectations.
Quality can be a bit trickier to achieve. Of course your own book will be interesting, as you’re speaking to your personal followers. Other content like articles about being a writer or self-published author may appeal too (again, based on your audience). The challenge here is to figure out what the majority of your followers find interesting, then craft posts that speak to those interests while tying back to you as an author.
Posts should be free of spelling errors (and if you want a nice little tool for helping with that, check out Grammarly), as well as appealing to Facebook surfers visually. If you’re linking an article, Facebook will pull in a featured image from the article for you, but if you’re crafting original posts, you may have to create or track down images yourself. This is generally a worthwhile exercise, as a strong image will help catch followers as they scroll through their feed. Just keep in mind what your readers look for and try to tailor your images to grab their attention.
I don’t like using the thumbnail of your book too aggressively, but you should plug the book itself with an image here and there. But you do want to use compelling graphics when you post. An image catches the eye, it gives a potential reader a reason to slow down and see what you’re post is about. You can find a variety of free images across the web, or you can craft your own graphics with tools like Canva, free to use software with author/writer templates.
As with all my advice, the use of images must be catered to your audience. Are you a photographer who travels the world taking pictures, then writers a travelogue or photobook? Awesome! Post a teaser picture on Facebook with a comment like “One of many shots from my adventures! Check out more in my new book ______!” It might seem deceptively simple, but posting to Facebook need not be complicated. Remember, you’ll ideally be posting multiple times a week, so you do not want to burn yourself out spending too much time crafting a post.
An Aside about “The Funnel”
Marketers will often talk about “the funnel,” a term I’m not a big fan of, but I do have to acknowledge the accuracy of using it in this context. In general, the idea goes that marketing efforts should work like a funnel, capturing a broad group of potential consumers, then narrowing in focus as consumers get closer to purchasing. For your own marketing efforts, I like to think of Facebook as the broadest piece of the funnel, with other social media platforms ranking about the same. You’ll use social media to spark interest and make potential readers want to know more, then the funnel will narrow as they click over to your blog and/or author website, with pointed sales pitches and direct call to action links.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but treating your social media and particularly your Facebook presence as a wide open and somewhat casual means of connecting is the most common way authors entice their followers. Social media is the mouth of the funnel, and you should accept that many of the people who come across your Facebook posts are not going to act on them. That’s why consistency and quality are so critical!
Facebook Bottom Line
- Post regularly
- Pair attractive graphics with succinct posts
- Use a personal page to reach friends and family
- Switch to a business page once you’ve established your author brand
Facebook is going to be the front line for most authors, the first piece of the marketing funnel, and the most important social media tool in your arsenal.
Twitter is strange social media platform, but one oddly suited to authors. Let’s quickly hit those key terms Twitter uses.
- Tweet – When you post something to Twitter, it’s called a tweet. All tweets are 140 characters or less (this includes letters, numbers, and spaces).
- Retweet – A “retweet” is essentially the same as sharing the tweet. Much like the way you can share interesting content you find on Facebook, retweeting allows you to post something interesting you found on Twitter to your feed.
- Likes – Again, the same idea as Facebook. Twitter uses a “heart” icon to like, rather than the Facebook “thumbs up” icon.
- Mention – When you mention another user, you place their Twitter handle after the “@” symbol in a tweet. For example, if a user was named “SuperAuthor18” on Twitter, and you wanted to directly mention them in a tweet, you would add “@SuperAuthor18” to your tweet.
- Hashtag – Often times, Twitter users will include a word or phrase with “#” before it. Something like #Lulurocks. Once a phrase is hashtagged, other users can click the tag to find all tweets using this hashtag. Likewise, a user can search by hashtag on Twitter. The use of hashtags is also important for the trending Tweets, something we’ll look at more below.
Just like a Facebook post, Twitter allows for the same essential functionality when posting. The main difference with Twitter is the size restriction. 140 characters are not many. For example, this paragraph is 226 characters!
The way you use Twitter to promote your author brand and your books will be a little more straight forward than Facebook. While you do have the option of creating a separate profile specific to you as an author, there really isn’t a need. Twitter users want interactions with the individual, so it is best to be yourself here. And because Twitter happens so fast, you don’t have to worry as much about how often you post. I would suggest mirroring any post you make on Facebook on Twitter whenever possible, if the post is directly related to you as an author or your book. Of course personal posts do not need to show up on both platforms.
If you take that route, Twitter will be a Facebook mirror for all your marketing related posts, but it’s also forum for conversations. To be successful on Twitter, you not only need to create quality posts and share them consistently, but you also must engage actively with other users. This advice is solid for Facebook too, but on Facebook it’s most important that you create and share content, while engaging with users who engage with you (for example, when someone comments on your Facebook post, you should always respond, even if it’s just to say “thanks”). Twitter demands that you seek out conversations and join them!
Tweets being short and often bluntly to the point, things happen on Twitter fast. Users want to see the newest tweets, and they often scroll toward newer content, while Facebook creates a news feed more tailored to your interests and connections. Twitter happens (very nearly) in real time. If you want to be active on Twitter and use the tool to drum up new followers, you’ll have to spend some time getting used to the platform and engaging with it for a set period of time. Facebook is much more insular – you log on and scroll the page looking at posts, commenting and liking here and there. With Twitter, the conversation can happen as a back and forth between users on the site.
I know I use Stephen King as an example pretty often, but his Twitter account is a great example of how to use Twitter. He promotes his books and other media offerings, he talks about sports and politics. He reveals some of himself while marketing. He engages in conversations. Obviously, you won’t have the following he has out of the gates, but King’s model for engaging on Twitter is worth examining.
Another way to create engagement on Twitter is through chats. These are specific conversations that happen generally using a hashtag to bind the chat together. You might start a Twitter Chat with a hashtag using your book title, then pose questions marked with that tag. If you’ve gotten the word out and have followers keeping an eye on that hashtag, they’ll notice the posts you make and can engage with your from there. A question is generally the best way to start a Twitter Chat, as it demands users engage by answering the question.
You don’t have to start the conversation every time though. If you stay up to date on popular or trending hashtags, you can dive into an existing conversation simply by following that tag. Go to Twitter and search “#selfpub” and you’ll find a long list of authors and publishers posting about self-publishing. You’ll also notice other hashtags they’ve used, which you can search simply by clicking on. Here’s an example:
This image of a recent post on Lulu’s Twitter feed uses two hashtags, #contests and #calendars. If we had more space for additional characters, we might have added further hashtags like #selfpub or #indieauthors. But because Twitter limits your character count, you have to be conscious of the space you’re working with.
Okay, so you can use hashtags to start a Twitter Chat and engage with individuals about your brand, or you can follow existing hashtags to find other users interested in that content to engage with. The last trick to Twitter is the mention functionality. This means using the “@” to tag users in a conversation.
There are a lot of ways you can use this. You can have directed conversations with an individual, or tag someone specifically to draw their attention to your tweet. And if you have a strong following, you’ll see mentions directing you to interesting tweets.
Twitter is all about direct interaction. It is a more involved and challenging platform for some, but if you are a fan of having direct engagement with readers and like the fast paced style of Twitter, it can be a very potent tool.
Twitter Bottom Line
- Mirror Facebook posts to Twitter (when appropriate)
- Use Twitter to engage in conversations
- Follow trending hashtags to engage in popular topics
The last platform I’ll touch on today is Goodreads. I know Instagram is a more popular and widely used tool, but to be completely honest, I don’t use it or know it well enough to speak to its uses as an author promotion tool. So instead, let’s finish up today with a look at a tool I think many author’s under-value.
Goodreads is a great way to keep track of books you’ve read, leave reviews on those books, and find new and interesting books based on what your followers are reading. As an author, Goodreads is actually quite powerful with a range of features.
- Giveaways – Goodreads giveaways are a great way to get your book out there and in the hands of readers. A giveaway is an investment. You are buying and supplying books at your own expense, but if those readers enjoy your book and leave positive reviews, you’ve bought a great deal of useful marketing at a relatively low cost.
I cannot speak highly enough of the giveaway features. Yes you can (and probably should) do these kinds of things yourself through Facebook or email lists, but with a Goodreads giveaway you can reach new readers. New readers! These are the people you really need to capture to grow your reader base. With each new reader your brand expands, and if those readers enjoy their free book, there’s a very good chance they’ll pay money for another of your books, or recommend you to their friends.
- News and Reviews – A Goodreads giveaway is a perfect tool to prompt readers to leave you reviews. The more reviews you have, the better. They don’t even need to be all positive, though of course you want as many positive reviews as possible. Each review is a step toward furthering your brand and encouraging new readers to try your book. I know I’ll gladly try a new author if the book is well reviewed. And I’m not nearly alone in this.
- Ask the Author – Goodreads allows for two kinds of profiles; a reader and an author. If you have an author account, readers (and other authors) can follow you. And if you’re being followed by another user, they can post questions for you. Just like Twitter, the Ask the Author feature in Goodreads creates a direct line between you and the reader. This kind of personal interaction can turn a potential reader into a true fan. They get to know you, they get to inquire about why you twisted the plot this way, or why one of your characters acted that way.
And the option to Ask the Author has a nice added bonus: any user who does so is directed to your author profile page. Now they see you, your information, and your catalog of available books! Think about how much work it can take to bring a new reader to your profile through other platforms? And Goodreads offers it simply through an option to ask a question.
These are just a few of the cool things Goodreads offers unique from other platforms. The site also has discussion forums and Groups. I would encourage any independent author who uses Goodreads to look through the Groups pages and join as many as you can. Look for the ones relevant to your genre or focused on self-publishing. Or, if you have a solid group of readers already, you might consider starting a Group of your own! Goodreads makes it fairly easy, so long as your group doesn’t overlap heavily with an existing one.
Goodreads isn’t going to reach as wide or diverse an audience as Facebook or Twitter. But it does offer the opportunity to connect with the more specific groups of readers. You’ll probably connect with fewer readers, but you’ll likely find more dedicated readers. This is a strong point of value for Goodreads. It’s not the same old social media everyone uses every day, and the specialization will drive focused readers to you and your books.
Another reason to strongly consider including Goodreads in your social media presence is that you’ll do less work to be involved in Goodreads. Yes, you’ll spend some time creating a profile, but once you’re set up, you need not post with the same regularity as Facebook. Goodreads is about interactions, but not at the same pace as Twitter. I like to think of it more like an open discussion forum (with the Groups and Discussions features) coupled with a reviews tool.
Goodreads Bottom Line
- Organized reviews and links to your book and author profile
- Groups allow you to engage individuals specifically looking for books
- Giveaways promote you, your book, and your brand, while helping glean reviews.
Obviously I’ve only touched on a few platforms and looked at best practices very broadly. Social media is constantly changing. It grows with new platforms or updates to existing platforms almost daily. Staying ahead of social media can feel like a full time job (and for some it is!) but as an author you have to find ways to connect with potential readers. Social media opens up the entire world to you, and the only thing it requires is that you engage with those readers, that you give them what they find interesting (figuring out what they want is another subject) and continue to be active over time.
The most crucial piece of your social media presence is that consistency. Set a schedule, stick to it, and continue to grow your brand. It is a lot of work, but the reward is knowing your book is in the hands of more and more readers day after day.