Social Media for Writers - What's Best For You?
Unsure where to get started with social media as an indie author? We're here to help.
Like it or hate it, social media is part of our daily lives, and is a way to get books in front of potential readers, making it a crucial part of any author’s marketing strategy. Fans and potential readers are likely to check out an author’s social presence to get a deeper understanding of who they are, what genre they write in, and what books are available or upcoming. For authors, being online helps establish a brand, promote your writing, and connect with new readers. A strong social media presence may make literary agents or podcast hosts more interested in speaking with you. Social media content also helps make your name / brand more likely to show up higher in search engine results, known as search engine optimization (SEO).
But there are so many social platforms. Creating engaging content and interacting with followers can be exhausting, and it takes time away from an author’s primary job—writing. Without a plan in place to target the right social media presence, authors may find their efforts going to waste, as potential readers may not see their content.
Finding the balance between being on the right platform and maintaining an entertaining online presence can be tricky. However, with a little knowledge and some trial and error, there is the opportunity to focus your efforts and gain truly engaged followers. Social media marketing doesn’t have to be a chore if you find a platform you like.
The granddaddy of social media, Facebook, has a massive fanbase with over 728 million people logging on for an average of 38 minutes each day. Despite its age, Facebook’s core user base is young with 65% under 35 years old. On this platform, you’ll be able to find like-minded followers for almost any topic or the smallest niche. Content can be a mixture of longer blog-type posts, short updates, pictures, GIFs and videos.
Facebook offers three ways to talk to your audience:
1. A Personal Profile
2. An Author Page
3. A Group
The first option, a profile, is most widely known, where followers have to be added as friends in order to see and interact with your content. It may seem the simplest, but you may not want to mix your brand with your personal world. Also, if you write under a pen name, you may have difficulty creating a pseudonym account.
Pages are popular on Facebook as they do not require any authentication to engage with. Potential followers can choose to like and thus follow a page and the content will show up in their daily feed. Facebook Author Pages are a bit like having your own website within the overall site. With the page, you can control the types of interactions of your followers, for example, limiting commenting or posting of their own promotions.
Pro Tip: Facebook is one of the best platforms to run ads on to promote your book. Facebook ads can cost as little as $5 a day and can be targeted to specific audience demographics. Ads require a Facebook page as they are linked to them.
The most controlled but also the most opportunistic option is a private Facebook Group. Think of it as a closed space where like-minded fans can mix and mingle, feeling free to post and comment. Content can be divided into categories and easily searchable by users. For example, there can be a spoilers only section for fans that want to discuss theories without upsetting those that haven’t read those books yet.
Only members of the group can read the content and posts can not be shared outside of the group. Here, followers have to join the group, which may require them to agree to terms set up by you, giving you the most control over the content and interactions. You will be required to approve members who request to join, thus giving you an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation and to vet all applicants.
A mixture of professional images, personal pictures, video interviews and book promotion, Jodi Picoult’s Facebook Author Page is one to emulate. The author has the page organized into streams that make it easy for followers to browse content, and a consistent posting schedule has something new for fans to interact with almost daily.
Fans of Mark Dawson flock to his Facebook Group to not only engage with the book marketing guru, but to learn, discuss, and share experiences with other self-published authors. It’s a resource, an inspiration and an in-depth course on book marketing all in one.
Bring your author platform to life with photos. Instagram offers authors the opportunity to go beyond words and show your followers insights into who you are as a person, plus help potential readers visualize your books. If Facebook is the original social media platform, Instagram is the younger and, for some, the cooler next generation of the online world. It has 500 million active users scrolling through images a day.
Instagram is built for visual content, offering insight into your world. It gives you the opportunity to bring your writing to an additional dimension and show your followers how you imagine your characters, sets and designs. You don’t even have to write a word – except for maybe a few hashtags. It also has a massive bookstagram audience of book reviewers and avid fans who follow them. It’s great for sharing images of book covers, your bookshelf or what you like to read, just some memes for a shared laugh.
There are four ways to show your world:
A post is a regular image or short video you share. The image is added to your profile feed, which is similar to a collage of your posts. Posts will pop up for your followers in a first come, first serve fashion. Some authors craft each post with the goal of creating a larger feed. Your feed can be like a mini website. Each post can be accompanied by text of up to 5000 characters, giving you lots of space to tell a mini story, or include your blurb.
Reels are long form mobile videos that mimic TikTok’s platform. They can be as long as 90 seconds and have an unlimited lifespan. Reels are pushed to your followers and never expire, meaning older content can show up at any time. These videos can be uploaded or created in the app from single or multiple clips. They can be edited and have additional layers such as music, on-screen text and visual effects. In addition, reels also have the option of text of up to 5000 characters for users to expand and read.
Stories can be up to fifteen seconds and disappear after 24 hours. The videos, photos and repurposed posts or reels can be overlayed with additional elements such as stickers, music, countdowns and more. The only way to preserve this content is to save stories by creating a Story Highlight and grouping content under categories like book aesthetics, about me, etc.
IGTV is long-form video content. With a viewing time of over 60 minutes, the format is comparable to YouTube. Unlike reels, this option does not include any video editing capabilities and, once uploaded, can not be changed. It is useful for content that is more in-depth, such as how to videos or deeper plot discussions and geared more towards a captivated audience.
With over 1 million followers, Elizabeth Gilbert must be doing something right on Instagram. In a social media space often criticized for fakeness, her account is packed with personal videos, fellow author shout outs and book recommendations.
Love it or hate it, Twitter is a flurry of activity with on average around 6,000 tweets a second by over 36 million uses a day. It is a vast space where ideas are parsed into 280 character sound bites or micro-blogs. By limiting the text, your marketing opportunities can be streamlined.
Communicating on Twitter can be like writing headlines, using attention grabbing short compositions or elevator pitches. By limiting the text, your followers will get bite sized commentary from you. Twitter is infamous for rapidly expanding discussions and gives you the opportunity to talk directly with your readers, fellow authors, etc.
This social platform is a great way to disseminate writing announcements, events and book updates, as your followers can retweet your posts, making them show up in the timelines of the people following them. Twitter is also used by a number of writing communities such as #amwriting, author trends such as #writingwednesday and pitch contests, which connect writers with agents, publishers and other industry members to help get you noticed.
Pro Tip: Twitter formats urls so they don’t take a lot of characters, giving you the advantage of directing users to your content with one click and still providing a sales pitch.
Author Talia Hibbert has a large romance fanbase and showcases not only her books, but her sharp, witty writing with her tweets. Her authenticity shows through from her smiling profile picture, her funny profile facts (she’s a cookie enthusiast) and her tweets on a variety of topics, including her books but also social and current affairs.
The new kid in town, many authors have found a lot of success on this video centric social media platform. Geared toward short videos (think 7 seconds), the site allows videos up to five minutes long, and allows users to interact and engage with others by duetting (side-by-side videos) or stitching (adding a video after an original video).
Here you’ll find the youngest and arguably the most engaged audience with 50 million daily active users in the US alone. Chocked full of booktokers, book reviews or book influencers that are wildly popular, it can be a great source to tap into. And the influence goes beyond the app as many bookstores now have TikTok tables with books favorites from TikTok.
Pro Tip: TikTok is based on an algorithm, so have a plan when you start your account. Train the algorithm to focus on author and reader followers. With so many interesting topics to discover, create a personal account for everything else.
An early adopter of TikTok, Colleen Hoover is still a reigning queen. With a rabid fan base, her videos have 100’s of thousands or millions of views and hit the mark with a combination of often funny, sometimes awkward, and sometimes sweet content.
Perhaps not the first social media platform to jump to mind, but don’t discount this video platform with over 122 million active users daily. Some authors have outstanding success creating YouTube channels that funnel followers to their content, such as book trailers and even audio clips. The long form videos allow for in-depth content such as sharing tips and tricks, hacks, interviews and even audio versions of chapters or entire books. It can be a great way to position yourself as a subject matter expert on a topic, if you’re able to take the time to produce videos like “The Complete Guide to Social Media For Writers.” Followers subscribe to a channel and are alerted when new content is created.
Joanna Penn offers writing and publishing advice. With over 47 thousand subscribers, her site is a wealth of information for authors at all stages.
By pinning content from other sites, Pinterest allows you to coordinate your content in one spot called boards and lets followers pin those images and videos to their own boards. Authors can use it to compile inspiration boards, share art created by fans, create reading lists and share short videos.
The twist on this platform is that you don’t push your content with engagement like likes or comments. Users don’t expect you to interact, they simply want to pin items they like on their boards.
For inspiration, visit Leigh Bardugo’s Pinterest page. Warning: you may get lost on her board and want to start writing your own fantasy novels.
This social media platform is dedicated to books and matching readers to them, so you most likely want to be on it. They’re owned by Amazon, so if your book is sold there, if should be added to Goodreads automatically, but it also possible to manually add books. You can join as an author or as a reader and it is used by readers as a database of read and to be read books. Readers create reading lists, add books to them, rank stories based on a 5-star system and post written reviews.
The site also allows for blog postings from authors allowing you to interact with your readers. The best part, all of your followers are alerted to new content each time you post something. It’s a built-in lead generator for upcoming books. Goodreads also has systems for running giveaways to generate interest, but it’s important to know that this is a paid feature.
When not busy writing, Brandon Sanderson takes the time to answer fan-based questions in Goodreads Ask The Author section. So much so, he had to pause the questions to catch up.
This group chatting platform is on the rise because of its easy- to-use and straightforward user experience. Think of it like a glorified chat room program, but better organized. Gamers and businesses have used it for years and authors are seeing the advantages. Use it for social networking with other authors, coordinate publishing details with your street team, or have a server as a chatroom for conversations with your readers. Discord only takes a bit of imagination to find creative ways to engage with others.
Yup, Laterpress has a Discord channel. It’s a place for authors to come together and talk book craft and book biz, swap ideas, recommendations and advice, and share success stories. Wanna join?
What Platform is Right for You?
The best social media platform for you depends on a few factors:
1. Your goals
2. Your target audience
3. Your interests
4. Your comfort zone
5. Your time
Your Goals: Will your profile push customers to make a purchase? Do you want to have conversations with readers about you and your books? Are you looking to be part of a writing community, connecting with other authors? Is your profile aimed at influencing people in the industry, such as booksellers, librarians and book reviewers?
Spending some time defining what your goals are for your social media can help guide you as to what platform might fit your niche. For example, if driving sales is your number one target, then a platform that allows for direct links to your sales site might be advantageous, think Facebook or Twitter. On the other hand, if you want to be perceived as a leader in your genre, providing advice or guidance to other authors, then video formats, particularly those with long format capabilities, like YouTube or TikTok, might suit you better.
Your Target Audience: Think of your ideal readership. If you don’t have that defined, then now is the time to sit down and outline the parameters and qualities of the following you want to gather on social media. This can act as a guidepost as to where these people are.
Once you define your target audience, you have some research to do. An easy shortcut is to look at what comparable authors are doing on various platforms. If they have success, then they must be tapping into something their readers want. Not only can this give you ideas on what social media can do, it can also be a source of content and idea generation.
Build your platform around what your followers want. If it’s quotes and small snippets of your writing, Twitter or Instagram might be the right fit. If they want aesthetics, they can feast on these on TikTok and Pinterest. If they want to listen to longer experts of your book, YouTube can do the trick.
Your Comfort Zone: Social media is another of the necessary evils for some authors. Not all are comfortable showing their face, talking on camera or composing off-the-cuff remarks. Finding a platform that allows you to showcase personality and your book will make the task of creating content easier and you’ll be more likely to maintain a consistent posting schedule.
If you don’t enjoy finding the right emoji or editing videos, TikTok might not be the place for you. Don’t like being on camera? Instagram is not all selfies and can be welcoming to more artistic ventures. Not interested in pictures at all, Twitter might be your sweet zone, because the written word is king on the platform.
Your Interests: Chances are you’ll be spending a certain amount of time weekly, if not daily, on social media. Making it enjoyable is a key ingredient to your success. If your content is in line with your interest, the job of connecting with your audience might not seem so onerous.
Love to write quick, sharp lines to make people think or laugh, Twitter might be right for you. Into photography, aesthetics and book vibes, consider Instagram. Want a visual outlet for your creativity that lets your personality become your brand, TikTok has the room for silly video content.
Your time: You may choose to focus on one or two platforms that appeal to your audience, fit your comfort zone, and align with your interest. Another factor to take into consideration is reusing and repurposing content so you can appear on more social media without all the extra work.
Instagram Reels, TikTok Videos, YouTube Shorts and Pinterest all use the same mobile video format and size for their videos. While posting across all these platforms may take a bit of time to customize, the same video can easily be repurposed with no additional effort.
Facebook and Instagram work well together, and you can even link your Facebook account with your Instagram account, so posting on one platform will automatically post the same content to the other. Facebook has a new and improved scheduler that gives you the freedom to add content up to two months in advance. There are also other programs you can use, such as Canva, Social Bee, Crowdfire and many more, each with their own options, to meet the same goal.
Pro Tip: Rather than trying to fit social media into your day, set aside a block of time each week to create, modify, and set up your social media. By carving out time, you’ll be more in the zone with your content, be focused on your goals, and if you use a scheduler, all your posts will be set up to release without any effort on your part.
The Choice is Yours
As an author today, social media is a necessary marketing tactic. While you should have a social media presence, being on every platform and creating entertaining content as well as engaging with your audience could be a full-time job on its own. Instead, consider your goals as an author, determine what time you can set aside to dedicate to building your audience, and find the social media platforms that you enjoy using.
An important thing to keep in mind is social media is not always about a numbers game. Engaged followers will come back to your page, share your content, thus bringing in potential new readers and most likely read your books.