Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Social media provides a unique form of author/reader interaction, with sites like Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter allowing fans to express their tastes in a way that genuinely connects them to the authors they love. Followers on social media sites combine fan support with an expectation of content so it’s not enough to get someone to follow you online, you need to know how to keep them interested.
To that end, here are the seven social media rules every author needs to know.
1. Pace yourself
As anyone drowning in honey will tell you, you can have too much of a good thing. There’s a novelty factor that takes hold when you first start using social media: you’ll be tempted to post every little thing. This might make you popular with the Twitter-addicts but the less diehard, and far more plentiful, users won’t be as happy with you clogging up their newsfeed. Remember, you’re one of a number of content providers social media users want to hear from and if they get home from a hard day at work to find their other favorites drowned in a hundred of your posts, they’re likely to unfollow you just to make browsing easier.
Pacing yourself early on will also stop your followers developing an unrealistic view of what to expect down the line.
2. Be consistent
Whatever pace you end up setting, stick to it. Busy days merit more posts than usual but alternating between constant presence and complete silence will alienate your followers. While it’s understandable to fall in and out of love with a medium, followers may assume that your waxing and waning affections actually apply to them. Followers will very quickly get used to you posting a lot and then feel short-changed when the content disappears.
Decide what kind of social media schedule is manageable for you and stick to it. Being consistent means being realistic with your time. If you decide that you can only squeeze in half an hour on a Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, that’s totally okay, as long as you are consistent.
You can use a social media scheduler to help you manage your time.
Stephen King recently joined Twitter, declaring before he’d even begun that he wasn’t planning to use the site very often. By doing this, King has presented his posts as rare treasures to be discovered rather than expected, with none of the potential fallout when followers’ initial excitement isn’t equalled by quantity of content.
Of course, no matter what kind of social media consistency you establish, you won’t keep followers for long if your posts aren’t interesting.
3. Keep it relevant
You are a professional author. You’re a lot of other things as well but your followers don’t need to know about them as much. As an author, your social media followers will be readers and so their relationship with you is all about the work. Inspiration, literary events such as signings or readings and the writing process are all interesting, recommendations and genre specific content are great, but don’t get sucked into the idea that you’re a celebrity.
Of course, what your audience is interested in will depend on the kind of fiction you write, if you write cosy fireside reads then your audience may well want to see pictures of your cat, but purely personal information should be a no-go.
Social media can feel deceptively minor, even private, but everything you post is a statement about your brand. Ask ‘what does this tell my followers about me as an author?’ and if the answer is ‘nothing’, then don’t post it.
Of course you might be asked a question by a follower that seems completely irrelevant to who you are as a professional. Answering these questions is only going to tell your followers one thing about you as an author: you care about your readers.
4. Engage with your audience
As mentioned in our article ‘The 6 Essential Features of a Fiction Writer’s Website’ engaging with your followers on social media is a must. Writer Neil Gaiman has amassed a Twitter army of 1,926,882 followers due to his commitment to responding to and retweeting messages from followers.
Responding to someone on Facebook or Twitter will convert a reader to a fan.
You should also engage with relevant content; the ‘mad scientist’ quote above doesn’t involve Gaiman but fits with the kind of fiction he writes and he knows his followers will enjoy it. This kind of interaction lets your followers know that you appreciate and understand them but doesn’t require you to produce original content.
Publicizing this kind of content is a form of networking and you never know when someone will decide to return the favor and let their followers know your new book is available. Don’t forget the potential social media has for spreading and recording information; a kind word can be heard around the world and will become a permanent part of your reputation.
5. Stay positive
Never get involved in an argument on any social media site. You can’t win. Social media means that every exchange happens in front of a crowd. Even if you win over the person you’re arguing with, you’ll irritate three more in the process.
Even if you avoid ill thought out or provocative statements, there are a lot of people who’ll take an author publicly arguing with a follower as pompous or, worse, as a bully hiding behind their popularity.
Graham Lineham, the writer of sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd, is famous for engaging in antagonistic Twitter conversations, leading many to accuse him of abusing his fame and weaponizing his fan base. Whether this is true or not, it can’t be denied that some who would otherwise have supported Lineham have been turned into firm critics by behavior that had no possible upside.
Social media requires little effort to post content but remember that doesn’t mean you can stop behaving like a professional. No matter how much someone may annoy you, the only outcome of replying in anger is to draw attention to their comment.
6. Keep your Facebook and Twitter accounts separate
It seems obvious to link your social media accounts; it only takes a few clicks to have everything you post on Facebook appear automatically on your Twitter account. The intention is that you get the benefit of two social media outlets while only having to maintain one.
But fans won’t appreciate the fact that you’re not taking the time to address them directly. Your social media followers might want to hear everything you’ve got to say, but even the most ardent will get irritated by hearing it all twice. Wasting your readers’ time for your own convenience will send a very clear message about the regard you have for your followers. Customizing your content to the medium of delivery shows respect for the audience and makes it clear you understand the basics of communication, a must for authors.
7. Enjoy yourself
There’s a huge difference between being aware of how social media relationships work and manipulating your followers. Fans will be able to tell whether you’re sharing something you found interesting or just playing to the crowd.
Your interactions with fans and other social media users will be far more rewarding if you choose people you’re interested in and discussions you care about. It may take a little effort but it certainly shouldn’t feel like work. Enjoyment is the key to your social media presence because it governs the other commandments. When you’re really enjoying your experience then pace, consistency and relevance will be defined naturally.
Remember that you’re not just advertising yourself; you’re talking to people who have dedicated time from their day to hear what you have to say and who love your work. A reply that takes thirty seconds will make someone’s week and as an author the immediacy and directness of the medium might offer opportunities and challenges you’ve never previously considered.
Social media websites are one of the few mediums where the conversation is solely between you and your readers so sit back, decide on the type of social media presence you want to create, and have a blast.The 7 Social Media Rules Every Author Needs To KnowClick To Tweet