LLove it or hate it, social media is now a fundamental part of being a published writer.
Even if you’re traditionally published, you will be expected to have a profile prolific enough to support the marketing of your book. If you’re published with a smaller independent like us, or self-published, then social media is probably one of your main ways of reaching out to your readers.
For many of us, this is a terrifying prospect. After all, if we wanted to be extroverts who shared every part of our lives with others then we’d become politicians or apply to be on Big Brother, right?
Well, the good news is that it’s never been easier to establish yourself on the main social networks.
The internet is filled with guides and tips for each of the main platforms so there’s no point us writing another one just to badge it Burning Chair. However, there are a few tips that we’ve learnt as writers and publishers that may be of use to you lovely people. So, (drumroll please…) here are Burning Chair’s 7 top tips for social media:
1. Focus on the right social media platforms
What social media platforms are out there, and which ones should I focus on, we hear you cry?
Well, many authors will focus all their energies on Twitter because, well, that’s where all the cool kids hang out, right? Well, hang on a moment. Before binning everything apart from Twitter, you should check out this extremely useful—if slightly corporate—diagram (source: Statista):
Yes, Twitter is big: 335m active users is not to be sniffed at. But it pales a little bit next to the 2.2bn Facebook active users, 1.9bn YouTubers and the 1bn people sharing pictures of their breakfast on Instagram.
Why is this important? Well, whilst Twitter has become the go-to place for most of us in the writing and publishing community, it’s important not to forget the others. If you focus solely on Twitter, you’re ignoring all those people who really don’t get the little blue birdie…
Think about where your ideal readers hang out, where the authors you aspire to be spend their time, and also where you feel most comfortable: don’t just blindly follow the crowd because all your friends are there.
2. Don’t be boring
500m tweets are sent each day; that’s 5,787 tweets every second (thanks to my trusty calculator!) and, according to Twitter itself, the half-life of a tweet is 24 minutes. That’s, like, quite fast. So before you post another message along the lines of ‘Buy my book; it’s brilliant’, think about what your reaction would actually be to that—and, yes, it probably would involve some eye-rolling and scrolling away…
Instead, try to offer something more interesting. One approach we take is to only consider posting a message that we would be equally happy to say to someone we found attractive at a party. Yeah, ok, I know what you’re thinking, but try it…
‘My new novel is a gripping thriller. Buy it.’ Nope, they’ve walked away to refill their drink.
‘Have you noticed there’s never been a thriller about an ex-policeman on the run in the Highlands?’ Ok, you might just be in with a chance. Go for it. By the way, when did you last check your breath? Oh…
(And that’s also why we never get invited to parties any more…)
As with everything in life, there is a balance to be struck here. There are plenty of stories out there of posters trying to go viral by being controversial and then coming horrifically un-stuck — Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ provides a great overview of some of these.
So, keep it in check. But do avoid the bland…
Also, it’s worth reading this article from Hootsuite which lists words and phrases to avoid in your posts: ‘Words and phrases to ban from your social media vocabulary’
3. It’s all about timing
Every 60 seconds on Facebook, 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded. So how do you stand out?
Well, firstly posts on Facebook and Twitter get 55% more engagement when they include a picture. But even then, the key is timing.
There are plenty of different opinions out there on the best time to post on the different platforms, but the key is to think about when the people you want to engage with are most likely to be online. For us, a safe bet is between 3pm – 5pm when traffic is at its highest. The next best time after that is 8pm – 10pm when people are checking their phones in the evening.
Secondly, pick your optimum day. On Thursday and Fridays, engagement is 18% higher thanks to the run-up to the weekend. That doesn’t mean don’t post on other days, but these are the days to reshare posts that haven’t captured the attention on other days.
4. Get visual
Over 1.9bn logged-in users visit YouTube each month and every day people watch over a billion hours of video and generate billions of views. Similarly, Instagram has just over 1bn active users and, just in case you thought this was just for the kids, 35% of online adults use Instagram regularly.
We know that as a writer it can be very tempting to restrict your social media engagement to the more text-friendly Twitter, but as we said above, that misses out a huge amount of people who will want to hear from you.
We’ve seen a definite shift in what Facebook’s promoting and pushing to the top of feeds, with visual—and in particular video—content getting the most attention and, importantly, engagement from users. So be creative, switch on the webcam, and mix up the content.
If you’re not sure, where to start, then we would recommend checking out some of the best authors on YouTube and watching what they are doing. There is a great list on Feedspot: Top 10 Writing Youtube Channels for Writers and Authors.
Also, if you’re looking for something a bit more humorous that doesn’t take itself too seriously then you might even be tempted to view our own Burning Chair Podcast.
When it comes to Instagram, we have to admit we’re a bit behind the curve; but there is an absolutely brilliant podcast with the wonderful James Blatch interviewing Bex Gorsuch on How To Reach Readers Through Instagram (well worth a listen).
5. Pick a good tool
If you’re working across two, three, four or more platforms and want to minimise the time you’re spending on social media, then we would definitely recommend you try one of the many social media management tools to streamline things. Yes, you’re looking at a bit of time investment upfront, but once you get going you will see how you can create and schedule all of your posts in batches rather than feeling like you have to be constantly online.
A good start would be TweetDeck, which is basic but still really useful for allowing you to see everything that is going on with your Twitter account and allowing you to schedule tweets in advance. It’s free and very intuitive to use.
For the more advanced users, there are lots of options but we would recommend Hootsuite, which is one of the most established tools, or Agora Pulse, which is extremely user-friendly. Hootsuite has the added benefit of having a free version, with limited functionality that you can use to see if it will work for you.
You may wonder whether it’s worth the hassle of setting up, but centralising your efforts and publishing in a single console or dashboard works amazing well. These platforms let you easily add videos to posts, tailor messages to different networks and audiences, and toggle social channels on and off. Not to mention queue up posts and then getting them publish for you at a time of your choosing, when you’re doing something more important: like eating, sleeping or writing. These platforms take much of the manual effort out of managing different social profiles and give you analytics on engagement, followers, posts, and a host of other metrics. It can seriously save you time, time you can then spend on writing.
Let’s be honest. Re-posting a cat video once a week just isn’t going to cut it. Your followers expect more, just as you would from others.
While no-one is expecting an insightful post every minute from your account, if you want people to be interested in what you are posting then it needs to be interesting. Offer up opinions, links to your blog and only share carefully curated content from others.
Key to this is developing a routine posting schedule and being consistent with your content, tone, and voice. These should all reflect you and the message that you want to send to your audience. Pick a style, a voice, and a look and stick to it.
We are certainly not encouraging you to develop a full-on social media plan, but it is worth taking a blank page and jotting down:
- How often you plan to publish on each social media channel;
- What type of content you plan to publish;
- Where you will develop that content (aim for a good mix between stuff you write yourself and places you can find content).
Do this and pin it to your wall as a way of committing and making yourself accountable.
Remember: your followers are likely following hundreds or even thousands of other people. If you’re not publishing new content as often as the other accounts out there, it’s easy to get lost and forgotten.
7. Have fun! (…but not too much fun…)
Finally, and most importantly, have fun. In this, our first year of Burning Chair, we’ve really enjoyed establishing our social media presence. There have been some highs (some great congratulatory messages) and some lows (Pete “accidentally” offending some Potterheads!), but overall it’s been an amazing way to engage with the writing and publishing community.
But don’t forget, above all, that your aim is to generate interest and an audience for your writing—social media is a tool, not an end in itself. So ration your time on social media—don’t forget to write your book!
Simon & Pete