These days, it’s entirely reasonable for consumers to expect their favorite companies as well as their favorite celebrities to have an active and responsive presence on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And while your favorite won’t be able to respond to each and every tweet or Facebook post lobbed their way over the course of a day, the fact that they respond to any tweets renders any person or company a more accessible figure to the average American.
The same principle applies to self-publishing authors and social media, even before they publish their first books. This is because your social media presence is a conglomerate, or a compendium, or sum total of your engagement online. If you haven’t engaged with potential readers before your book is published, you won’t be able to take advantage of those critical preceding months to announce your book’s release and build interest. And once your book is released, potential readers like to do their homework on you and your web presence before committing to buying your book. After all, if you wouldn’t want to spend time with a person in real life, why would you pay money to spend time with their voice, perspective, and favorite characters? Your web presence and your personal brand help readers get to know you and make an informed choice.
It is vital that authors know the ins and outs of Facebook updates and feeds and public profiles and so on and so forth, as the vast majority of any author’s potential readers will have Facebook accounts; however, it’s just as vital for a self-published author to establish a certain degree of comfort with at least a couple of the lesser-used platforms, because they will be both more “discoverable” and more visible without the throng of other authors competing for attention. Thus, the list of quote-on-quote “major” social networking sites we’ll address in this second installment of our “Building Your Platform” three-part series includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. It also, however, includes reference to some of the “up and coming” social media websites, including Tumblr, Snapchat, and Goodreads, because ultimately, it’s the tools we’ve neglected that end up most surprising us with their unexplored possibilities.
Facebook isn’t just a big deal for authors, of course. Some days, it seems as though everyone is using Facebook for twenty different things, and this social media website regularly makes headlines with both its successes and failures. While Facebook’s developers are constantly tweaking the algorithms and codes and format of things (it’s true, we must admit), the website itself remains fairly stable in a number of ways. First of all, the fact remains true that Facebook is where the people are — the people, the relationships, the possible connections, and the real market for your books. The people are staying put, and sticking by Facebook, despite the not-uncommon doomsday forecasts to the contrary. But that’s not the only aspect of Facebook that is stable: the features may alter a bit in form and function, but the concept of what you’re using those features for remains the same. It capitalizes on the four fundamental pillars of the online experience: findability, adaptability, usability, and authenticity. If any of these four aspects is missing from an author’s social media presence, they’re bound to suffer. If, however, you are conscientious in maximizing your Facebook presence, then you’re practically guaranteed to grow your reading audience.
Of course, you have to separate your personal usage from your professional usage, and this is the greatest hurdle of all. If you need a private place to vent among friends, make sure to keep that on your personal account, and to keep your personal account settings zeroed on “private”! Set up an author page dedicated to your upcoming book, however, and make sure to post to it regularly. Scheduling your posts to specific days of the calendar week is one of the most successful tips we can give, and it’s one of the least utilized. And of course, utilize Facebook’s event, photo gallery, and community features rigorously.
What is YouTube? It’s a video storage and hosting service which allows pretty much anyone who signs up for a free account to upload video files for public consumption (or private; like every other good social media platform, YouTube allows its users to toggle a number of privacy settings for each individual video as well as for their profile pages). Once a video is posted to YouTube, fans and followers can distribute the link themselves, which makes it a great platform for viral campaigns. And because videos are visceral in a way text sometimes isn’t, they make a fantastic impact on viewers’ — and readers’ — imaginations. Chances are, nine out of every ten video links you’re ever going to click (in this decade, at least) will link to something on YouTube. And self-published authors quickly found a myriad of ways to put this video hosting social media service to work in creating buzz about their upcoming books! It’s never been easier to put together curated video playlists of material relating to your book, or put together a book trailer (we even have a service to help with that!), upload behind the scenes footage of you working on your latest manuscript or delivering an impassioned excerpt reading before a rapt audience, or conduct a tour of book video blogs, giving interviews as you go. Details matter, but authenticity counts for more than pixel quality when it comes to using YouTube.
This social media platform is often described as a “microblogging” website, a descriptor which implies that Twitter users manage their feed and profile content the way they would a blogging website — only in smaller chunks. This is only partially true, in that some Twitter users who also have blogs may use the same parameters to manage both platforms, or in that some Twitter users treat the site as a tool for unspooling narrative. The keys to a successful presence on Twitter include setting up every detail of your account, from your picture to your avatar to your biography to your Twitter name or “handle,” in full … as well as setting yourself a daily and weekly Twitter task to drive traffic, using a third party website to schedule your tweets and keep them consistent, listening to your followers and engaging with others using hashtags and replies, and incentivizing interactions on Twitter by publishing “behind the scenes” information on your next book.
Instagram may just turn out to be one of the most useful social media websites out there for up-and-coming self-publishing authors. And a lot of established authors have created authentic and dynamic relationships with their fans on this website. All social media platforms present opportunities to connect in this way, but Instagram in particular has found a dedicated and loyal user base, and industry professionals are beginning to recognize that Instagram’s model of encouraging its users to post images of day-to-day activities is something we can rely on to stick around, unlike some other quote-on-quote “faddish” platforms. It’s also incredibly easy: snap a picture on your smartphone, then upload it with some filters for added visual effect, and maybe some text … and voila! It’s easy to build your Insta-presence early, even before you start self-publishing.
Tumblr is kind of a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that even the White House has one, and the President of the United States has done a Q&A on one. This microblogging platform quite literally causes and feeds a frenzy of conversations, many of them controversial. And with over 81 million new posts going up every day, spread across more than 243 million individual blogs, the potential heft of any given piece of content is massive, particularly since Tumblr’s graphic-driven interface makes “reblogging” the posts of others so incredibly easy. Tumblr counts as an “up and comer” when it comes to the best programs to build your personal brand and web presence, but it has incredible potential to reach readers if your ideal audience includes teens and young adults.
Pinterest is another heavyweight in the self-publishing world. Why? Because books are first and foremost a tangible object with incredible visual appeal, and Pinterest is a social media platform designed and built to showcase beautiful things. Emphasis on “things.” Pinterest is often described as a kind of digital bulletin board, and whether or not you actually use bulletin boards in real life, it is a powerful tool for collecting objects, most of them real and actual physical objects, together into one easy-to-access-and-modify place. It may not have been specifically designed for books, but Pinterest is definitely a book-lover’s dream … and a haven, too, for self-published authors. We love mood boards and “fan cast” boards as tools both to assist in the writing process and to engage with potential future readers.
Here’s the trick to being a self-published author on social media: You must always remember that you are, first and foremost, a writer. If social media helps you write your next book and spread the word, then it deserves a couple minutes of your time. It is our hope that by putting together this series, as well as our rich tapestry of social media services, we may take some of the guesswork and fear out of launching yourself into the world of platform-building, and find a new home, a new community, and an engaged readership in some unexplored corner of our digital universe.
Coming Soon … What Comes Next?
That’s all the room we have for this second installment of our three-part series! We’ll be back in our next and final post to discuss just how critical a fully-fleshed-out presence on Amazon can be for you, a self-publishing author, both as an independent part of your web presence and as an offshoot of a well-crafted biography and press release.
Interested in more helpful information about writing and self-publishing? Call Outskirts Press at 1-888-OP-BOOKS, chat with us via the online chat on our website or make an appointment with a Publishing Consultant.