Authors and Social Media: Friends or Foe?

Authors get a lot of mixed advice when it comes to social media. Let’s talk about different author approaches and tips and tricks to make social media work for you. In this post, I’m combining notes from two panels.

From the titular panel, Francesca T. Barbini, Gareth Powell, and Georgina Kamsika discussed if social media was our friend… or our foe.

And in Social Media: Tips and Tricks, Brenda Noiseux, Stevie Finegan, Lydia Gittens, and Pablo Defendini shared their experience with us.

Top 3 Things To Know About Social Media

  1. Commit to the platform you’re most comfortable with
    • If you try to do them all — have a team
  2. Pay attention to what you’re looking for: connection or sales
  3. Be yourself. Be authentic.

Should You Have Separate Private and Public Accounts?

As I’ve mentioned before, and with all things writer-related: it depends.

If you have a business or family that you want to keep out of the public eye, it’s a good strategy.

Otherwise, it’s up to personal preference.

Some people don’t, some people can’t — their public life IS their private life, and some people… are glad to know where the split is.

You should look at your profile and see if what appeals to your current friends/followers is what appeals to the audience you want to build for your work. If they’re in alignment, you’re good. If not? You might want to consider a split.

Best Methods To Engage Others

  • Honesty
  • Offering help online
  • Feeding positivity
  • Twitter polls
  • Acting like it’s your own personal pub — and just chat with people
  • Quote and tag people who are talking about you!
  • Note: Things like #authorLifts (twitter hashtags, where you tag people and have a big follow loop thing) are going to find you writers — not readers. It’s a way to game your account. Most of the people on that hashtag are looking for followers, not friends. But! Many writers are also readers. Look to find your community and friends.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

On Instagram? Around 30

On Twitter? Around 3

On Tumblr? Only the 1st 5 show.

5 Tips To Make Twitter More Useful

  1. A tweet stays in a feed for 17 minutes on average. Tweeting every 2 hours (assuming you have something to share) is recommended. More before a big event to up your traction. People see more tweets from those they’ve interacted with recently.
  2. Pin a tweet with your intro/link to your latest book
  3. When you have more than 1000 followers, you’ll need to start making twitter lists to keep track of groups.
    • Suggested lists: Close friends, worklist, local emergency feeds, mentors (people you look up to), BookTwitter, Etc
  4. Curate your list. You don’t have to follow people who don’t interest you, who you don’t think will be interested in your product, your book, your blog. Don’t hesitate to block someone who is trolling you or thinks twitter is a dating site.
  5. NOTE: people don’t know if you’ve muted them. So, if you don’t want to hear them, but don’t want to offend them, this might be the way to go.

3 Facebook Tips

  1. Facebook Ads are more effective than boosts — but pick your target demographic carefully.
  2. Personal pages currently have better reach than author pages, even if you reach the friend limit, people can still follow you.
  3. Facebook is actively throttling crossposts – especially to Patreon or WordPress – it might be best to put the link in the first comment.

7 Newsletter Tips

[If you’ve been following, you might know I both hate email AND have an email newsletter. Some of you are reading this FROM your email!]

A mailing list is something that you own. If Facebook shuts down tomorrow, you could still get your content and news to these followers. ListServes, Myspace, even G+ are gone. Internet communities are never guaranteed.

  1. Email can be time-consuming but can be very rewarding
  2. Try not to send news more than once a month or quarter
  3. Email viewers skew to an older demographic
  4. Mailchimp is highly recommended [Note: that’s what I use!]
  5. Make sure you don’t use words like “freebies” in the title or the email system might dub you ‘spam’
  6. If you send too many emails yourself, the email system might dub you ‘spam’
  7. If you send them out yourself, DO use “BCC” (blind carbon copy), so none of the readers can see the other email addresses — or “Reply All” to them.

3 Snapchat Tips

It’s a way to connect, but not necessarily sell to your target audience. In case you are unfamiliar, it’s a chat program that’s mostly used to share pictures with filters and maybe added text. You can chat back and forth with individuals, spend a single snap to a group of people, or share it publicly as a ‘story’. A story will disappear after it’s been watched.

  1. Younger demographic
  2. Can’t schedule
  3. Stories can reach all of your followers

Stats To Watch

When you start doing social media, there are dozens of numbers for every site you’re working on. Analytics Pages – both for Facebook and Twitter, Youtube has one as well.

  1. Demographics – Currently, facebook is the older audience, instagram/snapchat are younger.
  2. Likes/Click Rates – see which types of posts do better and if there is a timing component. Try different things and see what resonates best with your audience.

Social Media Tools

There are tons of tools for social media. Everyone, from solo artists to corporations are using them.

A few hints on using tools.

  • If you’re going to schedule your social media, you should still comment and interact outside of the scheduled posts.
  • Remember to consider time zones and viewing habits for different platforms.
  • Try to sound just as personal and authentic in the scheduled tweets as you would if you where live posting.

Tools to try

  • TweetDeck – It’s a browser tool, not an app, but you can watch multiple feeds at a time, or a feed based on a single hashtag that’s trending. You can also use it to schedule tweets (like during twitter pitch contests) [I use on occasion.]
  • Unfollow tools are handy
    • Many people follow you, then unfollow as soon as you follow back to boost their own “follower-to-unfollowers” ratio. Making themselves look more popular. They’re users who forget you within a week. Feel free to unfriend them.
  • Hootsuite – great for cross-platform scheduling
  • Picmonkey – photo editing
  • Trello – project management tool [I’ve been trying this intermittently. Mostly when I’m juggling several projects.]
  • Slack – Chat website/app that can share files. Good if you’re coordinating a team
  • Falcon.io – Costs money but is very handy for a campaign
  • Canva – lots of free stock pics (and premium paid ones) [I use for my preview pics]
  • Facebook Groups have scheduling, as do Pages — but pages just made it an annoying option to access that’s easier done on the PC than the phone.
  • Old school – a folder with a bunch of pics, or a list of tweets to share later

4 Ways Social Media is Bad For Authors

Now, before we decide if social media is the answer, let’s acknowledge the downsides.

  1. It’s a huge time sink
  2. It’s so active, your feed is rarely still
  3. When you’re not feeling social — it’s draining. For extroverts, you might find yourself not wanting to go out
  4. You’ll find yourself comparing your progress to other writers’ successes. And that can be very discouraging

Should Authors Do Social Media?

If you don’t want to, don’t. The resentment of being forced to do it will bleed through and you won’t come across as genuine.

It can be a useful way to get to know editors and agents in the field. But remember this is a small field, everyone knows everyone, so be careful who you offend.

If you do, “Look after your name, and your name will become your currency.” Your brand IS your name when you’re a writer. Everything you do will reflect on you. Tweets from 10 years ago regularly come up in the news.

Debate if you want to politicize your career. Many people do. Many people avoid it like the plague. Decide if making a political stand is the right choice for you — and the choice you can live with.

If someone upsets you, and you have thousands of followers, be careful what you say. You don’t want to abuse your power and have all of your followers descend upon some small-time person with maybe 20 followers. You won’t come out clean — you’ll look like a bully.

Are you the type of poster/tweeter who shares rants? Or well-researched articles? Or both?

Only you can decide where you spend your time and energy. And what sort of image you choose to share.


Let me know what your favorite social media platform is and what tools you like!

Let me know if there’s anything I missed! Even with two panels, there was only so much we could cover!

Didn’t I Used To Be An Extrovert?

The past couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend–in myself. I’ve been wanting to stay home and not deal with going out. I’ve been not wanting to host big, complicated events, and it was usually okay if people came to me. Although, lately, I’ve been craving smaller and smaller groups. Of worse? Wanting to stay home, on my couch, alone.

But wait, I thought I was an extrovert. Was I was wrong? My entire identity has fallen into crisis!

  • Maybe I was never an extrovert and was always an ambivert?
    • That’s definitely what I consider myself now.
  • Maybe my extroverted-ness was influenced by my nearest and dearest?
    • Thank you, exes.
  • Maybe it was my age?
    • Do extroverts get less extroverted when they get older?
  • Maybe, I’m more into my writing and don’t have the energy anymore?
    • My new ‘hobby’ might be taking the energy extroverting used to.
  • Maybe, I’m simply overscheduled
    • If I just made time to rest, surely I’d be back to normal in a week or so and craving socialization.

And then, a couple weeks ago, it dawned on me, like a person remembering to turn their sound back on after they miss a couple text messages: Social. Media. Is. SOCIAL.

Let me say that again. Social Media Is Social.

Okay, I know, many of you are rolling your eyes at the obviousness of this statement.

But wait, the internet is supposed to be a ‘cheater’ way for introverts to reach out without depleting their energy, right?

Apparently, it depends on how you do it. And how much social media you take part in.

You’d think the blogger who literally wrote the (or at least ‘a’) series on social media¬†(See parts¬†1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5, 6) might have noticed sooner, but no.

When one tries to continually network and keep up with all the recommended social media best practices, one can stretch themselves a little too thinly. Who knew?

Now, my loyal readers, I’m sure you’re starting to fear this is about to turn into a social media hiatus or blog-cation. Calm thyselves, I’m far more of an addict than that.

But, next time I turn down an invitation to go out, I’ll know who to blame.


Readers, talk to me!

Am I the only one? Or do you find yourself peopled out because of the internet?

A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 1/3(??)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 1: Becoming A Good Internet Citizen – As A Writer

If you want to be a writer, the ubiquitous “they” tell you that you need to “Establish a Social Media Presence”, but so much of the advice out there is aimed at Non-fiction writers.

Non-fiction writers sell books based on establishing their expertise in a particular area.

Fiction writers? We sell books based on the story, the writing, and word-of-mouth.

So how do we make social media work for us?

Morgan’s Approach To Social Media

Once upon a time, I finished drafting my first novel, editing it, and sending it off to beta-readers. While I awaited their feedback, I started researching “the next step”, and everywhere I looked said I needed an author page. At the bare minimum, I should have a website landing strip to get my name out there.

Morgan Gets Herself a Website

I bought my own domain name for Branding (you’re gonna hear that word a lot in this essay) and set up a WordPress site. I might be a coder by day, but I’m not about to spend my limited writing time coding.

But, an empty website with just my name on it seemed a bit barebones and half-um…tushed. So, I figured I’d put up three to five posts so there would be some content there.

That was in April of 2015.

I followed the suggested “slow blogging” approach, starting off posting at least twice a month, until the second-half of February 2016. And I haven’t missed a week since then. (Although, I *did* do one rerun when I was out of the country).

Somewhere around May of 2016, I was reading a blog, I can’t remember if it was Kristen Lamb‘s or Anne R. Allen with Ruth Harris‘s that suggested it, but. The blog suggested, even if I’m not planning on using a social media, I might want to reserve my name.

Why Reserve Your Name on ALL the Platforms?

  • Trends may change, my friends/followers might move to a different platform
  • jerks might try to reserve your name
  • Using the same ID is helpful for Brand Consistency

Suddenly, I had a Twitter, a Tumblr, a Goodreads, a Reddit, an Instagram, a Pinterest, a Facebook Author Page, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Oh right, a you-tube channel, like where you can watch me ramble on this very topic…

The article on reserving your brand said I didn’t need to do anything with them, just pick my favorite one or two and ignore the rest.

Well…I can’t leave well-enough alone. I couldn’t just leave them empty. *facepalm*

The problem is, none of these social media networks work the same way, and figuring them out is tricksy! [I’ll cover Blogging in Part 2, and the other social medias in Part 3. Probably. Unless Part 2 gets too long…]

Where Is Morgan Now?

My personal stats aren’t amazing, but they’re solid and steadily growing. I’ve been blogging regularly for 3 years and am relieved when my new posts get over 25 views on the first day, pleased when they get over 50, and THRILLED when they get more than 75 views.

I saw most of my other social media as supporting the blog and that’s how I’ve been treating them. But just because I like blogs and RSS feeds doesn’t mean that’s where my future audience is hanging out. And that doesn’t mean that’s what they’re looking for in social media interaction.

Especially since I write YA. So, I’m trying to go where the teens are.

But, before we can talk about how to actually get started with social media, you need to know what sort of behavior is respected online.

CAVEAT: If you don’t care if Agents, Readers, and my mom respect you, feel free to stop reading now.

Morgan’s Guiding Philosophy For Interacting With Others On The Internet

You are still yourself, you have a personality, opinions, and preferences. And that’s okay! You’re allowed to do all that.

BUT.

You’re also creating a brand, (yep, there’s that word again).

I like to think I’m pretty WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), but I have a filter. And what I post online is stuff I’m okay with my future agent, my future fans, and my mother seeing (hi Mom!). Both today and in fifteen years when Google unearths my archives. Nothing about what I post or write is inauthentic, I’m just channeling what I feel is my best self, focused on writing in general as a theme, and in a professional manner.

How To Interact Online

  1. Be polite
    • Even if someone is being a complete jerk. If you’re struggling, just contemplate how smug and good it will feel to be able to claim the moral high ground.
      • P.S. Don’t be afraid to walk away. Turn off comments. Disengage. Your job is not to argue on the internet.
  2. Be patient
    • You see aspiring writers who have yet to finish a chapter asking for feedback on their first page, social media newbies who don’t know how threaded comments work or missed the directions for the site/twitter contest/whatever.Remember that you were new once, too. Be patient, or direct them to someone else who has the patience for that.
  3. Be supportive
    • It’s a good thing when other writers succeed. Most of us are here because we love to read. And with the heavy competition, hopefully, that means better writers are rising to the top, which means better books to read!Plus? The more writers you encourage and are supportive of, the more people out there who are also rooting for YOU.
  4. Be kind
    • There are enough jerks out there, why join them? Before you bash someone, remember:
      • You don’t know what they’re going through
      • You don’t know how hard they’ve worked to get where they are now
  5. Praise publically, admonish privately
    • If someone does something awesome, share it! Spread it!
    • If someone messes up, tell them privately and give them a chance to fix their mistakes.
      • In this day and age of Call Out culture, mobs can be started for accidental misunderstandings
      • In this day and age of #MeToo,
        • if someone crosses a boundary, but it seems accidental and is minimally damaging? Tell them. In person, in an email, whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. It’s okay to bring a friend. (Or send a friend)
        • if someone crosses a boundary, but you know it’s on purpose or it’s very damaging? Escalate as you deem appropriate, but gather a support network for yourself. Too often we see dismissal or excuses. Find people you trust to help you through whatever actions you decide to take. (Preferably ones that aren’t actually felonies…)
  6. Vent in private
    • THIS IS A BIG ONE.The publishing industry, especially the traditional publishing industry moves SLOWLY. But the publishing industry, as a whole, is very small.

It can be aggravating when you’re wracking up form rejections, or personalized ones that totally didn’t get your story. It can be frustrating, when manuscripts you’ve scoffed at turn into best sellers, while yours still sits on your computer and flies in your dream. Or when agents keep either asking for niche books you can’t write, or stories that look just like yours, after they rejected your manuscript.

We all need to vent sometime. But be aware of who you’re venting to.

Many writing groups have people who intern with agencies.

Many writing groups have people who have agents or will get agents, in the near future.

Many writers have friends in publishing and editing.

People talk.

Be careful where and to whom you choose to vent.

  • Optional: Politics
    • Personally, I’m not above liking a political post, or the rare comment here and there. But, my public social media is for my writing and politics distracts from that.
      • Bonus? By avoiding politics on my public social media? Most of my feed is about books, writing, and cute pets.

      If you want to use your social media as a platform for your politics, you’re not alone. There are plenty of issues out there that could use more support. But, just keep in mind that your politics will influence what audience you get.

      • Warning: You need to be prepared for a potential backlash. One misspeak, or unpopular opinion and you might find yourself facing trolls, doxing, or even death threats. Only you can decide if your beliefs are worth the time and emotional energy.
  • If you want to use your social media as a platform for your politics, you’re not alone. There are plenty of issues out there that could use more support. But, just keep in mind that your politics will influence what audience you get.
    • Warning: You need to be prepared for a potential backlash. One misspeak, or unpopular opinion and you might find yourself facing trolls, doxing, or even death threats. Only you can decide if your beliefs are worth the time and emotional energy.

Summary

Now I’ve addressed my approach to social media and shared the philosophy that guides my online interactions. Tune in next week while I get into the methodology behind my blogging.