I get asked about social media for authors a lot, and as a social media strategist AND an author, there are a lot of pitfalls I notice in the industry. The biggest one by far is authors assuming social media is a sales tool when in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Using social media as a running commercial for oneself basically leads to a bunch of unfollows. This is because social media isn’t about selling—it’s about being social.
In fact, the word is right in there—“social” media.
Social platforms are a way to connect with fans and engage with them. As the saying goes, your website is your handshake where people first meet you, but your social media is where they get to know your personality. People decide that you’re a worthy professional from what they see on your website, but they decide if they like you as a person on your social media, and this is because social media is a conversation.
I very very very rarely ask fans to buy my book on social media. In fact, I rarely tell them about sales on my books. I almost solely use social media as a place to talk about books—most of which are other people’s books. When I do speak on my own books, it’s to give fans more about my characters—behind the scenes, bonus facts, little extra things that didn’t make it into the book. I want to enhance their experience with the books and characters they already love and give them more of that world.
I use my social media as a way to give back to my fans and interact with them. I never try to pitch them.
A general rule for social media is four gives for every ask. This means every time you ask them to do something, you need to give them four things first. Behind the scenes, events, some type of conversation, helpful tips, or advice. At that point, you’ve earned the right to ask them to read your blog post, or join your newsletter, or check out your book sale. Give, give, give until it hurts and fans will respond en mass when you finally ask them for something.
A lot of authors will balk at this because they think they need to be selling their book all the time, but the truth of the matter is that when you give them bonuses/your time, fans start to feel responsible for your success—they see you as a friend. So when you need something, they’re more likely to help you out. Marketing doesn’t have to be a constant sales pitch—creating an engaged fanbase simply by being present and helpful is an incredible way to market without being salesy.
Treating social media like a conversation will make your engagement sky rocket. We already know the algorithm looks for engagement over numbers, so if you have 1000 fans, but only 20 comment, that’s a low percentage. If you have 100 fans and 20 of them comment, that’s a higher percentage. The algorithm looks at that engagement rate and decides the person with the lower number of followers but higher engagement rate has more valuable content and then shows that content to more people. Your goal should be getting conversation, not getting vanity metrics with high numbers if the fans don’t engage. Starting conversations and avoiding the sales pitch is the best way to do that and get the algorithms to take notice.
With my own account, I have so many people engaged on my posts that Instagram is actually actively recommending my account to people who don’t know me so I don’t have to pay for as many ads. The key is that I don’t sell on my social media—I engage and I make it about my fans and how I can support them.
On my account, I often give behind the scenes looks at how my Goldilocks was trained to become a deadly girl on a mission to destroy the Bears. I’ll show off text messages between my characters that were forced to marry each other was part of a revenge plot meant to end with one of them suffering an “accidental” death. Sometimes, I’ll give a scenario that would happen in the real world and talk about how my cyber punk Little Miss Muffet would react to it. I love giving tips for creating something my mermaids would use in their everyday lives that my fans can create too! Giving my fans a look into my characters’ worlds beyond the book is the best way to engage with them!
Try it out! For the next two weeks, don’t pitch your book. Post once a day when your fans are active and give, give, give. Talk about book behind the scenes, ask engaging questions, ask for opinions and recommendations, talk about books you love written by your author friends, give advice to new writers…find things to talk about other than yourself and your books.
Don’t forget to use the appropriate hashtags to get your content seen by the bookish community.
You’ll be surprised by the difference in your engagement when you take the focus off of you and put it on how you can support your fans! Best wishes with your social media engagement this week!
K.M. Robinson is a professional social media marketing strategist for authors and photographers. She’s been interviewed by Facebook for her innovative work in the field of messenger chatbots and represented the USA in a widely watched live broadcast for World Social Media Day. She is the author of The Golden Trilogy, The Jaded Duology, The Siren Wars Saga, The Legends Chronicles, Virtually Sleeping Beauty and more.