A Writer's Guide to Social Media

I recently wrote a post over on Mashable covering more than 100 authors making the most of Twitter. In doing so, I had to do a TON of research and found plenty of authors who weren’t using Twitter in the best way possible. I also found a lot of authors who weren’t using the web in the most effective way either.

Photo by Jeff Milner, via Flickr

Photo by Jeff Milner, via Flickr

So I thought I’d put together a bit of a “best practices” guide for getting the most out of social media and the Internet if you’re a writer (published or aspiring). Here are some tips for using social media tools effectively and in a way that’s likely to get you more followers and fans.

  1. Set up a good website. There are thousands of free website templates out there. If you have no design skills and no money to hire a designer, use a template. A professional-looking website goes a long way toward making you look like a professional. Make sure you include basic information about who you are and what you write. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It does need to be user friendly and professional.
  2. It’s okay to have a blog as your primary site. Just make sure you include an about page that details who you are and what books you’ve written (or, if you’re unpublished, what you’re working on and the kinds of things you write). And if you’re going to blog, make sure you update regularly and moderate your comments. There’s nothing worse than coming to a blog and seeing no updates for three months and tons of spam comments.
  3. List the genre of your books! It’s not always apparent from the title of a book, or even the brief description and blurb what genre your book fits into. I don’t know how many books I came across that left me wondering, “Is this a thriller? Horror? Mystery? Romance?” Make it clear so that if you’re ever included in a list of authors or mentioned on someone’s site, they identify you with the correct genre (the last thing you want is to be identified as a thriller author if you write romance, or vice versa).
  4. Engage with your fans and followers. If you’re using a site like Twitter or Facebook to interact with your readers, make sure you engage with them! Have conversations. Retweet their (valuable) content.
  5. Don’t just promote yourself. This is a big no-no. When compiling these lists, anyone who just promotes their book(s) automatically got cut. Don’t use social media as a giant advertisement. If anything, it’s more like a press release. Give your followers a reason to follow you and a reason to be engaged with what you’re doing. Offering up glimpses into your day-to-day life, what you’re reading (both online and off), and useful links and resources goes a long way toward making you look like a real person instead of just a self-interested twit.
  6. Update regularly! This one is really important. Whether you choose to update hourly, daily, or weekly, make sure you do so consistently. If I came across Twitter accounts where the person hadn’t tweeted in three weeks, you can bet they weren’t included on the list. The same goes for people who would tweet consistently for a week and then nothing for two weeks. I get it if you don’t have a chance to update on some days, but make sure those days are few and far between. For example, if I’m going to be out of town for the day without Internet access (I live in Northern New England, hot spots are few and far between in most places up here), I’ll tweet in the morning to say I’m going out of town and won’t be back until late. This way my followers know not to expect new updates.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully it at least provides a starting off point for using social media.

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5 thoughts on “A Writer's Guide to Social Media

  1. Good advice. I’m actually tweeting my book on Twitter in real time – with multiple characters. At first, I wasn’t sure how to handle interaction (like #followfriday and responses to readers) because it made the storyline confusing. A reader came up with a genius idea – label interactions with readers as “Editor’s Note:”

    9,000 followers across the 5 Chicago to Coronado Twitter characters to date, 4500 on the main story at @kirsteno. It’s an experiment. Welcome ideas!


  2. Pingback: Social Media for Writers and Authors « Compassion in Politics: Christian Social Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation, & Base of the Pyramid/BOP Solutions

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