Most of us know we should build social media into our author platform, but how? How do we attract enough followers to make it feel worth it without burning ourselves out? And what if everyone really does #deleteFacebook someday — right after we finally hit five thousand followers?
Social media is important, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Here are some tips to get the most bang for your buck.
Give them something.
Make this your number one social media rule: you’re there for your audience, not the other way around. Unless you’re an A-list celebrity, most people won’t seek out your social media feed for you. They come for your content. You need to share content that adds value to your readers’ lives.
You also need to give them something. If a friend comes over to your house, you feel compelled to offer them something, even if it’s just a glass of water. Approach your social media platform the same way. Try to offer some small reward for your followers’ loyalty.
Even if all you can offer is membership to your email list, phrase it in terms of what it means to your followers. Do they get an intimate window into your writing process to learn how a novel comes together? Will they get first dibs on reviewer copies? Make them feel special and welcome in your online home.
Don’t go it alone.
Whether you’re starting your platform from zero or trying to grow to the next level, your efforts will go farther as part of a community than working alone. Befriend popular influencers in your circle by commenting on and sharing their content. With a little patience and luck, your content may someday catch their eye and earn a share to their audience.
However, remember to be genuine. Treat social media like you would a conference or a networking event. Be humble. Respect others’ time and attention. And perhaps most of all, don’t spend all your time chasing the big names. Form relationships with your peers and develop a support network to lift each other up.
It can be discouraging to see newcomers gain massive followings seemingly overnight. You may start to wonder what you’re doing wrong. What they know that you don’t.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, and I’m going to let you in on a secret: many people who experience that overnight success don’t stick around. Either they got lucky with content they couldn’t replicate or they burned themselves out. If you want to last on social media, you need a sustainable strategy that doesn’t sacrifice too much time or sanity.
Usually that means cultivating a lot of patience. High-quality followers — that is, real people who will support you and your work — take time to accumulate. Establish a relationship with social media that leaves ample time for you to recharge and do your other work. That will help you create high-quality posts for those followers for years to come.
Imagine everything at scale.
Even if you don’t have a lot of followers now, prepare for the day when you do. Make sure your current habits are sustainable even if your following grows to one thousand, ten thousand, even a hundred thousand. Put a high value on your time when it comes to answering individual questions over direct messages, acknowledging each and every new follower, or even leaving your direct messages open at all.
If you don’t control it, don’t rely on it.
Don’t go all-in on social media. Certain audiences tend to hang out on certain apps (e.g. Instagram or Snapchat). Those apps are very important places for authors to connect with readers. But you need to insulate yourself against unpredictability by bringing your platform under your control.
Social media apps are subject to many risks and variables, none of which you control: Facebook’s privacy scandals have failed to derail the site thus far, but who knows what the future holds? Many young people don’t use Facebook because they think it’s for — gasp — old people. Even if an app retains popularity, it can be bought and sold overnight. Sometimes bigger companies make these acquisitions to kill the app, and with it their competition. Changes to news feed algorithms can decimate your reach and visibility overnight. This can be devastating to your author platform.
That is, unless you control your platform’s foundation. Social media provides a great way to connect with readers, but you eventually want to funnel those readers to your email list or website. They should know how to find you outside of social media.
Because at the end of the day, social media is about building connections. Personal social media accounts build connections to you as a person. Your author accounts should build connections to you as a brand: that means your website, blog, and/or email list.