Many—perhaps most—people on social media try to build their platform by posting, posting, posting. But being truly social requires a bit more than this. Like in any relationship, building a social media platform requires engagement both ways.
Social media is more than a megaphone. There are hundreds of conversations going on out there all the time; to really build a network of people who know you, are rooting for you, and care about your next book release, you should be a part of at least some of them.
How do you find the conversations that will help you connect with readers? Every social network has forums, if you know where to look.
Here’s where to start on each.
Facebook is perhaps the most straightforward and the most widely know of the social conversations, so let’s knock it out of the way first.
Groups on Facebook are like when you go to a huge party, and then everyone breaks off into little sub-parties with the people they actually like.
These little micro-parties form in all sorts of ways. DIY MFA has a group for the authors who take its courses. And it’s far from the only author-centric Group out there. They’re everywhere, big and small, niche and broad, for every level, genre and ambition.
Some you can search for and join with just a click. Others set up privacy settings to protect the group’s integrity, and will need to approve you before you can join the conversation. Either can be a great way to build community and learn from other authors.
Twitter: Live Chats
Everything about Twitter is fleeting, and the Twitter chat may be one of the most fleeting things about it. But it’s also my favorite.
From the Academy Awards to horror writers, chats can focus on global, national or niche community events. Or, they can focus around an interest—like, say, writing. The trick with chats is, you not only need to know where to look (the hashtag), but also when to look.
For event-related chats, it’s easy—login during the event. But other groups meet on their own designated schedule, often weekly or monthly. You may need to lurk around the hashtag a bit to find an announcement of when the next one will be, or who runs it.
I recommend watching more than you talk at first to understand the group dynamic, but to throw in your two cents, all you have to do is use the chat hashtag.
Instagram’s capacity for conversation is more limited, both by its primary medium (it’s harder to chat in images) and its functionality, which limits ways to engage. But you can still do it.
Step one: Know your hashtags. Choose a few to follow based on what you love to write and read (or whatever else you do with your time). Follow them, and engage. Don’t just Like posts, comment, too! Use these hashtags in your own posts, as well.
LinkedIn isn’t as trendy as the other major networks, and it’s not as commonly associated with the publishing industry—perhaps because it’s not as easy to reach out to readers or stalk your dream agent there. But I consider it underrated.
If you want to be a professional, LinkedIn can hold a different kind of value. And LinkedIn Groups can help you network and amp up your author career skills, like marketing and public speaking. It can also be a great way to keep up with the industry’s latest news.
How do you find a good LinkedIn group to join? Much like Facebook, you search for them, or find one through an online platform you already love. When searching, be sure to use the drop-down on the results page to filter to Groups.
Go Forth and Connect
I became overeager when I first started taking this approach with my platform and joined several of the biggest groups I could find, within a matter of days, and promised myself I’d check in with each frequently. But when it comes to making genuine new connections, often, more is not more. Because mass producing great conversation doesn’t work.
These days, I keep tabs on a few small groups full of kindred spirits with similar passions and sensibilities. I recommend you do the same. If you do, you’re sure to find great new friends that not only help you expand your platform, but also enrich your life.
By day, Emily Wenstrom is an author social media coach and content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.