4 Lessons Learned over a Decade of Author Platforming

by E.J. Wenstrom
published in Community

Twitter, the linchpin of the publishing industry online, has felt like it may very well be crumbling under the new leadership of Elon Musk. With this, there’s been a lot of chatter in the publishing community about where we go from here.

It’s up to you whether and when you choose to go down with the ship by sticking around on Twitter or cast out your lifeboat and seek out stabler, calmer seas, but it’s worth keeping an ear to the ground and approaching the other networks you hear about with an attitude of curiosity and exploration.

For social media, it’s a moment of strange upheaval. As I write this, publishing Twitter today has suddenly started mass exodus-ing to Hive as its new hub. And it’s pretty nice over there! But for all I know at the time of writing this, the pendulum could swing again in a different direction by the time this publishes in a few weeks.

As it happens, this is a moment of change for me personally, too—though I’ve written for DIY MFA for about a decade (since I was an author baby myself!) and loved every minute of contributing to this community, the time has finally come when I must reduce my commitments. Thus, this will be my last DIY MFA article.

So rather than offer you an intro to Hive, which is still a TBD move for the long term, it seemed like a good idea to recap some of the general best practices I’ve learned in all my years of author platforming and communications professional practice.

Here are my top four lessons learned from a decade of author platforming:

1. Be consistent with your account handle

This feels a little granular compared to some of my other takeaways, but it’s so important, and something I see a lot of authors struggle with. And it’s very easy to see how a single person ends up as @BettyBoop on one network but @BettysBooks on a second and @BettyBoopWrites on a third—these accounts are often created over time, at different points in an author’s career development. And God forbid that the handle you used on your last account is now taken by someone else before you got to the next one.

But as much as possible, make this simple! Readers have a hard time keeping track of all those different tags! The best option is to stick to your author name as much as possible. (Hint: On a lot of networks, it’s possible to change your handle even if it’s already set, and it’s definitely worth the effort!)

For this reason, when something like Hive starts buzzing as a new network, it’s smart to go ahead and grab your account handle, even if you don’t think you’ll ever use it. This way it’ll always be an option, and no one else can use a handle your fans associate with you!

2. Take advantage of your profile and key real estate

Pay attention to your profile options on each network, and take full advantage of each element to communicate your author brand. Be consistent with your headshot, bio and banner images across all networks, as these visual cues will help readers easily know they found the right account, and link to your website.

Don’t forget to take advantage of other prime real estate, too! For example, many networks let you pin a post to the top of your account, and this is a great opportunity to introduce your writing and help readers discover what you’re about.

3. Take time to get to know the culture

Every channel is a little different and this should inform how you engage. How can you know? Before you start doing a ton of posting, follow others and see how they’re interacting. Are they using hashtags? Are they more formal or casual? How do they support others?

For example, on Hive, a unique feature is that every user can turn on or off a Q&A function. When you turn it on, you invite the community to ask you questions. Showing your interest in others by asking them questions too is both part of the fun and part of how you support others on the platform.

In general, engagement should not be transactional, but it should be reciprocal. Take the time to understand how to do it well on the platforms you use regularly.

4. Be a person, not a promoter

Every network has its own rules, but generally, social networks should be social first, not promotional. You’ll connect better with followers by sharing a little of your personality and interests (especially if they’re related to your books!) than you will by blasting sales pitches. So give them a peek into your writing life, what you get excited about, and the books you read and love.

As a sub-point to this, some people get really focused on how to work with the algorithm to get into people’s feeds (especially on TikTok). And sure, you can take some steps to hone the algorithm to your favor if you are really committed. But you don’t have to do this. Lead with being yourself and focus on being authentic, helpful, and consistent.

Depending on the platform, you may not grow as fast, but you will grow, and for me, it’s much more manageable and enjoyable this way.

Focus on Making Connections

Thank you all for reading this column all these years! I’ve loved writing for this community so much, but over this time my other responsibilities have changed and grown, and it’s time for new adventures and to make space for new voices.

I leave you with these parting points as my greatest lessons learned from social media, and best wishes to you with your writing and platforming. If you lead with making connections and engaging at a sustainable pace, you’ll find a lot of fun and good surprises along the way!

By day, E. J. Wenstrom is a digital strategy pro with over 10 years at communications firms. By early-early morning, she’s an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War novels, starting with Mud. She believes in complicated characters, terrifying monsters, and purple hair dye.

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