Social media is, of course, a cornerstone of an author’s online platform. But once you’ve got your accounts set up, what do you do with them? “I don’t have anything to say,” is a common refrain among authors first starting to use social media. And indeed, there is a lot of pressure to post frequently and to entertain, or even inspire.
But the stakes don’t need to be that high, and I assure you, you have more to say thank you think. But it starts with understanding how to say it. No matter what social media network you are on, and no matter what your genre you write or what message you want to share, these three post types are the ones you should use to build your following
1) Curated posts
Curation is about picking the very best from within a defined category and bringing it together in a single place—think of it as a boutique shop, versus going to the mall. For social media, it means turning yourself into a go-to source for a certain type of information within your focus area.
Niche down for this. For example, I write speculative fiction so I often share links about science fiction and fantasy. But I don’t stop defining my content there. I try to be even more specific by focusing on content that is pro-feminist and pro-diversity, related to science fiction and fantasy novels, movies and television.
By offering content of value to your specific target audience, you become a source that readers want to keep coming back to.
When creating a curated post, don’t rely on the title of the article you’re sharing as the post itself. Instead, Offer your own two cents or call out a quote that you found of particular interest. Also, tag the source of each article (publication and/or author) to associate yourself with thought leaders and increase your chances for reposts that can extend your reach.
This type of post should be between 40 and 70 percent of your posts.
2) Personality posts
Personality posts offer a glimpse into your personality and share about your life. This post type is crucial to building a true following, because this is where you build those all-important human connections the most. People want to connect with—and read the books of—people they like.
What does this look like? It’ll depend on you, your genre, and your core message. I also recommend taking into account your social media voice and comfort level with personal sharing online.
For example, a person who writes memoirs about her experiences coping with depression would have a lot to gain by making personal sharing a larger part of her social media. She could share her day-to-day journey and model the ways she keeps herself well being a priority—a post-by-post living example of what she shares in her books.
But a person who writes highly scientific science fiction may do better sharing a higher degree scientific technology articles (see above) and a lesser amount of personal posts.
Personally, I let this type of post frequency have a lot of flux to it, which lets me share more when I feel inspired to, and less when I feel that is more appropriate.
It’s always important to bear in mind with personal posts that sharing should be done through the filter of your brand. Don’t go overboard here. If you wouldn’t share it with a coworker or at a cocktail party, don’t post it either.
Another important aspect to consider with these posts is security. I’d advise against sharing kids’ names, for example, or posting vacation pictures while you’re still away from your house. If you wouldn’t want a sketchy stranger to know it, don’t post it.
For personal posts, I’d recommend 20 to 60 percent of your posts, varying depending on your personal voice, comfort level and genre.
3) Promotional posts
Promotional content should be posted sparingly, (10 to 15 percent of your posts) as overdoing it can drive readers away and diminish the connect you’ve built with them, making it seem like selling books is all you care about.
This is likely good news, as marketing to followers directly can make a lot of authors feel icky. But you’re not off the hook: It’s also your most important post type. Never forget that ultimately, selling books is, in fact, what your platform is about. It really is okay to share announcements and releases on occasion. If readers are following you, they probably really want to know.
In fact, promotional content doesn’t even have to feel too promotion-y. Feel free to do a little curation or personal sharing along with it:
Finally, remember this: Even for established authors with large social media followings, not many books get sold through social media with a direct post-to-sale correlation. But by maintaining connections with a following and sharing relevant book announcements, you will still extend your reach and readership over time, in less visible ways.
Those followers will keep you top of mind on their next book shop trip, or join your email list, or seek you out on Goodreads.
Building Blocks for Platform Growth
It’s easy to feel that you don’t have anything to say when putting pressure on yourself to build an author brand. But sometimes it’s just a matter of understanding the pieces it should be built from.
By finding a combination of these three post types, draw in the right niche audience, you can connect with readers, and increase sales.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance 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.