At this year’s ThrillerFest, discussions about platforming and marketing focused heavily on social media. Lynne Constantine suggested writers should of social media as a virtual cocktail party, in terms of how you should interact with others—it’s about connections, not sales.
So don’t let social media platforming intimidate you—Kimberley Cameron assured that “It’s nothing to be afraid of,” and Meg Ruley agreed, adding that “Social media is for everybody.” There’s no reason not to dive right in—with publishers relying on authors more and more to do their own promotion, starting to build your following early can only help.
“Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care,” as Diane Pulzello, founder of WhiteGlove PR, put it. In other words, share your personality and focus on engaging with other users before putting your book in front of them. To build those connections, Sarah Hausman, a senior publicist at Meryl Moss Media Relations, recommends mining your interests—post what you love, and find common ground where you and your target audience of authors and readers have shared interests.
Another valuable tactic for building connections with thought leaders, who likely will take more time to follow you back or recognize your name, is to engage them frequently in a genuine way. Pay attention to their posts, and when you notice ones that resonate for you, retweet, like or comment. “They’re going to notice that over time,” assured Lynne Constantine.
Facebook’s recent shift to a pay-to-play algorithm was brought up several times in platforming forums, as this new model makes it hard to get high numbers of views on Fan Pages—which means in order to grow your following on Facebook quickly, you’ll need to pay them for advertising.
Instead, most social media buffs were advocating for Twitter as the champion of the modern author’s platform. Twitter doesn’t penalize promotional accounts for posting without paying for ad space (at least, not yet), so it’s a much easier network for authors to build a following quickly and organically.
In a later presentation, Lynne Constantine offered specific tactics authors can use to grow their Twitter following. To start, she recommended dedicating a few minutes each day to actively finding relevant accounts to follow (up to 40 a day—adding more can be a red flag to Twitter for spam). A large portion will follow you back—the start of new relationships.
Another way to maximize your reach is by joining social media support communities for authors such as World Lit Café or Independent Author Network. By joining teams and using the group hashtags, these groups work together to retweet posts from each other and expose your posts to new audiences.
Most authors and social media experts at ThrillerFest shied away from Pinterest, citing its lower impact for their topic areas and questions about the network’s true potential. That said, MJ Rose was held up as an example of an author whose Pinterest game is completely on point, so it can be an effective platform-building tool for some.
In addition to the networks themselves, several platforming support tools were mentioned during the conference:
- Buffer and Hootsuite—Social media management and post scheduling tools
- Author Bytes—Hire this author website design service to create yours, or just flip through the samples for some inspiration
- Google Alerts—A great way to stay up to date on your most popular posting topics
- Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response—Email services to help you build your list
- Followerwonk—An awesome app that can assess your following and determine your optimal posting times on Twitter
DIYMFA can vouch for several of these tools—we regularly use Buffer, Hootsuite and Google Alerts ourselves. Other tools we love include Aweber (for email list management), Rafflecopter (for hosting giveaways), and TechSurgeons (for web hosting). Learn even more in the DIYMFA “Social Media for Writers” podcast.
While many wildly successful authors at ThrillerFest confessed they initially dreaded the idea of platforming on social media, and several simply tolerate it for business reasons, others—like R.L. Stine—professed a true love for connecting with their readers this way.
But however you feel about social media, it’s not going anywhere, and it can make a big difference in your writing career. The bottom line? As Mark Billingham stated, “You’d be a fool if you didn’t do it.”
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.