How can writers use social media to get their work seen? This is a topic which has had my attention for a number of years now. Four years ago I wrote an article about the frustrations of building a career through social media. At the time, I focused on how a photo-sharing platform like Instagram can help emerging photographers get their work seen.
A lot has changed since 2018. Now, there are more platforms than ever, and many writers are using them to their advantage. While the same frustrations are still relevant, if not amplified, there are easy strategies you can use to overcome them.
The pressure to create professional and flawless content
The Frustration: It’s easy to look at the professional camera setups and expert editing of others and feel like you need the same in order to be successful.
The Fix: Lucky for us, gone are the days when a curated feed is the best feed. I like to emphasize author Jodi Picoult’s words when I think about this. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
The same principle applies to your social media channels. Just post, you’ll get better at it over time. We have no room for perfection here. Especially with the rise of TikTok over the past few years, authenticity makes a stronger lasting impact on your audience than production value will!
The endless push to post constantly
The Frustration: Everyone yells from the mountaintops that posting more content is the only way to be successful, but sometimes it can feel like posting more doesn’t always lead to results.
The Fix: Posting and interacting on social media as often as possible is essential. That doesn’t mean it has to be a constant concern in your life.
The best way to avoid burnout from this is to pick one day a week, or a few days a month to create a large batch of content. That way, you’re prepared. You can even take this a step further and use a platform like Later or the Meta Business Suite to schedule your posts days, weeks, or months in advance. Then you don’t even have to worry about posting.
The Frustration: Platforms are constantly updating, adding new features, and changing their priorities. This sometimes leads to crashes in the engagement numbers for your page too.
Every platform has its own way of ranking content, and the systems that determine this are changing on a regular basis. It can be a lot to keep track of.
The Fix: There is one major thing you can do to safeguard against such outages and changes, and that’s to build a mailing list. You can ask your audience to subscribe to your mailing list outright, or you can collect emails by hosting virtual events and running freebies or giveaways. It’s the best way to make sure your information still reaches your audience without relying on the whims of an algorithm. Just make sure there’s always an option for folks to unsubscribe.
For your social media algorithm headaches, you can follow a few “gurus” who share advice on the topic. Let them figure it out, simplify it, and then share it with you. Remember though, that a lot of the gurus make money from making content. You are trying to make money from selling books. Your priorities diverge at some point. What works for them does not always apply to you.
Trend cycles moving at a rapid speed
The Frustration: You spot a trend that’s relevant to you and you want to jump on the bandwagon. If you don’t work on a very quick turnaround, your audience might have already moved on.
The Fix: You can make the trend relevant again by putting a personal and unique spin on it. Alternatively, don’t worry too much about the trends. Offer value by educating, entertaining, sharing with your audience instead. Like Susan Cooper, a social media strategist specializing in the entertainment industry, says “engage, enlighten, encourage, and especially… just be yourself!”
Obviously, this is harder than it sounds. The best way to find out what ‘being yourself’ looks like on social media is to refer to the first point above; just post and post and post. The more you post, the more you understand what works for you and what you’re comfortable with.
Low engagement rates
The Frustration: It can be frustrating to put time and energy into building your community, only to have low likes, comments, and shares. Sometimes this happens because random accounts are following you and they’re not active or they’re spam.
The Fix: Remove any inauthentic or disengaged followers. It seems counter intuitive, but it really works. The goal is to build an active community, not to gain as many followers as possible. Focus on that.
Negative and sometimes hateful comments
The Frustration: Unfortunately, this comes with the territory when you have an online presence. It can be helpful to engage with respectful criticism, especially as writers and artists, because those critiques can make us stronger.
For those who are being disrespectful and mean the best response is always no response. When people are mean on social media, it’s often a reflection on them and not on you. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Hate – it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.”
The Fix: The challenge is that one mean, hurtful comment can sap all the light and energy away from a hundred positive comments. If there’s an account that posts negatively over and over again on your page, it’s usually better for everyone if you just block them and report it if necessary.
No book sales
The Frustration: There are writers who have thousands of followers on social media but do not see a correlating uptick in book sales. Having more social media followers does not always mean more sales – which is the biggest frustration of all; you work hard to build a platform and then it doesn’t give you the sought-after result. There are a number of reasons for this; the main one is growing an audience of uninterested and disengaged followers. Common methods used to grow social media accounts like follow-for-follow, follow-and-unfollow, and even paying to boost the reach of your posts, can lead to this situation.
The Fix: Let’s start at the very beginning. Having a social media platform is one way of selling books. It is not the be all and end all of this game. There are writers who sell tens of thousands of books without a single social media account. So in planning your author platform, remember that your channels are one of many you can use. Keep a list of book bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, book promotion websites, and other media channels that reach your target audience. Leverage their audiences so you are not relying too heavily on your own efforts.