Everything you’ve read tells you that social media marketing is a critical part of building your author platform and thus, selling books… and it’s absolutely true. But for many authors, social media feels like a foreign environment. It can often feel like you’re shouting into a void and nobody sees your posts, comments on them or, most importantly, clicks over to buy your book.
While many blog posts on the topic talk about the importance of social media, few tell you how to actually be successful. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just creating an account, following some people, and posting pretty photos of your book.
If you’ve been trying without much success to grow your following and engagement on social media, here are eleven mistakes you might be making.
11 Mistakes Authors Make with Their Social Media
1. You don’t have a strategy.
Not having a plan for your social media accounts is a big mistake, and yet many authors do it. Why? Because at first glance, it’s difficult to tell whether or not anyone has a social media strategy in place. That’s because most of this work takes place offline: deciding what kind of content to create and publish, what your branding is, how often you want to post, who your target audience is, etc. There are a lot of details to consider before you simply create an account, upload a photo and start shouting into the abyss. Any successful business endeavor begins with a good strategy, and social media is no different. If you have social media accounts but you didn’t know you needed a strategy, start here.
2. Your posts are too promotional.
Don’t get me wrong. You should be promoting your book (this is a business, after all), but you need to include a mixture of personal, creative, and engaging content in addition to posts that ask something from your followers. It’s a good idea to limit your promotional posts to one or two times each week, depending on how many times you’re posting overall, and make sure to stick to your strategy for other kinds of posts (book reviews, blogs you’ve written, other people’s related content, quotes, behind the scenes images, etc.) that someone would look at without knowing you’re an author. But, this is still a space for your brand. Feature your book in your banner or profile image so your followers will see it and know easily how to learn more if they’re interested.
Tip: Make sure the link to buy your book is easily accessible. If you have many things to link to, sign up for a linktree.
3. You aren’t engaging with your followers.
The point of social media, after all, is to be social. A good rule of thumb is to always respond to comments on your posts. Comments are crucial not just because they show interest from your followers when you share new content, but also because they trigger the algorithm to show your post to more people. The more comments you have on your posts, the more people will see it. One way to increase this engagement is to ask curious questions in your posts.
Even if you only have a handful of engaged followers, they are more valuable to you than having thousands of unengaged subscribers. Relish the relationships with the people who are investing their time in you. It will pay off.
4. You’re treating all social media platforms the same.
While it might seem like social media is social media, there are different use cases for each platform and it’s important to a) only work with the platforms you like and understand and b) choose platforms that speak most clearly to your target audience. For example, Twitter’s 140-character tweets and crucial use of hashtags requires a much different approach from the image and video content of Instagram. It’s a good idea to first figure out where your ideal readers are, and then focus your attention there.
5. Your account doesn’t look human.
If you’re going to use social media at all, it’s important to make your profile distinct from the spam/robot accounts out there, and to not give anyone a reason to question if there’s a real human behind the photo. Make sure you fill out all the pertinent information on your account, including a profile photo and a header image. Try to follow like-minded accounts (perhaps other authors whose work you admire), and engage with their content. Relying too much on automation can hurt you in the long run if you forget to check in with your followers regularly and reply to comments, instigate conversations, share content, etc. This is not to say we don’t recommend scheduling your content — we do! — just don’t forget the human element.
6. You’re speaking to the wrong audience.
A lot of authors make the mistake of writing for other authors, instead of their intended readers. An important step in creating your social media strategy is to identify your target audience, and how to speak to them. What kinds of things are they interested in? Is there a certain voice that reaches them (perhaps the voice in your book)? Are they text, image or video focused? If you’re the author of a science fiction novel, for example, and you constantly post about the writing process, you’re going to attract other writers. But if you talk about the context that fascinates both you and your readers, you’ll grow your body of potential readers and fans.
7. You’re using your personal Facebook profile instead of an author page.
For starters, this is forbidden by Facebook law, and you can easily get banned due to their terms of service. While many people have done this successfully, it’s best to create an author page and share some of your posts from that page to your personal Facebook friends to try and pull them over. You can easily set up multiple pages for different books or types of books you’re writing, and post across all of them according to your social media strategy, if that’s something that’s important to you (and you have the extra time and energy). It’s also just fine to have a single author page where you promote all of your writings.
Tip: If you plan to advertise on Facebook, having a separate page is required to do so, so you’ll be prepared.
8. Your posts are too long.
Think about your own scrolling behaviour. When you scroll through your feed, what kinds of posts make you stop and read more? Likely, those that are short, catchy posts with a hook at the beginning. Anything with several paragraphs generally gets skipped over. Remember that people are only quickly glancing at your posts, and your goal is to get them to stop and read. You need to get your main idea across quickly, in the first sentence, and entice them to want to read more or, better yet, click over to your profile and see what you’re all about.
9. You aren’t utilizing hashtags or the right hashtags.
Not all platforms rely on hashtags for categorization, but many do. It’s best to do your research before utilizing hashtags to make sure you’re using the right ones for your genre, as well as some general writing, reading, and book hashtags. The right ones will be popular hashtags, but if you’re still small, finding hashtags with around 100,000 uses will give your content a better chance of getting noticed. The hashtags with millions of uses get used so often that your content will get buried before it ever meets a follower’s eyes. Almost all the platforms allow hashtags, so make sure you’re using the best ones and in the right way on your platform(s) of choice.
Tip: On Instagram, you can “follow” hashtags to see what other authors are posting and get ideas for future content. On any platform, you can look up popular content and see which hashtags they used on that specific post.
10. You’re not posting videos.
Videos are statistically far more effective for capturing an audience than still images, and many platforms are starting to favor creators who post more video content. Doing so will boost your overall profile views and is likely to get you more followers and increased engagement.
Yes, videos can be more time consuming than photos, but there are a bunch of tools out there to help make it as simple as possible now. Plus, with newer features like Stories, there is little pressure to have professional quality video…you can just film yourself talking about something your followers will find interesting!
Tip: You can use free programs like Canva to create simple videos using stock video or text, like quotes or reader reviews.
11. You’re taking yourself too seriously.
Remember, your audience is here because they like you! They want to know you, even the messy bits. You don’t have to have perfect graphics and amazing photos; they certainly help, but only if they feel authentic to who you are. It’s important to always include pieces of yourself and your life behind the scenes into your content strategy. Don’t be afraid to show yourself being silly, or weird, or in your office working away (especially if you’ve created strange rules for yourself to get your butt in the chair, as one writing instructor once shared with me, like wearing an uncomfortable onesie so that he would get his word count in as quickly as possible so he could take it off!). The more honestly you can represent your true self, the more people will like and engage with you.
Now it’s time to evaluate your social media strategy (or lack thereof) honestly. Have you made any of these mistakes?
If so, the beauty of short-term content is that it’s never too late to change direction. You can correct whatever mistakes you’ve been making today, and begin refreshing your brand and strategy tomorrow. Good luck!
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