Online presence. The thing of nightmares for a creatively minded person.
What do we artistically inclined creatures know about social media engagement? Where on earth does one start to build an online platform?
The first hint I received that I should consider starting to build my online author platform was back in 2013, when I was preparing to submit an unpublished novel manuscript to a pitching opportunity at a writer’s event in Bundaberg, Queensland. It asked for links to my ‘online author platform’. It wasn’t a mandatory requirement of the application process, but it got me thinking that it was high time I started looking into building my own. The idea had been floating around in the back of my mind for months, gently nagging me as I continued to procrastinate. Creating websites, marketing, promotion, it didn’t sound fun or interesting to me at all. But I knew it was a valuable step to take in my journey as a professional author.
So I set about gathering the various bits of information I needed to start to structure my platform. Part of this process was creating a presence within social media. I had a personal account with Facebook, and an author page I hadn’t touched in months. I had created a Twitter account years earlier that I’d all but forgotten about. I honestly had no interest in sharing photos other than the occasional snapshot on Facebook, and had never taken a selfie.
There were loads of social media platforms to choose from, but I had no idea that was right for my author profile. I gave Google Plus a whirl for a few weeks but found myself disinterested in it. At the same time I had also joined a number of author groups on Facebook; I found them to be nothing more than advertising billboards for poor quality self publishing, mostly B-Grade romance. The purpose of joining these kinds of groups was to generate sales, however it doesn’t help when most of the people engaging in these groups are not readers but authors only interested in promoting their own books.
In early 2016 I attended a Book Marketing and Promotion Masterclass. The facilitator of the advised participants to choose three platforms and stick with them, rather than trying to keep up activity across all of them. She confirmed that the most popular and effective social media platforms for authors were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are the three tools I chose, and here is a breakdown of how they can be used:
Facebook pages allow you to gather your followers, engage them and keep them up to date with your activities. I post three types of content a day to my Facebook author page. Here is my schedule:
- Between 10-11am: I post an inspirational picture or meme, either specific to writing or reading, or just something overall motivating.
- Between 12-1pm: I post a link to an informative article (not written by me) about writing, editing, blogging, or book marketing.
- Between 3-4pm: I post a link to one of my books on Amazon.
I post these links twice a day, repeating the cycle at 6pm, 9pm and between 11pm-midnight (so that my followers around the world all have an opportunity to see the content).
I follow the same schedule for my Twitter posts as I do for my Facebook page, and also a link to my Facebook page in the morning at 10am, 3pm, 6pm & before midnight with an invitation to ‘Like’. Twitter is also great for networking, by using the hash tag # to check in at events, and the @ symbol to tag people you want to network with at the event. The hash tag can also be used to tag certain words or phrases associated with the subject of the post e.g. #writing, #authors, #bookpromo etc.
I currently use my Twitter account prominently to connect with other authors online. I post my content, and if someone leaves a comment, I comment back! I also keep an eye out for more interesting posts from people I follow, and ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ (reshare) them.
Being a photo-sharing application, the way I use Instagram is slightly different to Facebook and Twitter. I share my daily inspirational photo or meme, the link to one of my book on Amazon (along with an image of the cover), and a link to my Facebook page with an image of myself holding one of my books. Like Twitter, I use hash tags relating to the content to bring people searching for that type of content to my posts.
I bet by now you are wondering HOW ON EARTH I have the time during the day to do all this posting??
One word: Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is a social media management service. You can sign up and link up to three accounts for free, and create your posts as you would if you were using each application individually. You will be able to see how many characters you have left for your post for each application (for example, Twitter only allows 130 characters, where as Facebook and Instagram are in the thousands). You can then schedule the day and time you want your posts to be published, and Hootsuite will automatically post them for you.
Things to note about Hootsuite:
Hootsuite requires Instagram posts to be published manually through the application. When the scheduled time comes about, Hootsuite will send you a notification, and you will be taken through the simple publishing steps.
If you choose Facebook as one of your accounts to use with Hootsuite, the application will only allow you to link to your personal Facebook profile, not your Facebook page. (What is the difference?) For this reason, I schedule posts separately in my Facebook page. Twitter will also allow you to save drafts of your posts in the application itself.
Scheduling material in Hootsuite is time consuming, but if you set a few hours aside time once a week or even once a month, it will save you a lot of time going through each application to create and publish your posts. The same can be said for blog posts.
There are probably far better ways to utilise these social media platforms as an author. But I am still a student, and my own social media presence is still growing and evolving. From my current practices, the biggest development I have noticed is being able to connect with other authors, and share each other’s content. Not only do I want to connect my readers to my books, but also provide useful resources and information to fellow writers, published and unpublished, novice and experienced.
And while we’re on the subject of social media, why not follow me?
Facebook: Kate Kelsen Author
I hope that this post has made social media platforms a little clearer for you. If you do have any questions, please add them in the comments!