4. I Use Social Media My Own Way
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Goodreads, and Pinterest. I have this handy-dandy blog. I know there are other social media sites out there, but there are only so many hours in the day, you know?
If you’re an author, I do believe it’s important to get yourself out there however you can, and these days the name of the game is social media. Engagement on the different social media channels is important because you want people to know there’s a human being at the other end of the profile. I try to respond to every private message I receive, I’m generous in pinning and tweeting posts and articles from others that I’ve found interesting, and I’m always looking to like someone else’s posts.
I do far more promotion of others than I do of my own work. Joanna Penn and others refer to it as the 80/20 rule—post 80% about others and 20% about yourself—and I’ve done this for years. I feel good that I’m helping to spread content I’ve found useful, and I don’t feel like I’m shouting too loudly about myself. I want to get word out about my own stuff, of course, but I don’t want to be so obnoxious about it that it becomes noise.
Here’s another lesson I learned the hard way: I had to do social media my own way, not the way experts proclaim from the mountaintop. Whenever I read about social media for authors, staying on message is always the key phrase. If you’re a nonfiction author then tweet your topic. If you’re a fiction author, find the niche audience for your book and mold your posts for them. Don’t go off message because you’ll scare readers away! I tried to stay on message for months, honest I did, but over time I discovered I wasn’t that interested in checking my Facebook page or my Twitter feed. I ran out of ideas for posts for this blog. I couldn’t care less about any of it, and I realized I was bored. By limiting myself to what I could post about, my interest waned.
Suddenly, in a burst of inspiration, I began acting on the radical idea of posting whatever I wanted to post, pinning whatever I wanted to pin, and tweeting whatever I wanted to tweet. I tweet about publishing, writing, books, and authors. I tweet about spirituality, creativity, and inspiration. I tweet about social media. I tweet about blogging. I tweet about history. I tweet about London because it’s my spiritual home and I’ll be there in July so I’m getting ready. I tweet about Downton Abbey because I love Downton Abbey. Do I need another reason?
Here’s the funny thing…what the social media experts would have predicted is exactly what happened–I have followers who are fans of my books, and I have followers who are interested in publishing, books, writing, creativity, inspiration, social media, blogging, history, London, and Downton Abbey. Accepted wisdom says to have different social media accounts, one for yourself as an author and one for other interests. If there were 40 hours in a day I might be tempted, but as it is, on a 24 hour schedule, there isn’t unlimited time for social media. I need time to do this other thing called writing. The result is I have varied followers, but I don’t mind; in fact, I think it’s kind of cool. As for the prevailing wisdom about focusing on readers not writers, I don’t agree. First of all, readers can come from anywhere–even London. Second of all, most people have varied interests. Just because they follow me for the inspirational tweets doesn’t mean they’re not also interested in Downton Abbey and/or blogging and/or publishing and/or whatever else I tweet about. Finally, there are no more voracious readers in the world than writers and writers need recommendations for new books as much as anyone else. Besides, I think social media is for making connections, not necessarily for making sales.
I’m not sure how many sales I’ve made because of social media. I can’t trace a single book sale to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Goodreads, or Google+. That doesn’t mean such sales haven’t happened, but I have no way of knowing. My best guess is that it isn’t any one thing I’m doing that sells books—it’s a little bit of everything. As a result, I no longer worry if I’m doing social media “wrong.” I can do it my own way, and whatever new readers I find along the way are welcome.
Here’s another thought (proof that I can have more than one at a time): I find that readers choose to follow an author on social media after they become fans. In other words, first they read your book, then they decide they’d like to hear more from you, then they follow you. I’ve never received a message from a reader saying, “I saw you on Facebook so I decided to read your book.” I have, however, received many messages from readers who read my books and (thankfully) liked them enough to decide to follow me on social media (hello, out there!). I write novels, true, but I’m also a human being with varied interests, and my experience has shown me that fans like getting to know the lady behind the curtain, so to speak. I post and pin about topics that are interesting to a wide range of people, and I post and pin about my own work as well, so I’m covering all the angles while keeping my readers and myself from keeling over in boredom. I mean, how many times can you tweet about the Salem Witch Trials even if it is a fascinating topic?
Have I cost myself followers because of my decisions? I haven’t a clue. Maybe. Like with book sales, I’ve learned that numbers aren’t the end-all-be-all of my work. I have to enjoy what I’m doing or else there’s no point to it. Following the accepted wisdom with social media wasn’t working for me. Now I have fun with my social media accounts where before they were an unwelcome chore. And I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way (yes, I’m talking about you).