Seven Social Media Tips for New/Aspiring Authors

#1 | You don’t have to do social media.

Yep, I said that. 

I’ll rock the boat and say it again: You don’t have to be on social media if you don’t want to.

Now, look, I’m not suggesting this is a smart strategy. If I thought this were the wisest course of action, I’d be doing that myself (who knows, maybe one day I will!) 

I’m just saying … you don’t have to. There's no rule. People will tell you that you *have* to, and that’s just rubbish. You don’t have to do anything. 

There are a lot of “have to’s” in this industry. The best advice I can give you is to look at these “have to/musts” critically. You are allowed to look at the “have to” and say, “But if I don’t, what's the worst that might happen? Is there data/proof that not doing this thing will ruin my career or is it just what everyone else is doing?

Look at your role models. What are they doing? Look at the people whose careers you don't necessarily want to emulate. What are they doing?

I’ve neglected social media for months at a time. I was extremely happy during this time, and my career didn’t stumble, that I can see.

Now, is it a safe bet to at least dabble in social media? Probably.

But for what it’s worth, I’ve yet to see anyone data that says a huge social media following results in huge sales, or huge success. Not one bit of data. Meanwhile Suzanne Collins is nowhere to be found on social (that I can find) and has sold more than 50 million books. Nora Roberts has said she’d rather stab herself in the eye with a flaming stick than tweet.

And yes, I know a whole bunch of people are rolling their eyes saying, “Well sure, when you sell a million/billion copies like Suzanne/Nora then you can stay off Twitter too). But that’s kind of my point—they sold a million/billion books *without* Twitter. You can too. In theory.

And for what it’s worth, one of my better performing books sold 25,000 copies in its first month.

While I was on a social media hiatus. 

Just saying. 

#2 | It’s okay to focus on just one platform.

A safer strategy than avoiding it altogether might be to start/specialize in one platform. Figure out what feels the most comfortable, and but your time/energy into that one. If you’re new-ish to social media, especially as an author presence, it can be overwhelming/frustrating to try to become adept and popular on all platforms at once. If you already love Facebook, stick with that.

If Twitter’s your jam, be one of those amazingly prolific tweeters. For me, it’s Instagram—I still dabble in the others if I’m in the mood, but Instagram’s the one I most enjoy, so that’s the one that always gets first priority. It’s also the one where I see the highest engagement. Coincidence? I think not. People can sense when you enjoy something, and they gravitate towards it (I have zero source or data to back that up, but I’m wise, you can trust me)

PS: Even if you only plan to be active on one, it never hurts to reserve your Twitter/Instagram handle as soon as possible—if you’re using a pen name, I’d even suggest checking to see if the handle’s available before committing to said pen name. That way you won’t be stuck with an underscore before your name, such as @_laurenlayne ... like a friend of mine :-|

#3 |Think long and hard before going “negative”.

If cynical/snarky, outspoken, vent-tastic is your brand and your voice, have at it — truly. I’ve got a bit of cynic in me as well. But lately I’ve been realizing how icky I feel whenever I browse my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and I think it’s because … I feel icky after.

It comes in little, subtle ways. Everything from people posting unhappiness about how Panera got your order wrong, a mean boss, politics you don’t like, how stressed/busy you are, even little things like complaining about the grumpy woman in front of you at Starbucks … it feels like harmless venting. But it adds up, and when you take a step back, you realize how vaguely unpleasant it all is. What we think is venting/snarky is sometimes just ... toxic.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the sort of energy I put out there—do I want to be the sort of person that spreads positivity? Or negativity? Do I want to lift up? Or drag down. I’m still working on it. I've got a long way to go. But it’s a thought.

#4 |Stop obsessing about your number of followers

As I’ve said before, followers don’t necessarily mean you’ll enjoy better sales. I don't have that many followers, and I'm pretty happy with where my career's at.

I see plenty of authors who put a ton of time/effort into getting their number of follows up that are steadily mid-list. I see other authors who fewer than 1,000 followers make bestseller lists. A large following won’t hurt you, but it’s no guarantee for success.

#5 | If you want to obsess about something, pay attention to engagement 

Are people liking/sharing/commenting on your posts? That's what I care about more than number of followers. It tells me my audience is engaged. An engaged audience is a buying audience. It means they’re actively into you, and not just passively following.

Nothing makes me raise an eyebrow faster than someone who has thousands of followers on Instagram but whose posts average 20-30 likes. The point of social media is to connect with people, not simply collect them. 

#6 | Quit with the weird follow-back shit

There’s nothing that puzzles me more than the follow-back culture. It’s most prevalent on Twitter, and it’s the expectation or practice of following someone just because they followed you. Or expecting them to follow you, just because you followed them. There are actual apps/programs you can run to see who you follow that doesn’t follow you back—and it will batch unfollow them?!

I can’t even with this. I know it's common, the norm, even, but I truly don't understand it.

Follow someone because you want to follow them—because you find what they have to say interesting, or because you enjoy what they're putting out there. Don't follow someone solely with the intent/expectation that they’ll follow you back.

I know some people view follow-back as an expected courtesy. I enthusiastically disagree. It turns social media into a pointless numbers-oriented game rather than a quest for quality content.

#7 | Be wary of social media advice/how to articles.

Yup, that absolutely includes this one. Remember what I said? Second-guess everything. Especially if it doesn't feel right. Trust your gut. If something makes you wrinkle your nose and doesn’t sit right, sleep on it. If it still feels funky to you in the morning, it means it’s not the right strategy for you. 

Remember: you don’t have to do anything. Constantly reminding yourself of that is the best advice I can offer for building a career that makes you excited to wake up every morning and do it all over again. You deserve that kind of life, and don't let anyone and their, "you must do X, Y, Z to make it even if it kills your soul" change your mind!