Elizabeth: Social Media for Writers

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.Today we’re taking a break from our usual discussions about the craft of writing to talk about the business side of writing.

At my day job, I recently attended a conference about the use of social media. It was aimed at small businesses, but a lot of the information that they covered is applicable to writers as well.

First off, there’s nothing to say you have to be on any social media platform.   Time spent on social media is time that you’re not able to spend on your writing. Depending where you are in your writing career, you may want to focus your limited time/resources on writing now and leave social media for a later time, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you do have the time however, and if it is managed effectively, social media can help you increase your visibility, connect with readers, network with industry professionals and, once you’re published, sell books.

  • The 55-64 age-group is the fastest growing social media segment
  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friend’s posts on social media

If a social media presence is something you want to pursue, then you need to answer some basic questions:

What is my goal?

If your goal is to increase awareness, the information you post (regardless of the platform) will be different from what you might post if you were attempting to sell books. Having a specific goal in mind will help keep you focused when doing your posting and can help you keep your social media activities down to a manageable level. Establishing a goal also provides a way for you to measure the effectiveness of your social media presence.

Which platform(s) do I want to use?

Once you know what your goal is, you need to decide which platforms you want to use. You want your social media practice to be sustainable, so the key here is to choose a platform that you like and are interested in. There are a number of social platforms – wordpress, blogger, twitter, Facebook, pinterest, YouTube – just to name a few.  Some are social networks, some facilitate discussing / sharing, and others allow for the publishing of content. Google “social media landscape” if you want to get a visual idea of just how many social platforms there are.

A consideration when deciding which platform(s) you want to use is how much time you have to spend on posting. If you have a limited amount of time, choosing a blog that requires a fair amount of thought and writing time, might not work for you. Something like twitter, with its 140-character limitation might be more appropriate (though be careful, it can wind up taking a lot more time than you expect).

What do I want to post?

After setting your goal and choosing your platform, you need to decide what it is you want to post. Are you looking to create new content (like the blog posts we do here at Eight Ladies Writing) or are you more interested in organizing /presenting content by others?

An interesting rule of thumb I came across for what to post is the 60-30-10 rule.   According to the rule, the goal of 60% of your posts should be aimed at audience engagement, 30% should be to inform/educate, and 10% aimed at selling. Now this specific rule was presented for the small businesses, but if you are at the “published book” stage and are attempting to get readers to buy your book, this would be applicable.

How often should I post?

Your posting frequency depends on the platform you are using and how much you have to say. Here are some rough guidelines for a few of the main social media types (be aware that these recommendations are constantly changing as new platforms pop up and people’s tastes change):

Website/Blog

While your author website may be fairly static, your blog needs fresh content on a regular basis to keep readers coming back.   A frequency of at least once a week is suggested. Keep in mind that, since a blog is created content (unless you are just posting links), it can be a fairly big time commitment. Also, if you want to drive traffic to your blog, you’ll probably need to have a Facebook or Twitter presence as well.

Facebook

Facebook can be a good way to network with both readers and writers, as well as to increase your visibility. If you are establishing a writer presence on Facebook, make sure to create a page for your writer-persona that is separate from any personal page you might have. A posting rule-of-thumb here is no more than two posts per day. More than that and you risk becoming irritating, rather than interesting. When it comes to posts, quality not quantity is the key.

“Its 2011 study found that the sweet spot is five to 10 posts per week. Facebook posts reach their half-life at the 90-minute mark.” ~ Socialbakers

Fun fact: Photos are liked twice as often as posts, which makes sense since the majority of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

Twitter

Twitter is an interesting platform in that tweets have a relatively short shelf-life. It’s as if you are talking to people at a cocktail party with a pretty brief attention span. If you tweet something in the morning, it’s not likely to be seen by someone later at night (unless it has been retweeted). That means that, in addition to deciding what to tweet, you also need to determine when to tweet in order to reach your target audience. Because of the timing aspect (remember to be aware of time-zones), the posting recommendation for Twitter is 3 to 5 times per day (preferably spread out during the day).

Moz’s Peter Bray ran the numbers and found the 18-minute mark to be the time it takes for half of a tweet’s retweets to occur. In other words, once a tweet has been live for 18 minutes, it has reached the peak of its engagement.

Whatever your social media strategy, remember that consistency is key.

So – how active are you in social media? Which do you use to connect with writers and/or your readers?

Edited to add: As I mentioned in last Wednesday’s post, my goal is to write 500 words a day. How did I do this week? I just squeaked by, hitting 3,630 for the week, with about 32 minutes to spare.

5 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Social Media for Writers

  1. My social media participation right now is strictly Eight Ladies. I have a webpage, but I don’t use it. I am not at a point where getting my name and face out there would be beneficial as I don’t have anything to sell yet. When I get published, then I’ll increase my social presence online.

    • I hear you Michille. Writing is my main focus right now, with Eight Ladies my only consistent online presence. I am in the process of creating my website, but am not likely to push the “go live” button until I am a little closer to the agent search / publishing phase.

  2. All kinds of writers have gained all kinds of audience from social media, but it’s all I can do to find the creativity to write the book. I post here every other week, which is about all I can handle. I have a Twitter account and I retweet all the posts here and do very little otherwise. I just made private my own blog on my own website, so that’s over with. And I have a facebook account I haven’t visited in three years. Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat—just names so far. Maybe someday I’ll beef up my social media presence, but that day is not here yet.

    Sounds like the conference had good information! And congratulations on your word count. You are gettin’ it done. 🙂

    • Kay – I know what you mean about time constraints. I will need to work on being a lot more focused and effective with my time before branching out any further in the social media realm, otherwise I can see that turning into a giant time-suck. Right now I am paying attention to how my favorite authors are using social media so I have some clear idea of what seems effective and what doesn’t.

  3. Elizabeth, this is a great post! Lots of good information to think about. Can you tell me more about what is meant by the “audience engagement”? What 60 percent of our posts are supposed to be about? (-: I have nothing to sell yet, and I would say I skew to heavily toward the inform and educate side of things. Should I post more cat pictures? (I could give them hats that make them look like characters in my WIPs.)

    Right now, my media presence is Eight Ladies (about three or four hours? Writing the post takes up most of it, but finding a picture always takes almost as long!). I also do Twitter, for about 15 to 30 minutes a week. Part of that’s entertainment. Oh, and Google Plus, which is just silly, but I’ve heard that if you post blog links on it, it helps people Google the blog post in question. Do not ask me to cite that (-:. I don’t remember. Could have been a dream where I heard it.

    I have a website which I have visited yearly, on average. And some presence on the NaNo site, I guess.

    I hate Facebook. Love the interaction, but I always feel a little paranoid using it. Someone hacked my friend’s account and carried on a long IM message thread with me about how “she” was stuck in London with no money. Classic scam. My email’s been hacked as well; that stopped at about the time I stopped logging into Facebook. I would never get on it unless I had a dedicated device only used for FB (and maybe other shady social media).

    One thing I do for the future is keep ideas for future blog posts in my story notes. So, when I’m finally done with Bunny Blavatsky, I can pull fun blog posts about her clothing, the houses, her camera, where some of the plot ideas came from, etc. I do screenshots and links with dates accessed if I got something from the Internet.

    (-: It’s kind of a lot, considering I don’t have any real content yet. I think of it as practice runs, though.

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