Get Your Work Out There like a Persistent Facebook Advertisement
Once we break onto the scene as “writers,” we feel the pressure to stand out from the pack. There are now more authors, and more books being published annually, than ever before, with more than forty-five thousand authors on the scene in 2015.
Here are five tips to help your profile shine and your posts gain traction with the readers you most want to connect with:
Know Your Platforms
Facebook and Twitter are only the beginning for writers. There is also Instagram, which is a wonderful visual platform for book releases. LinkedIn and Pinterest are literally gold-mines for authors to connect with each other and their readers, and to share samples of their work.
Do your research, and learn what each platform is best utilized for, whether it’s sharing text-heavy pieces, links, or images. Also, learn the rules of engagement: when to include links, when to use hashtags, and where images are most appropriate. Knowing how many hashtags are too many, or whether to include a link to content in your main post or in the comments section, can place your post at the top of everyone’s Newsfeed… or buried at the bottom of the stack.
Give Yourself a List of Post Categories to Work From
Do yourself a favour, and don’t talk about writing all the time. As you build your presence on your platform of choice, ask yourself what makes you a writer. What is your main content area? What inspires you to write? What values do you bring to your writing? Answer these questions, and any others that you feel define you as a writer, and convert these answers into a list of categories to work with.
To give you an example: A big part of my writing life is recognizing where I draw energy from to write my poems, novels, and essays. So, the initial question would be, Where do you draw energy from to write? My responses would be nature, time with my family, faith, and reading, to name a few. So I could create a “Nature” category and a “What I’m Currently Reading” category.
Once you’ve made a list of categories (I recommend a list of five to ten), put them in the order in which you’d like them to appear online. If you have ten categories, you would post once per day, each day from the next category on the list, for ten days. Then repeat the process.
This gives you the opportunity to talk about writing without just promoting your work all the time. One day, you might post where you draw energy from, and the next you may share a picture of where you write, and so on.
These posts will keep your readers MORE engaged, because they will feel like they are getting to know the person behind the work that they love, without constantly having sales and promotions thrown in their face. This will also give you a break from always talking about your most recent book or next reading event, so when you DO talk about them, you feel refreshed and can approach the content in a new, interesting way — for your readers and for you.
Don’t Make Your Posts Your Next Novel
Be mindful of how much you’re expecting your readers to read. They may be ready to read your next novel, or your next feature with the New York Times, but they don’t necessarily want to read a long post on Facebook or Instagram.
Again, be aware of the format of the platform you’re using, and how other users typically engage with it. Using this article as an example, I’m being mindful of how useful my content is. I also know I can get away with writing a little more here than I could on social media, because my readers are specifically here for information. But I’m still not going to make this article crazy-long; it’s an informative article, not my next novel, after all!
Attention span may be a problem, but the more practical matter here is that social media is essentially a browsing platform: Users only click on links with titles that interest them, and they typically only scan a longer post for highlights (if they don’t immediately scroll past upon seeing the length of the post). We always have to keep this in mind when asking our readers to engage.
Know Your Voice.
You may have one writing voice when you work on your novel, and another when you write an essay. More than likely, you will need yet another when writing for social media.
For my fellow creative writers out there, this makes sense: Your voice shifts depending on the piece you’re writing, along with its tone and the mood of its characters. My fellow ghostwriters know this, too, as they work to imitate the voices of the blogs and businesses they’re writing content for.
For my other writing colleagues, this has to do with the level of formality you need to employ, as well as the tone you want to convey to your audience (reminder: the people you’re writing for!).
I recommend deciding on your tone while you are making the list of categories that you will use. Based on your categories, you should see a mood “theme” emerge that matches the mood of your categories, and encapsulates you as a writer.
If you find that you want to frequently talk about family, for example, your tone is going to be light, maybe humorous, and informal. However, if you want to talk about research influences for your historical fiction novels, your tone is going to be that of a serious academic, with fewer opportunities for lightness of tone.
Engage Your Audience.
Always — ALWAYS — address your audience as the people that they are.
These are not viewing analytics. These are not book sales or annual monetary figures. These are people who skim through their phones, eat dinner with their friends, and go to the movies, just like you. And those viewing your posts are people who became interested in your writing for a reason. You need to establish what those reasons are, and cater to them.
This question of how to engage can partially be answered through those categories that you selected before: Part of your decision on what content to include should be based on what you think will interest other people, and specifically people who enjoy the topics you’re writing about. But the larger mode of engagement here is how you’re engaging with your audience online.
Are you responding to their comments? Are those responses simple, like “Thanks for liking my post!” or an emoji and nothing else? Or are you writing personalized responses, based on what the audience member posted, leaving the door open to further conversation? Readers notice the difference in how fellow commenters are being engaged, and this will impact their viewership.
Also, are you taking what your audience wants into consideration? If you share some information about how you research for your books, and your audience does not respond, it means one of two things. The post may have not been properly optimized to be well-viewed on the platform where you posted, which you can improve next time. Or, (and this is the harder option to accept) it could mean your audience doesn’t want it.
We have to keep in mind as writers that everything that interests us doesn’t always interest our readers, and adjust accordingly. However, if you have one post that flops, don’t give up yet; try optimizing the next post in that category a different way, and see if there is a shift in engagement.
I always give a category at least three chances to perform (admittedly more like five chances, if it’s a particularly meaningful category to me), and then if it consistently hasn’t performed, I create a new category to replace the ineffective one in the next cycle of posts.
At the end of the day, make your posts an engaging, not-to-be-missed experience for your readers.
I often tell my friends and clients that social media is one of my favourite platforms for work, because it’s fun! But what I can’t stress enough: You need to make it fun for your readers, too.
Remember to familiarize yourself with how a platform works (length of posts, content, etc.), share more than just promotions for your writing, and personally engage with your readers. By doing these things, you will create an actual experience for your readers that they will intentionally check up on, rather than just happen upon once in a while on their Newsfeed.
These five tips, when well-integrated, can make the difference between only promoting yourself and building a community you can turn to for support again and again.