How To Build An Engaged Following on Social Media

Unsure how to connect with readers? Here’s my guide!

Rachel Thompson
Jul 11, 2020 · 8 min read

Social media is a terrific way to connect with readers, particularly while you’re in the process of writing your book or if you’re just starting your blogging career. Some writers love social media, others are terrified of it.

Which are you?

According to Pew Research, 72% of the American public uses social media every day.

Courtesy of Pew Research

It can feel overwhelming, this whole social media thing. I resisted it for a long time, when I thought Facebook would force me to connect with all my high school “friends” who I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years (confession: I still don’t talk to them).

Truth be told: Facebook is still my least favorite social media platform. Twitter is my fav, yet I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t given it a shot. While it may feel intimidating if you’re not a tech-savvy kind of person, you don’t need to be.

Pick one platform and start. We silly humans learn by doing, however, as adult learners, we only want to learn new skills if it somehow benefits us. Here are the objections clients give me about social media:

  • It’s stupid.
  • Why do I want to be the same place my kids are?
  • Why would I want to talk to strangers about politics? I get enough of that from my friends and neighbors.
  • I don’t know how they work, so it’s easier not to do anything.

You see where this is going. Lots of assumptions and no strategy.

With that in mind, here are ten ways to connect with readers on social media that’s both effective and strategic.

  1. Ask questions. Whether it’s fun (one friend asked the other day: if you could be the eighth dwarf, who would you be? I answered: Snarky), something you want to know for a future post, or market research having to do with your books (which cover concept do you like best?), one of the best ways to get readers to interact with you is to encourage them to open up or share their opinion (and no, not their opinion about YOUR book)

People love to share their opinions, right? I do caution you — if you enter into the political or religious fray, be prepared for it to get ugly, quickly.

2. Share quality articles and blog posts, not only your own promotional stuff. Nobody wants to be clubbed over the head with constant promotion. I mean, I don’t. Do you?

Yet, for whatever reason, perfectly reasonable people, even professional people with Ph.D.s, suddenly have Bart Simpson Syndrome (“Boing! Look At Me! Boing!”) when they release their new book, blog, or website.

Don’t do that. Talk with people, not at them. Don’t ABS (always be selling). We’re not in a movie, here.

3. Follow readers (not only other writers or bloggers). Where are your readers? They’re probably not on TikTok, which is where your teenager or 20-something are spending their time right now.

Depending on your genre and the age group of your readership, take a look at the Pew Research above and make an educated guess as to where your readers spend their time. A decent portion of them are on Facebook or Instagram.

I personally will always recommend Twitter because Google indexes tweets. Why is that important? Visibility, aka, SEO (search engine optimization). I’ll be writing more about this in future posts so be sure you come back!

4. Share visuals (yours and others). I’m pretty particular about the visuals I share. I’m not a fan of treacly quotes that make you want to vomit🤮. The quotes I share must be witty or pack a punch (and I always give attribution). Make an effort.

5. Be adventurous, energetic, curious, and generous. Social media isn’t All-About-Me-Media. If you only share your own stuff 24/7, or if your timeline is filled with humble-brags (look at my latest 5-star review!), readers tune out.

6. Follow others with similar interests. Write poetry? Follow a few poets yet also, see who they follow. See who follows them.

The absolute best way to grow on social media is to actively follow others, but not just any old person — readers!

Where are your readers? If after 30 days or so, if they haven’t followed you back, unfollow.

It’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about how interactive you are with one another. While it may be fun to follow celebs and rockstars, take a look at their timelines from a strategic perspective: Are they interesting? How social media savvy are they? If they only post selfies or vacuous, cheesy quotes, how is that helpful to your own following and growth?

That said, sometimes it’s just FUN to follow your favorite shows and live-tweet when they’re on (the shows will tell you which hashtag to use). You can make lots of friends (or, ahem, enemies) that way.

7. Don’t only depend on one social media channel for all your interaction. Why? It’s rented land — meaning, what if that channel shuts down your account? Changes their rules? Happens all the time. Diversify.

Example: I’m most active on Twitter, however, I still post and interact with people on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

How? I schedule posts daily on each platform and monitor responses using Hootsuite. That’s my preferred social media management tool and it’s absolutely worth the investment in saved time.

If you believe you don’t have the time to market, start using a social media management tool. Buffer, Hootsuite, PromoRepublic, Later, MeetEdgar — there are many, many options. Most have free trials and even free plans.

8. Be funny, witty, inquisitive, and/or open. I know, I know. “I’m not funny or witty.” That’s okay! Lots of others are, and you can quote them with attribution — always with attribution.

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Amy Sedaris quote courtesy of QuoteStats

Visuals always perform well on social and you can pull them from pretty much anywhere online or create your own. If that feels too weird, show interest in others. Ask them questions about their life, what interests them, what challenges they face. People LOVE to talk about themselves.

And be open. Authenticity rocks, man. “Ask me anything,” is fun. If you get crickets (and it happens!), that’s okay. Share something unique and different about yourself, and then open it up for others to share.

Example: “What’s a unique talent you have that nobody would guess? I can play any melody on the piano by ear. Thanks for the ten years of classical piano though, Mom and Dad…”

9. Host fantabulous giveaways! Fabulous doesn’t have to mean exorbitantly priced. I typically use Rafflecopter if I have more than one prize. Recently, I’ve started using KingSumo (awesome, clean format, great for businesses, too). Whichever way you go, remember that giveaways are a way for you to be generous and creative.

You don’t have to give away your own book, either. What would YOU want to win? How about a gift card, a tablet, other authors’ books, a subscription to something, food baskets, jewelry…whatever!

Money tight? Connect with other authors or bloggers to chip in together for great prizes like a Kindle or an iPad. $25 each for a $100 Amazon Gift Card. Whatever works for you. Make it happen. The more the merrier works here because you open yourself up to the other authors’ demographic and them to yours.

Strategically, how can this work for you? That’s always the question.

10. Make the time to market. Writing and publishing are only two parts of the trifecta. Whenever I work with writers new to marketing and/or resistant to it (as if it’s a choice), they tell me they can’t possibly spend any time marketing, what with their writing schedule, family, work, and just life in general.

I get it. I’m no different, as a working writer, a single mom with two kids, and a business to run.

So here’s a cheat: besides the aforementioned social media marketing tool which will save you HOURS, hire a VA (virtual assistant) who will do your scheduling for you so you can focus on writing.

An assistant can do in one hour/week what will probably take your four or five because they do this every day, all the time. And what you save in time is worth far more than the affordable amount you will spend (a VA costs anywhere from $20 to $50/hour) on you allowing someone to help you.

How much is your time worth?

It took me a long time to convince myself it’s okay to spend $60/month (for two hours/month), to hire a VA to take care of email correspondence and scheduling in some social media content, which gave me hours more time to write and focus on my business.

Think you can’t afford it? Can you not? You are worth it, writer friends.

Scrimp, save, do what you must to make this whole writing/publishing/marketing thingy happen IF you’re serious about it. (Check out Fiverr for good deals also.)

Now, this doesn’t mean you are free and clear of any marketing. Readers still want to know about you and interact with you. Remember, we brand the author, not only the book (or blog).

I’m a big believer in truth bombs. Publishing and making any kind of money, whether it’s your writing or blogging career, is a lot of damn work. I’m not sure why any writer goes into this thinking it’s not.

If your goal is simply for people to read your work and not make any money, cool. It’s still a lot of work.

How are you growing your writing business every day? I’ll discuss that in my next post! Let me know if I missed anything in the comments below.

To learn more about Twitter, Facebook, book marketing in general, and her books, visit Rachel’s site, or connect with Rachel on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or join her Street Team! Sign up for her newsletter and receive 10 FREE Blogging Tips!

Join her #BookMarketingChat on Twitter every Wednesday at 6 pm pst/9 pm est. Just type in the hashtag to join the conversation!

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Rachel Thompson

Written by

Author, 6 books. Writer: The Every Day Novelist, PS I Love You, Ninja Writers Pub, Writing Coop. Assault survivor/advocate. Marketer

The Ninja Writers Pub

A good story, well told, can change the world. Ninja Writers are changing the world.

Rachel Thompson

Written by

Author, 6 books. Writer: The Every Day Novelist, PS I Love You, Ninja Writers Pub, Writing Coop. Assault survivor/advocate. Marketer

The Ninja Writers Pub

A good story, well told, can change the world. Ninja Writers are changing the world.

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