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Making the most of social media as an indie author

Pick a few social media platforms and leverage them

Find social media platforms that work

At first glance, I have a lot going on in social media these days: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube. But for the most part, I’ve limited my social media efforts mainly to Facebook and Twitter. I wish I had the time to build and maintain a constant presence on all those other platforms, too. One day I will. But for now, I’m content with focusing on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook

For anyone starting out as an indie author, I highly recommend using Facebook groups to forge connections, gain valuable advice, and help others.

As much as I don’t love the fake news and carefully curated “everything in my world is amazing” view of life that Facebook offers, there are things about it I appreciate. From a personal standpoint, it’s a great way to connect with family and with friends who live all over the world and who I rarely, if ever, see. From a professional standpoint, it’s the single biggest way for me to network with other authors. I’m involved in many Facebook author groups and I’ve made some significant relationships and gotten a lot of support from them. I wouldn’t want to give that up, as much as I sometimes long to #deleteFacebook. I’ve also used Facebook messenger to connect with influencers who have helped me promote my work.

Facebook pages vs groups

My author page on Facebook is probably the least valuable piece of my presence there. When you run a page for a business, Facebook only shows your posts to about 3% of those who’ve “liked” or “followed” your page. You can pay to “boost” these posts and get them in front of more followers. A lot of authors are now abandoning the pages in favor of “groups.” By starting a group, an author can guarantee that all the members see all of her posts. However, it also requires a bigger investment of time because you have to monitor group comments and respond regularly—which means even more time on Facebook, ugh. The time investment is the reason I haven’t done it yet. But I may add this to my social media repertoire in 2019.

Twitter is strange but useful

Twitter is a bizarre world, full of rage and relentless self-promotion. It’s also a place to find humor, hope, and beauty. While it has its drawbacks as a social media platform, I believe the benefits of using it outweigh the disadvantages. Some authors swear by Twitter as a great way to meet other authors. I’ve never found that to be the case. Facebook is much better in that regard for me. However, I do find value in Twitter, for very different reasons.

Retweets and organic follower growth

I don’t use any of the apps that you pay to get followers on Twitter, so I don’t have 150k followers or even 5k followers. I have built my modest following of nearly 2k organically. How did I do that? I retweet tweets that I find interesting, valuable, or funny. I stick to non-political retweets and I try to keep my own tweets free of politics, although women’s rights are part of my identity as an author and I tweet/retweet a lot about that topic, which often inevitably bleeds into politics. I don’t follow back people or organizations that endlessly self-promote or promote offensive content. I retweet authors whose work I admire or to help promote giveaways and promotions that they are participating in, and they do the same for me.

Also, as with Facebook, I’ve had some luck directly contacting influencers via Twitter. This is a valuable aspect of the platform and has made using it worthwhile for me. I also use Hootsuite to post tweets in advance, which makes using graphics easier. I use Canva, a free design app, to make all my graphics. It’s amazing and one of my favorite resources. Both Hootsuite and Canva are free, but lots of their time-saving and fancier features are only available through their paid versions. One day, perhaps, say, in…I don’t know…2019, I might cough up the dough and take advantage of all that awaits me behind the paywall.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Unsplash at this juncture. For the first few years of the indie author journey, I struggled to find copyright-free images for use on my website or for graphics. Unsplash has solved that problem for me. Free, high-quality images, all waiting for you to download. I love it.

Finally, I do see a connection between tweeting/retweeting and sales. Because Amazon doesn’t share the source of clicks that result in sales (except clicks that come from Amazon’s own AMS ads) I can’t prove this. But I see an increase in book sales after I’ve been active on Twitter, and I’m not a spammer. That is, unlike many authors, I’m not constantly bombarding my followers with “Me! Me! ME!” tweets. I follow the 80/20 rule (80% retweeting or tweeting information of value, 20% self-promotional). I know other authors who say the same is true for them—tweeting begets sales.

Instagram

I like Instagram as a social media platform and I wish I found it easier to use, but as you can see from my profile there, I don’t post much. Why? Mainly because Instagram doesn’t let you post from a laptop. You have to do it via your phone. I’ve run into various technical problems trying to get graphics from my laptop to my phone and onto the Instagram app. I’ve tried using Hootsuite to ease up my technical problems with Instagram and encountered even more technical problems.

Also, Instagram doesn’t let you use links in a post, which means advertising a promotion requires someone to go to my profile page to find a link. All in all, the time-suck of dealing with the tech problems makes me avoid the app.

The biggest value I see in Instagram is the power of hash tags and the younger audience it attracts. Maybe 2019 will be my year to conquer Instagram, but for now I will continue to post once in a blue moon there.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a favorite social media app of mine but I don’t utilize it much from a promotion standpoint. I love perusing boards to get inspired as I’m doing research and writing. I have a couple of boards where I’ve collected inspiring images from all the research I’ve done for The Miramonde Series.

I recently watched a video about all the amazing traffic-driving things one can do with Pinterest. (I opted not to buy the Pinterest marketing course that went along with the free video). Then I spent about an hour making a special graphic as instructed on the video and posted it on my board. Nothing has come of it, but I’m sure if I spent 40 more hours making special graphics on Canva and strategically posting them, I would eventually get some traffic to my website or Amazon author page.

I know that my readers tend to love the things that I love, which translate well into Pinterest graphics: ancient manuscripts, Renaissance-era portraits and clothing, old maps, images of rugged mountains and pilgrimage trails. So in my bones I believe Pinterest is a valuable social media platform for me. And again, perhaps 2019 will be my year to get the ball rolling there.

YouTube

I recently did a Facebook Live event with a group of other authors at which I read from the first chapter of The Girl from Oto. I subsequently posted the video on my new YouTube channel with the promise that I would add more videos soon. My goal is to read aloud the entire book in short video snippets, so watch for that! This is a good way to get comfortable with the medium of video. I’ve always struggled with public speaking (who decided that introverted writers should also be great public speakers, anyway?) and video is a great way to practice being in front of people without actually doing it.

LinkedIn

The only value of LinkedIn as a social media platform for me is the access to groups that help me with research. Academic groups focused on renaissance-era art or on art conservation techniques are valuable resources. Maybe one day, I’m thinking possibly in 2019, I’ll drill down into LinkedIn and find gold.

My social media future

All of these roads lead to one thing: a virtual assistant. Sometime in the not too distant future, perhaps in the fabled 2019 that I keep talking about, I will pay a virtual assistant to handle social media tasks for me. Then I can expand the scope of my social media empire and finally conquer the technological demons that plague me, while at the same time devoting all that freed-up time to writing books and building up a backlist.

Until then, I’m happy with the social media presence I’ve built, and I’ll continue to leverage it as I move through the next phase of my “authorpreneur” journey.

 

 

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