Instead of discussing how I use social media I’m going to share an overview of a variety of social media platforms. This post will cover Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A later post will discuss Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr. I’ll discuss why to use social media, what the demographics and best uses of each is, how they can be used, and who is using them well.
First of all, and most important of all, is the why. Why use social media?
Analyzing what the words mean provides the answer. Social is both a noun and an adjective – an informal gathering and a community. Media is a noun, and is both the plural of medium and the main means of mass communication. So quite literally, social media is the way to communicate en masse and informally to a community.
Put that way, it sounds easy, doesn’t it?
This means that it’s time to take a deep breath, stop stressing, toss the hype, and use social media simply as a convenient, online, interactive way to communicate informally with your community.
Now that we’ve figured out the why, the rest is relatively simple.
Which community you want to communicate with, how you communicate best, how often you want to communicate, and what format of content you are most comfortable with determines which social media to use.
There are two segments of community for writers – writing community and reading community.
- Writing Community – peers, organizations, publishers, etc. The demographic profile of the community is general genre, but could also be location or culture.
- Reading Community – your reader’s demographics is based broadly on age and gender, and possibly also location or culture.
Facebook is still the most popular social media site, being used by over 70% of all online users. More women than men use Facebook, and it is used more by those younger than 50 than those older than 50.
Both the reading and writing community uses Facebook, which makes it seem like the obvious choice for being considered as the best place to build your community. There are a couple of things to remember. As well as being popular, Facebook is public, visual, and interactive.
You wouldn’t mix business with pleasure, and writing is your business. Make a separate Facebook author page, not a profile. Facebook profiles are your private space and you have to invite or accept invitations for friends who can then subscribe to your updates (or ignore your updates). If you don’t mind your writing peers seeing what your crazy (fill in the relationship) posts and shares, then by all means invite them to your personal profile, otherwise just tell them you have an Author Page.
Pages are by default public, searchable, and anyone can ‘like’ your page to get your updates. Pages also allow you access to insights about the activity on your page – how many people like your page, how many saw your posts, and how many clicked on the post. This is very useful to determine which content is received best.
The interactivity is great for building a community with your readers, and among your readers. Share events, photos, polls, questions, toss in a sprinkling of promotional material occasionally. Start a conversation with your readers, find out what they think, who they are. Use Facebook to give your reader community a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of you, the writer. Visuals are a wonderful way of sharing information – a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Make them funny if you want to, make them unique, make them high quality, and make sure you own the copyright or that they are in the public domain.
Two writers who use Facebook very well are Lisa Scottoline and Karen Cantwell. Both have a different style and both have created a wonderful sense of community with their author pages.
You can follow your writing community by liking their pages through your profile, and share content with your reading community through your page.
Tip: Have a plan and regular schedule for updating your Facebook content.
Twitter has a quarter of the market share of Facebook, and is used equally by men and women. It is used almost exclusively by 18-29 year olds, half as much by 30-49 year olds, and far less by those over 50.
If Twitter fits your reader demographic, then share information you find interesting, whether or not it relates to your writing, provide a glimpse into your life, and pay it forward by retweeting what you find interesting or helpful.
When you do tweet promotional information (which should be less than 20% of the time), use the tweet to drive traffic back to wherever your online home is. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so use a service like bit.ly to create a short form of any links you share to give yourself more room to say what you need to.
If your reading community is not on Twitter, then use Twitter to connect with your writing community. Follow other writers, writing groups or organizations, publishers, agents, etc. Tweet or retweet information about contests or conferences, or open submission calls, or local events, or tours, etc. Find out what the agents, editors, or publishers you are interested in are saying, what bugs them, what interests them, what excites them, and share when you find it interesting.
Writers that do it right on Twitter include Harlan Coben, Margaret E Atwood, and R.L. Stine.
If both your reading and writing community use Twitter you can always have one account for each.
Tip: If you are going to tweet, do it regularly. It doesn’t have to be three times a day (who has time for that?) but once a day or every second day is sufficient.
Instagram is used by 25% more woman than men, and more by 18-29 year olds than any other age group. Instagram is a photo- and video- sharing social media site whose content is by default public.
If you are a visual person and love taking photographs or making short videos, then this is the social media platform for you. It’s more personal, more artistic, and is a great way to provide a visual glimpse into you, the writer. Share visuals of your interests, your inspiration, or your pets (always a favorite) and build your community on Instagram.
If your reading community is on Instagram then you can add in a couple of visuals about your writing process, books covers, settings, or inspiration specific to your stories. But, as with the previous two social media sites, keep the promotion to a minimum.
The writing community on Instagram is mainly non-fiction or freelance writers, writers whose books are very visual (cookbooks, travel guides, etc.), some publishers, and other writers who are either using it for their reading community, or those that simply enjoy taking photographs.
A couple of writers who use Instagram well are Erin Morgenstern and Lauren Morrill.
Tip: You don’t need to be a professional photographer or artist to use Instagram, the key is the spontaneity of the images.
You don’t have to be all over the web, signing up for all sorts of social media, and putting yourself into a right royal tizzy. Find a social media that fits who you are, and immerse yourself in it. Throw the ‘social media marketing’ mumbo-jumbo out the window, there is too much stress, and too many items on your To Do list. There are no hard and fast rules about what you SHOULD do with social media, only things that make sense for you. My favorite quote, heard at the Creative Freelancers Conference last year, is “don’t should all over yourself”.
When you know what community you want to become part of, and find a social media whose methods and content suits you, then you will enjoy using it to interact and connect with your community.
And after all, it’s the connections that count – isn’t it?