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What Do You Want? Social Media for Writers, Part 3

I was surprised and not a little intimidated the first time an agent asked me about my social media presence. I immediately pivoted into overthinking mode: Was I doing and saying the right things on Twitter? Should I be doing and saying those things on Instagram instead? Maybe I should have spent the last year collecting thirty thousand followers instead of polishing my manuscript? Are my (few) followers the right kind of followers?

Once I calmed down, I could appreciate the good news here: it’s not necessary to have a huge social media following, or even have a social media presence at all! But if you want one, think about what you’d like it to do for you.

Social Media Tip #4: Know what you want from social media.

When you first join a social media platform, it’s going to be lonely for a bit. On Twitter, you’re going to look like a bot: you’ll have a brand-new profile and very few followers. But if you know what you want, and build a strategy to reach that goal, you’ll have a much better experience than if you just shout into the void and hope for the best.

Things you might want:

1. I want a huge account with a ton of followers! You can definitely achieve this with time and hard work. Unless you’re famous or producing viral content, you’ll likely have to do it by following a lot of people and seeing who follows back. You can also participate in follow-for-follow activities (although these are discouraged by some platforms). There are downsides to creating a huge account just to have those big numbers, though. Some social media platforms like Twitter get difficult to use when you follow large numbers of people, and engagement on your posts (how many people see it and click it) will likely be very low.

2. I want to go viral! Good luck with this! Let me know your secrets when you get there.

3. I want to find readers! I hear Instagram is a good place for writers to connect with readers, and Twitter is more of a place where people in the industry connect with each other. Alas, I’m not at the stage where I can confirm this with personal experience. But if you’re looking to promote your book, do be polite and mix up your promo posts with other content, and do be sure to interact with people in ways that don’t always make you/your book the focus. Don’t slide into new mutuals’ DMs asking people to buy your book/blurb you/join your promo team. And don’t post the same ad for your book several times a day – it will clog up people’s feeds and get you muted or unfollowed.

4. I want to find my people! I highly recommend Writing Twitter and Writing Instagram for this. In my next post, I’ll get into more detail on how to find writing friends. Tl;dr: don’t pin your hopes on making influential friends or getting noticed by big authors. Find people at your own stage and level up with them.

My goals on Twitter were to make a social media resume that agents could easily access (see posts #1 and #2 in this series), and to find writer friends who were interested in mutual engagement and support. To do that, I watched for people who seemed to have the same goals, followed them, and interacted with their posts. I didn’t follow back huge generic accounts that followed me (and soon unfollowed me, and then followed me again, and unfollowed me again!). I didn’t do writers’ lifts.

It took about a year to hit 500 followers with this strategy, and I really like what it’s done for my social media experience. I see a lot of content from people I follow that is relevant and interesting - contests I might like to enter, sales on books I’d like to buy, writing games I enjoy playing with people in my genre, and posts I want to interact with.

In summary, it’s likely going to take you a while to make your author social media accounts into what you want them to be, but a goal-oriented approach will help you get where you’re going and track your progress. Good luck, and drop a comment to tell me about how you’re working on your social media goals!

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