Social Media for Writers 101
My name is Emily, and I am a social media addict.
(Everyone in the social media addict support group: "Hi, Emily.")
Real talk, I've been all over social media since it first started. I pimped out my MySpace and added cool music and thought carefully over who my "top friends" were. When I graduated high school, my friends and I were obsessed with the site Xanga and posted long blogs about our SUPER DEEP EARTH SHATTERING FEELINGS nearly every single day. When my university hopped on the Facebook train (because back then it was only for colleges and they had to join the network - yes, I'm old) I was a goner. I tweet, text, book, gram, pin, share, like, love, stream, you name it I've probably at least dabbled in it at some point. Heck, I have so many friends I've met via the Internet, sometimes I forget who I met "in real life" and who I've met "virtually."
So, when my other writer friends come to me and say that social media intimidates them I'm always slightly confused and have to remind myself that not everyone is the addict I am. (Which, frankly, is probably much healthier.) If you haven't used social media a whole lot, particularly not outside of sharing your friends and family, it can be a big scary place. Here are some of my pointers for getting started.
*This post may contain affliate links.
A couple of disclaimers before we get started:
- You can use these types of tips I'll be sharing even if you aren't a writer. Since I am a writer, that is the angle I am approaching it from. Feel free to adjust them to however you use social media.
- When I first started blogging, it was a whole different world, and I ended up stumbling across a website called 20 Something Bloggers (which no longer exists... rest in peace my old friend) and that was a huge element of how I was able to connect with others on the Internet, and that was when I was simply writing a personal blog. I'm still figuring out my place in the blogging and writing communities in this "new world" and am along for the ride right with you. It's a whole new ball game out there!
- You do not need social media to be a published author. Do I need to say it louder for the people in the back? YOU DO NOT NEED SOCIAL MEDIA TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR. Do I personally find it to be a great tool and resource? For sure! However, when I read blogs or listen to podcasts or see what agents think, they say that if you don't have a social media presence it will not make or break their choice to offer representation. If you have it, that's great and they'll check it out. If you don't? It's fine. If they love your book they'll ask for representation regardless of how big your platform is.
- Speaking of... don't let social media take away from your writing. Trust me, I fall down the "I should take a break and check my Twitter mentions or be sure I post to my Instagram story" hole far too easily. Ultimately, I could have the best Instagram feed in the world and have thousands of followers, but if my book is poorly written, none of that will matter to an agent. Make writing your number one priority!
- My word is not law. If something I say isn't working for you, don't do it. There are a ton of different approaches. This is simply how I go about it.
Why Do I Want Social Media?
That's probably the first thing which may come to mind, especially when I say that you don't need it to be published. No, you don't have to be on social media to be published. But I find it as a great tool to connect with other writers and to get to know the publishing community.
I have a weird work schedule, so that makes it difficult for me to join local writing groups and meet people "in real life." So, the Internet is where I turn. It can be difficult to find good, reliable, writing friends. Particularly if you're looking for Critique Partners and Beta Readers. However, if you're willing to be patient, you can make some awesome friends and get great advice. I have one friend I've known for several years because of blogging and Twitter, and she's taught me almost everything I know about how to query literary agents. Having a group of writing friends is so important because they can give feedback, encourage you when you're down, and are there along your side during the journey. Not that friends who don't write can't do that as well, but it's essential to have other writers who know exactly how it is when you have writers block or have another rejection in your email to go to. Or to cheer you on when you accomplish something that only another writer will understand.
You might be in a situation where you also don't have access to other writers in your area, or you feel like you don't fit in with the people around you, or you just want to expand your horizons and learn more about the writing and publishing community. Social media is great for that!
You also can learn a lot about editors and agents via social media. There are a ton of agents and editors who don't use social media, but there are also a ton who do. Example: sometimes I lurk around #MSWL (manuscript wish list) to get an idea of what agents are looking for in their submissions and see if any of them would be a good fit for me and my work. Also, their conversations with one another are fun and fascinating because it's like an inside look into the publishing world.
Pick One Platform
There are a ton of social media platforms out there and it can be tempting to try ALL OF THE THINGS! But, that also adds to the intimidation. Find one platform you like to get started. Enjoy taking photos? Instagram is a great choice for you. Don't want to spend all of your time writing long blog posts yet? Twitter might be a good option. Already spend a lot of time catching up with people you know on Facebook? Start a page or a group. You can add more later, but focus on one to get started and really nurture that community and get comfortable with it before moving on. Even people who I consider "Internet famous" who have a ton of different social media accounts have one favorite. They focus on it the most and you can tell that's really where their community thrives.
I'm basically everywhere, but lately Instagram has been my sweet spot and I'm working on building up that platform more. Twitter is next, but I also have been on there for quite some time and have a decent community already. My Facebook page is by far my weakest.
What To Talk About and when
This is probably one of the biggest things I hear people share when they say they're scared of social media. "What do I talk about??? My life is so boring!"
My answer? Whatever you want.
Seriously. What do you find interesting? Share about it! What do you like on other people's social media platforms? What would be your take on it?
And honestly, you'd be surprised at how something mundane can be turned into something appealing on social media. I LOVE the Instagram stories which are just about what people are up to that day and sharing real life. Funny stories about their kids, getting caught in a rain storm, enjoying their morning coffee, etc. Some of my most popular posts on Instagram lately have been my coffee cup next to my computer keyboard. That's it!
Obviously, if you want to connect to other writers, talk about writing. What are you working on? What struggles do you have? What are your weekly/monthly/daily goals? What music are you listening to so you can get inspired?
Some people have the theory of keeping to a theme for your social media and stick to that theme. There is definitely merit in that because when people go to your page/profile/account they know what to expect. But, I say it's okay to not completely keep with a "niche." I tried to have a personal/writing Instagram and a separate one for books (Bookstagram) but found I couldn't keep up with it so I switched to combining them. So far, it's been fine. If I do a Social Media 201, I can go more into detail about themes, niches, and the like.
The only suggestion I have is to be sure you are comfortable with whatever you're sharing. If there's something you don't want people to know - don't share it. If there is something you think could hurt someone, yourself, or could jeopardize your career - don't share it.
Some people are hesitant to talk about things such as politics, religion, etc. Personally, I think it's totally okay to talk about these things on your social media as along as you're respectful and don't attack people who disagree with you. Just bear in mind, some of your opinions might turn certain people away. It's up to you if that's something you want to put out there or not.
Be kind, courteous, and polite. That's all.
As for when and how often to post - I say stay consistent. But, that means something different for each platform. The Instagram algorithm can be quite picky and tough to beat. The key is to be consistent, but also don't post too often. (If you post multiple times a day on your Instagram feed, your photos get lost in the shuffle. So, if you post pictures multiple times a day, keep it on your story, not your feed.) For Twitter, multiple times a day is fine. Twitter threads are becoming more and more popular, and I say it's totally okay to tweet as much as you like. Observe how often the people you follow tweet, and if it seems like you're going overload or people aren't responding, take a step back. On Facebook, if you're running a page or a group I say post once or twice a day. Pinterest, pin as often as you like! This might be another thing I can do in a social media 201 post where I can go more in depth with how algoritms work, scheduling posts, etc.
Hashtags Are Your Friend
To get connected to the writing community, using hashtags is one of the easiest ways to find out who else is out there. Some of them take the form of chats (particularly on Twitter) but others are there as a way to let others know they are part of the writing community. Search a few hashtags and check out who is on there, like their photos and tweets, and follow who you think will be interesting.
On Instagram, I have no problems when people add a bunch of hashtags at the end of their posts. It's a great way to network and get your pictures out there! When I add hashtags, I put space between my actual caption and my hashtags so they don't make things over crowded by adding emojis or ellipses. Here's what one of my captions looks like:
You also can add your hashtags as your first comment to your Instagram post if you don't want it in your caption.
For Twitter, since you have a character limit I'd only add one or two hashtags to your tweet which you find most relevant to what you're talking about.
What not to do: one of my personal pet peeves is when someone uses a hashtag but it has nothing to do with their post/tweet/photo. If someone uses #amwriting, I expect their photo or post to be about writing. But when I see that they're just talking about what they ate that day? Instant turn off. If I wanted to know about food, I'd search food hashtags.
Here are some hashtags to get you started. (At least with connecting with other writers.) What I do, is I have a note saved on my phone with the hashtags I like to use, and then copy and paste the relevant ones into my post. That way I'm not sitting there wondering "which one was that again..." Or, I sometimes rotate which ones I use because the Instagram algorithm will note if a user uses a certain hashtag a lot and could consider it spam.
- #writersfollowwriters (great for follow loops!)
- the genre you are writing (ex. #fantasy #ya #historicalfiction, etc.)
- #amwriting[insert your genre here]
What's great is that on Instagram, you can now follow hashtags and add them to your profile. It's a great way to be found and to discover new creators! I chose a couple of my favorites and follow those.
Join a Chat, Weekly Event, or Group
I'll be the first to admit, I'm terrible at keeping up with these. I have friends who host these awesome weekly chats on Twitter and I forget them every time. Or I'm part of Facebook groups that are super active and I always forget to check out their boards and comment on posts. Why is this? I'm not sure. Probably because I'm a terrible person. Or I need to start marking them in my calendar. But, when I have participated, they've been great!
On Twitter, a lot of people host chats (marked by a hashtag). You can follow the hashtag through the chat to see what people are talking about and you can reply to them. Usually they are starting at a certain time on a recurring day of the week. Most I've seen have a host and they start with intros so people can share who they are, then they share questions pertaining to the topic. Those participating (typically) "quote tweet" the question and share their answers, and people comment back. It's a great way to get to know people, talk through some writing topics, and brainstorm.
Some Twitter chats I've found:
- #writestuff hosted by @PenPaperPad (she's and awesome indie writer and one of my friends I met online!) every Tuesday
- #AdultFicWri hosted by @ElusiveStory- this one is unique because it's week long. She posts the question on Monday and then you have all week to share your answer/reply and comment on others responses
- #writerspatch hosted by @PatchworkNerd every Sunday
- #ThursdayAesthetic (also done on Instagram) every Thursday hosted by @LiterarilyJess. This one is a bit unique where she'll announce a theme on Saturday and you create an aesthetic board for your novel. Even if you don't make one yourself, it's just fun to see what others come up with! Also, she says that the themes are 100% optional.
With Facebook the focus is on groups. People can post questions, brainstorm, etc. Sometimes, they can get really spamy and writers end up just sharing all of their links so you can buy their books, and that can get annoying. But there are a lot of groups which keep that to a minimum and is all about the community. Many times they'll have a weekly thread for self-promotion so you can share those things, but keep it contained to one thread.
Here's a couple of the groups I'm a member of (but need to be a better participant in!):
Interact With People
This is really what it all comes down to. Interaction! I know, it can be super scary at times, so don't feel pressured to start talking to people you don't know if you aren't comfortable! But, the best way to make friends is to reach out and be a friend.
Start small. Follow some people who's posts look interesting and like their tweets and photos. If you have a thought, comment. Some of my closest friends I've made online all started because we commented on each others blog posts or tweets and began conversation that way. When someone likes or comments on your content, check them out and if you like what they've created, comment and like back. Reply when people comment on your profile. Sometimes you hit it off, sometimes you don't. Both are okay!
Eventually, if you are comfortable, direct message someone. Another one of my good friendships started like this. We'd commented on each others YouTube channels and followed one another on Twitter and interacted a bit. When I was reading a book I knew she had read and needed to share my feelings, I sent her a direct message on Twitter and we talked about my thoughts on the book as I read - we've basically had a non-stop direct message thread since then. It's been at least 2 or 3 years.
What not to do: do not comment on people's profiles/pictures/tweets/etc with "follow me and I'll follow you back." No one is obligated to follow anyone. When someone comments that on my content, it is an instant turn off and I will not follow them. I might check out their profile and like one or two things if I find them interesting, but if as a whole I don't think their content is something I'll enjoy, I won't follow them. The only time I feel "obligated" to follow back is if I'm participating in a follow loop. But, in time, if I notice that people from that loop I don't enjoy their content, I unfollow. If someone decides to not follow you back, don't take it personally.
If there is a person who is being rude, harassing you, or simply makes you feel uncomfortable, don't be shy about using that block button. It's there for a reason. Your social media is your Internet home. If someone walked into your home that mistreated you and you didn't want them around, you'd ask them to leave, right? It's the same on social media.
As fun and important as it is to interact though - don't stress about numbers. Focus more on making real connections and friendships!
I hope that helps to get you started if you're brand new to the writing social media scene! As I said previously, it's a new world compared to when I first started on social media and I'm still working on finding my place in the writing community as well. We can figure it out together!
The short of it?
- You don't need social media to be published.
- Don't post, follow, comment, or like anything or anyone you aren't comfortable with.
- Be kind, polite, and professional! (Remember, these could be your friends and/or colleagues someday!)
- Interact with other people.
What tips do you have for people who are new to social media? If you're new, what advice would you like someone to give you?
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