Some authors today view social media as a sort of necessary evil.

They see it as a distraction, something that takes them away from their art but that they nevertheless have to pretend like they care about.

In reality, however, social media is much more than a form of distraction — it’s a means of connecting with fans and readers.

Done correctly, your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account can double as a window into who you are as an author. Presence on social media can help you connect with readers so as to cultivate community with them. And it’s true: fans who have that kind of access — who feel as if they know you as a person — will ultimately prove more likely to buy and recommend your book.

Moreover, social media accounts serve as vehicles for getting noticed by journalists, bloggers, and content producers, all of whom are looking for interesting people to interview and feature.

Simply put, creating a presence on social media might just be the thing that helps your book break through — to help your name and your ideas gain the sort of viral attention that propels books up the bestseller charts.

Social media absolutely needs to be a component of your outreach strategy and marketing platform — but there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage.

Now, if you’re like me, penning witty Tweets or otherwise sustaining an interesting personality on social media isn’t exactly second nature.

Luckily, there are a number of authors whom you can learn from.

  • Jamie Ford. Jamie has a must-read Twitter feed. With his Tweets, he chronicles his writing adventures and his human experiences at home, which he does with humility and good-humored goofiness.
  • Harlan Coben. Harlan is the author of more than 30 novels. His most recent novel, Home, is the latest in the gripping Myron Bolitar series. But Coben shows off his personal side by sharing photos of his dogs, Laszlo and Jersey, on Twitter. A lot of his posts pertain to his old college days or exemplify his affinity for dad jokes.
  • Kash Bhattacharya. Kash has been recognized both for his travel writing and his great Instagram account. His fabulous photos complement his blog, Budget Traveler, which includes stories about his destinations and tips for traveling on a budget.
  • Jennifer Weiner. Jennifer’s memoir, Hungry Heart, is witty and refreshing. She exhibits that same kind of wit in her Twitter feed. She’ll post on a variety of topics, from conversations with fellow writers to behind-the-scenes photos of her adventures in the kitchen and impromptu poetry.

So, what do these authors have in common here?

If you go and peruse their social media channels, you’ll notice they all showcase what makes them unique as people — not, primarily, as writers.

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Readers and fans follow writers on social media to learn interesting details about what makes them human.

Fans on social media seek community and conversation.

That’s why when you’re building out your social media strategy, it’s decidedly a bad idea to devote tons of time to self-promotion. Far too often, authors attempting to engage with readers on social media do so only by attempting to sell their books. That’s not why readers, and people in general, use social media.

They do it for connection — not for commerce.

Sure, social media is a way to help authors promote books and other projects. And a well-run Twitter account, for example, will help you in that regard. But social media is most certainly not the place for a hard sell. Authors who work with BookBaby, for example, seldom ask readers to buy their books on Twitter. It’s just kind of off-putting.

When it comes to social media, you need to be authentic. You need to open up and introduce yourself to the world. Share content that’s important, funny, and relatable. Make it personal! Is there a squirrel waging war against the birdfeeder in your garden? Let your followers know. That’s funny, and you can bet many of your readers are engaged in similar battles.

This sort of content needs to make up at least 70–80% of what you share. The goal is to generate interest in and familiarity with the person behind the pen.

If you’re still stuck, try these concrete tips.

  • Share short video clips. It’s never been easier — and more important — to create good looking videos to post on social media. Take the time to write a script and shoot a well thought out video that pertains to your subject matter. Your fans will love it, as this allows them very tangible insight into your personal life.
  • Create and share quizzes. People still can’t get enough of these things. They’re like a magnet for your website and for your email list. They’re also a great modicum of connecting with readers.
  • Add commentary to hot topics. Often the best way to get more attention and traffic is to go where the traffic already exists. Often times, that means popular blogs or sites where you can add your own commentary. I follow several regular commenters on sites like Twitter and Quora. If I like and admire their opinions and insights, I’ll search out more of their content. This is how many readers operate.
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At the end of the day, social media is much more than a necessary evil. It’s an opportunity to connect with readers in a way that’s never been possible before.

There are a variety of viable strategies for cultivating followings on social media. It might feel difficult at first, but the key truly is to be personable and honest. And if you do it right, you’ll find yourself not only with more fans, but with fans who are more deeply committed to you as a person.

That’s very good for business, indeed.

Culled from Writing Cooperative