How Do Authors Use Social Media Now?
Since starting my Neetsmarketing blog in December 2014, the social media landscape has changed for authors, and to celebrate the revamp of my website, and re-launch of my blog, I’m writing about this in my first post. You can find posts on how to use social media as an author on my old blog here, and I’m in the process of organising and updating posts which still apply to include here.
When I launched my Neetsmarketing blog in 2014, Twitter and Facebook were the main platforms used by authors. And many authors blogged regularly which isn’t as common now. Instagram existed, although not many authors used it, but in recent years it’s grown with more bookstagrammers joining, and authors who weren’t already using it, setting up accounts.
THE RISE OF VIDEO
Before Covid, I read a lot of articles about how video would be the next big thing in social media, but although some, often more confident authors created videos, it took a while to get off the ground, probably because it’s a big jump going from drafting blog posts and posting updates on social media, to recording a video of yourself talking, whether it’s pre-recorded or live, and a lot of authors found this daunting-not just because you’re having to speak to a camera without messing it up, but also the tech side isn’t always easy and video, unless it’s live is fairly time-consuming. And even when video is live, you still usually need to prepare in advance. And yes, you don’t always have to appear yourself in a video if you’re filming a pile of your books, opening a box of books etc but it is kind of expected that authors themselves make an appearance on video now.
WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE COVID?
Covid brought an increase of authors using video. Virtual launches and events, often via Zoom replaced physical appearances for a while, hosted by bookshops, literary festivals, libraries, and publishers. And now a mix of both are taking place which opens up these events to people from further afar, often globally. The number of authors doing Facebook and Instagram Lives has increased plus of course there is the rise of BookTok which has been huge for YA books, and now many authors who write in all genres are joining, and making regular videos. No doubt the number of TikTok Lives will increase as authors reach 1000 followers, the benchmark needed to do these. Previously, besides adding books to NetGalley, publishers would send Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) directly to book bloggers, and as Instagram has grown, bookstagrammers, and now I expect they will approach BookTokers as well as it continues to grow, if they aren’t already. BookTokers are already getting books from NetGalley themselves as book bloggers and bookstagrammers do. More on BookTok below.
In this post, I’m going to run through how authors are using social media now, starting with Facebook. Then I’ll move onto Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
Facebook is most useful for networking, by using personal profiles and by joining groups, plus for Facebook Lives via Facebook Pages.
It was much easier to make an impact with Facebook Pages in 2014 than it is now. I used to boost posts to promote my social media courses for writers for £10, actually filling the last few places on my courses using this method. Now £10 would get me nowhere. Some authors use Facebook Pages with success, and American readers tend to interact with them more than UK readers, I’ve found when managing pages for author clients, but a lot of effort and updating is required to have any impact, and/or a big budget for Facebook ads which can also be linked and shared to Instagram. Publishers tend to use Facebook ads with much success, and some indie authors who have put aside budgets for marketing do this well too.
While we’re talking about Facebook ads, although this doesn’t relate directly to social media, a note here about Amazon ads, in case you don’t know already. Until very recently, only self-published authors could set these up, but now traditionally published authors can do this as well. I can’t see this being cheap, and will be interested to see how many authors set aside budgets for this, and would expect they’d need to liaise with their publisher to make sure there are no clashes when setting up Amazon ads.
These are great for networking and connecting with potential readers. There are groups for authors who share useful info about marketing and agents/publishers etc as well as book club and readers’ groups, and authors can have their own Street Team/Readers’ Group where they share info before they do it elsewhere such as news of a new book deal or cover reveal. There are also groups where book bloggers and authors interact such as my favourite, Book Connectors run by Anne Cater. Facebook groups can be found on most subjects, and this can be helpful for connecting with potential readers when thinking about subjects and themes from your books.
Facebook personal profile:
Again, great for networking, or finding out useful info from other authors relating to research, publishing, marketing etc. Not to be used for direct promo as Facebook doesn’t like this, although you can get away with a post every now and again such as on publication day. Some authors don’t like to use their personal profile for connecting with authors and readers, and prefer to just use their page. Other authors have a separate profile for friends and families.
If you want attention, it’s worth doing these through your Facebook Page-on your own, or with another author (or more), and the video stays on your page afterwards.
Mark Zuckerberg announced on 22 February 2022 that Reels are available to everyone on Facebook globally, I guess to try and compete with TikTok, although there are already Instagram Reels, and Instagram is owned by Facebook. Find out more in Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook post about Reels here.
Twitter has changed:
When I first joined Twitter in 2010, it was very different. Tweets tended to be more chatty, and there was less promo. Now there is a mix of both, and chatty tweets do still happen. The current algorithm (unless you have set to ‘see latest tweets’) means you can control what you see by liking, retweeting, replying, as Twitter will then show you more content from those people, and their network. Sometimes this brings up tweets from people you don’t want to see, and you can easily mute those accounts. Muting words can also be helpful.
Keeping up with news from the book world:
Being on Twitter is helpful for networking with others in the book world. Here you can keep up with news from peers and idols, interact with book bloggers, readers, bookshops, libraries etc; plus find out more about how the publishing world works by following agents and editors, and by keeping up with the latest book news. If you’re looking for an agent, or for example a digital publisher to submit to directly, this is where you’ll see tweets saying submissions are open, an agent has moved and is looking for a Manuscript Wish List (MSWL) of… etc.
Book Twitter is usually a nice place to be:
Twitter is a great place to be for authors, and Book Twitter is mostly friendly-although fights do break out every now and again, and the mute option can be useful when this happens. I’m still, eleven plus years later quite addicted to Twitter, and have a lot of friends there.
Find out more about how to use Twitter as an author in my blog post here in my Beginner’s Guide to Twitter for Writers, soon to be moved to this blog.
Instagram originally was all about the posts, but now it’s common to post stories and Reels, which often have a big reach and are more likely to get you attention quickly. Plus there is Instagram Live too.
Instagram Posts and Stories:
Although some authors create posts fairly regularly, it’s common now to update Instagram stories more or less daily, saving the best content for posts. And now you can add links to stories, regardless of how many followers you have which is helpful. And with the new like button for stories, I’ll be interested to see if this changes the way they work as it’s likely to lead to more engagement. Before, a follower would need to send you a direct message to just like a story, but now it’s easy to press the heart symbol to show support without starting a conversation.
These work in a similar way to TikTok videos and are the best way to get attention on Instagram currently. Some authors share TikTok videos as Reels. But for authors, TikTok works differently from Reels content-wise, and although sharing a TikTok video as an Instagram Reel sometimes does well, sharing a Reel to TikTok doesn’t always work in the same way.
This is where you can talk live on video to your followers, alone or with usually one other person, although now you can add another too. I started interviewing authors using Instagram Live in March 2021, and it’s been a lot of fun. The video can be added to your grid afterwards, and this is where you’ll get more views than during the live itself. See my Instagram Lives here with authors including Sue Moorcroft, Celia Rees, Anna Belfrage, and Liz Fenwick.
The Rise of BookTok:
As mentioned in the intro, BookTok is growing, and apparently some publishers are encouraging authors to join, and start posting and interacting. But it is especially time-consuming at first, discovering how to create the best content-not only do you need to work out how to make a video-and know which length works best currently, and then add text, captions, sound etc, but also you need to play around with different videos to see which get the most likes and views, and then there’s keeping an eye on trends and getting involved with those; and so on. I’m studying all of this at the moment, and plan to launch a Zoom call with TikTok advice for authors soon.
TikTok eats time:
Currently, I’m not sure if making Tik Tok videos is time well spent for all authors who are using it (from what I can see, and from what some have told me)-because Tik Tok does eat time, and I expect that getting your book into the hands of an influential BookToker is likely to be more beneficial. If this happens, and they love your book, it can have a huge impact.
Find out more about the rise of BookTok in this article via The Guardian: The Rise of BookTok: meet the teen influencers pushing books up the charts.
And there’s this article via The New York Times, How Crying on TikTok Sells Books which includes how Madeline Miller’s book, The Song of Achilles, published in 2012 has been hugely boosted by Tik Tok.
In case you don’t know already, Fiona Lucas has set up a really helpful Facebook group: Tik Tok for Authors. Fiona is really generous with her advice, and has put together guides there as well. There’s also another Tik Tok for Authors Facebook group here.
And this is a great post by Abbie Headon, via Book Machine with a lot of useful info, Why publishers need to be on TikTok and how to get started.
TikTok recently launched TikTok stories, and you can find out more in this article published by The Verge here.
I’m not where I want to be on TikTok currently, but have plans to spend more time there, and will return with a post about TikTok for authors. You can find me on TikTok @neetschapman.
BUT DOES SOCIAL MEDIA SELL BOOKS?
In one of my Instagram Lives, with Kim Nash, Head of Publicity at publisher, Bookouture, we discussed how authors need to think long-term when building an online presence. Being successful on social media takes a lot of hard work, which involves investing time in building relationships with other authors, bookshops, libraries, book bloggers, bookstagrammers, booktokers, readers etc. This is what leads to book sales, and readers buying your next book. Aim to make your content interesting, thinking about what readers would expect to see from you. Although some book promo is okay, it shouldn’t all be this. Think about your brand-a bit about you, and subjects and themes from your books, and try to find a way to enjoy using social media as this comes across in your content. Plus don’t forget that being successful on social media is all about engagement, and it’s important to support others as your build your network, otherwise how can you expect anyone to support you?
Hope I’ve included everything in this post, and will add anything else I think of. More posts, including updated guides to Twitter and Instagram for authors, and a post about using TikTok as an author coming soon. Subscribe to the blog to receive new posts when they are published, and sign up to my newsletter to find out about upcoming options for author clients. Thank you for reading, and hope to see you again soon!
MY NEW WEBSITE AND CLIENT WORK
Social media advice for authors on Zoom:
So this is my revamped website, and you can find out more about me and my work by clicking through the tabs. Using Zoom, I give authors social media advice, and draft social media plans often in the run up to a book launch. You can find out more with my prices by going to the WORK tab.
To celebrate the revamp, I’m launching Spring Zoom with Neets. Find out more below.
SPRING ZOOM WITH NEETS
Spring Zoom with Neets is a limited number of one-to-one Zoom calls with social media advice for authors of 75 minutes for £75. Find out more via the WORK tab and get in touch to book a place if you’re interested.