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Publishing 101: How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Books

As part of your author platform, you should have a presence on social media to promote your books.

Your author platform contains many planks. We have seen in previous articles how the key element of your author platform should be your website, and how the domain name you use is an essential part of your brand. The other important element of your author platform should be your social media presence. While not every author needs to be present on social media, and many don’t like using social media at all, it is the way many people will discover your books and stay up to date when you have new ones coming out.

In this article, I will discuss the various social media platforms that you can use to promote your books.

Why use social media

If your website is the passive anchor for your author platform, your social media presence is your active outreach to your fans and readers. However, not everyone in good at using social media, and not everyone wants to. For many writers, social media is a lifeline to the outside world when they spend most of their time on their own. It’s a way to let off steam and have a laugh. But for others, it can be a time suck and a distraction. (By the way, Scrivener can help you write without distractions.)

There are a variety of social media platforms that work very differently. Twitter is for short comments and conversations, whereas TikTok is for short videos. Facebook and Instagram are both in between - allowing short and longer texts, and videos - but have their limitations.

In addition, the demographics of each social media platform can help you decide which ones are for you.

The life and death of social media platforms

Do you remember MySpace and Friendster? Or Usenet and SixDegrees? Or ICQ, ChatRoulette, and Google+? Social media services live and die by their popularity among users. New platforms arrive, have a burst of popularity, and generally die. We have reached a point where it is very difficult for a new social media service to take off, though one recent exception is TikTok, which was only launched in 2017. 

It takes time to build up a presence on social media, and investing in a platform that may not lost can be disappointing. A number of social media platforms have attained critical mass, and are not likely to go away any time soon (though Twitter, since its acquisition by Elon Musk, seems fragile).

In 2022, the key social media platforms for writers are:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • TikTok
  • YouTube

Which social media platforms should you use to promote your books?

Many writers will choose to be present on multiple platforms, but it’s important to choose those that your readers use. Check authors you like, in the genre in which you write, and see where they are active; you might want to use the same platforms.

Here are some suggestions for the major platforms:

Facebook: It’s become a commonplace to say that Facebook is for older people, but the metrics don’t bear this out. Statista shows that the largest demographic on Facebook, in the US, is people aged 25–34. Teens shun Facebook, however, so if you write young adult novels, then you probably shouldn’t spend much time on the platform. You can post text, photos, and videos to Facebook, and people can follow your page, and share what you post. However, the Facebook algorithm means that only a fraction of followers will see your content, unless you pay to promote posts, which you might want to do when you have a new book out.

Instagram: The demographics for Instagram are similar to those of Facebook, though the numbers drop a lot among those over 45. Originally a site for sharing photos, Instagram also allows you to post text, though its algorithm now rewards video. Not everyone wants to make videos, so this can be limiting for many authors. People can’t share Instagram posts, so that can limit their reach. Also, you cannot have clickable links in Instagram posts, so you will often see people posting “link in bio,” as the only place you can have a live link is in your profile.

Twitter is in the news a lot, especially since it was purchased by Elon Musk, but it’s not as popular as it may seem. It has about half as many active users as Facebook, and its demographics skew younger. Twitter can be hard to get used to, and you can’t say much in 280 characters. Some writers are very active on Twitter, and others use it occasionally to promote books. However, you can share or “retweet” tweets on Twitter, which extends their reach.

TikTok and YouTube are both video platforms, but are very different in the way they work. TikTok is for short videos, and YouTube is for longer videos. TikTok is where teens hang out, there are more women than men using the platform (abut 57% to 43%), and TikTok users spend a lot of time there. However, they view short videos, swipe, and then view more. The short attention span of TikTok users makes it hard to break through. YouTube allows much longer videos, and you can film discussions and interviews, which gives you much more latitude. But YouTube users expect a bit more professionalism, and mastering the YouTube algorithm is complex.

LinkedIn: If you write books for professionals, then you should have a presence on LinkedIn. This social network has a very specific demographic: people who are looking to create networks for their work, either to advance their careers or sell products or services. There are more men than women (about 57% of the former), and a lot of what happens on LinkedIn is about businesses promoting their businesses. However, if you write books for businesspeople, then you need to be on LinkedIn.

Some writers are natural social media users; this is especially the case for younger people who have grown up with these services. Social media can be a great way to promote your books and connect with fans, but beware of getting distracted when you should #Bewriting.

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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