Unraveling Social Media Confusion for Beginners

social media guru Sydney SchottGuest Post
by Sydney Schott

When talking about social media, I think most people are unsure as to what they’re supposed to be doing. Sure we know the basics, but what about the finer details? We all want to learn the secrets to actually being successful in this area of promotion, don’t we? It can be a struggle to stand out from the ever-growing crowd using social media programs, but learning how to use them can increase your fan base — and mailing list — significantly. Right now, I’m just going to cover the basics.

For starters, you must have a Facebook author page. Facebook is the most popular social media site in the world, and it’s more than just a place where you go to connect with friends. Facebook is an outlet to express yourself by sharing your ideas, thoughts, and opinions through creative posts to your page. Sadly, most do not use Facebook properly, and I’ll tell you how later.

Secondly, you want to ensure that you are on Twitter. Twitter is a rapidly expanding community which allows your fans an opportunity to follow you more intimately. Twitter should be used as an on-the-go update system, letting your fans know those finer details about you – like what coffee shop you’re spending the day at or how late you stayed up to write that final chapter in the upcoming book.

Instagram is the new up-and-coming site to be on; if you don’t have an account, make one. Instagram is only accessible via smart phone, and is used to post photos with captions. It’s a form of artistic expression through creative photos taken throughout your day which works to engage your fans. Instagram has a very powerful search program to help people find things.

Now that you know what programs to focus on, let’s talk about how to actually use them to build your fan base.

Want to know a secret? Your fans are already out there looking for you, searching social media sites hoping to find things that interest them – they’re searching for you. And your task is to let them know that you exist.

How do you do that? Your first step is to begin following the right people: people who share the same interests as you and are searching for the type of content that you are posting. Once you begin to follow people, message them and comment on their posts, over time relationships will grow and word will get out that you are on social media and slowly you will find your fan base.

Once you’ve established yourself on these sites, you want to begin posting things about yourself that are interesting to fans. Adding a hashtag to your post has been shown to increase the number of people who will see a post by as much as 60%. By adding a hashtag, you are giving people an extra avenue to find your post. Adding a hashtag is as simple as taking the pound sign (#) and adding a word after it, such as #indiesunlimited. Hashtags are used on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (as well as other social media platforms), so using the same hashtag across all three sites is a good idea because it promotes a tag for your followers to use when promoting or searching for you.

Remember that you are looking to connect with your fans; and your fans are searching for you. Once you begin to interact with your fans, they will feel involved and connected. You also want to post to please your fans so remember to post often, and post personal things; it’s been shown that your fans become more engaged when you write more. By posting often, people will continue to see your name, notice you, and interact with you. Building your social media platform requires daily effort, and if left untended you can quickly lose whatever ground you’ve gained.

The thing to remember about posting on social media is this; the more the merrier – but not too much. What is too much? Fan interaction and feedback from ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’, ‘Reposts’, ‘Follows’, and other actions will help you learn this for your own fan base. Fine tune your post frequency until you begin to see the numbers go the way you want.

Another good strategy to keep your fans engaged is to have weekly or monthly contests. Contests are an excellent way to prevent fans from becoming bored; by simply posting every day you won’t guarantee their long-term interest. Small contests (the prizes need not be large, just meaningful to your fan base) will involve your fans, get them excited for new things, and motivate both you and them to stay involved. Be creative and always try new things.

Remember that with social media, everything you do is trial and error, so don’t worry. Your fans are out there. Now go out and get them.


Sydney Schott is a full-time arts student majoring in drama and voice. In addition to her studies, she blogs, writes, paints and has built a successful social media platform. Sydney also teaches indie authors how to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr to connect with their target audiences around the world. You can find out more about Sydney by visiting her blog.

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13 thoughts on “Unraveling Social Media Confusion for Beginners”

  1. Thank you Sydney. Good overview.

    I’d add one more small point. Don’t expect quick results. Not only does it take time for your numbers to grow, it also takes time for those relationships to bear fruit. Even now, with 5700 followers on twitter, I am only beginning to see tangible results. Now that may be, in part because I’m not good at maximizing the use of the tools, but I think it’s worth mentioning tht results don’t happen overnight.

        1. Whats this about they won’t let you have any more? Do Twitter tell you how many followers you can have? That’s scandalous! I thought it was open for anyone who chooses to follow you to do so just be clicking the ‘Follow’ button. It doesn’t say much for their customer service if Twitter limit your followers, and it certainly wouldn’t encourage me to join up.

        2. Hey Laurie, What you’re looking at is your follow count- this is how many people you yourself follows (of which twitter only allows one account to follow a max of 2000 users), Your follower track (the people who follow you) is located directly beside it 🙂

  2. Thanks for the info, Sydney. 🙂

    I don’t really get the appeal of Instagram, just like I don’t really get the appeal of Pinterest. Visually-oriented social sites are kind of hard for the verbally-oriented to parse. But I guess I should give it a try, huh?

    1. Hey Lynne,
      from the looks of your twitter, I’d say why not give instagram a try! You can connect the posts that you put on instagram with your twitter, and can link them so that you can try and appeal to your twitter followers. It can be a struggle to get every new social media up and running, so for now I don’t think it’ll hurt you if you don’t start one up (it just won’t have a chance to benefit you either!) 🙂

  3. Thanks for the advice. I do think it makes sense for writers to prioritize and avoid spreading themselves too thin. And there can be more prosaic concerns. I played with Instagram for a couple of weeks and realized that it sucks my iPhone’s battery dry like nothing else, so I decided I could live without it.
    Lynne, I use Pinterest for things like pictures of settings or characters, or bookcovers I really enjoy. And for the usual suspects — home decor, crafts, art, gardening, and recipes. I make no serious attempt to market there and just enjoy it as a handy visual filing system.

  4. Although social media can drive us to distraction, it’s a necessary part of making connections. Authors need one another and a way to reach out to readers.

    Thanks for summing it all up, Sydney. And as Yvonne pointed out, be patient. It takes a lot of time and effort on your part!

  5. One thing I’ve always done with my twitter is to block the people who follow me that are junk followers.

    Why block a follower?

    It’s about getting a better understanding of how your platform is doing and the performance with regards to promotions (not that I do much promoting, probably one percent of the time), but it still is nice not having a follower count inflated by the “Follow Back” and then buy my stuff without me ever having a conversation with you, crowd.

    I block about 40% of the people who try to follow me.

    But that’s just me, I like clean data.

  6. Thank you, Sydney. Yes, I agree with Yvonne that it takes a while to grow a platform, and what’s worked better for me is to concentrate on a couple of them instead of going wide. If I try to get everywhere, I feel less and less like a part of the conversation and more like a can of spray paint.

  7. Great information. Thanks for sharing it with us. Always important to remember that side.

  8. Watching my daughters and granddaughters fiddling with i-Phones and tablets, leading their lives in the ether, has always amazed me and I look on in awe at their magic. I’ve always been a bit wary of social media myself, as the concept doesn’t quite gel in my brain. Since it won’t let me use my quill and ink, and I struggle with things electronic, this leaves me out on a limb with progress sawing at it between me and the tree trunk. But your explanation here, Sydney, has brought a glimmer of understanding, and maybe opened a doorway of hope for the future. Thanks for your valuable input. The mud is slightly less opaque now.

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