Five Social Media Engagement Tips for Writers

writers and social media marketing business-people-1166576_1920Are you gaining maximum bounce from your social networks? Are Facebook’s new algorithms helping or hindering you from adding readers to your mailing list? Are Instagram and LinkedIn helping you gain subscribers? How can you really get more Instagram followers? What about Twitter or Pinterest? What are they doing for you? Did you know there’s an actual condition called “Social Media Fatigue”? Yes, there is. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?

When I present at self-publishing events, I often hear the clicks of multiple pairs of eyes rolling back into the participant’s heads when I speak about social networking. Most authors don’t want to do it and those who are participating sometimes forget the “networking” part of the activity. Let’s assume that we all realize that writing is our primary purpose and the majority of our time will be devoted to creating fantastic products for our readers. Okay, we’re agreed – most of the time we are indeed writing. So now, let’s talk about that twenty to thirty percent of allotted time we use to connect and engage with readers. Here’s what the experts are saying.

1. Don’t automatically link your accounts.

Social media master Gary Vaynerchuck and others are big on this. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are all different forums with potentially different types of followers. Why patronize your potential readers? If you’re sharing a Facebook post on Twitter it will abbreviate it to 140 characters and if you have a mesmerizing thread of comments they’ll be lost when you share the post. Why not take your most controversial or poetic comment from the thread and use it to link to the original post? Treat your followers like people. Don’t robo-post to them.

2. Turn your posts into stories.

Hugh Howey says that every post he creates is a way for him to showcase his storytelling ability. Wow! Did you catch that? It’s true. If I read a well-written post I’ll investigate the author further. Check out Robert Bidinotto on Facebook. You may not agree with his politics but you can’t miss his articulate, passionate comments. In other words – the man can write. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction you’re still a storyteller. Make sure every post is a READABLE story. Every time you post you should be exhibiting your talent as a writer. Random thoughts sometimes work (especially if you’ve had an epiphany that hits hard), but for the most part practice, edit and develop a creative post before hitting “submit”.

3. Reduce your likes.

Lots of likes aren’t as important any more. We want engagement. The worst thing that can happen is to have a post with dozens or even hundreds of likes and only a handful of comments. Leave your post open-ended. We want input; we don’t just want to hear how great we are. We’re trying to build relationships and to do that we need dialogue or banter. Many of us have friends who will stimulate this. Tag them and get them involved if you’re talking about an issue they’re interested in.

4. Be everywhere.

Thinking has changed on this also. Previously we preached that we should pick up to three social networks and stick with them. This is no longer possible as the ball is bouncing back and forth between so many different forums, and Facebook’s primary focus is to now to post to friends and family. Fortunately, you can actually be everywhere without devoting your time everywhere. You should have an account on each of the top ten social networks (Google this). If Facebook and Twitter are your things, stay there but take a peek around the corner from time to time too. I spoke to a group of high school students recently and asked them where they were virtually hanging out. It wasn’t Facebook or Twitter. Can you say Snapchat? We need to know where people are spending time because our demographics are wide-ranging. My friend’s seventy-year-old mother reads Young Adult novels and I don’t think she’s the exception.

5. Talk about cats instead of selling your books.

M.L. Gardner purified her followers’ lists a while back. She concentrates on what she enjoys, so she talks about her cats, shares her cat photos, and invites her followers to do the same. And, it’s working for her. Molly is a self-published full-time writer and sells a lot of books, but I’ve never seen her directly ask for a sale. If you’re passionate about your subject, your followers will feel it and they may want to know more about you. Again, we’re treating each other like people. And, they’ll want to pick up on that positive energy that you’re spreading.

As Ed Griffin always said, “Those are the rules, but remember, there are no rules”. The key is to keep engaging and finding new ways to connect with our readers. This in turn will help us build our mailing lists and help us be more self-sufficient. And in the meantime we’ll keep working on our masterpieces. Yes, we will.writers tool kit writing-675083_1920

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

32 thoughts on “Five Social Media Engagement Tips for Writers”

  1. I think I’ve been experiencing some version of this Social Media Fatigue you speak of. Seriously speaking, though, I’ve been trying to think of ways to improve my social media engagement. Thanks for sharing these tips. I really like the idea of turning posts into stories. That might be a good place to start.

    1. I think so too. I’ve been trying to make my posts more interesting and take some time rather than send out the first thoughts that come into my head. It’s an adjustment but I’m sure we’ll get there. Thanks for dropping by Tonya.

  2. Good advice. I’m not sure how to be everywhere, though. It feels awkward to have social accounts you only occasionally post to. However, I have a Pinterest account, to which I’ve only occasionally pinned.

    I do like the idea of telling a story with each post and being more personable. I think getting to know an author on a more personal level helps you see who they are and want to read their work.

    1. I guess what I meant was be aware of all outlets. I know it’s impossible to be everywhere (and I’m certainly not everywhere) but I think it’s important to know where the opportunities are and at least have some kind of presence there. Hence the potential for social media fatigue.
      I’m tired now. Thanks for commenting RJ.

  3. Food for thought, for sure, Martin. I’ve developed a habit of deliberately keeping my FB page posts short so that they don’t truncate too badly when they cross-post to Twitter. I probably need to re-evaluate that.

    It’s probably time for a hard look at my social media presence in general. At least I post to my blog every week. Two blogs, actually. That’s gotta count for something, right? :/

    1. “Be everywhere” was meant as “be aware of everywhere” but that didn’t read as well. I think it’s important to know what’s working and what isn’t. And by reaching out and spending time on different forums we might just find our audience. I think it was Reddit where Andy Weir first posted sections of “The Martian” and look what happened to him.
      Thanks Gordon.

  4. I like these ideas. They make us stop and think what we’re doing and not doing–and what we don’t need to be doing.

    Never had any success with LinkedIn because it’s so focused on people either looking for jobs or looking for ways to increase their upward mobility in their careers, that authors seem like fifth wheels there in spite of some decent discussion groups.

    1. LinkedIn worked for me when I was trying to fill seats for self-publishing workshops. And when I post an article it is shared from time to time. So, I think it’s helping with building a brand. In terms of promoting a book directly, no, not so much. Thanks for commenting Malcolm.

  5. Thank you for the mention, Martin! (Where can I upload a picture of my cats!) Great post. I like all the points and think that personally, I should work on #2. I can be pretty casual with my status updates.

  6. Martin, excellent post. Need advice. At 86 I’m finishing my first novel. At the same time I’m learning WordPress. I have a web but haven’t posted in a year– BZZZY.
    Now I’m trying to self pub. Now, whew, social media. Should I hire a social media guru or do it myself? Please touch me with your magic wand.

    1. Jim, that’s so awesome. Congratulations!
      My advice would be to concentrate on producing the best work you can, don’t worry about the other stuff at this point. Then when you’re ready break off a little chunk at a time. You’ve already ventured onto this site (which you’ll find is extremely helpful). Your launch is very important so you want to have some sort of presence in a couple of places previous to unveiling your masterpiece. Shoot me an email and we can clunk our heads together – martin @

  7. Thank you, Martin. I’ve been a little fatigued lately, but this gives me some great ideas. I’d like to work more on crafting posts, making them more open-ended, rather than what catches my radar at the moment.

  8. I like the idea as well, just chat, instead of about our books, I was going to ask how do we let them know we are authors, but duh, list yourself as an author. Thank you Martin, love the article!

  9. Phooey! I’m always dragging up late… I hear you, Martin. I have looked at or had a presence on every site you’ve mentioned and left some of them behind. I appreciate the idea behind chat with followers, build a rapport, write entertaining blogs and FB posts…don’t push a book in their faces. I get it. But! That is on the side of my writing life. As the indie publisher…I’m gonna market my books. I write my books to entertain fans and followers and the strangers who download them off of Amazon. If a reader or a fan gets in touch, I say thank you, nice to meet you. In 20 years as trad published, when a book came out, I did a few book signings, attended a conference or two every year. Done. Between times, I wrote, fulfilled my contracts, networked with colleagues and lived my personal life. Not to be unkind, but I am so not going to manage my indie career and book life on a schedule purported as ideal by a self-styled guru or expert. I am not accusing you of being an expert. LOL. Indie authorship is magnificent because it is founded on Author Choice. If the indie gods shine on us, we may find a niche that meets the dual goals of author and publisher. By-the-by, I adore Gardner’s cats. I’m a fan.

    1. Yes, there are no rules and we can run our careers in any manner we wish. And you’re producing a ton of product for your readers instead of spending time online. So, it sounds like you’ve got it figured out. And yep, Molly’s got that cat thing going and it’s working for her. And, it really is her thing. Thanks for dropping by Jackie.

  10. I got acute social media fatigue when the whole thing about social media first began. It soon turned chronic and has since been assessed as totally incurable because my three brain cells just can’t cope with the concept. It’s sort of meaningless to me, as most electronic things are. For someone who still writes his drafts with a quill and ink this seems like an impossible obstacle to surmount, by I enjoyed reading your post. If only I understood any of it ….. Hmmm. 🙂

    1. See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. That was a very funny comment. Methinks the writer understands more than he sayeth. Keep doing what you’re doing Ian and thanks.

      1. \if I and hoping to have the manuscript finished by the end of the month. do understand it, I do so in ignorance. The whole business has be befuddled and bemused. I wish it had me Amused, but that doesn’t seem to work. Never mind, I’m off back to my editing and hope to have this manuscript finished and ready to go by the end of the month. Now that I do understand.

  11. Hi Martin,
    Nice article, I am not a big Facebook fan but realize it is a necessary. here is something I discovered you need to post at least 2 times a month on Facebook. Recently, I failed to post something on my Facebook author page for a little bit over 30 days and Facebook turned it private thus preventing my Facebook page from being seen publicly. I had to go into the settings and change it back to public. Also Last year I noticed some of my posts were disappearing and every time I post Facebook notifies me that if I Wanted all my posts to be seen by my followers I should boost them, which to me does not seem ethical.

    1. I don’t have that problem with Facebook. It’s one of my favored sites so I’m on there far more than twice a month. Bear in mind your posts are only seen by a small percentage of your followers. The FB ads can be effective but so can devoting the time to writing a great book. Thanks for commenting Joe.

  12. Great post, Martin. The best advice I ever received on marketing was to connect with /people/ and let the networking take care of itself. It’s not a fast process, but it does work, eventually. I figure I’ve got another 30 years to go before I’m completely senile. That should be long enough. 😀

Comments are closed.