Social Media Marketing Basics for Authors

[Updated 1/27/2015] If you are not currently promoting your book’s message on social media, chances are that you have been overwhelmed by the long list of options or you think you don’t have enough time to use social media.

Whether you are thinking about writing a book, ready to publish your book, or you published a book so long ago that you forgot about it, social media is a great (free) way to let potential readers “experience” you and your message before they decide to buy your book…or at least before they decide to mention your book to someone else they know who might love your book!

Keep reading to learn:

  • why you should be on social media,
  • when you should get on social media,
  • tips for building an effective social media marketing plan,
  • which tools and resources will help you reach your social media marketing goals without breaking your budget or demanding too much of your time.

Why Should I Be on Social Media?

Social Media includes free tools that give you access to millions of people who are already in the habit of sharing information and buying based on recommendations they read while on social media. So why would you want to pass up on it?

When Should I Get on Social Media?

The answer may surprise you: you should wait until you have established your website-based platform and you have already started your mailing list before you begin investing time into social media. Why spend time tweeting and cropping pictures for Pinterest when you’ve just published your book and you don’t have an established website and mailing list that allows the people who are interested in your tweets and Pinterest collections to take their connection to you one step further and learn more about you, your message and your book?

Social media is a form of outreach that is about making connections and building relationships, not generating sales. So this should not be your first step if you haven’t already invested time into building an effective sales system through your platform.

Tips for building a social media marketing plan

Socialmedioplis published a blog featuring ten tips for entrepreneurs who want a social media marketing plan.

Here is my author-centric remix of their original ten tips:

Tip #1: Revisit your original research on your target audience.

Make sure that the data clearly identifies and accurately reflects the people you want to reach with your book’s message. By the time you finished writing your book, you may have chosen a different target audience or decided to focus on a specific segment of the original audience. In any case, you want to make sure you are clear on who you want to target with your message.

Tip #2: Pick the two or three social media sites where your readers are most likely to socialize. 

It’s more effective to bring your message to a large group of people who are already interested in your topic than to find a large group of people and try to convince them to like your topic. So find the websites where your readers are most likely to hang out.

Guy Kawasaki offers the following explanation to help you find the best social media site for your message as part of his social media tips for authors

Facebook is for people — people who you went to high school or college with and your family. Twitter is for perceptions — perceptions such as “I feel an earthquake and I’m in Chile.” Google+ is for passions — passions such as photography that you cannot share with your Facebook people. Pinterest is for pinning — pinning pictures with little interaction. LinkedIn is for pimping — as in making business connections or finding a job. You can use each of these to build a platform, but your relationships on them are apt to differ.

Industry authority Publisher’s Weekly explicitly recommends starting with Twitter and Facebook. 

Tip #3: Build your elevator pitch into an reader-centric messaging strategy. 

When you wrote your elevator pitch, you practiced articulating the benefits of your message and why people should read your book.

As you build your social media messaging strategy, you should focus on sharing messages that members of your target audience would find interesting-even if it is not directly related to parts of your book.

Tip #4: No one will want to follow you on social media if all you do is sell your book.

If your message is not interesting to the people you want to attract, then you will not attract the people who will want to read your book.

And no one wants to follow you if all you talk about is why they should buy your book. Think about things that they will find interesting, helpful, and valuable and then find ways to give it to them.

If they like what you are sharing, they will learn to like you. If they learn to like you, they will learn to trust you over time. And if they trust you, they are likely to eventually buy your book…and tell others to buy your book too.

Tip #5: Use a mixture of different types of content on your social media sites.

Sometimes share tips, other times share product or service reviews, mix in some relevant pictures or infographics, the occasional hilarious-yet relevant-video you found on YouTube, a funny story or even a PowerPoint presentation or podcast you found while searching the web.

Tip #6: Post the content you want to share on your website and then share the link to your website to keep the website as your home base.

Your blog posts do not have to be as long as mine. Seth Godin’s blog posts can be as short as 250 words, and he has well over 100,000 followers.

Share the content you find on the web in your blog post, add a few lines about why think it is relevant to your readers, and then share the blog post through your social media accounts.

This helps generate traffic to your website, which means they are more likely to stumble upon your book and buy it.

This also helps you buy adding more keywords to your website that attracts Internet browsers looking for those keywords. In other words, it brings more traffic to you from search engines in the long-term in addition to bringing you traffic from social media in the short-term.

Tip #7: Listen to the social media crowd before you jump into the conversation.

Don’t be that person who jumps into the conversation and does not have a clue about what is actually going on. If you are that person, you are likely to leave a not-so-positive impression that deflects followers.

Tip #8: Engage your followers and interact with them.

No one wants to be treated like a number, so don’t treat your followers like they are a number.

Pay attention to what they post and respond. Send them a message on their birthday. Answer their questions when they ask them-even if it is not related to your book’s message.

We like people who treat us like people.

Tip #9: Prioritize your time and focus your promotion efforts.

If less than 10% of your website traffic comes from Twitter and 45% comes from Facebook, you need to reconsider your social media channel selection.

Tweak your strategies over time. If you have the numbers above, consider playing with Google +. If Google + brings you more traffic then Twitter, then you may want to give some of the time you were focusing on Twitter to Google +.

Find the mix that works for you. And recognize that your ideal mix may change over time.

Also pay attention to how people respond to the different types of content you share on each network. You cannot use the same strategy for each social media account.

Tip #10: Keep you social media marketing plan connected to your overall book marketing strategy.

Don’t get so caught up with any one social media network that you forget to use publicity, content marketing or other book marketing strategies.

And when you do use other marketing strategies, don’t forget to find creative ways to tie in your social media accounts.

Which tools and resources should I use to execute my social media marketing plan?

  •  SocialMediaMarketingGirl.comWhen you join her mailing list you will receive a step-by-step guide for writing your social media marketing plan along with weekly promotional tips.
  • “The Ultimate Social Media Guide for Writers”– This LiveHacked post describes an “in-list” method for strategically building your following by connecting with people who have larger followings than you.
  • Hootsuite-This tool allows you to manage multiple social media accounts from one single log-in.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let the variety of social media options overwhelm you, and don’t underestimate the power of social media to drive sales.

If you choose to include social media as part of your marketing strategy-and you should-then it is better if you manage your accounts instead of hiring someone else to do it. This is about building relationships, and it’s difficult to build a relationship with someone if you only have access to their assistant.

An exception to this rule is when the person managing the social media account is part of the company or organization that is publishing the message. But if you are an author-expert, then it’s best for you to manage your account.

Question-Which social media channel(s) are best for your book?

Image by: Harland Quarrington/MOD [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at