Whether you are new to social media or already active on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads, it’s very easy to feel it’s all getting out of control and taking too much time. There are so many platforms and so much advice about what authors should be doing – most of the technical stuff going right over my head.
People are interacting with each other in new and evolving ways online. Everything seems to be moving at a tremendous pace. It’s difficult to keep up with the jargon and the etiquette. We don’t want to look stupid or attract trolls. It would be easier to put our heads in the sand and stick to the real world of paper and ink.
As a writer and a Christian, I want to communicate the things God has laid on my heart. It would be so much easier if I could just write a book, find a publisher, and leave it at that. As it turns out, finding a publisher is just the start of the journey. Once you have that elusive publishing deal, it’s expected that you’ll do a certain amount of book promotion online. For me, it’s been a steep and difficult learning curve. I only started my online journey in 2013, but here are some of the things I’ve found out as I’ve begun to use Facebook and Twitter.
It’s not about the Numbers: if you can’t go wider, go deeper
The virtual world is full of unpleasant gossip, facile posts about cute pets and what people are eating for dinner, news of injustice and brutality around the world, political lobbying, hard sales tactics, erotica, bad language and belittling humour. This means that as well as puzzling about the mechanics of how to use social media, there’s the question about how I can have a public presence as a Christian author, engaging with others about my projects and also demonstrating some grace and generosity in my interactions. Social Media can’t just be ‘buy my book, buy my book’. Firstly it doesn’t work and secondly it annoys people. Social media needs to be social.
I once naively asked to join a promotional group for writers on Facebook. I was told I couldn’t join because I had less than 10,000 Twitter followers! Then I was told I could join a smaller group, build up my following until I had reached 10,000. The way they built up followers was by a kind of chain letter system. Every day on the Facebook group you had to post up your Amazon book page and Twitter address, and then share EVERY Amazon book page above you on social media and follow every Twitter address. You couldn’t pick and choose which books you shared. As you can imagine, some of the front covers were highly questionable, so I unfollowed the Group.
I’m never going to have 10,000 followers on Twitter, and don’t want to have that many because it would be impossible to manage and to meaningfully connect with people. So instead of worrying about the number of followers I have, I’m trying to go deeper instead of wider. This could mean going deeper on a certain topic or going deeper in my connection with a small group of people. I’m trying to shift my perspective away from the number of likes I receive and working towards real exchanges with people, taking an interest in their creative projects, sharing their posts and thanking them if what they have written has enriched my day. We can all spread a little bit of joy into other people’s lives.
Do you feel you are speaking to an empty room?
It’s easy to feel disappointed when there’s no reaction to the things you are posting and sharing. Sometimes it all seems a bit of a waste of time.
I’ve had to change my expectations about what a single post can do. I don’t think there’s a secret formula, but I do think it’s worth persevering. At least I have a place in the virtual world where people can meet and connect with me. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to speak on the radio and to submit articles to magazines. Maybe I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if the person extending the invitation hadn’t been able to search my name and find me on the internet. Having a website and a Facebook page with photos of events I have spoken at gives a certain amount of reassurance that I am a ‘proper writer’ and not the nervous introvert which I am in reality.
Being Intentional rather than Reactive
However, I’ve found it’s all too easy to spend my time on social media reacting to what other people share. This has made me feel that my life and the things that concern me are much less interesting than what everyone else is posting. Instead of reacting to other people all the time, I’m now trying to be more intentional. I can choose what I let into my life, and how I let it in. Hopefully this is bringing some structure into my use of social media which will be positive over the long term.
My social media strategy now looks like this. Choose what I let into my life and how I let it in. Decide what I’m going to talk about and how I’m going to talk about it. Share what I feel is important. As well as promoting my work, I share in private Facebook groups some of the deeper themes that my work focuses on. Hopefully as I move forward this will bring back some sense of control.
The lives of authors are filled with risk. We are juggling work and family commitments, while digging deep as writers and exposing ourselves to the judgement of others. Life seems full of small rejections and disappointments, not least on social media. But that’s no reason to give up. If you believe in your writing, and know there are readers out there who would like to connect with it and with you, then keep reaching out with you message. Just connecting with one other person in a meaningful way can make all the difference to them and to you.