Think You Know Social Media for Writers? Here’s What You’re Missing.

Social media is all about being heard!

Or is it?

We tweet, we post, we comment, we update, we check in…and at the end of the day we still don’t see any significant increase in our followers, or in our book sales. What is going on? Do we just not get this whole social media thing? Are we not doing it right? We know it’s all about connecting and sharing, but we’re connecting with the whole internet universe, and we’re sharing all our stuff all the time. And we’re still asking…where are our readers?

The big myth about social media is that it’s all about you. Promoting your book, driving your sales, pushing your message. But if you go into social media with the intent of only benefiting your writing career, you’ll most likely get just as far as auto-tweeting book teasers that no one ever clicks on, and then stall out.

The truth is, social media is not about you.

It’s not about how you can benefit, but about who you can benefit. When we shift our social media energy into open-hearted curiosity we find that followers, subscribers, readers, and supporters are naturally drawn in and want to participate. That’s when we can take a look around and see the people, organizations, and causes that are in ideal alignment with our own message, and then reach out and connect to form a positive alliance.

So for instance, if you’re an author who writes historical fiction, you already know that you want to connect with other writers, as well as readers interested in reading historical fiction. Now let’s get curious and take things a step further. What about other people who enjoy history? What about teachers and students? What about renaissance faires and Civil War reenactments? Find those people on Twitter and follow them, share something from their Facebook pages, find something cool they’re doing and mention it on your blog.

If you write horror, find the people who are obsessed with Halloween. If you write Mission Impossible thrillers, check out the people who are into spy gear and gadgets. Chick-lit writers can take advantage of the huge cult following of Sex and the City. YA writers can tap into the potential audience of parents-of-teenagers, who very likely might be reading those same YA novels right along with their kids.

An interest group already exists for whatever genre or topic you’re writing about. But most writers miss the golden opportunity by stopping short right there. That one group is tied into other groups, and you can access that rich, fertile ground of potential readers through social media.

Once you find the people you think might be interested in your writing, get interested in them. Start by sharing their stuff. Like them, mention them, retweet them, and genuinely support them. The key is that you have to choose people and organizations that you actually think are cool or helpful or interesting. This is how you build strong, lasting relationships that truly will benefit your writing career. Your enthusiasm for someone else’s passion is not only infectious, it’s usually appreciated. When you start sharing the love without expecting anything back, the partnerships that can help you grow and thrive as a writer will reliably show up without question.

Here’s the 1-2-3 punch for social media magic:

Get Creative
Brainstorm all the possible audiences for your work.

Build Connection
Reach out and follow, subscribe, like, and support.

Share the Love
Promote their stuff first: Stand behind them, and mean it.

This is how you find your fans. By opening your own heart enough so that you get curious about what’s in theirs. Social media doesn’t have to be a drag, and it doesn’t have to feel like an impersonal community either. You get to decide how much benefit it can be to you, but first you have to make up your mind if you want to be of benefit to anyone else.

Start with just one other person. Find one person today you feel would probably connect with your work and share the love by giving them a shout-out in some way. And then find someone else and do it again tomorrow. I guarantee you’ll see your social media life start to bloom.

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24 Comments

  • Reply Sharon Rawlette 10 October, 2013 at 8:55 am

    You’re absolutely right, Lauren. And approaching social media in this others-focused way makes it a whole lot more fun!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 10 October, 2013 at 9:46 am

      I think so too 🙂

      • Reply Sharon Rawlette 11 October, 2013 at 10:02 am

        I wanted to say that I’ve thought about this post repeatedly over the last day, and it’s helped me to think of more audiences for my work. I tend to get very focused on just producing the next piece, and I like the encouragement to think about who might be helped by connecting with the pieces I’ve already written.

        • Reply Lauren Sapala 11 October, 2013 at 3:28 pm

          That’s awesome to hear! I’m so glad you found this helpful 🙂

  • Reply Anne Milstead 10 October, 2013 at 9:19 am

    In other words, put others first, the simple way of life that leads to excellent relationships. Thanks so very much for this article!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 10 October, 2013 at 9:46 am

      Oh, I like the way put that! And it’s very true.

  • Reply Lisen Minetti 10 October, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Lauren – I just had this same conversation yesterday (on Twitter no less) and agree 110%. While I am extremely glad that the number of my blog or Twitter followers may seem to increase every day, its the people that I actually interact with because of those blogs that makes it all worth it! Great post!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 10 October, 2013 at 9:47 am

      I agree. I’ve made some really good friends over Twitter! And I never expected that when I first started. The people I’ve met online who I’ve been able to have personal, meaningful interactions with have made it all worth it.

  • Reply Lori Lesko 10 October, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Beautifully done. I’ve been trying to say this to my twitter followers for months!

  • Reply Robin Jeffrey 10 October, 2013 at 9:56 am

    So much good advice for writers just starting out on this crazy trip that is social media (such as me!) People do forget that social media is about the community, not the individual

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 10 October, 2013 at 11:17 am

      I just started out a few months ago too, and you’re right, it has been a crazy trip!

  • Reply Kimberly Hill 10 October, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Good points. Meeting new and interesting people and actually interacting with these people is also a LOT more fun than sending constant marketing messages.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 10 October, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Thank you Kimberly! And you are one of the ones I have really enjoyed meeting. I love your blog and continue to be inspired by it.

  • Reply Phillip McCollum 10 October, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Great advice. Authors need to treat social media like any other business networking tool. Everyone avoids the person at those mixers who keeps trying to sell you on their product. Now, if we share common interests and we can talk about something other than your book, I’m more likely to check it out because you’ve become someone I like and want to support.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 10 October, 2013 at 11:19 am

      I totally agree. Especially when it comes to indie books. I find that the indie books I’m most interested in reading and supporting are those books written by authors who I’ve gotten to know a bit over social media and like.

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 11 October, 2013 at 4:59 am

    You’re so right, Lauren. Most writers I know see social media (especially Twitter) as a way to promote their books and nothing else. Truth be told: their tweets are the most boring and the least likely to garner the attention they want. They also take up the most space in my Twitter feed which is also annoying. I don’t have a lot of experience with Twitter but I’m convinced that my growth in followers is due to the retweets and shout-outs I make on behalf of my friends. I also try to acknowledge every new follow I get. The best part of social media for me has been the sense of community and support I’ve experienced among like-minded people, whether they are writers, readers, or people who just like hanging out with writers and readers 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 11 October, 2013 at 9:29 am

      Yup, I agree. When I follow someone new and then look over at my Twitter feed and see a nonstop stream of auto-tweets coming every two seconds, I definitely re-think the follow. And in fact, after a few months on Twitter, I find myself hardly looking at the stream and primarily checking my @Connect page where I can actually interact with people.

      And I loved this from you: “The best part of social media for me has been the sense of community and support I’ve experienced among like-minded people, whether they are writers, readers, or people who just like hanging out with writers and readers.”

      So true, and I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Reply Paul Sutton Reeves 11 October, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Naturally, in the spirit of your post, Lauren, I just shared it on Twitter

  • Reply Rachel /A.N.Eanon 12 October, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Hi Lauren,
    I enjoyed reading your blog and agree that having an open- hearted attitude is the way to go>>

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 14 October, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Great advice!

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