For our new feature on Operation Awesome, the team is taking a week to share our thoughts, opinions, and experiences on topics we were asked about last year.
The first we're tackling is Social Media. Specifically, we were asked how to connect with readers and librarians, which social media platform to use (such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc), and how to use social media effectively without spending all our time doing it.
I joined social media because everyone said it was essential as an author to be on it. I joined Twitter and initially I really enjoyed it. I found a lot of other authors, agents and publishers and learned a lot about the industry through my interactions. I learned about blogs to follow, contests to enter and even found my agent through a Twitter pitch contest.
As a tool for selling books, I've never found social media that useful. Probably because the audience for my books isn't on Twitter or Facebook. I have teenage sons and both of them are on Instagram, but I just can't get the hang of Instagram. It bores me senseless, so I rarely look at it and even more rarely post there. I should probably just get over myself and learn how to use it properly, but I'd rather write another book...
I know blogging is kind of out of vogue, but I enjoy it. I post three times a week or so on my own blog, and here at Operation Awesome once a week. Maybe I'm just long-winded, but I feel like I can express myself better through blogging than in a 140 character Tweet or a Facebook post that algorithms are likely to swallow up so people who might want to see it can't.
Basically, my feeling is that if you enjoy social media, use it. Engage with people, get to know them, share knowledge and ideas. But don't feel that it's something you have to do. If you don't enjoy it, it becomes a chore and you are unlikely to want to keep doing it. I feel like people know if you're posting out of obligation rather than a genuine desire to connect. And that's how you lose followers and disengage readers.
Remember that most writers are also readers, so if your social media following is primarily other writers, share the books you love. Buy books from fellow authors. Boost them and you may find they boost you back when you have something new available. If you're asked questions, answer them, even if they are ones you've answered 1000 times before.
So my advice is to find the things you enjoy and put your energy there. And be yourself. Share the things that amuse you and touch you and bring you joy. I also suggest you stay out of politics on whatever platform(s) you choose as that world can become a cesspit very fast. But that's a personal choice, and obviously if what you write is political, you may need to engage in that arena to build your platform.
In the meantime, I will keep my author page on Facebook and my Twitter account, but I don't expect these to be the main tools in my arsenal when it comes to selling books. When I find that, I'll let you know... And remember that you don't HAVE to do social media. If you loathe it, you probably won't do it well and that's probably worse than not doing it at all.