Social media is an ideal space to think about how you present and to begin interacting publicly as a writer. Twitter and Instagram have thriving Writing Communities, where you can find your tribe. A Facebook page (or Instagram) are great spaces to share your writing life and books with personal contacts, while any of these plus Pinterest, Youtube and others are potential spaces to reach readers and promote your published works. So which social media is most appropriate to you as a writer, which account is best to start with and how do you get started?
Twitter is a great starting point, because of its #WritingCommunity. There, you can meet and make friends with fellow writers, ask advice about all things writing related and gain insight into what lies ahead of you -at any stage- from writers further down the line. Because of the tight character limit on tweets and Twitter’s focus on text, and because people are more likely to retweet your tweets than to facebook share, or pin your posts, I found Twitter the fastest social media account to meet, interact with and find my writer tribe on. Once I was established there, it was also a base to connect with fellow writers and to see how they used Instagram and Pinterest to reach readers.
To get an idea of potential readers /demographics you can reach on Twitter (its a mix mash compared to Instagram and Facebook), see this statistic summary by Hootsuite. For detailed tweeting advice, see Getting Started on Twitter at the bottom of this post. Skip ahead to the Twitter Tips section of this post here.
If you have a personal Instagram account and feel at home there, its #WritingCommunity are also welcoming. @adrienneyoungbooks and @kristindwyer launched #FindMyWritingCommunity a few months ago, and its a great hashtag for posting a selfie and introducing yourself to writers, with a mini writing community developing around it. Instagram also has #Bookstagram and is a great place to promote your books to readers.
Who can you reach there? According to Hootsuite, 67% of 18 to 29 year olds in the US use the site daily and its most popular with Gen Z and Millennials. If your books are likely to appeal to these age groups, but Instagram is outside your comfort zone, I’d leave it for now, but plan to set up a writer/ author account there eventually.
I say ‘Facebook page’ as opposed to ‘account’ or ‘profile’, because if you want to use the word ‘author’ or ‘writer’ in your Facebook name, Facebook considers you to be a public figure and requires you to have a page. If you create a profile as (whoever) Author, you will have your account suspended, and probably deleted for ‘posing as someone else.’
Research on Facebook’s demographics by Hootsuite suggests it is still (as of January 2020), the single biggest social media platform for reaching an audience across all age groups world wide, including teenagers. If you’re active on and comfortable with Facebook, a Facebook Page (or group created by your page, which some authors are trialling with hopes of more engagement) is a good place to start book promotion. Alternately, you can use your personal Facebook account -if you just call yourself (insert first name, last name). For advice on choosing between using your profile or creating a page, see Facebook for Authors by Jane Friedman.
I’ve only started on Pinterest in the last couple of months. It differs from the above three media in a few key ways. Pinterest’s algorithms work differently, with the pins which appear on people’s feeds being determined by the topics each Pinterest user selects, as opposed to pins created or pinned by people they follow. On Pinterest, users are also more likely to use the search function to find particular types of pins.
Pinterest Boards You can pin (create your own copy of, collect and organise) other people’s pins by pinning them to your own boards, using them to attract followers with similar interests. You can click and drag your boards, to position them in the order you want visitors to your profile to see them. You can also select the edit icon (on the bottom right corner of any board) to select (and position) which pin it displays as its cover. I have the boards I’ve saved my blog pins to across the top, where they’re most prominent, and inspirational image boards (for my writing and drawing) underneath.
If you’d like to create pins for your blog or site pages to embed on your WordPress (so visitors can pin them from there), here’s a Pinterest tool which makes that easy. (In my case, this an easy way around the problem of my site not allowing any images on it to display on any social media). To learn about who you can reach on Pinterest and how often, here’s Hootsuite’s Pinterest statistics.
I’ve only just created an account here, but I’ve seen a few posts in an author Facebook group (20Booksto50k -great for learning about marketing), noting an increase in their book sales which appears to correlate with an increase of their book promotion and impressions on Tik Tok. Hootsuite reports that 69% of its users are aged 13 to 24 and while its not as popular as Instagram, its still growing and a likely space to reach readers of YA.
This may not be technically social media, but Youtube is competing with Facebook’s levels of active monthly users in the US and Hootsuite has lots of encouraging statistics about audiences reachable on it. A few writer friends with established channels have recommended youtube and if you have an interest in film, acting or audio narration, or if your day job involves public speaking, this may be a natural platform to establish yourself as an author. If it isn’t, again I’d get started where you feel more comfortable, and think about other content -possibly animation or filming books during readings- which you could produce on youtube down the line.
Getting Started On Social Media
Whichever social media you start with, find and follow some writers, and if you like, people who share similar interests to you. Spend some time looking at what content they post, how they interact and getting a feel for that space and which content could resonate with potential followers.
When you start your second social media account, post asking other writers if they are on it and begin your platform by connecting with and learning from writers you already know. I see periodic tweets about this for anything you could follow authors on, and this was my entry point into Pinterest. I also met writers to share ideas about Instagram content with on Twitter.
Social Media Names and Profile Photos
I’ve read that your name is your brand -not your book title- so my name on all my social media profiles is @ElisesWritings (with the exception of my poetry Twitter account, which is @ElisesPoems) and my first and last names appear on all of my accounts. My first and last name are also the dot com name and header of my site. My social media profile photo and the most prominent head shot on my site are the same. Consistency across all these spaces lets you build your brand -you- so when choosing a user name, think of something appropriate across every social media you plan to use. I’ve seen some writers develop logos as profile photos, but I find logos easy to forget, while faces are memorable, so I prefer self portrait profile photos.
What Should I Post? Getting Started on Instagram, Pinterest & Facebook
(for Twitter see below)
Marketing 101 -don’t only post book adds! Your account will look like spam and you’ll put people off following you. Vary your content. A ratio a few authors like to use is 80% give, 20% ask. That could be 80% entertaining posts -quotes, photos, jokes, discussion questions related thematically or by genre to your writing, posts about writing, some personal interest or update posts and some work in progress posts, and 20% ‘sign up to my newsletter, buy my book/ merchandise’ ect posts.
Yes, if you’re time pressed and mostly write tweets, you can just share them on Insta. But Insta is a visually focused space. My favourite posts to view and read are ones with thoughtfully selected, quality photos or images, which compliment a thoughtful personal update, or someone’s reflection on life or writing.
Insta is a great place to share mood boards for your works in progress, character art or sketches. Posting a good photo of yourself can signal a personal update or a reflection on your writing post. You might also like to post photos of and write about some of your other interests -especially if they tie in to your books- and make those connections clear to your followers.
Whatever content you choose, Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags to boost your posts visibility. It has multiple equivalents of #WritingCommunity hashtags and many hashtags for posting about books. Here’s a list of around 70 writer and boookish tags to get you started.
#Bookstagram is full of book covers artfully arranged with props, coloured fabric backing, glitter ect. So if you’re posting book reviews or adds on Insta -be creative. Make your cover the focus of a visually pleasing scene, or explore short animated video add options.
If you want to share quotes or questions, I suggest getting on canva and designing an Insta post image with a coloured (or photo) background and a nice font. Using the same font on all Insta posts helps them become recognisable by it, as well as looking good.
No, you don’t have to do the above. Yes, people will follow you if you just take photos of your cat or not-very-visually-pleasing photos of your device with your work in progress on its screen and write comments about those. But if you want to gain (and retain) followers, and to attract potential readers to your account, I suggest making full use of the space by creating visually interesting content and taking book add inspiration from #Bookstagram.
How Often Should I Post?
Until I hit around 500 followers, I routinely got unfollowed by multiple people if I didn’t post for a week or 2. You’ll gain the most followers posting daily -and may keep them if you post popular content like motivational quotes, but you’ll attract a lot of people following for follow-backs unfollowing you too. For me, posting every second or third day was the best balance to gain the kind of followers who stick around and not be unfollowed for not posting.
Following & Bots on Insta
There are quite a few bot accounts on Insta -particularly those of single men following women- and some bots which write generic comments on your posts. Their aim seems to be the same as that of people who follow you, wait till you follow back, then unfollow you -to gain followers. Its annoying and you can get apps to track follows and unfollows, but there’s a LOT of Insta following apps -a lot of opportunity for unscrupulous operators- so I’d choose one very carefully. (I don’t use an app, I ignore bots and follow back carefully, screening my followers by taking the steps in When Following Back on Twitter and Instagram below.)
Promoting a Blog On Instagram
The provider of my social media share button (Social Warfare) doesn’t include an Instagram share button. Their research shows over 80% of Instagram users stay on Instagram and don’t want to visit other sites advertised there. However, having found great quality photos on unsplash to illustrate and promote my blog posts with, I post those on Instagram. I write a blurb relating to my personal experience of the blog topic, I include a discussion question for people to reply to, and paste the text of the link (which people have to copy and paste into their browser, as Instagram posts don’t do hyperlinks). Generally my Insta posts about my blog get more likes than links on Twitter (though less blog visits). So if you have a blog to promote and you join the Writing Community on Insta, I encourage you to experiment with posting about it.
For more advice on creating an appealing look and on what to post, see:
Instagram for Authors: Building a Platform and Selling your books by Catarina Pinto.
Writer’s Guide to Instagram: Tips from Top Bookstagrammers & Authors by Francis Bogan.
For tips and Free Webinars, see Instagram Best Practices for Beginners by Mary DeMuth.
Because Facebook allows link sharing, your Facebook page is a good place to share interesting articles of topical or thematic relevance to your books. Most commonly, I’ve seen writers posting updates about their latest work in progress, favourite quotes (of other writers and of their own works), character art, cover reveals, reviews of their books and some book advertising.
There’s plenty of room for Facebook Page and Insta content to overlap, and I tend to post the same poetry (sometimes with different travel photos to illustrate) on My Facebook Page as on my Insta. I post occasional work in progress updates on both, but tend to go into more detail on Insta, where I have more writer followers interested in more detail about writing than the personal contacts following my Facebook Page.
For a thorough introduction on setting up each part of your FB Page, what to post and interacting as your page, see Epic Facebook Author Pages: Everything You Need to Know.
I recommend using canva.com to create full pin size images for Pinterest (as I did in my pins), and to add text to pins (if applicable). Hashtags are also used on Pinterest. I tend to choose 5 on my pins, and to search terms I think would be popular tags in the Pinterest search bar to help me choose them. I’ve noticed some tags which are popular on Twitter or Instagram aren’t used at all on Pinterest, so its worth checking your choice of tag actually has a chance of boosting your pin impressions and isn’t just taking up space in your pin description.
As Pinterest is also very visual, you may like to use the same images to create pins as mentioned for posts above on Instagram. If you’re looking for photos on Pinterest to inspire your character or setting descriptions (something I plan to do), you may like to save these as public boards, as they may also draw interest to your account.
When creating pins for blog pages (if you have one), you may like to use photos from unsplash.com (as I did with the pin on the right). I’ve also made pins of my sketches of Lord of The Rings characters, because I write fantasy and some people interested in those drawings may also be interested in my books. As with Insta, thinking of photos or images from other interests which relate to your books may be give you content ideas.
For more ideas on how to use Pinterest, see Pinterest for Beginners by Jane Friedman.
Also, Pinterest for Authors: the Formula for Great Pinterest Boards by Penny C Sansevieri.
When Following Back on Insta & Twitter
You might feel great gaining your first Twitter or Insta followers, and be tempted to follow them all right back. Don’t. Most writers following you in Twitter or Instagram’s #WritingCommunity are probably fine. I’ve only blocked 4 jerks on Twitter in 2 years -so I didn’t unwittingly follow them- but its always a good idea to screen accounts before following back, in case they happen to be a troll, a jerk or to post content you dislike. So before following back, check the account:
🔸has a bio and has posted (writing a comment and using hashtags on Insta, not just posted a photo) -so you don’t follow a (primitive) bot account.
🔸look at posts and see if you want that person’s content on your feed.
🔸check if the account is only following a few hundred but followed by thousands -they’re probably going to unfollow you after you follow back.
Also be aware that while some writers will always follow back fellow writers, others may follow or follow back through interaction only (in my case when replying to people’s tweets). If you follows lots of people, they may not follow you back, and if you’re following 5,000 on Twitter and only have 4,000 followers -you won’t be able to follow anyone else until you have 5000 followers. (Twitter jail is a thing 😉).
Further General Social Media Reading
Social Media Tips by Marc Guberti is aimed at businesses generally, but has some useful tips for writers.
Why You Should Join All Social Media Networks, yet not be active on all, by Jan Friedman.
Would you like to discuss author socials, newsletters and other aspects of author platform with fellow authors?
My Strictly Authoring Discord Server is dedicated to this. Let me know you’d like to join it by tweet or use my contact form and I’ll send you an invite link to access it!
Getting Started On Twitter
Some writers are partial to following writers of the same genre. The easiest way to let us know what type of writer you are is to state your genre/ text type and audience age in your bio. If you have a website, you may like to put a link in your bio to make it accessible through your @ (and by extension through your tweets) instead of just your profile page. Beyond that, try to inject some personality into your bio, as well as telling us about your interests, so your bio gives us a sense of who we’re potentially following.
Introduce yourself to the #WritingCommunity. Tell us who you are, what you write, that you’re new and anything else you like. I suggest asking other writers a question to encourage people to interact with you too. My first tweet said:
I can’t promise you the same response my tweet got, but it’s a great way to ‘meet’ people. (I don’t recommend #MyFirstTweet -you get some weird/ random responses).
Before You Tweet
You might like to ask; why am I on Twitter? I assume many of us hope to sell our books, but do you want writer friends/ colleagues to share the journey and seek help and advice from along the way? If so -will you tweet as a companion in the writing/ revising/ querying trenches?
Will you tweet writing motivation and encouragement, or humour or tips and advice? If you want to connect with readers, will you tweet discussion questions related to themes in your writing or share links to topically relevant articles? And what and how much would you like to say about yourself, your life and your opinions on your writer/ writing focused twitter account?
Before You Retweet
You may consider, am I going to retweet everything of interest to me, or just things topically/ thematically/ genre or generally related to my writing? Will I retweet things which are helpful, useful, encouraging or entertaining to my followers? Will I retweet to help the writer whose tweet I’m retweeting?
It’s also worth considering how often you retweet. Retweeting anything which interests you many times a day may make your account look like a bot, and put people off following you.
What Should I Tweet?
Tweets with images tend to get more impressions, but writing or reader related quotes, jokes and clever or just well-timed comment tweets about writing, reading or life can get lots of interaction. Asking a few questions to get to know your followers and encourage people to interact with you is also a good way to start.
Don’t forget, social media isn’t just about producing organic content. On Twitter or Instagram -reply to and interact with others- especially if you’re looking to find your #WritingCommunity on either. Even if you’re not -reply to people who reply to your content, to connect with your audience.
Promoting a Blog or Book On Twitter
Include a blurb (as I have on the right). Don’t just tweet a link. No-one will click it if you don’t give us reason to. And don’t just write, “My book is out on Amazon now!” Sell it to us, with a pitch.
Example: “George thought he had problems. He’d lost his job and the house might be next. Then his city vanished, taking everyone he knew with it. If he can’t work with out-of towners to find his city and bring it back: he’ll truly lose everything. #BookBoost #SpecFic #BookPromo.” (Yes, these are actual Twitter promo hashtags.)
How Do I Get Tweets Seen or Interacted With?
Short answer -use hashtags. By algorithms no-one I’ve spoken to can fully explain, hashtags help your tweets get onto people’s feeds, but they can do more. Specific, relevant hashtags can act as subheadings and incline people to read and interact with your tweets. Savy Twitter users may also find and interact with your tweets by searching hashtags. For a list of hashtags to connect with writers and find tips, help and prompts on, see this post.
Tips for Getting Tweet Impressions & Interactions
1. Be Concise
My two line tweets often get the most impressions, whereas 3-4 lines often get the least.
2. Tweet Some Questions
Few of us have the gift of being able to write statement tweets which go viral, so ask some questions most writers/ readers can answer (unless you’re seeking specific information). This encourages people to interact and is a good way to get to know your followers. The odd poll can help too, especially if your question is thoughtful or a research question.
3. Use 1-3 RELEVANT Hashtags
Lots of hashtags hurts eyes and puts people off reading tweets. No hashtags means we don’t know what the tweet is about. Using vaguely relevant hashtags clutters that hashtag’s feed with tweets writers searching that tag for information or tweets to interact with may find irrelevant and or annoying. So stick to 1-3 relevant tags. Here’s a list of 80, popular, categorised tags to choose from. Using a popular, umbrella hashtag like #WritingCommunity will also boost impressions.
Don’t just ❤️ others tweets -some of us only look in ‘Mentions’ and only notice replies -so reply. Help when you can. Answer questions. Play tag games or respond to prompts (these are listed in my Hashtag Guide.) Reply to familiar faces on your feed and log in at a regular(ish) time of day. Doing this increases your chances of seeing and being able to interact with the same writers, and their chances to interact with you, making it easier to get to know people.
What do the Community Acronyms Mean?
WIP= work in progress
CP= critique partner
POV= point of view
Antag= antagonist villain/opposing force
Protag= protagonist, likely
MC =main character
PB= Picture book
MG =Middle Grade
NA used to mean New Adult -which no longer a marketing category (aside from Romance), but some people use it because they don’t know about YA Crossover (the new thing).
YA = Young Adult
SFF =Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction
LI =love interest (courtesy of @Davina06496120).
What do these Query Related Terms Mean?
Synopsis: means ‘book summary’ -including the ending- generally 500 words for literary agencies. But some agency websites call a query letter pitch (which is ideally around 300 words, ending with an impossible choice the MC must make or point of tension after main conflict and stakes are revealed -but not the ending) as… a synopsis.
‘Short synopsis’ tends to mean ‘query letter pitch.’ ‘Long synopsis’ tends to mean book summary. Unfortunately, ‘synopsis’ can mean either. (Unsure? I’d ask others how they interpret that agency’s guidelines, or email the agency to clarify).
A Blurb is NOT a pitch
Blurb =back of the cover description, which can say anything to entice a reader to read the pages.
A Pitch must include: MC intro, MC role in conflict, MC personal stakes, (MC impossible choice) and anything unique about those. It can include other interesting things, eg lists of crazy situations MC must overcome to resolve conflict, but omitting or not making any of the 3 clear is likely to see your query letter rejected, or your tweet pitch ignored (rejection/ no industry likes having many other causes too).
Staying Connected On Twitter
Managing Notifications: Untagging, Muting & Seeing Replies
Once you’ve met people, don’t be that person who notifies 50 people when talking to the one person who tagged them. When you hit ‘reply’, check if above it says ‘replying to @___ and 48 others’. (Like it does on the right).
Select the ‘and’ before ’48 others’ then untick/ untag ‘others in this conversation’ from the menu to reply to one person.
Or re-tick/ re-tag the 3/50 people below you’re speaking to (below ‘others in this conversation). If the blue box is ticked -like above- you’re about to notify (in this case) 48 people of your reply. It’s much easier to stay connected if our notifications aren’t bursting with replies of people not speaking to us.
If others don’t do this for you, hit the top right 3 dots on any tweet in the thread clogging your notifications, then select ‘mute conversation‘ from the menu.
This means you won’t get notified when someone replies to your tweet in that thread. To see those replies, go to your profile, select ‘Tweets and Replies’ (below your bio, shown right).
Then scroll down the ‘tweet and reply’ feed to your tweet in the tag thread. Selecting it will display replies to it.
Staying In Touch: Twitter Lists
The easiest way to remember who you’ve met and something about them (eg. genre, where they live in the world, etc) is to add them to a twitter list by a category of your choosing (using the left menu in your profile page). This will store people’s twitter handles for you and create a list feed which only displays list members tweets (which is how I find my friends tweets out of tweets by the 10k writers I follow.)
Staying in Touch: DM Groups
If you want to talk regularly, or easily ask questions in a private group, or find out what friends are saying without sifting through public Twitter feeds, you can make or be added to a group DM. That’s when someone starts a new Direct Message, but after pasting one person’s twitter handle into ‘search people’, and selecting that account from the drop down menu, you paste another twitter handle in, and continue adding up to 75 people. (Then select ‘Next’ -top right- then type your message). See below for DM etiquette.
NB: twitter etiquette is to speak via public tweet and agree to DM people, not to jump straight into people’s DMs. So if you’re creating a DM group, I’d tweet publicly asking who’d like to be added.
Shortcut: scan your feed for writers offering to add you to their DM groups (which is what many of my friends did with mine 😉).
I hope this helps you get started. To navigate Twitter’s #WritingCommunity and find out which hashtags to use in your tweets, see my Hashtag Guide. If you’d like a more detailed Twitter introduction (including Twitter etiquette), see Emma Lombard’s comprehensive Twitter Tips for Newbies.