This is our first guest post by our very own Marketing Guru Sarah Sambles. Make sure you check her out at her website linked after the article!
Writers often ask me, “Do I really need a social media presence?” The short answer is, “Absolutely not.” After all, it won’t make you a better writer and the most important thing you can invest in as a writer is … becoming a better writer!
But what’s really behind this question? I think one of the things that puts us off developing a social media presence or ‘platform’ is the fear that it will mean endless self-promotion, hours figuring out the ins and outs of each network and its algorithms, or understanding the ‘tricks’ of the trade.
But what if we stopped seeing social media as free advertising (which it is NOT)? There are lots of benefits to these networks aside from self-promotion:
A like-minded community (who offers motivation, inspiration, encouragement)
Advice, resources, tips, articles
Exposure for our writing/name
Reaching potential readers
Heck, we might even find representation if we’re pursuing traditional publishing! That was the case for OWC member, Amelinda Berube and she shared about that with me here.
So, how do I decide if social media is right for me?
Despite the benefits I’ve just outlined, there is no rule that says you have to be active on social media to be a successful writer. I know plenty of writers who have no idea what a tweet is and it didn’t stop them from getting published! Here are a few questions you could start with to decide whether social media is for you or not:
Do you write fiction or non-fiction?
If you write fiction and you’re worried that literary agents and editors will only take you seriously if you have a social media presence, rest assured, that’s just not true. So, don’t feel under pressure to have x number of followers on Twitter before you start querying.
However, if you write non-fiction, your publisher will appreciate you being able to reach out to readers online in some way or other. The most effective way to do that is actually through an email list, but if you don’t have one of those, you may want to begin nurturing a network of peers and readers on social media.
Are you interested in self-publishing or traditional publishing?
If you plan to self-publish, you will have to work hard at promoting your book yourself. While social media is by no means free advertising, it is a way of reaching out to strangers. You’ll still need to develop a relationship of trust, but it’s one place to start.
Who are your readers?
Ask yourself whether your ideal reader uses social media, and which platform they prefer. While our craft is our top priority, most of us write so that someone will read it, so at some point we need to connect with our readers. Social media is one way we can do that. If you write YA, for example, you might find more of your readers on Instagram. If you write middle grade, you’ve got parents, teachers and school librarians helping with reading decisions so you might find they’re also using platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
What works for your personality, time, writing practice, and interest in technology?
I’d say this is the most important question. Yes, social media might open up a whole slew of readers, fellow writers, agents, editors, publishers. But if it’s going to stress you out and distract you from writing, you don’t have to pursue it! There are other ways of connecting with writers and seeking publication.
Do I have to be on EVERY platform?
Let’s assume you want to explore the benefits of social media – both for building your platform and networking with fellow writers. That doesn’t mean you have to sign up to every single app. That wouldn’t leave much time for writing, anyway. So, my advice? Pick ONE platform and engage with it for six months. Then take a step back and see whether it proved fruitful for you.
It would be easy to pick the one with the highest numbers. Surely that will give you the greatest chance of connecting with peers/readers and getting your name out there? Wrong. It’s not about numbers, it’s about finding the RIGHT readers/audience/network.
What’s my goal? Why do I want to use this network – is it to grow my craft, share my writing, find writing gigs, contribute to the discussion, find potential representation or readers?
Which platform do my readers use?
Which platform do writers in my genre use?
How is each network used differently and which one best suits my way of interacting/genre/personality/brand?
Whether you opt for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, LinkedIn or none at all, the key to all of this is to see marketing as RELATIONSHIP building not advertising. When we do that, we spark meaningful conversations with fellow writers and readers, and nurture the whole industry. And that’s good for all writers!
Did this help you decide if social media is right for you or not? Please share your thoughts on these platforms. Social media is an ever-changing beast and we’re all learning, all the time.
Sarah Sambles is a writer and communications coach based in Ottawa. She offers marketing consulting and services in person, via phone, and in group workshops. Sign up to her monthly newsletter all about marketing for writers and receive your FREE “Draft my best bio” blueprint.