Social Media for Authors and the 80/20 Rule
When I present sessions to writers about promoting their books, I necessarily include a section on social media. Rarely is anyone aware of the 80/20 rule. You’ve never heard of this either? It refers to the formula that 80 percent of your social media posts should be informative, educational, or entertaining. That leaves 20 percent of your posts for marketing your books.
This means you’re using your social media to be – well – SOCIAL!
(And that's the fun part. I like to post other author’s successes or good news, new book releases, cute writing tidbits, or things that make me laugh.)
While our ultimate goal is to connect with people who may eventually be interested in buying our books, you don’t do that by ONLY selling to them.
How many of us have “unfollowed” someone on Facebook or “muted” them on Twitter because their posts were all about selling something? That's both boring and annoying! Even if it is a product we might be interested in, it will turn off even the most likely buyer if all they see are posts or tweets about the latest nutritional supplement or moisturizer etc…
There has to be a balance . . . hence the 80/20 rule. (Now, I'm not sure who came up with that balance initially, but that ratio makes a lot of sense to me.)
But this rule only matters if you actually have social media accounts.
I understand that we are all crunched for time and that there has to be a balance in the amount of time we can devote to social media, but I am completely amazed when I hear authors say things like, “Oh, social media? I don’t do that.”
My reaction (in my head) is, “WHAT?! Are you crazy?”
The only people that can possibly get away with this are those who are incredibly successful already. And, really even those at the top of their game in terms of book sales are missing a wonderful opportunity to use social media to engage with their readers.
I understand the way social media can creep into your writing hours. You need to be disciplined and set parameters for the time you’re willing to devote, but to ignore it completely is a missed opportunity.
Personally, I only use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram in addition to my own blog. I am the most active on Facebook. I hop on and off Twitter depending on the time I have, and I now blog once per week. Instagram is the newest addition to my social media world. I love Instagram and appreciate the ease with which you can share an Instagram post over to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Nice to post once and know that you're going out on those other platforms.
I tell other authors to only use the social media they have time to maintain. In other words, don’t do it if you can’t do it well, but do SOMETHING. This advice may seem contradictory. If an author says, I don’t have time to do ANY social media and maintain my writing schedule, I would say that they need to make a little time to engage on at least one social media platform.
I consider this “dressing for the job you want.” A lot of authors I work with are in the process of finding an agent and eventually a publishing house or they are publishing independently. The professionals in the publishing industry (and readers) expect some sort of presence online.
A final caveat is to pay attention to which social media makes the most sense for the genre in which you write. There’s an excellent graph on this article from Social Media Week that breaks down the social media platform use by age for those age 18+ to get your started.
Because I write for the young adult marketing, I did some further research to find a breakdown for those age 13-18 . . . Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat were the most popular social media platforms in that order for this age group. So that means I need to shift tactics and begin using Instagram and Snapchat to reach the audience for my books. (I kind of knew this already, but now I have statistics that tell me what I suspected is true. This makes me all the more confident that I need a social media dashboard to manage my posts . . . but that is a topic for another day.)
As an author, I most definitely acknowledge the balance of protecting creative writing time while maintaining visibility on social media, but advise you not to ignore social media and miss this vital opportunity to connect with readers in a fun, engaging way.