Taylor Bennett is the author of the contemporary YA novel, Porch Swing Girl, which releases from Mountain Brook Ink in January of 2019. When she isn’t pecking madly at her computer, she’s playing violin on her church’s worship team, snapping pictures, or walking in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She loves to connect with future readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (her favorite!) as well as on Goodreads and her author website.
When I first started working on Porch Swing Girl, the book that got me my publishing contract, I could have cared less about having a “platform.” I had little more than an overstuffed Pinterest account and five “friends” on Facebook. But then I started hearing those mystical words: platform, marketing and—gasp!—social media.
So, when I made the decision to get serious about my writing, I reluctantly got accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and the like.
I’d even snap a random pic, throw it up on Instagram every now and then, and call it good, right?
As I pursued publication, I discovered what it truly means to have a “platform.” It isn’t about how many accounts I have. It doesn’t even matter how many pictures I post.
Having a social media platform is about connections.
When I’m interacting with others on social media, I’m engaging with potential readers all over the world. A single hashtag (#amwriting, #bookstagram, #booknerdigans are popular among writers) can reach thousands.
And, before you start thinking that all of this “platform building” is done out of selfish ambition, let me tell you.
When I connect with others on social media, it doesn’t always benefit me. In fact, I’d say that it often doesn’t benefit me. (Be honest. What’s more productive—writing a hundred words or watching a fellow author’s live Facebook chat?)
This leads to…
Social Media Secret #1
It’s Not All About You
When you get on social media (hopefully after you’ve hit that word count goal), what do you want to see—spammy posts begging readers to check out the latest ninety-nine cent ebook bargain?
You want to see real people connecting, engaging, and being…well…real.
I’m not usually pushing myself or my upcoming book release. When I am promoting myself, I’m doing it in a friendly, conversational way—“Hey, I turned into a computer nerd just so I could make myself a website. Check it out!”
What am I doing when I’m not promoting myself? I’m helping other authors. I share their posts, leave encouraging comments, and generally present myself as the person I am—an enthusiastic reader, not a greedy author.
Social Media Secret #2
Be True to You
I’ll let you in on a secret.
My “author account” on Instagram is my personal account. Sure, I throw in the occasional artsy shot of my fountain pen or my laptop charged and ready for a day of work, but I’m also sharing pics of what I ate for dinner, the beautiful morning sunrise, or anything else that strikes my fancy.
And it’s working.
As of right now, Instagram is my strongest social media platform (which still isn’t saying much but, hey, I’m learning.)
Why is it working?
I’m being me. I’m not forcing myself upon would-be readers. I’m having fun, I’m sharing my life, and—again—I’m engaging.
But how do I find people to engage with?
Welcome my next tip.
Social Media Secret #3
The first time I saw a hashtag, I scoffed.
That’s not a hashtag. That’s the number sign.
Did I mention I’m old school?
Sometimes, though, even the oldest dogs need to learn new tricks. My new trick was the hashtag.
By using hashtags, I’ve helped my posts get over ten times the number of likes I got on my first post.
The hashtags that work best are those that are simple, relevant, and engaging.
Simple--Easy to use and read. Seriously, it can't just be me that has to do a double take when they see #whyamicryingifthisissofunnyrightnow. Okay...I made that one up, but you get the point.
Relevant--People who find your post through a hashtag want one thing. If they search #cat, they want a cat. They don't want a picture of your little sister (however cute she might be) twirling in the living room with her stuffed kitty toy thrown off in a corner. Now, if she was making friends with the neighbor kitty...go for it! Just make sure your hashtags are chosen for a reason
Engaging--This is the key that brings it all together. Some hashtags have tens of millions of posts and, while this means you'll be reaching a huge audience, it also means that your post will get buried in the sludge pile. Quickly. In order to reach the maximum number of people, choose hashtags that are slightly less trafficked but still popular.
Let's get an example:
What kind of hashtags would you use to go along with this pic? I started with the obvious: #work #tea #laptop #etc
Okay...not that last one.
Seriously, though, start with the *boring* stuff. Each hashtag I listed has MILLIONS of posts, which means that my post has the potential to reach millions. BUT, as mentioned above, these posts get covered up quickly. That's why I added hashtags directed at a smaller audience--writers. By using more unique, less-trafficked hashtags (#amwriting, #writersofinstagram, #bookstagram) I have a greater chance of more people seeing my post, PLUS the people who are looking at these hashtags are more likely to engage with my post because...we’re all writers.
I’m not saying it’s easy to learn the art of hashtagging, but it’s definitely worth it. And, while we’re on this topic, I’ll leave you with a bonus tip.
Bonus Social Media Secret
Hiding the Hashtag
Want to use hashtags to reach readers but afraid you’ll look spammy? Here’s a tip: After you write your post/caption, press enter and type a single period. Repeat this about six times, until you have a line of periods going down the page. Now you’re free to list your hashtags—most people will never see them because they rarely click on the “read more” option.
You can see an example of how this is done on any of my recent Instagram posts.
What about you? Have you thought about building a platform?
If so, post your social media links and I’ll follow you!