Using Social Media to Build Your Brand
It Doesn't HAVE to be Terrible
One of the most baffling things happening on the internet in the year of our lord 2024 is that there are still people describing self-publishing a book as “easy” or as “passive income.”
Are they scammers or do they really believe that there’s anything passive about writing a book, publishing a book, and then marketing a book years after its release?
Unfortunately, during the gold rush of self-publishing days, the word got out that being an author = passive income. And even though we’ve long since discovered that ain’t the case, somehow the expectation remains.
The good thing is that YOU know there’s nothing passive about it. You know you need to build your own brand and promote your work online. You just might now know exactly how.
So today I’m going to go over building an online presence on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter [I refuse to call it X], and TikTok.
Starting from Scratch
Before we dive into specific social media platforms, let's talk about establishing your author brand. If you're a newer author with limited published works, it's essential to focus on the following:
Know Your Niche
Identify your genre and target audience. What does your reader expect from a book in your genre? So often we focus on what makes our book unlike all the others. That’s helpful to know for when you craft your hook, but to be clear, your reader is far less interested in what makes your book different than they are in how it fits in the genre.
Your niche should guide your social media strategy.
Keep in mind that if you’re selling NONFICTION, you’re not just selling the book, you’re selling yourself.
Craft Your Author Persona
Create a persona that aligns with your writing style and audience. Be authentic and relatable. You will never be universally appealing, that’s just not how humans work. But do try not to be universally unappealing. Being edgy and provocative might get eyeballs on your accounts, but it probably won’t translate to sales.
The authors who are actively vocal and political on their platforms are generally traditionally published and have already had substantial success. In short, they have F U money, which you probably don’t.
Use the same profile picture, colors, and bio across all social media platforms. This makes it easier for readers to recognize you. For a lot of authors, this is the most fun. Picking colors, working with an artist or scrolling through Canva to make an awesome logo… this is a good time.
Branding and author persona are particularly important if you plan to sell your books directly on your own website.
As you can see, when I constructed my store, I branded it with a descriptive title, Suburban Paranormal, instead of with my name. Most authors do use their own name, and have their main genre or even a common trope listed as a subtitle for their page, increasing the Google-friendliness.
I also created dedicated accounts with the same logo and name, turning my old Instagram private and starting a new one from scratch.
The idea is to make sure your readers know they’re in the right place as soon as they land on your page.
Which Platforms are Best for Authors?
Now, let's talk about the best social media platforms for self-published authors, especially those who haven't published many books yet.
Facebook & Instagram
Yes, people are still on Facebook. I’m there every day. If you’re my age or older, you probably are too. It’s great for building an author page, connecting with readers in groups, and sharing updates about your writing journey. Though keep in mind, organic reach is pretty much dead, so your primary focus for Meta properties should be running targeted ads.
Right now Facebook and Instagram are still king when it comes to ad reach, so even if you don’t like those platforms, you need to have a business account on both of them. Instagram is particularly ideal for book covers, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of your writing process.
Keep in mind that hashtags aren’t so much a thing anymore, as Instagram’s text recognition has gotten a lot better. Use a max of two per post.
Obviously, this is my favorite place to hang out, and it is excellent for engaging in conversations with fellow authors and potential readers. People who read are on Twitter. Whether they are YOUR readers remains to be seen. But people who read in general are on Twitter. I’ve made great connections with other indie authors and have gotten quite a few book sales from my mutuals there as well.
I’ve been dabbling with ads on the platform and, truthfully, I am not impressed. The infrastructure is clunky, targeting is imprecise, and I’ve had my ads suspended twice with no communication. Even when they reactivated, they never told me why they were suspended. (I don’t write spicy books, so it wasn’t that.)
This platform is a goldmine for self-published authors, offering an opportunity to showcase your personality and your books in a creative way. I personally don’t do dances or lip-synching, but those are still popular if it goes with your personality and your author brand.
In addition to the excellent algorithm and addictive nature of TikTok, it also now has the benefit of TikTok shop, meaning you can sell your books directly on the platform. You can use TikTok shop ONLY for physical goods (no ebooks) and you must sell the books yourself (no linking to Amazon).
So far, I haven’t made any sales from TT Shop, though I have made several from TikTok in general. What I’ve found is that most of my viewers will bookmark a video I’ve made of a book that sounds good to them, then they hop over to Amazon. They don’t click the link in my bio. They don’t even go to my profile page. They bookmark the post and then type in the title the next time they go book shopping at Amazon.
I call that a win.
Part of the reason for this behavior (IMO) is that TikTok shop only allows physical products, which means paperbacks and hardbacks. More expensive plus shipping costs, and remember TikTok’s average user is very young.
What’s Your Favorite Platform?
There’s no one right way to do social media, but there are a lot of wrong ways to do it. Identifying your ideal reader comes first, and your social media strategy should flow naturally from that.