Social Media For Authors: How To Use Social Media For Promotion

P.J McNulty
October 07, 2020 | 19 mins

Social media for authors is an integral part of the modern book marketing landscape.

This year, there are over 3.8 billion total social media users across the globe logging into their favorite platforms. Of course, you want to reach out and let them know about your book.

But which platforms should you focus on? And what type of content will help you connect with your future readers authentically?

To avoid social media turning into a major black hole that drains your money and time as an author, read on to discover everything you need to know about using social platforms the right way.

This guide to social media for authors covers:

  1. How do writers use social media?
  2. What’s the best social media for writers?
  3. Twitter for writers
  4. Instagram for authors
  5. Facebook for writers
  6. Goodreads for authors
  7. Pinterest for writers
  8. Youtube for authors
  9. TikTok for writers
  10. Tumblr for authors
  11. Social media apps for authors 

How do writers use social media?

Before we delve deep into specific social media platforms, let’s take a broad look at how authors share content on social in general.

If you’re considering social media from an author’s perspective for the first time, these examples will give some insight into how it can be used the right way. Or, if you’ve felt frustrated by social media in the past, you might spot where you were going wrong. 

Here are six examples of how writers use social media effectively:

  1. Answering questions. You can use social media to answer questions people have about your work. These might be from fans or even from professionals such as journalists. Platforms like Twitter work well to respond to one-off, text questions, while Instagram Live can work well for dedicated Q and A sessions.
  1. Collaboration with readers. After you’ve built your social media following as an author, you can bounce ideas off your readers at any time. This could be getting their take on the best moments in a recent release, or even getting feedback on future book title ideas.
  1. Book cover reveals. Seeing your book cover concept come to life is always an exciting moment. With social media, you can share the excitement with fellow authors and readers. 
  1. Event scheduling. Platforms like Facebook that have scheduling capabilities coupled with advertising allow you to promote your author events, both virtual and in-person.
  1. A look at your life as a writer. Give your readers a little bit of insight into your creative process and the way you work using platforms like Instagram.
  1. Author solidarity/networking. Social media is a great way to connect with other authors you admire. You can share their content with your followers and promote the people you care about. 
  2. Run a book giveaway. A common marketing strategy for authors is to run giveaways of their books, whether in audiobook format, or hardcover.

Not every content idea will appeal to every author. There’s also a right and a wrong way to execute any of the above ideas. But hopefully, you can see that social media as a whole is a valid and interesting way for authors to create content and connect with their readers.

It’s also a great way to build a following that expands beyond your book launch and helps support your journey as an authorproneur, should you decide to build a business based on your book.

What’s the best social media for writers?

Now that you have a general idea of how authors use social media, let’s take a moment to consider the best platform for writers to spend time on. 

Ultimately, there is no single best social media platform for writers. Different authors will find different platforms are a good fit for their personality, the type of books they write, and the readers they attract.

However, it’s worth taking the time to consider the best social media platform for your situation specifically. To help you do that, consider the answer to these two questions:

  1. Which social media platforms are naturally appealing or unappealing to me? 
  1. What type of content do I intend to share on social media, and how will it fit in with my wider book marketing strategy?

Realistically, no author has the time to be on every social media platform at once. At least not in a way that would produce any worthwhile results.

Because of this, it’s worth narrowing down the list of platforms featured here to between one and three. Choose the ones you will enjoy investing your time into and those which are most likely to produce tangible results. 

Twitter for writers

Twitter is easily one of the most popular social networks for authors, not to mention in general. It’s well-established, almost ubiquitous, and largely text-based. But is it a good choice for you?

Let’s take a quick look at some key Twitter stats.

Twitter total users – 330 million monthly active users.

Twitter demographics – Around 60% male, 40% female worldwide, but the gender split is 50/50 in the USA. 80% of users are under 50.

How authors use Twitter

As an author, there are two main users for Twitter. First, to stay in touch with the wider writing world. Second, to promote yourself and your books.

Some of the interesting aspects of Twitter for writers include the possibility of connecting with people outside of your existing circle, finding an audience for your content using hashtags, and retweeting and promoting the content of others.

You can see Margaret Atwood using hashtags, sharing visual content with her followers, and inviting engagement, all within a single tweet below.

Social Media For Authors Hashtags

If you want to decide if Twitter is the right place for you, can you picture yourself doing any of the following?

  1. Connecting with the wider writing world, by tagging your tweets with hashtags such as #AmWriting or #WritingCommunity.
  1. Getting involved with landmark events in the writing world like #NaNoWriMo.
  1. Promoting writers you admire by following them and retweeting their content.
  1. Expressing your thoughts and feelings within Twitter’s pithy 280 character count limit.
  1. Replying to fans who mention you or your books. 

Even if you don’t plan on actively using Twitter, it is worth registering your author name as an account so that no one else can claim it. 

Who should writers follow on Twitter?

Here are some examples of authors who use Twitter effectively for you to check out:

  • Paulo Coelho. Check out how Cohelo effectively promotes his books, engages with fans, and shares interesting content to his 15 million followers.
  • J.K Rowling. Rowling is a great example of not only book promotion on Twitter, but also the potential controversy that can arise from weighing in on political and social issues.
  • Margaret Atwood. Atwood’s Twitter showcases how it’s possible to promote your books while also supporting the writing community from a single feed. 

And here are a few interesting accounts related to writing to follow:

  • Author’s Guild. The Author’s Guild Twitter is a perfect example of how even the oldest brands can succeed on social media. 

Instagram for authors

For many social media users, particularly in the Millenial age bracket, Instagram is the platform of choice. But is it a good choice for authors?

Here are some key stats on Instagram.

Instagram total users –  26.9 million 

Instagram demographics – Gender data – 43% female, 31% male where gender is known, non-binary data not available. Age data – 18-24 year olds 29.3%, 25-34 year olds 33.8%, 35-44 year olds 15.9%

How authors use Instagram

The main purpose of Instagram is to share visual content. The popularity of image filters is often attributed to the early days of the Instagram app, and the platform has continued with its visual emphasis by offering video stories and creative clips like Boomerangs. 

As well as its visual nature, a large part of the appeal of Instagram is discoverability. It’s completely normal for Instagram users to follow accounts they aren’t personally connected to, and one of the most popular app features, Explore, is intended to help people find new content.

If you feel daunted by Instagram being so visual, try not to be! Visuals can include quotes set against a background, for example. 

Are you still unsure if Instagram is a good choice for you as an author? If you are, could you see yourself doing any of the following on Instagram?

  1. Speaking live to an audience of your followers to answer their questions or carry out a virtual book reading. 
  1. Sharing images of your life as a writer, such as your writing environment or any travel adventures you have. 
  1. Promoting your book by sharing visual content such as your book cover, attractive text-based images such as extracts, or artwork created for your book. 

Instagram is a viable promotional opportunity for authors who use it in the right way. If you feel your readers are active on Instagram, and you can imagine the type of content you might create for it, it’s worth checking out further. 

Who should authors follow on Instagram?

  • Rupi Kaur. Rupi Kaur’s Instagram feed is a great example of how text-based posts can work well on a visual social media platform, as seen in the following image.
Instagram For Authors Feed
  • Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth Gilbert shows how Instagram can be used to promote other authors at the same time as yourself. 
  • Tim Ferriss. Author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss uses his Instagram feed to highlight moments from his personal life as well as books he is reading and quotes he wants to share.

Facebook for writers

Facebook is one of the largest and most controversial social media platforms in the world. Before we take a look at how it factors into your life as an author, let’s look at its key numbers.

Facebook total users – 1.69 billion worldwide 

Facebook demographics – Age –  Average user is 40.5 years old in USA. Genrer – 56% female, 46% male. 

How authors use Facebook

Although the popularity of Facebook might be appealing, it’s also a double-edged sword. To have a chance of getting noticed by the billion-plus people on Facebook, you often need to pay to promote your content. 

Also, many regular Facebook users have noticed that the most engaged people on the platform tend to be of the older generation. This is potentially due to Millenial and Gen Z social media users migrating to newer platforms. 

While Facebook might not be the go-to social media platform that it used to be for a lot of people, it’s still a potentially useful tool for authors

Consider using Facebook if you’re interested in:

  1. Paid advertising for your book. One of the main reasons to use Facebook is the huge number of users the platform has and the ability to target them through paid advertising. This can be used to sell copies of your book or grow your author platform.
  1. Participating in relevant groups. Although the public aspects of Facebook such as a user’s wall might be a lot quieter than in the past, private groups are still thriving. Being an active participant in private groups can help you connect with relevant readers and authors alike. 
  1. Event scheduling. You can use Facebook’s scheduling capabilities to promote virtual or in-person events to people and track attendance through the built-in RSVP feature, as seen on Gillian Flynn’s Facebook below.
Facebook Social Media For Authors

Should I create an author page on Facebook?

Yes, authors should generally create dedicated pages for their work on Facebook. 

Creating a page allows you to benefit from the business features of Facebook, such as paid advertising, as well as the more social elements such as showing up in people’s feeds organically. 

Can I promote my book on Facebook?

Yes, you can promote your book on Facebook. You can do this organically, such as by sharing content related to your book, or via paid means, like targeted advertising.

Goodreads for authors

With any social media platform, you’re typically going to have a trad-off between size and relevance. Goodreads is a good balance of both.

Before we look at exactly why let’s consider some key numbers related to Goodreads.

Goodreads total users 90 million

Goodreads demographics – Gender and location – Female users more active than male, USA is the most popular location followed by India. 

How authors use Goodreads

Goodreads is a natural choice for authors seeking the right social media platform to promote their work. Why? Everyone connected to the platform is a lover of books in one way or another.

While other social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram might have more total users, only a fraction of those users are regular readers in general, let alone readers of your type of work in particular. On Goodreads, everyone is a reader, and it’s easy to see how popular even the most obscure subgenres are.

So how exactly can you make the most of Goodreads as an author?

  1. Giving away copies of your book. While it’s possible to give away free copies of your book on other social media platforms, Goodreads has a dedicated feature for doing so, as you can see in the next image.
Goodreads For Authors
  1. Answer reader questions. If you manage to build up a respectable following on Goodreads, they are likely to be some of the most engaged followers you have. There is a special feature that allows you to create a dialogue with them around answering questions.
  1. Keeping your finger on the pulse. Some of the most dedicated and engaged readers on the planet are more active on Goodreads than they are anywhere else. See the kind of reviews they leave for other books in your genre to get a feel for what readers really want. 

Because Goodreads has such relevant users compared to other social media platforms and is also owned by Amazon, it’s an excellent choice for almost any author. 

Pinterest for writers

Although Pinterest might not be as current as some other social media platforms, it’s an established place for authors to promote their work

Here are some key stats related to Pinterest.

Pinterest total users –  322 million monthly active users

Pinterest demographics – Gender and age. Over 70% female, although new signups are 40% male, median age of 40 although majority of active users under 40.

How authors use Pinterest

Pinterest describes itself as a ‘visual discovery engine’ and that’s an apt description for how it is used by authors.

As a content creator on Pinterest, you can create several different ‘boards’ that are the digital equivalent of an old-school pinboard. Each board then features various ‘pins’ that are the equivalent of an individual piece of content. 

Pinterest users discover content by searching for keywords, following relevant hashtags, or checking out repins from people they follow. 

What are some of the ways that Pinterest can help you succeed as an author?

  1. Pins can drive traffic to your author platform. For example, you could create an attractive pin for each author interview you have, and then link out to the full post, as seen below on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Pinterest.
Pinterest For Authors
  1. You can give away free content related to your books directly on Pinterest. You might want to create pins to give away extracts of books or even entire free copies.
  1. Pinterest is a good place to share inspiration and ideas, so if you teach or encourage the craft of writing, you are likely to find an audience.

Pinterest has a narrower demographic than many other social media platforms, so be sure to check that your intended readers are active on the platform before investing time into it.

How do I promote my books on Pinterest?

You can promote your books on Pinterest either organically, such as by creating content and making it discoverable using keywords and hashtags, or via paid advertising, like targeting an Actalike audience who have engaged with Pins related to books similar to your own. 

Who should authors follow on Pinterest?

  • Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Pinterest shows how the platform can be used to drive traffic elsewhere, for example to her TED Talk. 
  • The Write Life. The Write Life uses attractive visual pin designs to entice Pinners to check out longer content away from their board. 

YouTube for authors

If you’re attracted to the idea of using video to promote your work as an author, you can’t afford to overlook YouTube.

Let’s take a look at the headline numbers related to YouTube.

Youtube total users 2 billion worldwide 

Youtube demographics 62% male, fastest-growing user groups are 35+ and 55+

How authors use YouTube

Of all the social media platforms featured in this guide, YouTube probably has the highest barrier to entry. 

While every author is capable of composing a tweet, not every author has the desire, let alone the equipment, to create videos capable of succeeding on YouTube.

However, if YouTube doesn’t feel like a natural fit at first glance, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Authors can use YouTube in a way that looks different than the stereotypical image of a vlogger that you may have in mind. You can also make great money on YouTube when you get it right.

So how could YouTube play a part in your author marketing strategy?

  1. Some authors enjoy creating trailers for their new books. If this is something that interests you, it’s a type of video content suitable for YouTube that doesn’t require you to get in front of the camera.
  1. If you appear at or have plans to appear at events for writers and readers, either virtually or offline, YouTube is the perfect place to share footage of your contribution.
  1. Perhaps you like sharing either details of your writing life in general or progress on a specific project. If you do, vlogging on YouTube might be a good fit.

Success on YouTube requires both the right technical equipment as well as the right style of content, so think carefully about if you have both before making YouTube part of your plan. 

Who should authors follow on YouTube?

  • Jenna Moreci. Moreci’s content is a good mix of official book trailers, personal insight into life as a writer, and shareable listicle video content. 
  • Self Publishing with Dale. Dale’s channel showcases how authors can express their personality and character through video while also offering a lot of value to their subscribers.
  • James Patterson. James Patterson’s YouTube channel is an example of the kind of content that a big-budget enables, including animated trailers and interviews and events featuring Patterson himself. 
  • Self Publishing School. Self Publishing School’s YouTube channel highlights the power of collaborating with other authors on social media, such as through interviews, and also of repackaging content, like sharing podcasts on YouTube.

TikTok for writers

If you’re looking for the cutting-edge of social media, look no further than TikTok.

TikTok is based around users sharing short video content. Although it’s one of the fastest-growing platforms right now, it remains to be seen if it will have the longevity of other platforms, as it’s both relatively recent and politically controversial. 

Here are some key facts related to TikTok.

TikTok total users 2 billion global

TikTok demographics – Activity – 100 million monthly active in USA, 50 million daily active in USA. Gender and age – 50% of global audience under the age of 34 with 41% aged between 16 and 24, 56% male 44% female

How authors use TikTok

Because TikTok is a relative newcomer, best practices for authors are still being established on the platform. However, to succeed, consider if any of the following popular content types could work well for you.

  1. The music of writing. TikTok is heavily associated with music, and lip-syncing and other similar music-based content still performs well. Could you share the playlist you write to?
  1. Fun and humor. A lot of users see TikTok as the spiritual successor to Vine. Do you have a fun personality or sense of humor you could convey through short videos?
  1. Social causes. TikTok has a reputation for being very progressive politically, at least in the West, and is largely aligned with the social causes held dear by Gen Z. Is there a good fit between what you believe and this type of content?

Try and avoid jumping on the TikTok bandwagon for the sake of how contemporary it is. Instead, make sure there’s a natural fit between the type of content you want to share and the preferences of the TikTok audience.  

Who should authors follow on TikTok?

  • Writers. Check out all the content tagged with ‘writers’ on Tik Tok to see the types of videos that are currently performing well on the platform. 

Tumblr for authors

Tumblr is something of a mix between a blogging platform such as WordPress and a social network. 

Many authors successfully promote their books on Tumblr, but before we consider how, let’s think about some headline numbers.

Tumblr total users –  472 million 

Tumblr demographics – Age and gender –  66% under the age of 35, roughly equal gender split with 51% of users male 

How authors use Tumblr

Unlike a lot of the other platforms featured here, Tumblr is suited to a wide range of different content types.

Everything including gifs, short Tweet-like statements, or even full-length blog content can perform well on Tumblr, making it a great choice if you like to switch up the things you share. 

Before you take the time to establish yourself on Tumblr, make sure its current iteration is still a good fit for your needs. User numbers have declined since its heyday, and the current Tumblr content is a lot more mainstream than it used to be.

With that in mind, what are some ways you can use Tumblr as an author?

  1. It’s easy to interact with readers on Tumblr, as you can include the option for people to ask you questions directly on your page. This is a great way to build engagement, as seen on Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr.
Tumblr Social Media Authors
  1. You can track as many hashtags related to the type of books you write as possible. Tumblr posts typically feature a large number of different tags, so you can gauge more specific trends than might be noticeable on a larger platform like Twitter.
  1. Reblogging authors you want to support is a great Tumblr feature. Of course, you might eventually experience the win/win of being reblogged in turn, but this shouldn’t be your primary motivation. 

Tumblr might not be as fashionable as platforms like TikTok, but that also means you have a better chance of forming meaningful connections with readers away from the hustle and bustle of the latest buzz platform. 

Who should authors follow on Tumblr?

  • Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s Tumblr showcases the power of the platform for authors to interact directly with their readers and answer questions.
  • Erin Morgenstern. A great example of how an author can succeed on Tumblr with largely visual content and reblogs. 
  • Prettybooks. Prettybooks is an example of how good book covers and aesthetics can help authors to be organically shared on social media. 

Social media apps for authors 

Any social media platform you decide to use as an author will have an initial learning curve as well as the need for an ongoing commitment to build a following. 

Social media represents two major pitfalls for authors. First, the risk that it ends up becoming a source of procrastination and distraction from other tasks that matter more. Second, that authors use social media ineffectively or inefficiently, causing them to give up before seeing results. 

To help you use social media in a better way that is likely to produce real results, here are some recommended apps and resources.

  • Hootsuite. If you want to schedule posts in advance across multiple social media platforms, Hootsuite will save you a lot of frustration and wasted time.
  • Canva. Canva makes it easy to create attractive and shareable visual content for platforms like Pinterest or Twitter, even if you don’t have any serious design skills.
  • Adobe Spark Post. A quick way to elevate your visual content from Adobe, making it easy to add cool touches like animations.
  • IFTTT. If you end up becoming advanced in using social media as an author, you may find automation is a big timesaver. IFTTT is one of the best ways to start automating your posts.
  • Snapseed. If you want to improve and filter images on the go, Snapseed is a free and easy to use solution that will keep your visual content looking great. 

Hopefully, you now see that social media is worth considering as a place to promote your books.

There is a wide range of different social media platforms and content types that can succeed, so you can find something that’s a natural fit for who you are as an author.

Ultimately, it all comes down to finding the platform that your ideal readers are most likely to use and then creating the type of content they will enjoy and engage with.

If you do those two things, you give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding as an author on social media. 

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