The rules of social media engagement for authors are not well understood. Based on my research and interviews, I learned some guidelines and user preferences.
- In my poll, 82% used Facebook, with 78% saying it was their first choice in social media and 50% saying it was their second choice.
- Following Facebook, in descending order, my readers used Twitter 55%, Instagram 45%, LinkedIn 27%, Pinterest 18%, and Snapchat 9%.
- In terms of popularity, following Facebook, my readers liked as their first or second choice Instagram (40% and 33%) and Twitter (17% and 20%).
In my prior articles on gaining readership with social media and on how to go viral with a post, I discussed some additional topics you may find interesting. The focus of this article is the rules of social media engagement, emails, and blogs.
Since Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were the clear favorites, these will be the focus of the rest of these posts. Each social media platform will have its own section, as how readers like to engage with these platforms varies, and what is acceptable on Twitter is often a no-no on Facebook, etc.
Too Long or Too Slow
Although there were differences among my readers, one thing that people said over and over was KISS—in my readers’ case this stood for “Keep It SHORT Stupid.” At most, people would read a paragraph, but they preferred one-liners, pictures, and just links to additional content.
No one, and I mean no one, said they wanted to receive a newsletter with content in it.
Everyone is inundated with newsletters and spam, and they don’t want to get more. For this reason, the most UNPOPULAR ideas I had for engaging with my readers were for things that took time to listen to or were really long to read:
- Podcasts—64% said “no thank you”, mainly because they don’t have time to devote to it, they feel trapped into something that’s really slow to obtain the content from, or they simply can’t listen to a podcast in their work and/or commute environment.
- Book excerpts—55% said these were too long. They preferred a paragraph at most, some saying even a great line or two was ideal. If they were intrigued, they would then follow the link to the content at a more convenient time (which might be never). Others specifically said they did NOT like excerpts, they didn’t want to know what the book was about beforehand, and they especially disliked excerpts from a chapter in the middle of a book, as it was a spoiler.
- Reviews from individuals—55% said they only liked press releases or reviews from credible/reputable sources. They felt individual reviews just crowded their inbox.
- So, my takeaway from this was that if I have this type of longer content, it should only be briefly described in social media or via email, with the full thing available via a link or a webpage.
Emails and Blog Posts
There is still a significant population of adults who only engage with the internet via traditional means and don’t use social media. At least half of my parents’ generation falls into this category, as well as some very busy people my age who use the internet all day long for work and can’t stand the thought of spending another minute engaged with it in their free time. Since many of these people also happen to be avid readers, it is important to send out information in email format.
For email updates or blog posts, the ideal frequency to bombard people’s inboxes appears to be a maximum of once every two weeks.
Although some said once a month was preferred. Those people who also engage with you on social media will end up receiving this content in different ways, so be sure to keep all your content as standalone entities that have some intrinsic value to all your readers, not just the ones who are not on social media.
Some important rules of social media engagement
- People don’t open emails or blogs unless they are intrigued, so make your titles unique to pique their interest.
- Vary the type of content you provide—one post might be the first paragraph of a short story, another might be few sentences and a link to a longer post, yet another might be a notification of new content available on your website, a fourth might be a video clip link.
- Never make your post all about a sales pitch. These are not your friends and family, and they won’t respond well to a hard sell. Make it about the content, which should be fun and engaging, and put a link to your book at the bottom.
- People will follow your blog if you have cool content and tell them how to follow the blog step-by-step. Include a link in your email that takes them directly to the blog sign-up page, and on the blog sign-up page, have a big button that says “Follow”. Remember, this group of readers doesn’t use social media, and they are often not tech savvy on how to do such things.
- If you set up a blog or an author webpage, then you have to commit to providing new content on it every one to two weeks. There has to be a reason for people to come back more than once. Content should be visually interesting, too, so use colors, nice fonts, pictures, and video clips to keep it fun.