Social Media for Writers 1: General Social Media Advice

First, let’s establish some street cred: I went from a little over 60 followers to over 1,600 Twitter followers in one week. That wasn’t a fluke. It also wasn’t some kind of tricky manipulation. I’m still dusting off my social media on my writer platforms, but I am not new to social media in general. I’m friends with people who have huge, highly active followings, and they’ve coached me on how to develop real relationships in my social media networks. I normally don’t talk about things in these terms, but in the interest of establishing that I do have experience: My personal Facebook page has a rock solid algorithm with strong engagements. 

Let me give you a quick rundown of how unbelievable this week has been: When I dusted off my writing Twitter, it grew from 60 some followers on a Friday morning to over 800 by Sunday afternoon.

By Monday evening, I was close to 1,200, and by that point I was starting to get a good bit of natural growth. And I’ll restate what I said earlier: One week after having just 60 followers, I have over 1,600 followers. But that’s just numbers. The best part? I have genuine friends and people are active! Good heavens, do we have a blast in the comments!

Did I have help through things like Writer’s Lifts and Follow Fridays? Yes! Things like Writer’s Lifts and Follow Fridays are incredibly important in the writing community and I strongly believe we should always be doing those for each other. But the reason my followers and my engagement took off the way it did wasn’t just luck. I knew how to make the most of the help I was given. As I was hanging out with everyone this week, I saw a number of posts from writers who had one frustration or another with social media. I basically smacked myself on the forehead. Hello? You have a ton of knowledge when it comes to social media. Help your friends!!

So… Blog post! Big blog post. Get comfy!

Here’s the thing: I need you to trust the process. Developing genuine growth in social media happens at different paces for different people. If it’s slow and steady, hang in there! Growing by investing in genuine relationships is worth it. Trust me, it’s what you really want. You get real friends. You get people you really care about and people who really care about you. If you really want to press me into talking about the numbers side of things: Engagement!! Growing by being real and developing relationships means stronger engagement. High engagement on a post pings the radar for the algorithm of a social media platform, and they’re going to show your post to more people. That can get you more engagement and new followers who are genuinely interested in you!

Ready for some tips?

First, a few warnings.

Warning 1: This is not a quick trick, shortcut, “do this and get followers” kind of post. Social media is about building relationships. Real relationships. If you’re not doing that, your platform will have a shoddy foundation and it’s not going to do well. What I’m going to do is teach you the ins and outs of building genuine relationships on social media. I will show you things like ideal posting times, how many times to post on which platform, and a few tricks, but those are bonuses. Relationships first!

Warning 2: People will figure out if you’re being fake about this to manipulate your numbers. They can smell it and they will resent you. Best case scenario, they’ll stop engaging. Worst case scenario, they’ll start telling other people how fake you are. It is worth it to genuinely invest in your social media community and be interested in developing those real relationships. The people on the other side of that screen are real people. Most of the time. I’m looking at you, Twitter bots! Where was I? Real people. Twitter bots aside, the people you’re interacting with are real people. Their lives matter. If you want quick fixes and shortcuts just so you can feel popular, look elsewhere.

So, if you’re looking for advice on how to invest in your social media following to develop those genuine relationships:

1. Be Real! This is the golden rule of social media. At least when you’re a person, not a business. Be. Real. Be you. People love realness. It’s relatable. It makes them feel more comfortable in their own skin. Try to be a little vulnerable! Post a picture of yourself with bedhead. Talk about the laundry chair in your bedroom. Let people know you’re just as imperfect as everyone else. People read that kind of stuff and go, “Thank heavens! It’s not just me!” You just helped that person feel better about themselves and became more approachable! And don’t try to imitate someone else because you think people like that person better. Be you. People want to know you!

2. Relationships first. People first! I will say it again and again: The people on the other side of that screen are real people. Their lives matter!! People matter more than numbers. 

2.1 Don’t navel gaze at your own account. You have to make sure you’re getting out there and investing your time and energy in your friends!! You should be investing most of your time on social media talking to other people. Note: In your Twitter feed, you’re going to see a lot of posts from people you don’t know. Those are posts Twitter is showing you because several of your friends liked or commented. Those posts are interesting and I will like or comment, but I deliberately seek out posts from my friends. I want to like their posts. I want to comment on their posts. I know them and they know me. Yes, I want to meet new people. I love making new friends! But I don’t want to miss my current friends’ posts because they were buried in a newsfeed of popular posts. And I want to support my friends with my engagement!!

2.2 Do. Not. Sales pitch. Don’t do it. Hang in there with me if you’re someone who needs to use social media for marketing. I’ve done social media sales, so I am for you, not against you. Hear me out: People aren’t on social media to shop. They’re on social media for… relationships. Now, if their friend loves something? Well then they might buy it! What does this mean? If you’re trying to promote a product that is important to you, show it to people and let them see how excited you are about it. Don’t push. If they want it, they’ll buy it. But leave it up to them. Don’t sales pitch it to them. It’s a turnoff.

Showing: OMGs! I just got this pizza and I am obsessed with it! It’s so amazing! I asked Bruno about it and he said he uses 5 different authentic Italian cheeses, hand tosses his homemade dough, and makes the sauce from scratch with fresh tomatoes. What?! I didn’t know anyone did that anymore! I seriously could not stop eating it. And my pizza guy said I can help some of my friends get discounts! Let me know if you want in! 

Selling: ***PIZZA DEAL*** Who doesn’t love #pizza? I know you do! Order through me for a great price! Limited time offer. Act now! If you can buy pizza from Domino’s, you can support your friends! 

Disclaimer: Yes, Bruno is my pizza guy. Yes, that really is how he makes his pizza (not sure on the number of cheeses). No, he’s not really offering discounts. Sorry!

Do you see how the one is relational and the other is all about money? Relationships first. A lot of your friends probably do want to support you, but they want to support their friend. When you sales pitch, you stop being their friend and turn into someone they don’t know. Sales pitch speak is not how we normally talk to our friends! But here’s the thing: to successfully do a show-don’t-sell, you have to really believe that what you have to offer is truly going to benefit your friends. If not, why are you selling it? And, yes, things like art benefit other people! Art enriches lives. It doesn’t have to be something functional to benefit someone else.

So… how do you do that as a writer? Thankfully, one of my friends recently nailed it right when I was putting this post together!

Boom. Get your two-sentence synopsis down and use that to show your friends that you’ve got something great for them! I saw that post and immediately got in a fight with my Amazon app to buy her book. I don’t usually read romance! And here’s the link to Liana’s book if you, too, need to have it now!

2.3 THE CARDINAL SIN OF SOCIAL MEDIA: If someone friends you or you friend someone else, don’t you dare send them a message right away with a link to your website, product, book, etc. They will know instantly that you aren’t interested in them as a person: You’re interested in them as a number or a dollar sign (pound sign or whatever your currency is). Don’t do it. It’s icky and it makes people feel like less of a person. Not okay.

3. Engage. Comment. Respond as much as your can! Mind your manners – don’t ignore people. Comments are huge. They mean so much to people. Yes, keep liking. But whenever you can, comment, too! Talk to people! Imagine if we went through our world simply giving everyone a thumbs up and never talking to them. The barista at the coffee shop hands you your latte and change, and you give him a thumbs up? Commenting is engaging in actual conversation. Talk. To. People! Also, if you are on Facebook, try to use a reaction other than “like” whenever possible. It tells someone you made a little more effort to respond. If you’re trying to help a writer friend or someone else who is trying to increase their engagement, reactions other than “like” boost a post’s algorithm higher than simple likes.

3.1 If you have a post with so many comments it’s overwhelming, don’t stress yourself out replying to everyone. Comment as much as you can… without driving yourself into the ground!

3.2 As far as your own engagement goes, don’t stress about every post. I hope this doesn’t come off as bragging, but just so you can see what I’m talking about: I had multiple posts with 300-400 likes in the last week. I also had a post with 1 like. Do not stress over every single post. Post, engage if people are engaging, and get back to focusing on your friends. Remember what I said about not navel gazing at your own account? That.

4. Try to ask a question or post something that gets people involved once a day or every other day. Yes, it can be a big booster for engagement. However, it isn’t manipulative – it’s showing your online friends you aren’t just monologuing. You want to hear what they have to say. And you do… don’t you? Yes. If you don’t, get off of social media. It’s not the place for self-serving, monologuing, endless self-promotion. It’s what? A place to build relationships! Friends, not followers. People, not platform. The key to asking good question isn’t to go out on The Googles and look for “Interactive social media posts.” You can do that if you’re simply dead for ideas, but have you ever had a random thought pop in your head and wondered if you were the only one? There’s an interactive question! That’s genuine conversation! Ask you friends and find out if you really are the only one who likes orange juice in your cereal. Thinking of Googling dinner ideas? Ask your friends instead! I love hearing what my friends like to make for dinner. It’s so much better than Googling for ideas. But! Don’t just whip out your phone and fire off a post. Write it down and wait to post it until one of the prime posting times. More on that later.

Okay… I normally steer clear of number-ish stuff, but I will tell you a bit of a hat trick: If you want to share your blog or something and it hasn’t been getting much traction, time it so you have an interactive post a few hours before you share your blog or whatever it is you’ve been struggling to get out there. If you have an interactive post with good engagement, that should boost your individual algorithm a bit. That boosted individual algorithm means the social media platform will show your next post to more people. It might not be a huge boost – I can’t guarantee anything – but it’ll give you a better shot than just posting as usual. Pair a boosted individual algorithm with a prime posting time, and you’ll really be giving yourself the best chance possible! I’m going to give you more about posting times later, but here’s the way I’d recommend doing this: Post the interactive post around 3PM or so. Stay on top of it. Respond to people as soon as you can. Keep the conversation going! Post the content you’ve been struggling to get out between 8PM-9PM. That would put both posts at prime social media times and give you the best shot at high engagement.

5. Some people really get into stories on Facebook and Instagram. I have not. You do you. Find your own groove. I will say that Facebook and Insta do not want you posting frequently, so if you want to post more often on those platforms, stories are a great way to do that! If you do get into stories, the advice I’ve heard is to never let your stories expire. So once you start regularly doing stories, don’t let it get to the point that you suddenly have no stories. And try not to overload your followers with stories in one day!

People will look at this – – – – – – –

People will stay far away from this – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

6. Use visuals! Find your own personal style, but social media studies show that people engage with posts that have visuals at least 150% more than posts that don’t have visuals. Personally, I don’t always use visuals because I try to vary my posts, but I do use visuals a lot: Images, gifs, and videos. I tend to use emojis a lot, too, but that’s just my personal style. #35YearOldTeenager. OMGs. For your images, try to make sure they’re optimized for the platform you’re on. Instagram photos should be close to square. Twitter photos should be horizontal (at least that’s the last thing I heard). Use photo editors to bring up the quality of your photos. My personal favorite iPhone photo editors are Lightroom, Afterlight, and Facetune. They might be on Android? Might not. No clue. Sorry! On Twitter posts, mix it up between static and moving images. On Facebook: This isn’t official, but I’ve noticed my posts don’t do well if there is a gif in the actual post. Gifs in comments are awesome. Boomerang for Instagram is a great way to get some movement. Short videos are fantastic, too!

7. Posting frequencies, when to post, and hashtags. I’m going to talk about The Big Three: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, because they’re the ones I’m most familiar with and they are the ones I’d default to for just about anyone trying to build a platform on social media. That said, you might be able to find your niche on Pinterest or Snapchat! You need to find what works best for you. Twitter is currently my strongest platform for my writing profiles, but I do know the recommended guidelines for other platforms and my personal Facebook is strong. Since I’ve just started dusting off my writing social media, I honestly haven’t put much effort into growing my writing Facebook or Insta yet (emphasis on yet) because I’ve been focusing on Twitter. So, without further ado:

Instagram: Post 1-3 times a day. Give it at least 3 hours or so between posts. I’ve found 1-2 posts per day to be my max. Instagram posts have a long halflife, so if you post too soon after your last post, Insta doesn’t know which post you want people to see. Hashtag heaven! But don’t go over 30 hashtags or Insta will pull the caption from your post. As you’re typing in hashtags, Insta will start showing you hashtags they think you’re typing. They also show you how popular those suggested hashtags are! Use. That. See if there’s another suggested hashtag that has a similar popularity (or better!) to the one you’re typing. And watch your numbers to see what your particular followers are interested in! One more hashtag trick before I forget: If you regularly use a number of the same hashtags at the end of your posts, create a keyboard shortcut for it! For my writing Insta, I just figured out which hashtags I was using the most. So, I made a shortcut! Now, all I have to do is type “inht” (my brain’s way of shortening Instagram hashtag) and a string of hashtags pops up. Work smarter, not harder!

Facebook: Post 1-3 times a day. Maybe 4 if you have a strong algorithm and you’re really itching for one more post on a random day. I post an average of 2-3 times on my personal page. Usually 1-2 times on my writing page. Again, give it several hours between posts for the same reason as Insta. If you post too close together, Facebook doesn’t know which post you want people to see. At a minimum, never post within an hour of your last post. Facebook will bury the second post and no one will see it. No hashtags. Facebook doesn’t like hashtags in posts. They also don’t like outside links. If you’ve been trying to share your blog on Facebook and it’s not getting any traction, Facebook is probably tanking the post because of the link. If you want to keep trying, one thing you can do is write your hook – how you’re drawing people in to reading your blog – as the main post and add “I’ll put the link below!” Then put the link to the blog in the comments. Try to add a picture from your blog (if you used one) so the post has a visual!

A few more Facebook quirks: If you have the occasional post that doesn’t do well, don’t worry about it! Sometimes that just happens. Shrug it off and get back to being awesome. Another thing that happens with Facebook is frequent algorithm changes. If your posts are consistently doing well and then suddenly several posts in a row are not getting your usual engagement, Facebook likely had an algorithm change. Don’t panic! Just keep doing what you’re doing and your personal algorithm will bounce back. Same if you take a Facebook break for a while. Your algorithm might dip for a bit and your posts won’t perform as well, but just get back to doing what you do, and your algorithm will bounce back.

Twitter: Chatterboxes rejoice! This is your playground. Post a lot!! I’ve heard you should give it about 30 minutes between posts. I usually give it at least an hour. Birthplace of the hashtag! But don’t go overboard here. First, you’re limited for characters. Second, it’s poor Twitter etiquette to overload a post with hashtags. If you’re limited for characters and you choose to invest your character “spending” on hashtags, people feel like you’re fishing for likes. The general recommendation is 1-3 hashtags. I try to limit it to two most of the time. Here, you want to follow the 80:20 rule: 80% of what you post should be content from other people; 20% of what you post should be yours. Sharing is caring. However… 

1. Your actual ratio will depend on how many times you post per day. And that depends on what you think you can maintain consistently. I post an average of 6 times per day. Generally speaking, 4 tweets are from other people, 2 are my own.

2. That said, that doesn’t mean your page will be filled with stuff that isn’t you. When you retweet, you can retweet with a comment and add your own thoughts! Which means you can tell your friends why you’re retweeting this. What does this mean to you? For me, I don’t always comment retweet. I do some pure retweeting. It gets back to what I was saying about not coming off as monologuing. Let other people get in the conversation on your page!

3. You do not have to stick to this every day! I do have a day here or there where I have mostly original posts. For example, on Fridays, I need to get out my Follow Friday post. I still like to get out two other original posts. If I make a post that encourages engagement as my third post of the day and it’s doing well, I might let that be my last post of the day so it can ride the tide of the evening Twitter buzz (more on that later). Guidelines aren’t set in stone.

Twitter Bonus: Get into your analytics and look at what your followers are interested in! Then you can give them what they want. The number one thing my followers are interested in? Dogs. I had been wondering how much to post my sweet girl, but now I know: Post about her all the time! Yay! Again, this isn’t being fake or manipulative. I know my mom isn’t really interested in dogs, so I don’t send her pictures of Freckles. However, one of my other friends loves Freckles so much he occasionally texts me with, “How’s my dog?” He gets lots of pictures of Freckles and even random videos! Figuring out what your followers like is the same as listening to your best friend chatter about what they’re interested in. It’s a good way to not be self focused! You’re caring about what your friends like and not just posting about what you like. I just got lucky because my followers gave me an excuse to post endless pictures of my dog. Not that I need an excuse! Will overshare pictures of my dog for no reason whatsoever.

When to Post: Believe it or not, this is highly individual. It will depend on the makeup of your unique following. Play around with posting times and watch your numbers. If you post something that you thought would get a lot of engagement and it doesn’t, either the bulk of your friends aren’t active or you broke an unspoken taboo in that platform’s algorithm. That can be tough because algorithms change. It can be hard to tell, but what you want to watch for is patterns.

In general, you want to think about when you are likely to be on social media: 

– When you first wake up
– During the mid morning slump
– During lunch
– During the mid afternoon slump
– In the evening
– Right before bed

See right there? Those are the six times I post. If you want to pin me down to specifics on my times, it’s actually closer to time frames not exact times for me. So, I am usually posting sometime between:

7AM-8AM – Twitter 
10AM-10:30AM – Twitter
**This one is optional, posts here get the lowest engagement
12PM-1PM – Twitter
3PM-4PM – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
7PM-8PM – Twitter, Facebook, and possibly Instagram
**Sometimes if I post too close to 7:00, the post is a little slow to get traction
10PM-11PM – Twitter

The times I’m posting on all three platforms are the top peak hours for social media. If you’re having a super busy day and can’t get to your usual posting, focus your posting in mid afternoon and the evening. If you’re really busy all the time, can’t post that much on Twitter, but you want to? Look into something like Hootsuite! With Hootsuite, you can create a post, schedule it, and Hootsuite will post it for you at the scheduled time. I used it in the past for an old Facebook page I used to admin, and it is generally reliable. Every so often something won’t post, but that’s pretty rare. The last time I checked, Hootsuite was free so long as you only linked a limited number of social media accounts. It won’t look like that when you go to their “Compare Plans” page, but scroll to the bottom and you’ll see “Try our limited free plan.” You can also use Hootsuite for your personal Facebook posts. If you have an actual Facebook page, Facebook has its own options for scheduling posts. Unfortunately, as of the time of this post, Instagram does not have a way to schedule posts. Instagram also does not allow third party programs to post to the app. It’s a bummer.

Caveat about posting frequency: If you have a post that is actively blowing up with comments, let it ride! Stick with that post. Respond to people and like their comments. Keep it active. Try not to post new content until your highly active post starts to cool off. If I’m on Twitter, sometimes I will retweet once or twice (pure retweet, not comment retweet!). But I try not to make any new personal posts. First, you want to make sure you can keep up with responding to people on your active post without having another post to worry about. Second, you want that social media platform to focus everything on your highly active post and continue to boost the algorithm for that post. If you make another original post, it’s kind of like draining the algorithm energy away from your highly active post. Ride the tide of your super active post. Keep up with those comments! 

Next week, I’ll have a post on figuring out what to post. How do you keep your content mostly about writing, but still varied? My writing Twitter is still being dusted off, but there are a lot of social media practices that apply no matter what field you’re in. So, I’ll be letting you in on more insider tips from social media all stars! Good luck! And remember: Be real. Relationships first. People matter more than numbers!


10 thoughts on “Social Media for Writers 1: General Social Media Advice

  1. Pingback: Social Media For Writers: Building Engagement by Developing Content | Emlyn Boyd

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