Social Media For Writers 2: Building Engagement by Developing Content

Engagement seems so elusive doesn’t it? I’ll let you in on one big secret: It’s not about you.

It’s not about finding the right blend of followers. It’s not about writing beautiful words or being hilariously funny. It’s not about figuring out the magic that makes a viral post. It’s not even about algorithms and posting times and all that stuff.

And, yes, I am very familiar with social media algorithms. I’m going to let you in on another big secret: Do you know why social media algorithms value comments over likes? Because that’s what good friends do. They comment on each other’s posts. Don’t play the algorithm game. First, algorithms change, so you’ll always be scrambling to catch up. Second, you’re only commenting because of the algorithm? Ew. No. Look, stop worrying about the algorithms. Social media platforms base individual algorithms on how people act when they’re behaving like a good friend. Do you know what you just did? You just decoded every social media individual algorithm on any platform. So stop worrying about the numbers. You already know how to be a good friend. Put all of the chatter about algorithms out of your mind, go back to seeing your friends as human beings, and just be a good friend!!

Just be a good friend.

It’s the right thing to do and it makes the whole social media experience a thousand times more enjoyable when you put people first and get back to just being a good friend.

So, if it feels like your posts are just kind of sitting there and not many people are engaging? Ask yourself: Are you being a good friend to your followers?

Yes, this involves content! But first things first...

**Are you investing your time and your energy in your followers?** Go back to our first post: Are you spending most of your time on social media talking with your friends and engaging with their posts? If you’re navel gazing at your own account, your posts are going to languish! Why should other people invest time in your posts if you’re not investing in theirs? Yikes.

Remember that old adage, “If you want a friend, be a friend?” Same thing!

You can’t live in the bubble of your own profile and expect people to be drawn to you like moths to a flame. Relationships don’t work like that. Let’s imagine one of your friends hosted a party last night. Now they’re over your house and they’re livid! Here they hosted this party, they stood in the corner occasionally making witty remarks, and all of the people they invited just stood around the room involved in other conversations! Yikes. Again. Standing in the corner occasionally making witty remarks is not how you get people to engage in conversation with you! But that’s what so many people do on social media. Then they get upset when no one is responding to them.

You have to get out there and talk to people.

You have to. You cannot expect people to talk to you on your posts if you’re not talking to them on their posts. That’s not being a good friend. If you’re in your own profile bubble, dust yourself off, get into your newsfeed, and start being a good, conversational friend! But for the love of all that is good, be genuine about it! Do not expect a tit-for-tat. Nobody owes you interaction. Ever. Interact with your friends on their posts because that’s what you should be doing in the first place.

**Are you giving your followers quality content?** Are you giving your friends inspiration, validation, helpful advice, entertainment, and a chance to voice their thoughts? As I said in our previous post, be real! Be you. I’m not going to tell you exactly what to post. And, yes, my writing Twitter is still new. I am not posing as a Twitter content expert. What I am doing here is taking insider advice from my friends who are social media all stars, combining it with my own experience in social media, and adapting it to the writing life. So, the general guideline for keeping your content varied but focused is to keep things mixed up between the following types of posts:

  1. Funny
  2. Inspirational/thoughtful
  3. Lifestyle (writing life)
  4. Business (promote your book, blog, or something else writing related)
  5. Interactive
  6. Life/family

Yes, this is 6 things. Yes, I do 5-6 posts on Twitter per day. No, I do not use this as a checklist when deciding what to post! Because I am retweeting other people for 4 out of my 6 posts a day, finding good content to retweet comes first. I just use this as a general guideline to keep my posts varied. Have I done an X post in a while?

Let flesh this out a bit more…

1. Funny: You can make this writing related or not! Did your 5 year-old say something funny? Share it! Have one of those “We’ve all been there,” moments with being a writer? Post that! Did you simply find a really great joke? Tell everyone! Need a joke? I’ve got you covered:

Why are peppers so nosey?
… Because they’re jalapeño business!

HAHAHAHA!! Ah… I love that joke! Anyway….

2. Inspirational/thoughtful: Again, this can be writing related or not. I tend to keep mine writing related, but not always. I like to find quotes that encourage my writer friends!

3. Lifestyle: What does this mean? Give people a peak into the writing life! Show your computer open to your draft! You can use an app like Facetune to blur out anything you don’t want people to see (the function you’re looking for is “defocus”). Did you just draft your synopsis? Tell people! Have a table full of scattered notes? Snap a pic! A great one people tend to love is a cup of coffee or tea next to an open notebook and a pen. Instagram gold!

4. Business: This is where you want to promote your book! But remember, show don’t sell! If you need a refresher on that, go back to our first post and scroll down to 2.2 “Do Not Sales Pitch”. If you don’t have a book to promote, just post something else writing related. Wildcard post! A blog post would also count as business, but I only post my blog once a week. Have fun with this post!

5. Interactive: I’m going to quote my last post verbatim: 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! You want to think about how you ask questions to your friends in real life!

6. Life/family: Show a little bit about you! Share pictures of your pets. Post a pic of the concert you went to. Share something cute your kids did. I share a lot of conversations between my husband and me, and my son and me because those two are hilarious. But you do you! Find your own groove!

Take it up a notch: For Twitter, get into your analytics and see what your followers are interested in (more on that later). Then you can figure out how to focus your varied posts based on that! For me, this is my writing profile, the top interest for my followers is dogs, and the 3rd top interest is comedy. So, my posts are generally about writing, my dog, and my family. And I tend to keep things lighthearted and funny. That’s perfect for me since it fits my personality, but I also have a serious and profound side! Before getting into my analytics, I wasn’t sure how much I should be silly and how much I should be serious. Now I know it’s okay to be more silly!

What does this look like? I pulled together some of my posts from the first week after I dusted off my writing Twitter. For reference since you’re going to see my engagement numbers, I had 800-1500 followers during this time.

1. Funny

2. Inspirational/thoughtful

3. Lifestyle

4. Business/Miscellaneous Writing

5. Interactive

6. Life/family

How do I pull this off for 6 Twitter posts, 1-3 Facebook posts, and 1-2 Instagram posts a day? First, if you read our previous post, you know that 4 out of my 6 Twitter posts are retweets. Let other people get in the conversation on your page! For the other stuff:

1. Create a photo folder on your phone specifically for social media. Most of your photos will be life/family. See if you can get the photos varied a bit with things about writing life like I mentioned before: a cup of coffee or tea near a writing book; your laptop open to your WIP (remember: you can use an app like Facetune to blur out anything you don’t want people to see); scraps of paper with notes; a writing book you’re reading, etc. You know how when you’re on Facebook, one of your friends shares something funny, and then you share it too? Start looking for that kind of thing in advance and save it! Find some pages that regularly have funny posts that fit with your personality. Go down their newsfeed and mine their posts for content. Do the same for inspirational/thoughtful stuff! The best way to do this is to use Facebook’s save feature. That way you can reshare the original post and make sure the original poster still gets credit! Here’s how you do that:

First, go to where the 3 dots are to pull down the menu…

Second, choose “Save post.”

Third, if you don’t already have a folder for your writing page, you can create one!

2. For other ideas, create a folder in your notes app for social media. Have a random thought that sounds like an interactive question? Put it in that folder. Come across a great inspirational quote while you’re scrolling Facebook? Folder. Have a hilarious interaction with a friend but it’s not a good posting time? Write. It. Down! Yes, it feels great to be spontaneous and immediately fire something off. But if you want to give your posts the best chance at being seen, you have to be a little strategic about when you post. If you post at 5:30PM, you’re probably not going to get a lot of traffic… because people are in traffic. They’re heading home from work or they’re just coming in the door, the kids are hungry, the homework needs to be done, the dogs and cats need to be fed, and they have to make dinner. Hold on to that brilliant post for a few more hours and post it at 8PM. If you need a refresher on posting times, go back to our first post and scroll down to “7. Posting Frequencies, When to Post, and Hashtags.”

3. On Twitter, use the bookmark feature! Find profiles that tweet awesome stuff about writing. Every so often, scroll through those profiles and bookmark a bunch of posts that fit your vibe. Then when it’s 12PM and you’re in the thick of writing, you can just scroll through your bookmarks and pick something to retweet. Just make sure you remove it from your bookmarks as soon as you retweet it!

A few more thoughts…

See if you can find a way to welcome conversation on your “non interactive” posts!

Option 1: Freckles loves yogurt!

Option 2:

Obviously, I’m asking the question playfully because it’s clear Freckles loves yogurt. But phrasing it like that makes the post more welcoming for conversation! Let people know you’re not just talking at them, but that your posts are a place where they can talk!

Here’s a good question to ask yourself: Is your profile a lecture hall or a café? Which one are people more drawn to? Where are they going to chat more?

Are you at your podium talking at people or are you creating a space where people can hang out with their friends? Is there chatter and laughter? Are there inspirational quotes on the “wall” or inspiring “speakers”?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

One great way to give your followers valuable content: Be helpful! Tell people about something great you found. Share knowledge if you have it in one area or another! Give helpful tips! Success is not a limited resource. I could easily think, “I’m going to keep these social media tips to myself so my platform grows faster than everyone else!” Don’t do that. Some of you are going to take this information, absolutely rock it, and totally blow me away. And I will be the first person cheering you on! Yes!! Get after it!! People deeply appreciate when you share advice. And a “helpful” post doesn’t have to be profound or business specific! Did you just find the world’s most scrumptious protein bar? Tell people! “I know most protein bars are kind of ick, but I love this one!! It’s so good. I just ordered a whole case!” One (brand) protein bars in birthday cake flavor, if you’re wondering. Learn a new cooking hack? Tell. Your. Friends! In my rheumatoid arthritis group, I posted a video of me using my electric jar opener and the post blew up. People were clambering for one of their own! I got no benefit from that. I don’t use affiliate links. Just being helpful.

I do say not to navel gaze at your own account, but there is some wisdom in noticing which posts do well and which don’t. Do. Not. Obsess over this. Look for patterns. There are a lot of factors that can affect the performance of an individual post. Focus on patterns. We’ll get into patterns a bit more next week when we talk about Twitter analytics. Here’s an example from Instagram: I noticed posts about books I’m reading don’t do as well. I will still post them every so often to mix things up, but those aren’t going to be frequent posts for me.

Another thing to keep in mind – other than posting frequencies and posting times – is that there is a natural ebb and flow to social media activity during the week. Wednesdays are usually the worst. Do not post your best content on a Wednesday. Supposedly Thursday afternoon is peak time, but I haven’t noticed that with any of my profiles/pages on any platform. Both Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be a bit low activity for me. People are putting their noses to the grindstone so they can leave early on Friday. Think about other natural patterns for when YOU are more likely to be on social media: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are usually hopping, but watch your posting times. People are itching to get out of work early on Fridays, so make sure your mid-afternoon post hits right at 3PM. People might have plans on Friday evening, so instead of 7PM, err on the side of posting closer to 8PM or even 9PM. Saturday mornings are a good time to post. Maybe wait until 8AM instead of 7AM since people sleep in. Saturday during the day tends to be a bit low. People are out and about or getting chores done. It usually picks up a lot in the evening. Sunday, same as Saturday. If you have a lot of people following the same religion in your network, keep their weekly meeting times in mind. On my Facebook page, there are a lot of Christians. Most churches have a service time starting somewhere between 9AM-11AM. How long the service goes varies, but I know most people will be home around 1PM. I don’t post during that time because a lot of people won’t see it.

Whew!! Was that a lot? Yes. But I’ve figured that out by watching patterns in my posts and noting how those patterns lined up with common habits for most people. Before you post something, think: “Are a lot of people likely to be on right now?”

Bonus: If there is a major event, GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA, GET ACTIVE, AND STAY THERE!! Social media will be buzzing! Do you know what that is? That’s being social! It’s finding your friends and going to hang out where they are. Try to make a post relevant to whatever the event is. If it’s a sports thing and you’re not into sports, have fun with that! Super Bowl Sunday: “Is there a thing going on today? It seems like there’s a thing.” If there is a big weather event in your area, same thing! People will constantly be on social media. Blizzard has you and your friends stuck in your houses? Everyone is going to be online talking to each other! Go hang out! That said, use your common sense. If it is a negative event or a tragedy, don’t use that to boost your social media activity. Don’t. That’s not okay. That gets back to “People matter more than numbers.”

Up next, we’ll talk about selling through social media. How do you get your hustle on without chasing people away? Is it even possible? YES! I’ve done it and I’m going to show you how! Until then, what are our golden rules? Be real. People matter more than numbers. Be a good friend!


2 thoughts on “Social Media For Writers 2: Building Engagement by Developing Content

  1. Pingback: Social Media For Writers 3: Selling Through Social Media | Emlyn Boyd

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