Social Media Best Practices for Authors

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Social Media Best Practices by Frances CaballoOnce you’ve written your book and built your website, the next step for authors is to learn how to market their books.

Okay, I heard that collective ew out there. Look on the bright side. With marketing comes sales, and with sales comes money. Yeah!

Part of learning how to market your books is learning how to use social media. Chances are, you’ve already dabbled in social media but aren’t quite getting the hang of it. Am I right?

Let’s start with an animated piece that demonstrates the explosive growth of social media. It was prepared by Matt Banner. After seeing this, you’ll be convinced of the need for social media to market your book to a global audience.

Credit: OnBlastBlog

Convinced now?

What you need to proceed is a list of best practices. So for today I rounded up all of my finest advice and collected it into one document just for you.

This is the collection of tips you’ve been waiting for. How do I know? Because when I was learning social media, I would have loved to have the list below.

So without further ado, I present to you my list of best practices.

Facebook Best Practices

FacebookFacebook’s algorithm, in basic terms, measures Likes, comments, and shares. Facebook shares are valued over comments and likes. What this means is that you need to create or find and post content that your readers regularly Like and share and comment on.

Your No. 1 goal will be to get your fans to share your status updates. Here are some general best practices and tips to help you along the way.

  1. Use only your best and most compelling images and most captivating, short (maximum of 90 seconds) videos. Images are important, but they won’t trigger engagement with your readers unless they catch their attention.
  2. Post when engagement occurs, normally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Follow your time zone and the time zones of your readers. Always rely on Facebook’s Insights as the final guide on this point.)
  3. Don’t forget to post on the weekends when people have more leisure time to peruse their Facebook accounts.
  4. Keep your posts to 80 characters to encourage engagement. Readers like to move quickly through their news feeds.
  5. Don’t ask your fans to Like or read your posts. Facebook will downgrade the visibility of your status update if you include this type of call to action.
  6. Respond as soon as you can to queries and concerns your readers post on your Timeline and private messages sent to you.
  7. Try to post twice daily on your fan page.
  8. Host contests. Use RaffleCopter to keep track of entries.
  9. Promote your colleagues, and if your readers write books, help them as well.
  10. Share blog posts you write, but don’t auto-post from your website. When you use a WordPress plugin that automatically generates a status update each time you publish a post, Facebook will downgrade the post and few of your readers will see it. Instead, use the social share icon on your blog.
  11. Share blog posts that others write if the information is relevant to your readers.
  12. Offer a chapter of your book for free. Post it on Scribd, GoodReads, or your website and provide a link to the chapter on Facebook.
  13. Schedule time to socialize on Facebook. Read your readers’ status updates, and leave Likes and comments or share their posts.
  14. Vary your content. For example, ask your readers what they are reading or how they plan to spend the weekend.
  15. Seek your readers’ help by asking them to suggest names for your characters in a new book you’re writing. Or ask them to help you select a book cover. Involve your readers as much as you can in your books.
  16. Tag your Facebook fans in photos you post on your page and in replies to their comments.
  17. Allocate resources to Facebook advertising, even if you spend $5/day. Ads on Facebook can increase the visibility of your fan page and help you to reach new readers.
  18. Remember to like your readers’ fan pages, if they have them, and leave comments or share their content when relevant.
  19. Join a Facebook group that some of your readers may belong to provided the topic is of interest to you.
  20. Regularly review your Facebook Insights looking for trends, identifying drops in fan engagement, and analyzing posts that triggered the most Likes and comments.
  21. Mix up the days and times you post on Facebook. You’ll, of course, want to check your Insights to see when your fans are on Facebook. But you’ll also want to check for when they are most likely to engage, and the only method to find that out is by mixing it up.
  22. Include some personality. People do not buy books from brands; they buy books from writers, so don’t be afraid to share information that reveals more of your personality.
  23. Don’t be frightened to take a stand on an issue in your niche, genre, or recent events.
  24. Vary your types of posts. Vary the topics, the length, the types of images you use, and the kinds of questions you pose.
  25. Consider freshening up your cover image on a quarterly basis using Canva or PicMonkey.
  26. Host a Facebook Friday networking party that enables your readers to promote their books, blog posts, or other types of news. Get to know your readers and what matters to them.
  27. Drive traffic from other social media sites to posts you want to receive additional attention. This is how: When you click on the date stamp of your Facebook post, you’ll see that your post has a unique URL. You can drive traffic to that post by using that URL in a tweet or LinkedIn post. Here is a post in a timeline; the date stamp is November 2 at 11:20 a.m.

Twitter Best PracticesTwitter Best Practices

  1. Did you upload an image of your cat, dog, book cover, or favorite lake as your avatar? Or, are you an egghead, using the default egg as your avatar? Your avatar needs to be a professionally taken picture of you, the author. If you don’t want to hire a photographer, ask a friend to take a picture of you, and don’t smirk or make a funny face in it.
  2. Create a header image; don’t leave it blank. You can use a variety of free applications, such as Canva, PicMonkey, or Pixlr. You can add your book covers, announce the publication of a new book, or use an image that reflects a scene in your book. You can download a free image from Unsplash or Pixabay, or use a picture you took.
  3. Refrain from writing a senseless bio, littered with hashtags, such as #cappuccino #frappuccino #kittens #puppies #writer #reader #blogger #rescueddogs. Write a professional bio instead. Your Twitter avatar and bio are searchable on the Internet, and you want to use your Twitter profile to advance your author brand and your professional appearance.
  4. Don’t use all 140 characters available to you when you tweet. Instead, keep your tweets to between 110 and 120 characters. Using fewer than 140 characters will give others a chance to retweet you without having to reconfigure your message. And there will be room for your username to credit you as the author of the content.
  5. Are you #doing #this #with #your #hashtags in your #tweets? Refrain from using more than two hashtags because the more hashtags you use, the fewer retweets you’ll receive.
  6. Are you interacting with other authors? If you’re not, you’re missing a huge opportunity to collaborate and co-market books and blogs. It’s important to be friendly on Twitter, meet other authors—including those who write in your genre (perhaps especially those authors)—and promote other authors. The more authors you meet and promote, the more they will suggest your books to their readers.
  7. Never retweet tweets that praise you or your book. I once read somewhere that retweeting tweets of praise is like laughing at your own jokes—when the jokes aren’t even funny. Promoting yourself in this manner is akin to bragging.
  8. Are you ignoring the 80/20 rule? Guess what? Social media, including Twitter, isn’t about you. It’s not even about your book, poetry, blog, or website. Social media is about engagement first and content second. Make sure that 80 percent of your content comes from a variety of sources and that you restrict your own content to only 20 percent of your tweets.
  9. Are you responding to replies or questions? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to engage with your readers and colleagues. Engaging with other users is the single most important aspect of social media. Don’t neglect this important activity.
  10. Never sign up for an application that sends automatic direct messages thanking people for following and directing new followers to your blog or book. These messages are the scourge of Twitter.
  11. Are you tweeting only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.? No one expects your account to be a 24/7 operation, but your followers don’t log off when you start preparing dinner. You are tweeting to a worldwide audience, so schedule some tweets early and some late.
  12. How often are you tweeting? Tweeting too often can be problematic for your followers. There’s no set formula for how often you should be tweeting. However, unless you’re the most interesting person in the world, chances are if you’re clogging up their timelines, they’ll get turned off in a hurry. Space your tweets at least two hours apart.
  13. Use caution when punctuating your tweets with exclamation points and capital letters. You wouldn’t yell at your readers in person, so don’t do it on Twitter. (Capital letters in emails are considered shouting language. Some also feel that way about words written completely in capital letters on social media.) Use exclamation points sparingly and when in doubt, one is enough. Or skip them entirely.
  14. Don’t use the application This application promises to prevent spammers from following you, but what it will do is hamper your ability to grow a following. If you want to get rid of spammers, review your followers list every day and block spammers; or use ManageFlitter, which identifies unfollowers as well as inactive, spam, and bot accounts. Avoid TrueTwit at all cost.

LinkedIn Best PractIces

  1. If you are on Twitter, include your Twitter handle on your LinkedIn profile.
  2. LinkedIn Best PracticesList the books you’ve published, stories that are included in anthologies, and workshops you’ve taught.
  3. Adjust your settings so that you receive emails whenever someone requests a connection or sends you an Inmail, LinkedIn’s term for email.
  4. Join a few groups and become an active participant by sharing your views and expertise, answering questions, and asking others for help. LinkedIn users tend to be active group participants.
  5. The search bar on LinkedIn has a drop-down menu that allows users to search for people, groups, or companies. Use this feature to find other writers, agents, publishers, and groups.
  6. Expand your network by searching for first-degree connections (people for whom you have email addresses, or you’ve communicated with in a LinkedIn group). Note: Unlike Facebook, you can’t connect with people you don’t know.
  7. Invite writers you meet to write a guest blog post for you or interview them on your blog.
  8. Twice a day, or at least once, post an update that includes a link to some great content that others will want to read. The rule is 80% of the time you promote other colleagues or experts in the field and 20% of the time you can post an update from your blog or about one of your books.
  9. LinkedIn expanded its character limit for updates from 160 to 700 words. My advice? Keep your update concise.
  10. If you’ve written a how-to, editing, craft, or grammar book, become an expert in LinkedIn Answers. Anyone with a LinkedIn account can use this feature to post questions and then wait for an expert—like you, perhaps—to provide the answers they need.
  11. If you meet someone through a LinkedIn group who helps you, offer to write a recommendation for that person.
  12. When people connect with you, don’t send them an email (Inmail) asking them to buy your book or read your blog.
  13. Don’t cross-post your tweets to LinkedIn or vice versa. Each network has its own language, and it’s best to write original messages for each social media channel.

Pinterest-badge-144pxPinterest Best Practices

  1. Categorize your pinboards for SEO.
  2. Pay attention to image names and ALT texts on WordPress.
  3. Use tools, such as Canva, PicMonkey, or Pablo by Buffer.
  4. Schedule your pictures.
  5. Create a variety of pinboards.
  6. Save images from your readers and colleagues’ pinboards.
  7. If you have a profile, convert it to a business page. If you are new to Pinterest, create a business page.
  8. Use Pinterest to catalog visual writing prompts.
  9. Use Pinterest to plan your next novel or nonfiction book.
  10. If you write nonfiction, create a pinboard for your infographics.
  11. Create a pinboard for your blog.

Goodreads Best PracticesGoodreads Best Practices

  1. Create an author dashboard.
  2. Join reading groups.
  3. Categorize books to your bookshelves.
  4. Add book reviews at least twice a month.
  5. Sync your self-hosted blog on your website to your blog on Goodreads.
  6. Join in on the Goodreads Reading Challenge.
  7. Share your favorite books on social media.
  8. Promote other authors you meet on Goodreads.
  9. Create a Goodreads tab on your Facebook Author Page.
  10. Get in the practice of periodically hosting giveaways to raise awareness of your published work. Allocate as little as five books at a time, and when you can, increase the number of free books to 20 or more.

Instagram Best PracticesInstagram Best Practices

  1. Use hashtags here just as you would on Twitter. Although hashtags haven’t taken off on Facebook, you can use them as well.
  2. Don’t be afraid to reveal a bit about your personal life. Images of you take while hiking or cycling or just about on the town add an interesting layer to your brand.
  3. Always be authentic.
  4. Don’t be promotional, unless you’d like to inform users of a contest.
  5. Build your community of readers and colleagues by liking their posts and commenting on them. Be as engaged with them as you’d like them to be with you. What Joanna Penn refers to as social karma.

Let me know what you thought of these best practices and whether they were helpful!


Authors: Not Sure What to Tweet? Try These 44 Tweets Today by Frances Caballo, AuthorAbout the AuthorFrances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributing writer at and blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks, and blogger at Bowker’s Self-Published Author blog. She’s written several social media books including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads, and Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for my free email course.

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

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  1. I have just published a book about how Canadians and Americans can understand each other better
    and it’s at Kindle, and will be in hard copy in a couple months. I have a website and have published many books in the past, different ways, but really have no understanding of how I could use Twitter (but I started reading Frances’ articles). Canada and the U.S. are often in the news like when Obama had Trudeau at a state dinner–first PM in Washington in 20 years!!! Was this something I could have tweeted to my advantage?

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