Social media can be a bit of a minefield and building a social media following from scratch can be of an overwhelming and daunting prospect. In this post we’ll look as some basic social media expertise with the aim to prove to you that you don’t have to be the wittiest, or have the most amazing photography skills or be anything other than yourself to succeed at the social media game.
Where to Hang Out
In my previous posts on the subject of social media (Social Media for Writers and Keeping Up with Social Media) I’ve discussed choosing which platforms to use as well as the importance of not choosing too many (you cannot be everywhere at once). In this post, I’ll take a quick look at what each platform does.
- Facebook – a great platform for showcasing lots of different content – text, videos, photos, links etc so it’s really versatile. You can also create events and publicise those easily so is great for hosting live webinars as well as off-platform events. Facebook is great for adult audiences (say 30+).
- Twitter – a fast paced and ever changing platform. Twitter is great for short, snappy statements and sharing links to content. You do need to be active on it and post several times a day to be seen and noticed. It is a great place for networking and you’ll find a whole range of age groups use it. Just prepared to be very active (and have a failsafe to ensure you don’t lose yourself in the rabbit hole).
- Instagram – a very visual platform and where younger audiences hang out. Using great images and well written captions is the best way to grow on this platform. The stories feature works well too for engaging with your audience – you can use images, videos and text as well as features such as polls, questions etc to engage with followers. Be warned that it is much harder to link to content off the platform – you can only have one link in your bio (use it wisely) and you cannot include links within your captions.
- LinkedIn – this is a more professional platform and is a great place to network with business people and professional services. It is more formal and less chatty. Sharing content of value to your connections as well as teasers and tips is a great way to engage here.
How Do I Gain Followers on Social Media?
This is the social media expertise that everyone wants to learn. Be warned however that there is no magic solution. Building an engaging following takes time, persistence and hard work. However, this does pay off. Do not be tempted to buy a following as, not only will this lose you your credibility, but you’ll also have no engagement, living you feeling very downhearted about the whole process. Instead work hard to build an audience that follows you for who you are. It is not the number of followers you have on social media that is the statistic you should look at but the engagements – the number of likes, comments, saves and shares. This is crucial to understand.
What Do I Post?
On your social media platforms you can afford to be more diverse with the content you post. For example, your website is likely to contain blog posts showcasing your expertise or your latest works. On social media you can show your real personality and post about everyday, day-to-day life. Obviously you do also need to post the serious, valuable stuff too but do play around with the content you share.
If you’re posting on channels where images are important (Instagram) then make sure you use good images. Use colourful, well-cropped, striking images that encourage people to stop scrolling and engage with. Make sure your captions are relevant and strong. As a writer, this is the bit you should excel at. Ensure your captions are engaging, well formatted and easy to read. Always try to include a call to action so people will respond to you. That’s the key – engagement.
Make sure that you post consistently. You want to be predictable and frequent especially when you’re starting out. That doesn’t mean posting several times a day, but I’d suggest posting daily on Facebook and Instagram. However, you will need to post at least 3-5 times a day on Twitter to gain any traction. Aim to stick to your niche, although do also post more personal content too – obviously not too much information but do come across as an approachable human being.
On Twitter consider retweeting content posted by people you follow if it is relevant and of interest to your audience. This will often gain engagement with the original poster. Follow them if it’s likely they’ll post similar content that you will also retweet. On Instagram you can share other people’s posts on your stories, and on Facebook you share other people’s content to your page if you think it’s relevant. Do this occasionally but not as frequently as you would on Twitter. Remember that Twitter is very fast moving whereas the other platforms are much slower paced.
How Do I Engage on Social Media?
The magic ingredient of social media expertise is engagement. The more you engage, the more you gain credibility and the more you grow. Here are some quick tips on engagement:
- use hashtags and look at what other people are posting on those hashtags too.
- follow people that you engage with – they may well follow you back.
- utilise polls, surveys, questions and other engagement tools.
- always ask questions or use other calls to action in all posts to nurture engagement.
- find other people in your niche and engage with them.
- be vocal on other people’s posts, not just your own. This does not mean hijacking other people’s posts but do engage, answer questions if you have the knowledge to do so, and in general just be chatty and insightful.
Where do you hang out online? What social media expertise would you pass on to other writers who are just starting out building their author platform? Tell me your experiences and top tips in the comments below.