Does a Writer need a Social Media Platform?

The simple answer is no. As suggested by the word platform, social media is a means to an end and not the end in itself. You wouldn’t just turn up at a railway station platform and hope that the first train that turns up will take you to your destination. You’d decide where you want to go, research the best route to get there and check timetables and prices first. So don’t jump on the social media train and hope that it somehow translates into worthwhile effort.

Publishers like writers who understand social media. Publishers love writers who are already thinking about who will read their book and how to get the message to potential readers that their book is available. For a writer, not getting involved in publicity is not an option. Or, at least, it’s only an option if you don’t want to be published.

It is an incredibly useful exercise and reality check for writers to actually take a step back and think about who will read their book. It is thoroughly recommended for poets who have the smallest potential market of all. Once a writer knows who their readers are, it’s easier to go and find them.

Naturally, how a writer gets the message their book is out is entirely dependent on two factors:-

  • Where the readers are and the best way of getting to them
  • How the writer best expresses their passion for their writing and their book.

Tense, nervous writers do not sell books.  If you get tense and nervous in front of an audience, radio and social media are better options.  If you love meeting people and could stand at the front of the Albert Hall talking about writing, your book and enthusing your audience, then public speaking, readings, literary festivals are for you; social media may not be.

Most poetry sells at readings or by word of mouth.  Bricks and mortar bookshops don’t like poetry: it doesn’t have a quick turnover and the slender volumes are difficult to stack. Live literature event organisers love poetry: it’s short, digestible, fits on a promotional poster and poets are getting better at doing readings and marketing their work.

So where does social media fit?

At its simplest level, social media is a way of meeting readers and potential readers on-line and directly communicating with your audience. However, it’s not a one-way communication channel. Writers who constantly self-promote and do not respond or join in the conversation will find themselves losing readers or followers or ‘friends’ rapidly. How writers use social media will depend on how they best communicate with readers.

So before creating a social media platform in the hope that it will look good when you approach publishers, do some research first:-

  • Ideally (money and marketing budgets no object) how would you love to see your book marketed? Would you prefer your book to be heavily advertised with little input from you or would you prefer to be out there meeting audiences and being interviewed?
  • Are you more comfortable with doing a pre-recorded radio interview or would you prefer to be interviewed live?
  • Are you comfortable standing in front of audience giving a pre-rehearsed reading or doing a question and answer session without knowing what the audience will ask?

If you found yourself agreeing with the first half of those questions, then you are more likely to benefit from micro-blogging, blogging and podcasts or videos.  Blogging enables writers to contribute articles either to their own blog or as a guest blogger on another’s blog and respond to comments.  Micro-blogging (eg twitter) enables brief messages sharing links to interesting content or brief comments that may interest readers.  Podcasts and videos give the writer control over what’s said and can be rehearsed. A podcast can be an interview or talk about a book and/or a reading of work. A video can be a book trailer, an interview, a talk or a short film.

If you found yourself agreeing with the second half of those questions, then you’re more likely to benefit from social forums and social networking. These allow direct on-line conversations with readers and potential readers and are less formal and rehearsed than blogging and podcasting.

Before launching a social media platform, also consider this. Whilst social media is largely cost-free (if you’re not hiring someone else to do it for you), it is time-consuming. If you know you can’t update a blog regularly, particularly if you find it difficult to write fiction and non fiction alongside each other, then don’t blog. Setting up a profile or fan page on a social media site may not take long, but you need to maintain it. Allow information to get out of date or fail to list a forthcoming event with sufficient notice and potential readers will fall away.

However, social media doesn’t have to take over a writer’s life. Just because the news is available 24 hours a day, doesn’t mean you listen 24 hours a day. I bet your local supermarket extending its opening hours didn’t tempt you to change your regular shopping habits.

So decide where you want to go with your social media platform, research and plot out your route and decide how much time you can spend on your journey. Providing you are consistent with updates and when you are on-line socially, your readers will learn to adapt to your timetable. What readers want more than anything is your next book so ignore calls to blog every day or update your social media profile several times a day and commit what time you know can you spare.

3 Responses to “Does a Writer need a Social Media Platform?”

  1. Brandon Halsey Says:

    Writers are tense and nervous in front of an audience – in front of any large or small group of people. Other than “alcoholic” I would choose “nervous” as the best adjective to describe most writers.

    Writers who use social media don’t have to venture very far out of their comfort zones – that’s the biggest advantage social media has over live interviews or bookstore signings.

  2. Writers’ New Years’ Resolutions « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] Not without doing some research first. Remember allocating time to social media means less time for your poetry/short stories/novels, so make time spent on social media useful time rather than another means of procrastination. […]

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