When I work with author website design clients who aren’t already spending a bunch of time on social media, they often have a couple of questions about what it means for them to use social media to help promote their book.  First they want to know which platform they should use (Facebook or Instagram or Twitter? What about Pinterest? What is LinkedIn all about anyway? Should I make YouTube videos?!), then they want to know what they might post to that platform.

If you’re not already a social media user, the answers really come down to the question of why you’re going to start using it now.  Perhaps your publisher requires it, or maybe you’ve read enough advice telling you that it’s important to your success, but at the end of the day, you really need to understand what you’re going to get out of it.  Because you’ll get out of it what you put into it.  If you’re only going to show up sporadically, and if you really dislike doing it, it’s going to show.  Even existing communities of book lovers aren’t poised and ready for new authors to show up to sell their book. Instead, they’re there to make recommendations to each other, to share stories about what they’re reading, and to invest in a like-minded community — they’re not there to be marketed to.  Using social media because you feel like you have to isn’t a good enough reason, especially when you don’t understand how it’s supposed to work.

Author Websites and Social MediaI encourage my clients to think of it this way, imagine you were going to a party where you knew very few people.  Not only would you not expect people to fall all over you just because you walked into the door, but you also wouldn’t walk right up to a bunch of strangers and ask them for money, or to do you a favor, or expect them to listen to you while you endlessly talk about yourself.  Social media is the same as real life that way — you want to find and invest in a community of folks you find interesting by sharing resources and information with them, learning about them, and showing up consistently to give at least as much as you get.

There’s no right answer for what you might post, just as there’s no right answer for what kind of personality you should have.  If you love to take photos, and can imagine being delighted by sharing photos of the locations from your stories, or things that inspire you, or even the day-to-day of your life, then a platform like Instagram is going to be a good fit for you.  If you’re a natural researcher, and are constantly coming across interesting links that you think your readers would enjoy, then Twitter or Facebook might be a good fit.

And if you can’t imagine a scenario in which you’ll be able to find any joy in using social media, consider doing something else instead.  You can blog for yourself or others, be a guest on or create a podcast, create videos, teach courses, or write email newsletters.  You can absolutely have success as an author without it if you’re willing to invest in other methods to get the word out about your work.

Where this fits with your author website is primarily on two fronts:

  1. Sharing content from your website onto your platforms. Ideally, your author website is a hub for information about you, such as information about your books, your events/appearances, etc..  so you want to be sharing information from your website out onto your platforms.  That means that when people come across it — especially folks who are new to you — they might click through and do things like buy your book, or join your mailing list, or even just better understand your brand to keep you in mind for their future reading.
  2. Sharing your social content via your site.  Of course it’s unlikely that someone would ever come to your website to see what you’re sharing via Instagram, but you do want people to know that you’re active on a platform, and to make it easy to follow you there if they don’t already.  If someone comes to your website first, you want it to be really easy for them to follow you on your social platforms — don’t waste that opportunity.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula or marketing strategy that you can implement that will give you instant social media success as an author.  But with diligence and some strategic thinking, the opportunities are huge to create an impact on your author platform if you’re dedicated to it.