In the process of strategizing with authors about what they might include on their website, we talk about social media. Almost everyone has at least one social media profile, and if you’re looking to market yourself as an author and your book, you must get on board.

At the very minimum, a book and/or author website should provide links to your social media profile(s), but what else can/should you include? Read on for some tips…

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  • This is less about what to include, but more about when — don’t wait until you book is finished before you start marketing it via social media. Just like your website can be in place before your book is finished (so that you can build a mailing list and start building interest), you can use social media to update people on your progress and build buzz… let people feel invested in what you’re doing ahead of time. Then, when your book is released, you already have places to talk about it — if your book is released and your social media profiles are empty because you just got started, that’s a wasted opportunity and at the same time as you’re thinking about your book release you’re scrambling to get your social media marketing underway from scratch.
  • Be sensitive to how much marketing you’re doing vs how much of a resource you are to your followers/fans — no one wants to be advertised to constantly, so if you have interesting stories to tell and resources to share in addition to telling people about your book, that’s a huge key to social media success for authors. If you’re a nonfiction author there should be lots of information you can share — research, stories, news, etc.. If you’re a fiction author you can talk about the world your characters inhabit.
  • Choose the platform(s) that work best for you and be yourself: Facebook is great at building & maintaining relationships, Twitter is great at getting the word out, Google+ opens you up to new fans and communities who are interested in what you’re doing (especially via search), Pinterest is great for sharing and searching for inspiration, GoodReads is specially designed for authors to connect with readers, and LinkedIn helps you build your network. You don’t have to use all of them — pick the ones that you are most likely to use regularly and invest your time in those. Each one has a way to allow people to connect with you directly on your website without having to click to visit your profile first. These widgets/buttons (such as the Facebook “Like” button) allow people to follow you on their social media platform on choice without leaving your website (or worse, having to search for them), and if you add unique content there you can also include a feed of your updates.
  • Use your website like a hub for information and your social media profiles as a way to get the word out about it. For example, if you are going to have book signing events or appearances at conferences, make sure that your full event schedule and details are listed on your website. Ahead of each event make sure you get the word out via social media, and add a link to see all future events on your website. This reinforces to your fans that you’ll let them know about timely events (via social media), but they always have a place to go to make sure they’re not missing anything (via your website). If you have a blog, that’s another great example of a way to take interesting content from your site and share it with people.
  • Personalize your profiles so that when people click to follow you via a platform it is an extension of your brand, and doesn’t seem like they’ve jumped from your website to the wrong profile because they are disconnected, or worse, completely unprofessional. Use your author photo as your thumbnail image, and your book cover image (when available) to fill out the remaining image options, and fill out the details like a description and the website link. And like I mentioned above, bring your personality to your profile — you don’t need to share the intimate details of your life, but be willing to open up a bit about what makes you tick, especially when it comes to what you write about.
  • Keep at it. There’s no use including social media profiles on your website if you’re not going to use them. If you have a Facebook page, and link to it on your website, but there’s nothing there or it hasn’t been updated in ages it isn’t doing you any good. You don’t need to spend lots of time every day on it, but make sure you check in regularly, respond to inquiries, and make an effort to reach out to others — after all, it’s a SOCIAL media platform.

And keep in mind that social media isn’t for everybody. If the whole idea of using a social media platform makes you squirm, and you don’t have anyone in your life to help guide you with how to best use them, then consider doing something else to market your book. I’m not saying it’s not worth it to invest the time (and potential money) into figuring out how to use social media to your benefit, but if someone tells you that you can’t succeed without it, they’re not telling you the truth.

And, finally, there’s been some debate about whether you even need a website and could just get away with a Facebook page instead. I wrote a blog post about Facebook Pages vs Websites which will give you more information on this topic, but the bottom line is that unless you have a really good reason not to have one, there’s no reason not to have a website. It could be argued that having a crappy website would do you a disservice, and I agree with that, but it’s not difficult to have a simple, easy-to-use, and elegant website these days for little money these days. And having your own domain name with a site that you completely control is meaningful in the long run, not matter what happens with Facebook.