Social media can be a powerful tool for writers, helping you to find new audiences, promote your work, and network with other writers. But it can also be tricky to make the most of these platforms. The expectation for constant content and a need to find the right balance between professional and personal posts can be overwhelming for some writers.
Luckily, Janice Landry is here to help. Janice has published five books and is now working on her sixth manuscript. She was also an instructor in the Department of Communications Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University for nearly 17 years, teaching many students about public speaking, media relations, persuasive writing, and audiovisual communications. Below, Janice shares advice for writers looking to incorporate social media into their writing practice.
Learn how to engage
Each social media platform has unique audiences and functions, so it’s good to research your options before signing up. These days, Facebook tends to reach an older demographic, while TikTok users skew younger—something to keep in mind if you are a writer of young adult fiction, for example. Instagram is optimal for photos, and Twitter works best for very concise messaging.
“Unless an author who is new to social media understands each platform, I would urge them to keep it to one platform and learn, then spread their wings,” Janice advises. “It can be time-consuming to manage multiple accounts, and what works for one platform does not necessarily work for another. Each has its own flavour and requirements.”
If you don’t understand or enjoy a particular platform, this will likely come across in your posts. It’s always better to stick to a few accounts that you can meaningfully engage with than to try and fail to keep up with the ever-changing trends in the tech world.
Learn how often to engage
“Social media is a free avenue for authors to get the word out about their work,” Janice notes. “It helps the public know when and where events are happening and what each author’s focus and passion is, in real-time.” But after you’ve signed up for an account or two, don’t forget that “consistency is key to maintaining a following.” A writer who posts sporadically, only every couple of months or so, will quickly be forgotten and abandoned by their online audience.
Writers who are just starting out should consider stockpiling relevant content before launching an account, such as photos of favourite writing spaces, links to interviews, and articles about writing that are worth resharing. This content can then be posted at regular intervals, such as once a week, while still leaving space to share things organically.
Know when to step back
On the flipside, don’t let your writing practice take a backseat to social media. “The trick is balancing the delivery of information without inundating people,” says Janice. If your posts are popping up in someone’s feed five or six times a day, your over-engagement can actually have a negative effect, driving people away from your account. Consider, too, that your audience wants to engage with you, so make sure you post original content and not just words and images created by other people.
One final caution from Janice: “Social media never stops, and it can be overwhelming. Know when to walk away from your computer and when to put the phone down. (Easier said than done!) Remember, this is a contrived space where people show you what they want you to see. It’s never the total story. So do not compare yourself to others. You are good enough.”
Be thoughtful, be kind, and be yourself
The best way to build a following on social media is to be thoughtful and authentic in what you post. “Don’t vent and don’t engage with trolls (people who are determined to ‘get your goat’ on issues),” Janice suggests. “Discretion is strongly advised. Ask yourself whether something is appropriate content before posting.”
In Janice’s experience, displaying “genuine empathy” is what has gained her the most followers online. “Do not just post. Support and interact with others. We are a community. There is room in the creative pond for everyone. I appreciate all the people who support me, and I try to show that reciprocally every week.”
textcetera is a blog series exploring the writer’s life beyond craft. “Social media for writers” was written by Keanan Byggdin.