It’s no secret that social media has gotten tough for authors with many reporting dismal reach and even worse engagement rates. This past year, the biggest social media site Facebook, announced they would show less content from business pages and favor community groups. This was a huge blow to authors with business pages. So what is an author to do? Believe it or not, there are still ways to reach your audience without having to pay a site to promote your posts. However, it will require time and effort on your part, so if you’re willing to put in the work, you can maintain your connection to your followers.
Old Tricks On A New Day
The problem that I often see on social media is that many authors are still following rules that don’t work anymore. The hacks, tips and tricks that were supposed to help you game the system years ago may actually be hurting you now. Below, I put together a list of just a few tricks that just don’t work anymore:
Trick #1: Posting Frequently
Several years back when I created my author page on Facebook, the marketing gurus told people to post frequently and that worked, for a while. But social media users complained when spammers and the power users began overtaking their feeds so algorithms were given the task of prioritizing content. This meant that it didn’t matter if you posted 5 or 500 times per day, it would all be ignored if your content wasn’t relevant to your followers. In fact sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have a limit on how much activity an account can have before it’s flagged as suspicious. This means you can be locked out of your account for 24 hrs or even have it suspended indefinitely.
Trick #2: Like Groups & Events
On Chris Syme’s podcast: Smarty Pants, her guest, author Shawn Inmon, talked about the regret he had about holding “like events” where he would invite other people to like his Facebook page. He described those likes as, “An anchor around your neck,” because those people who liked his page, did so, and never returned. You see having a large following but no interaction is pointless on a site like Facebook. The same goes for Twitter and Instagram. As you can imagine, when your followers far exceed your engagement, the algorithms assume your posts aren’t of a good quality and so your content gets less priority.
As if that weren’t enough, this past May, it was reported that Facebook shutdown several large Instagram groups, who were artificially inflating the popularity of certain posts, violating the company’s terms of service. I believe things like this will continue as Facebook desperately tries to clean house after their recent data scandals.
Trick #3: Blindly Following & Unfollowing
I still hear this one being repeated as a sure fire way to get a large following. In fact, there are services that deploy bots which follow and unfollow people en masse to help their clients build up their social media following. As you can imagine this type of technique was abused by shady marketers and now, algorithms are programmed to detect this sort of thing. So if you’re following and unfollowing more than 40 – 50 people per day, it’s possible that you can trigger the algorithms and get locked out of your account for suspicious behavior.
Trick #4: Posting & Running
Most authors are guilty of this and I am no exception, it’s the set it and forget it technique where you use a scheduling app to post on your behalf. However, algorithms these days monitor what people respond to and if nobody is responding to your content then your scheduling is in vain. Today, authors must show up and engage their followers so leave the scheduling for important things like announcing publication dates, sales or public appearances.
Trick #4: Using Quotes
For years authors have been urged to create quotes on stunning backgrounds to get attention. However, that too has become blasé, in fact, it’s actually become a meme on social media:
Visual posts do garner the attention of people but take quotes from your own books. Trust me, famous people don’t need our help to promote them on social media.
Trick #5: Clickbait Headlines
For those of you who don’t know what clickbait is, it’s basically a headline such as: “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!” which is a ploy designed to get people off of one site and onto a less secure one. Clickbait is a popular technique used by criminals and shady marketers which is why sites like Facebook and Twitter now have rules against it.
Things That Still Work…For Now
Okay, so now that you know what doesn’t work, I’ll explain what does. Surprisingly, it’s not all that complicated but it does require a bit of your time and effort. Below, I have just a few tips to help you to remain visible to your followers:
Tip #1: Creating a Community Group
Groups are nothing new to social media, you can create them on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. As of this date, none of the social media sites have tried to monetize groups—yet! This means the members of your group will see ALL of your posts.
Now I know what you’re wondering, how can you build a group on a site like Twitter? Well that’s simple, you can create your own hashtag around an important topic and build a group that way. If you want to take it a step further, you can even register your own hashtag with a service like Hashtag.org. It won’t mean that you own it or can prevent others from using it but it will mean that your account will be linked to the hashtag. So when people look for it in the search engine, your account will pop up at the top of the results. Neat, huh?
Tip #2: Networking
Okay, I’ve said this before but I’m saying it again, you’re not on social media only to promote yourself. You’re there to establish relationships with your readers as well as book reviewers, influencers and authors in your genre. If you’re doing those things you are one step ahead of 80% of your peers who just auto post.
When I say go out there and socialize, I mean go out and find where the book and writing conversations are and contribute to the discussion. I know authors who set goals of commenting on at least 50 discussions when trying to grow their following or boost their engagement. Most of the time it works for them plus, it doesn’t cost any money. I talked about this in my post: How to Approach & Pitch Influencers several years ago, you might want to give it a look.
Tip #3: Videos
In the past year or so, all the major sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have begun favoring video content. They seem to be trying to amass as much video as possible in order to keep users on their site instead of Youtube, or Snapchat. Now, I know what you’re saying, “I don’t have the money or skills to create a video!“. That’s where you’re wrong. You may not be able to deliver Steven Spielberg work but you can do a basic video where you stream together pictures and add a little text or music like a slideshow.
Most authors can create basic videos using software that’s probably already installed on your computer like Windows 10 Photos, or iMovie. You can even create a basic video on your smartphone with software like Magisto and iMotion.
Tip #4: Live Streaming
Live streaming began in social media with the launch of Periscope, a video app which was acquired by Twitter in 2015. Since then, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram all have their own version of live streaming. It’s still relatively new so it’s given more weight by the algorithms. If you want to see indie authors who have used this feature well check out Mark Dawson and Toby Neal.
As you may have noticed, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are designing their algorithms to keep users on their sites for a longer period of time. Gone are the days where you could put your social media accounts on autopilot and not log in for days. Today, you need to show up and interact with actual human beings. If you don’t, you stand the risk of becoming invisible to your followers. This is the new reality of social media and if you’re not into the whole community aspect of things, then you might have to pony up with some cash in order to stay on minds of your followers.
Now I’m handing the mic to you, are there any social media tips that you find don’t work anymore? Tell us in the comments section.