Authors are expected to have a social media presence. Expected. Not only by their fans and readers, who want to connect and fan all over them, but also by publishers and agents who expect the author to shoulder at least some burden of the marketing.
It's expected. It's practically required. So where does that put you? Which social media channel do you go for? There are so many social media sites to choose from! How do you decide which ones to start and which ones to ignore? Should you be on all of them?
Setting up an online presence for your author platform can feel like you're staring at a formidable temple at the top of a foreboding mountain guarded by rabid griffons and protected by dark magic. It's overwhelming. And, as if that's not bad enough, having large followings on social media doesn't always translate to book sales. So you could be pumping a lot of energy and a lot of time into your Facebook page and crafting the perfect tweet and still not see much return.
And if you're a new author with your first book coming out, then what? How do you stand out against the dozens or hundreds of books coming out in your same genre in the same month? How do you get die hard fans of one author to notice you?
This is where the Social Media Pyramid** comes in.
The Social Media Pyramid
At the bottom of your author platform are your major sales sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Every author of every genre is on these sites with author profiles and buttons and links to follow these authors. It doesn't matter if you self-published, vanity published, or traditionally published through an agent and a publisher… they're all here. Hundreds of thousands of authors and millions of books.
Next step up the pyramid: self-publishing platforms. CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords. These sites carry only self-published authors (or those authors who use publishing companies based on these sites). Still hundreds of thousands of authors and millions of books to sift through.
Then we have the author platforms that begin to offer a bit more interaction. Places where the author can begin to interact with readers and fans, offer reviews on other books, and post short updates on their own works: authors.me, GoodReads.
On the next rung, publishers' or agencies' websites often have profiles for the authors they represent. Depending on the size of the publisher there could be dozens or hundreds of author profiles listed on a single site. And many authors might be listed on different sites, if they write in different genres, which expends their pool even more.
Next up on the pyramid, we start to see where authors leave the publishing and sales sites behind and can really come out and start to interact more with readers and fans on their own. Facebook Fan Pages are almost always the first social media platform authors set up — because so many people are already on Facebook. It makes sense to set up where the readers and fans are, right? Published, waiting to be published, self-published authors — authors at all stages of their career have a Facebook Fan Page. They try standing out by posting or sharing content of various types to that page, but they are still swimming in a sea of millions of other authors.
Further up the pyramid: Twitter. Once again, millions of authors at different stages of their careers Tweet their hellos to readers and fans (and even each other).
Can you see the pattern here?
The further up the pyramid you go, the fewer authors will be sharing the same space with you. Even if there are still millions of authors all over Pinterest (and there are) because of the way Pinterest works and the way different authors focus on different things, you will still find yourself in a much smaller sea than on Facebook. And because Pinterest and Instagram are generally thought of as visual tools, and writing doesn't exactly lend itself to visual aids, many authors skip over them completely.
The pattern continues all the way up your pyramid until you get to the top, which would be your personal author site or blog.
Just look around this site: the only other authors on this site are those whom I bring on. Guests posts, interviews, blog tours… I have allowed a select few authors to share my space for a limited time. And chances are I will do it again. But this space is mine. I don't have to worry about standing out here because it's just me here.
Is a blog required?
So, does this mean that you need to head out to Blogger or WordPress and get a blog set up? No. Does this mean you need to break down and sign up for a Pinterest account? Again, no. If you don't take many pictures and aren't very good at creating graphics, will Instagram really be the best addition to your author platform?
Of course not.
Now that you know how the social media platform works, you can begin choosing which steps you want to set up on. The closer to the bottom of the pyramid you set up, the bigger the pool of authors you're swimming with. Channels like Facebook and Twitter have the largest reach because they have the most users. But look at this:
There are over 12,000 pages in my “Liked Pages” feed. 12000! And look, I've still got more than 20 invites to like even more pages. This is why setting up a page on Facebook is good, and getting those likes is good — but ultimately if you rely on Facebook you will sink. There are millions of other authors promoting their pages.
Now let's take a look at Twitter. On Twitter, I am currently following over 3,600 people — most of whom are indie authors. A few other professionals here and there and a couple friends but in the year I've been using Twitter regularly I've come to follow primarily indie authors.
How will knowing all this help me?
Your author platform is all about you. In fact, you're the only required piece. All other avenues are optional. The only real question you need to ask is how far up the pyramid are you willing to climb to stand out from the rest of the authors out there? And are you using the social channels that will help you effectively stand out without spreading yourself too thin or having to spend too much time on your social media presence?