I’m going to let you in on a secret:
Most commonly-held beliefs about using social media to promote a book are 100% wrong.
Myth #1: You have to be on social media if you want to be a successful Author.
Fact: Wrong. There are probably more successful Authors not active on social media than are. There are tons of ways to promote a book, and plenty of great marketing plans don’t use social media.
Myth #2: If you want social media to work, you need millions of followers.
Fact: Great social media accounts start with a smart Author brand and an engaged microtribe.
Myth #3: If you want to promote your book, you need to be everywhere on social media.
Fact: If you want to wear yourself out, you will try to be everywhere. To promote your book, you need to focus your efforts where they’ll count the most.
Myth #4: You can’t build a social media following anymore unless you spend a lot on advertising.
Fact: You can still get tons of followers without advertising if you do it the right way.
If you’re looking to use social media platforms to promote your book, without spending a lot of money, this post will tell you how to do it.
First: Should You Be On Social Media At All?
Before you forge ahead and read the rest of this post, let me preface it by saying:
If you are not already on social media, you don’t need to start using socials solely to promote your book.
As we mentioned above, there are tons of other ways to promote your book.
However, if you enjoy using social media and your book’s target audience also uses social media, it can be an extremely useful way to engage with potential readers.
That’s why we’ve put together all the essential info you’ll need to make the best use of your social platforms.
What Is Organic Reach and How Does It Work?
Organic reach is the number of people your posts reach on social media without money spent on advertising. When you spend money, that’s called “paid reach.”
Each social media platform has its own algorithm for deciding who sees your posts, and each algorithm works a bit differently, so this post covers each one separately.
But every one of those algorithms is designed to do the same thing: get more people to spend more time looking at more stuff on that platform.
As a result, all social media algorithms have a few things in common:
- They recognize and promote popular content
- They reward likes and interaction
- They identify trends and personal interests
- They make sure your most active followers see your posts
- They try to show new people posts they might like
That’s why social media works best when you start with a small group of interested, dedicated friends and followers—a microtribe. The more that group interacts with your content, the further your posts will reach.
Choosing the right social media platform comes down to one thing: finding the platform you like using the most so that you will create content that people will most appreciate and interact with.
The Best Social Media Platforms for Nonfiction Authors
Great social media isn’t about being everywhere. In fact, it’s the opposite of that.
Building a strong social media presence is about finding the place where your brand meets your target audience.
Yes, there are some generalities. The Snapchat audience is younger than the Facebook audience. The business crowd likes LinkedIn.
But it goes much deeper than that.
You really need to think about how people use each platform. What’s popular? What are people looking for?
On Instagram, people want amazing photos and videos. They want to be wowed visually.
On Twitter, they’re looking for quick, pithy tweets: jokes, insights, or ranting flameouts (depending on the micro-audience).
So before you go through the list below, make sure you know exactly what you’re offering. Ask yourself:
- What is your book about?
- Who is it for?
- What kind of content do you want to post?
The first question applies to your social media content. Whether you’re tweeting or posting, your content has to show people what they’ll get if they read your book.
The second question is about your audience. Who are they, and why will they be interested in you?
The same person who reads insightful articles on LinkedIn might watch cat videos on Facebook.
Choosing your platform isn’t just about knowing where people are, it’s about knowing what they like to do there.
The third question is really about two things: what’s the tone of your Author brand, and what form of media will you enjoy creating regularly?
Bizarre videos that might go viral on TikTok won’t go over well on LinkedIn. Long, serious articles that would get hundreds or thousands of shares on LinkedIn will tank on Instagram.
Know your audience, know your content, and know what interests you. The key to all social media channels is strong, consistent content. So be sure to pick a format you’ll enjoy working with.
LinkedIn started as a platform for professionals to get introductions to people they wanted to connect with.
If you want to get a job at Coca-Cola, you can see whether you have a mutual connection with someone who works at Coca-Cola.
It was a simple, powerful idea, and it’s grown over time into a huge, highly active social media platform.
People don’t often associate LinkedIn with other social networks, and the team at LinkedIn has worked hard to keep it that way. Professionals visit the platform to connect and grow as professionals, not to watch cat videos.
The LinkedIn audience wants insightful articles and professionally inspirational stories. They want to know about business trends. They want timely, relevant information and success stories—especially ones that explain how they did it.
Content can be in text or video form, but text is far more prevalent. In fact, it’s arguably better.
The professionals on LinkedIn read articles for a purpose, and they’ll scan longer posts for what they need. They can’t scan through a video in the same way, and they’ll stop watching after a few seconds if the content isn’t immediately relevant.
As for organic reach, the LinkedIn algorithm depends mostly on engagement from your own contacts. So the best way to spread your content and grow your page is by posting articles that your contacts will like and share.
The kinds of articles that get shares on LinkedIn:
- A long-form article on how remote work is changing hiring practices
- A short story about a manager who hires the homeless in Los Angeles
- A post about how a single parent became a global cupcake entrepreneur
- Twelve tips for sticky marketing in a digital age
LinkedIn is one of the few places on social media that isn’t inundated with content. Many LinkedIn users never post anything, leaving plenty of room for new content to be discovered.
It also lets you list your publications on your profile. So as soon as your book is published, be sure to add it.
If you want more tips on creating great LinkedIn content to promote your book, check out my post on Author blogging.
Facebook is the largest social media network in the world, reporting almost 2.5 billion active monthly users by the end of 2019. And it’s still growing.
With that many users, Facebook is as diverse in its content and interests as humanity itself.
And those 2.5 billion active monthly users are genuinely active. Estimates of time spent on Facebook range from around 45 minutes per day to more than 2 hours. That’s a lot of potential attention to capture.
If Facebook users are interested in your content, they’ll read short or long posts. They’ll watch full videos. They’ll even pay for content when they think it’s worth it.
How are Authors using Facebook for paid content? By giving their audience access to private Facebook groups.
But regardless of whether you use Facebook as a paid content platform or as free book marketing, Facebook groups are a fantastic way to gather and interact with your microtribe.
And Facebook is really pushing groups right now—you’ve probably seen the TV ads—so it’s a perfect time to get in on the trend.
Groups give people a place to get focused content. It’s a way to make all 2.5 billion Facebook users feel like they’re getting an experience that’s tailored uniquely to them. Because they’re hanging out with their tribe.
Or, better yet, your tribe.
There are Facebook groups for anything and everything. The more focused, the better.
The key is to start with your microtribe—the small group of people who are most enthusiastic about your message. Seed your Facebook group with these individuals and interact with them often. Eventually, they will invite more like-minded people to join you.
It’s really that simple.
If you’re looking to get more followers for your Facebook page—followers who might later join your groups—the Facebook algorithm is also pushing video. This is Facebook’s way of getting into video streaming. It’s hot, and Facebook wants content.
Short videos are good, but videos of more than 5 minutes are better. Facebook is looking to build its long video content, and the algorithm is paying attention to how long people are watching.
The longer they watch, the more Facebook will promote your video, and the higher it will place your content in your followers’ feeds.
That’s a critical point about Facebook:
Facebook does not organize posts purely by the time they are posted.
In other words, if you’re following 100 people and businesses on Facebook, you won’t see their posts in chronological order. The most popular posts are bumped to the top of the feed.
That’s one of the ways Facebook has become the goliath it is today: it makes sure people are seeing things they find interesting. That’s why it’s so important to provide focused content to a targeted audience.
Your targeted microtribe needs your content. They’ll like and share your posts, and they’ll watch your videos. Those interactions teach the Facebook algorithm that your content is popular, giving you far more organic reach and attracting new followers.
Twitter is huge, but it’s also a bit of a mess.
With about 145 million active users each day, Twitter can feel like a whole lot of shouting at the wind if you aren’t uber-focused with a consistent message and brand.
The platform has also been infiltrated by tons of bots and fake accounts, which sell fake likes and follows to people who don’t have any idea how social media really works. But real Twitter influencers don’t buy followings. They build them.
With the right brand and content, Twitter accounts can gather millions of followers, even for people who were previously unknown.
James Breakwell, for example, has amassed more than 1.1 million followers and promoted his best-selling books by tweeting micro-anecdotes about his daily interactions with his 4 daughters.
You don’t achieve that with fake followers. You build it with consistent, quality content.
Like Facebook, the Twitter algorithm likes interaction and will put popular content higher up in its feed. But it also has a strong preference for high levels of account activity.
Tweeting often between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm EST will give you a much better chance of expanding your organic reach through the likes and shares of your microtribe.
Twitter is working hard to get rid of bots and return to genuine, organic reach by limiting users’ ability to build fake followings.
For example, third-party apps can no longer track people who unfollow you. This makes it much harder to collect followers through following a lot of other accounts and seeing who sticks.
Which is great because that was a terrible way to build a real following.
Like Facebook, Twitter wants people to think the content in their feeds is interesting. If you tweet good content, people will like and share it, putting your tweets in front of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of potential new followers.
Instagram, often abbreviated as IG, started as a platform where photographers–professional and amateur alike–could post their pictures for the world to enjoy (while maintaining some control over how and where those images were posted).
It grew into much more than that, but Instagram’s history affects the platform to this day, making it different from other major social media platforms in two key ways:
- You have to post a photo or video every time
- Other people’s posts are shared in “stories,” not in feeds
The photo/video requirement isn’t terribly limiting—some Instagram accounts post photos of text or even short text-based videos. But the lack of sharing has been a major limitation when it comes to building an organic following on IG.
When you post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, people can choose to share your post, so it will show up in their own feed where all their friends can see it. On Instagram, it doesn’t work that way.
For a long time, there was no way for people to share posts at all, and IG didn’t even show its users what their friends were liking. It relied primarily on hashtags to help people find new content.
It might seem odd that I’m only just now mentioning hashtags in an article about social media, but the majority of people don’t find new content on (most) social media platforms through hashtags. At least not anymore.
Hashtags are far more important on Instagram because IG doesn’t offer a lot of other tools for discovering new content.
Many IG influencers gather new followers through organic reach by following relevant hashtags, liking good posts, and then interacting with the people who are commenting on those posts.
Why interact with the commenters? Because there’s a pretty big split on IG between accounts that are trying to be influencers—posting lots of consistent content—and people who are mostly followers—watching and commenting on other people’s posts.
IG influencers don’t follow many other people. In fact, most social media influencers don’t. Their goal is to amass a lot of followers without following many people themselves, thereby proving their popularity.
But commenters do follow people. In fact, they’re the best followers to have because they’re willing to take the time to comment on your posts, which boosts your popularity and makes your posts show up higher in people’s feeds.
Like all social media, though, your content has to look professional, and the IG audience is less forgiving than most. If you’re not willing to take the time to create good images, then IG isn’t right for you.
If you’re willing to create good photos and videos, and you’re willing to spend some time interacting with people, then IG is still a very viable platform. But if your content is video-heavy, be sure to check out the section on TikTok before you make your final decision.
If Instagram makes it hard to find new brands to follow, Snapchat is even worse. People use Snapchat to follow friends and brands they already know—they don’t usually use it to find new ones.
That’s where Ghostcodes comes in.
Ghostcodes is a completely different app built by a completely different company that helps people find Snapchat content they’ll be interested in (which should tell you something about how bad Snapchat is at it).
Ghostcodes organizes Snapchat influencers by category, but the choices are still pretty limited. It also lets you search your own key terms, but the search algorithm is pretty bad.
If you search “social media marketing,” for example, nothing comes up because nobody is using “social media marketing” in their name.
That’s the biggest key to Snapchat: your name is a huge opportunity. Choose it wisely.
Like most social media, Snapchat lets you enter both a user name and your real name. The search engine will check both places for any search someone enters. That’s true for both Snapchat and Ghostcodes.
So, for example, if you’re John Smith, social media marketer, and you include “Social Media Marketing Guru” as part of your name, you just captured every single “social media marketing” search on Snapchat.
Sometimes being direct is a lot better than being clever.
The other thing worth noting about Snapchat is Snapcodes. These are basically QR codes specific to Snapchat. If you’re looking for them, you’ll see them hiding unobtrusively in the corners of posters and the like.
One of Snapchat’s claims to fame is its focus on gathering users through real-life interactions. Like scanning a Snapcode from a poster to follow that Snapchat account. Or scanning a custom Snapcode to go straight to a website.
Unlike QR codes, Snapcodes let you put an image of your choice inside the ghost-shaped cutout in the center. This makes the Snapcodes brandable, and the ability to use them to send people to your book’s website, for example, is worth exploring.
That said, Snapchat is generally terrible in terms of discovering new accounts, and its user base is lagging behind the other social media platforms.
TikTok is arguably the most intensely engaging platform of all the social media channels. As of September 2019, the average TikTok user session in the U.S. was more than twice as long as on any other platform.
If you’re not familiar, TikTok is a platform for short videos. They can (and should) include sound, but they have a maximum length of 15 seconds, with the potential to string four of them together for a whopping full minute of content.
Bad content is always bad, but on TikTok it’s utterly worthless. Unless, of course, your content is terrible on purpose—the kind of trainwreck you can’t stop watching. Then, it’s good. At least on TikTok.
Why? Because the key to TikTok is how many times people watch your video.
TikTok is one of the few platforms where hashtags still matter. When you post a video with hashtags, TikTok won’t just show it to your followers. It will show it to a small, random selection of people who follow those hashtags.
If the video does well with that audience and people watch it all the way through several times or more, TikTok expands the audience, showing it to even more people.
As a result, it’s entirely possible for someone with just a handful of followers to get more than 100K likes on their next video. Now, that’s also true of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but those platforms depend on people deciding to share the post.
On TikTok, the algorithm actively expands the reach of any video that looks like it’s taking off.
Is there a formula for a TikTok sensation? Yes and no. TikTok users are looking to be amused or impressed, and you have to grab their attention fast with trends that can change by the hour. More than on any other platform, timing is everything.
Be sure to hashtag your videos well so the algorithm shows them to people who are most likely to watch them multiple times. TikTok rewards videos with the most watches by expanding their reach.
Pay attention to your video titles. TikTok allows users to scan through videos on a certain subject. Use your titles to grab attention.
Watch what’s trending
Almost anything can trend on TikTok: hashtags, sounds, video types, etc. Pay attention to what’s happening right now. Trends rise and die quickly, so hop on the bandwagon while you can.
That said, don’t change your content focus. Always stay on-brand. Just use those trends to tie into your own messaging.
Pinterest is a real outlier when it comes to social media.
People spend a lot of time on it, and yet it’s one of the only places where you can “set it and forget it,” meaning you can post content once and continue to reap the rewards months or even years later.
Pinterest lets you collect images you find on the Internet and add them to themed “boards.” Those themes can be literally anything you want, but name them wisely.
Just like in Snapchat, don’t be clever with your board titles. Be direct. Is it a board of cool guitars? Call it “Cool Guitars.” A board of crazy inventions? Call it “Crazy Inventions.”
Pinterest does push new content more than old content, but one of the cool things about Pinterest is that Google recognizes its popularity. When it comes to images, Google will still put old Pinterest content near the top of its searches, helping people find you.
Like any other social media, make sure your themed boards are on-brand and relevant to your book’s content.
Most importantly, include the fact that you’re a published Author in your Pinterest profile description and provide a link to your Amazon book page. Your Pinterest boards will keep working for you long after you’ve posted them.
Goodreads is a social media platform for readers.
That might sound great for an Author, but it has its limitations. The Goodreads audience only wants to connect about books, so until your book is big, it can be hard to forge connections with new readers.
Goodreads lets you claim your Author page, allowing you to post blogs and run Kindle giveaways (among many other Author benefits). You’ll want to take advantage of everything it has to offer, but it might not be your best social media platform.
If you want to be a blogger, Goodreads isn’t the best place to do it. Connect your feed for the free posts, but don’t make it your main blogging platform.
By default, Goodreads emails new posts to readers in bulk once a week, listing only your name and post title amongst all the others. The emails are clunky and formatted badly. You’re much better off controlling your own Author blog.
Goodreads groups are a little better. Like Facebook groups, they collect people with common interests, and you can make one yourself. But unless your book is about reading or writing or books, you’re better off with a Facebook group.
Finally, Goodreads lists provide an opportunity for your book to be discovered. Readers nominate your book to lists, and more votes move it higher on those lists.
Goodreads lists get decent Google rankings, but you can’t vote on your own book. If you find the right niche list, ask friends to add your book to it. Like Pinterest, once your book is on a list, you can leave it alone. Google will offer it if the search fits.