Every author I know is trying to “build their following” on social media. Why? Because each follower is a potential cheerleader, fan, and customer for future book releases!
Authors who are already published (or in the process) have no trouble coming up with things to post on Instagram or Facebook. They have lots of exciting news to share — sneak peeks of cover art, positive reviews, and more. But, pre-published authors often struggle with what to post.
Is it even worth it?
The answer is YES! In fact, if you’re reading this as a pre-published author, you’re in the best possible place to start building your social media presence. The earlier you start, the better off you’ll be. (And you might even increase your chances of getting that first book deal, since agents and publishers are known to take a peek at a potential author’s social media accounts prior to making an offer of publication.)
Okay…but I don’t have cover art or reviews…I don’t even have a completed manuscript!
What do I even post about?
To answer that question we need to start by identifying your (future) target audience.
Identify Your Target Audience
This part is fairly easy. Who do you envision reading your future books?
Maybe you write children’s picture books about a variety of topics...
...Then your target audience would simply be parents, teachers, and librarians of young children.
Maybe you have a more narrow niche, like social emotional learning...
...Then, your target audience would be parents, teachers, librarians, and counselors with a special interest in social emotional learning.
Maybe you write Christian picture books...
...Then your target audience would be Christian parents, teachers, librarians, Sunday school teachers, church leaders, etc.
You get the idea!
NOTE: If you aren’t sure yet which direction your publishing career will take, keep it broad, and focus on brand. For example, if you are currently writing children’s books, but have a feeling you might someday want to publish your memoir - then think about where those two genres might intersect in terms of audience. Will they both appeal to readers who like stories about diverse families, for instance? Do they both have a focus on humor? Try to determine the overall personality of your target audience, rather than focusing on a single age-range or genre.
Figure Out What Motivates Them
Next, think about what motivates people to click “follow” on social media. For most of us, it’s one of these four things:
We were entertained by something they posted and want to see more things like that.
They provided useful information about a topic we’re interested in and we want to learn more.
We support something they posted about and want to help amplify their message.
They offer a service or product we are interested in purchasing now or in the future.
So, pretend to be your target audience. What slows their scroll? What’s worth their while? What interests them? What do they like to see on social media? What do they hate?
If you can create a social media presence that appeals to your target audience, you’ll gradually start to build up a following that is genuinely interested in what you have to say - now, and in the future.
Okay, but…WHAT EXACTLY DO I POST?
I know, I know! Even if you’ve got your target audience identified and you’re trying to put yourself in their social media shoes, it can still be hard to come up with ideas when you’re staring at that screen. Don’t worry…I’ve got you!
Types of Posts to Build Your Social Media Following
Here are four different types of posts you can make on social media to build your following - with specific examples!
Share Content From Other Creators
This is the easiest place to start because it doesn’t require you to create ANYTHING yourself. Simply browse the internet as you usually would, and when you come across something you think your target audience would enjoy, share it!
Examples could be:
Articles/videos about parenting or reading.
Articles/videos about crafts or games for kids.
Links to products you’ve used and loved - make it clear you aren’t selling anything!
Info about local community activities or opportunities.
Links to recipes you’ve tried and enjoyed.
My target audience of parents of young kids would definitely be interested in this event at a local nursery. (The nursery also carries my books, so it's nice to help them out!)
Create Your Own Content
If you have a blog or website, you can create and share your own content. Obviously, this is a little more labor intensive than sharing content produced by others, but it can be a great way to build an audience.
Examples could include:
Blog/videos about how you encourage reading with your own kids.
Blog/videos of your family doing crafts or other activities.
Your personal reviews of books, toys, games, and other products.
“Top Ten” Style lists of your favorite Christmas books, local restaurants, etc.
Printables or activity sheets people can download and print.
Teachers, one of my target audience groups, will love this free activity I created and shared on my website.
Create Opportunities for Interaction
Interaction Posts are great because they allow you to engage with your target audience in a personal way but in a public setting. That way others can see how you interact and decide if they want to join in.
Some examples of interaction posts might include:
Asking followers to share their favorite childhood book.
Asking followers to choose between two options. (Salty snacks or sweet?)
Posting a photo of your pet (or junk drawer, or the book you’re currently reading, etc.) and asking them to share theirs too.
Asking followers to finish a sentence. (If we are what we eat, my kid is 90% _____________.)
I had even more people sending me messages with their pictures!
The possibilities really are endless! Just remember, the more you can focus your interaction questions on topics adjacent to books and children, the more likely you are to build a following of potential future customers.
Interact With Complementary Accounts
Sometimes, you don’t even have to post anything yourself to gain followers! Following and interacting with other accounts that have the same target audience is a great way to attract followers.
For a children’s book author, good accounts to follow might include:
Other children’s authors
Community organizations - the local library, mom’s groups, etc.
Pages related to your niche - local animal shelters, autism awareness groups, etc.
And remember, no self-promotion! Just interact with their posts in a genuine way. Comments, likes, and shares get noticed, and the more people see your name, the more likely they’ll be to pay attention when you actually have a book to promote.
The Bottom Line
There’s a reason they’re called “friends” on Facebook.
Building an effective following on social media is a lot like building a network of genuine friendships. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t do it by joining random follow trains or co-promotion groups.
Just like with our in-person friendships, the more time and energy we invest in building those online connections, the stronger and more supportive they’ll be.
But, that doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking hour online! In the same way that a quick “thinking of you” text can do wonders to maintain a real life friendship, a quick comment or post once a week can make a real impact on our social media relationships. It’s about quality, not quantity!
By taking your time and genuinely getting to know people online, adding value to their day, and being a positive spot on their newsfeed, you can build a social media presence that will be ready - and eager - to support you when you do become a published author.