Yes. And no.
In terms of building an author platform, you need methods of attracting potential new readers. Some people call this outreach. Social media is great for outreach. It’s not so great for selling.
The disadvantage of social media is that you don’t own the platform. If you infringe the rules of the social network, they can delete your account. This leaves you with no way of engaging with or converting potential readers. And that’s why a website and email list—things you own—are the two most important foundations of your author platform.
This happened to me last year: Twitter suspended my account. I got it back, but what if I hadn’t?
As I see it, there are two main functions of social networking for authors:
- To help us connect with readers
- To help us connect with other writers
This is why social networks are important. Writers often work in isolation, and online social networks provide us with valuable and necessary ways to connect with others. My favourite social network is Facebook, and I think of it as the water cooler in my virtual office, the place I head for a short break to recharge before starting the next item on my to-do list.
Connecting with Readers
I believe connecting with readers is more important to an author’s long-term success, because it is the readers who are going to buy your book (or books). For this reason, my suggestions around social networks are more focused on connecting with readers than with other writers–as this is the weak spot for most writers.
We need readers.
We need readers because they read our books. They talk about our books. They review our books. They buy our books. Sure, writers are also readers (or should be). But there are more readers than writers.
Connecting with Writers
Yes, connecting with writers is important, especially in the early stages of your writing. You need to learn to write, and other writers are going to be the people who help with that. Writers will be your first teachers, your first readers, your first fans. They will give you advice on what do, and what not to do. They will help you find a community, essential if your writing is ever going to be anything more than you and a computer.
But in the long term, connecting with readers is more important. Because while all writers are readers (or should be), not all readers are writers.
So what do you want or need from a social networking site:
- The ability to connect with other users
- A market demographic that matches your target reader
This means the social networks which are right for me might not be the same as those which are right for you. For example, I discovered as I was researching this post that there are specific social networks for specific groups (this probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did). For example:
- MyMFB has 1.5+ billion followers, and is touted as the Muslim alternative to Facebook.
- Twoo is a Belgian site geared to teenagers and twenty-somethings.
- Renren (everyone’s website) is China’s largest social platform.
- VK.com is the Russian version of Facebook.
None of these are appropriate social networks for me, as my target reader is a Christian with English as their first language.
But these social networks could be great options for writers targeting non-Christian readers in these countries and people groups.
So, no, you don’t need to be on every social network. But you probably do need to be active on a couple of social networks. And you do need your own author website (discussed in this post), and you almost certainly need an email list (click here if you’d like to join mine!).
Do you …
Know you need to start building your author platform but have no idea where to start?
Have a blog and a couple of social media accounts but don’t know what to do next?
Have a website, but aren’t sure if you’re on the right track?
Then join my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. Click here for more information.