Putting the Social in Social Media

by Ralene Burke

Many authors today want to sell their books on social media. They design some great graphics with their book covers, create blurbs in 140 characters or less, and schedule posts with buy links and calls-to-action. Then they sit back and wait for the sales to start rolling in.

But nothing happens.

Then said authors grumble about how social media is a waste of time and how they don’t see a lick of difference in their sales when they post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

These authors got social media all mixed up!

Social media is about being social.

For the most part, it’s not about making sales. It’s about building a following. A tribe. It’s about forging trust and loyalty. It’s about giving readers access to authors on a personal level. How do we do that?

Define Your Target Audience

As authors, we need to define our target audience as early in our process as possible. They will influence what we post, where we post it, and when. What we post for a 17-year-old female who’s just finishing high school would be vastly different from what we post for a 42-year-old married male who’s having a mid-life crisis.

To figure out who our target audience is, we look at various factors. Most experts recommend creating an Ideal Reader Profile. If we were writing to just ONE person, who would that person be? Then answer questions like:

  • Age? Gender? Marital Status? Education?
  • Likes and dislikes? Hobbies and interests?
  • Religious and political affiliations?
  • What do they worry about? What are they afraid of? What makes them happy/excited?
  • What is their greatest need?

Once we’ve defined our target audience, we can better design or accumulate content that will interest and engage them.

Curate Appropriate Content

We’ve defined our target audience. We have a pretty good idea of who they are, what they need. Now we need to know where their needs and our story elements intersect.

For instance, I have a YA fantasy novel coming out in the fall. The main character is struggling with self-worth and accepting her calling. She’s also an orphan and a healer. In the story, she faces trials such as coming to terms with the death of her family, understanding that her worth is not based on her father’s mistakes, realizing that humans are complicated and not always all good/all bad.

These are all aspects that I can use to connect with my audience. I brainstorm ways to use these common elements in my social media. On my blog, I host a weekly “Confessions” post where people write out their confessions—some serious, some silly—and give readers a chance to see they’re not alone.

Because my novels are YA (which means primary audience of 14-21, with a surprising large audience of women in their 20s and 30s), I am on both Facebook and Instagram. I share encouraging posts that are meant to build people up. I share fun posts, like graphics with “choose your favorite ________”, that allow people to connect, not just with me, but with each other. I share a lot about goal-setting just to help my readers reach their dreams a small step at a time.

Sometimes I use quotes and graphics from my novels to show how readers will relate to my stories.

Use the 80/20 Rule

With the 80/20 rule, only 20% of all our posts should be about “selling” our books, blogs, etc. The other 80% of our posts should be devoted to providing value for the readers. That means that for every 10 posts, only 2 should be about selling and the other 8 should be about something that interests your readers.

What is value? Value comes in many forms—information, entertainment, escape, help—whatever it is your target audience needs. The more value we provide, the more the readers will come back and engage.

Readers want to know us as authors. They want to know that we’re human, that we have lives, that we understand them. Sales may happen as we gain new readers, but that shouldn’t be our end goal. Social media is about being social.

Writing Prompt: Take these four word prompts and begin a story. Orphan, healer, father, evil. Please share in the comments!

Click to tweet: Author friends, “What is value? Value comes in many forms—information, entertainment, escape, help—whatever it is your target audience needs. The more value we provide, the more the readers will come back and engage.” Ralene Burke #amwriting #socialmedia


Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help people #SHINEBeyond! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and for several freelance clients. Her fantasy novels are available on Amazon.

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at her website.

4 thoughts on “Putting the Social in Social Media

    • So many authors neglect actually defining their target audience, but then wonder why they struggle to grow their audience on social media. It’s better to have a few engaged followers than to have many people who never interact with your posts! Glad I could help, Anne!

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