Social media is one of the most powerful tools in your author toolbox, and for good reason. According to Hootsuite, a social media management platform, 83% of Americans have a social media account. Facebook has 1.65 billion monthly active users. 6,000 tweets are sent every second. Instagram users “like” an average of 3.5 billion photos every day. Pretty staggering numbers, right?
So how can you leverage this powerful tool without selling yourself out? As crazy as it might sound, social media CAN be a great vehicle to promote your book without making you feel weird about promoting yourself. After all, you started out writing your book because you knew that God had given you something to say for a reason! Here are some suggestions on how you can walk that fine line between self-promotion and authentic ministry.
Don’t try to be another author–be you. God uniquely designed you to be the person you are, not the other person you’re following on social media. It’s easy to scroll through our social news feeds and quickly think, “Wow! That person is doing some cool stuff on social–I should do the exact same thing.” The thing is, when we try to be someone that we’re not, we start to lose trust with the very group that we’re trying to connect with.
Your news feed can provide some great ideas from fellow authors and how they communicate on social media, but don’t think that you have to fit their mold. Your audience is connecting with you because you’re you, not someone else.
There’s a reason why there are so many filters and photo editing apps available today. We often want to post the best picture at the coolest place doing the coolest things so we’ll get the most likes. After a while, though, people start to see through all the filters and want something more from you–they want to connect with and know the real you. Help your audience see that in what you post by showing the amazing, mountaintop moments alongside the ordinary, everyday rhythms of your life.
Be Informative but not Salesy
Your audience wants to know about your book–why you chose to write it, how God has stretched you and helped you to grow because of it, and how they can grow by reading it. You can communicate all of that without feeling like you’re trying to push for a sale all the time. The more a potential reader can relate to your content before they make a purchasing decision, the more likely they are to actually follow through and order a copy. They’ll be happy to make the purchase because you’ve given them a taste of what is to come once they have the book in hand.
Share Short and Relevant Content
Remember the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram statistics we shared earlier? That’s a lot of people consuming a lot of content. Because social media users have so much content coming at them each day, it’s important to help your content stand out by making it short and relevant.
As an author, your days are packed with things to do. Remember that your audience is busy too, and they want to be able to consume content quickly, so keep your posts short whenever possible. There’s definitely a time and place for longer posts, but if someone has to click the “see more” link on your posts more often than not to see the full text, they may give up on reading. Does that mean that your longer content isn’t as good? Definitely not. It just means that as consumers of digital content, your audience can get easily distracted. Plus, breaking down your longer posts into smaller, more readable pieces can give you more content to post over time. You can also break up your posts by adding high quality photos and ad graphics. Even better, shoot a quick video to communicate what you would have said with text.
Most importantly, give your audience a reason to stop scrolling through their feed when they see a new update from you because you’ve shared content that’s relevant to their lives. Stay up to date with events, news, and trends that impact your core audience, and be ready to interact around those topics. Ask questions of your audience that get them thinking and talking back to you. Every time you do that, you’re making relational deposits into the lives of your audience, which will help them trust you even more.
Welcome Your Audience into Your Life Without Giving Your Life Up
Share your everyday life with your audience, even if it’s not always directly connected to your book. What activities do you like to do with your family? What are your holiday traditions? What exciting ways is God working through your church family? Which team are you a die-hard fan of? Share that personal side of your life.
A great example we recently saw of this was with artist Steven Curtis Chapman. He and his family were cheering on the Nashville Predators as they played for the NHL Stanley Cup for the first time this year (our Nashville-based LifeWay/B&H team is still sad about how it all ended–there’s always next year!). On his Facebook page, Steven posted this video to share his family’s support for the team…
Okay, so game 5 of the Stanley Cup didn't turn out exactly as we were hoping in the Chapman house, but we didn't let that get us down! We still believe…& we're still "Cheering For The Predators!"
Posted by Steven Curtis Chapman on Thursday, June 8, 2017
We love this video because it showed a personal side of Steven outside of his music. The video had nothing to do with an upcoming concert or encouraging people to download his songs, but it was a chance for his fans to see what life is like with his family. This video has had over 130k views and the post has been shared almost 700 times, all because he posted something personal and relatable!
You can welcome your audience into your life without feeling like you have to share every detail of your life. Set healthy boundaries and determine how much of your personal life you want to share.
God has given you a message to share and social media can be a great way to spread that message. By giving some thought to the strategy behind what you post, you can ensure your online presence supports your work and points even more people to Christ.
B&H Digital Strategist and Author Consultant