Do authors have to be social media ‘influencers’ to succeed?

12 September 2021 / By Nigel Cooper
Be Yourself

Author Matt Haig included one of my tweets in his book Notes on a Nervous Planet.

He’d been asking about how social media can affect people’s mental health and I’d responded with the below.

The photo below popped up in my memories recently and it got me thinking about how different all of the social networks are. How we use them all differently and what this means for us authors and authors-in-waiting.

Social media can be overwhelming but it’s part of the job for authors nowadays, whether we like it or not.

I used to think I’d be able to write my book, get a publisher (if I was lucky), hand it over and … job done.

The view from the other side of the fence is quite different, however.

Authors need to be proactive on social media, even those with massive book deals.

Part of your role as an author is to have an online profile if you want to sell more books – but that can be unexpected and scary.

Despite working in digital marketing for the past 18 years, much of it focused on social media, I’m no more immune to this than the next man or woman.

When my debut Beat The Rain launched, I really struggled. Marketing my own stuff was different to marketing other people’s.

I used social personally with Facebook. I’d built a good following as a digital marketer on Twitter. Now I was supposed to build one as an author to help sell my books?

It was like sandpapering my own skin.

So, I thought it might be worth sharing my journey over the past few years and how I’ve ended up using each social network, in case it gives you guys a little perspective.

Facebook

I’ll start with the network I stopped using altogether personally: Facebook. 

I haven’t used this in my private life for just over two years – and personally, I think this was a great decision. 

At the time, with Brexit and Trump, there were too many angry, divisive memes and voices on in Facebook for my liking. It was giving me anxiety, so I decided it was no longer the platform for me.

Professionally, however, I knew I needed to keep a foothold in there. It felt like having a Facebook page was pretty much a marketing necessity as an author and I know for a fact a lot of my book sales came through my Facebook Page and related marketing activity.

This approach to let me keep a professional hand in Facebook but not a personal one felt counter-intuitive at first, but it has actually worked out well for me, although I confess my Page goes through periods of neglect when I’m writing the latest book.

My professional author page means I have a space where I can still be me, but I only talk about book-related subject matter – and I don’t get caught up any drama on the personal Facebook side of things. It means I can keep connected by lurking in all the book groups Facebook has to offer, so I don’t miss out while not feeling overwhelmed.

Twitter

Twitter is my preferred space but I know it isn’t everybody’s.

I’ve been on Twitter since its very early days and have built up a good and diverse following on there – something I’m proud of – but it’s also been challenging.

For many years running this business, I built a profile as a digital marketer and entrepreneur on Twitter. Then in 2016, my first novel Beat The Rain was published, so I also began bringing my ‘author life’ to my Twitter feed.

For a year or two, I tried to maintain the balance between my business persona and my author persona but the audiences were too diverse. If I pleased one audience, I bored another… and vice versa. Also, I felt I couldn’t be quite as ‘free’ as I wanted to be as an author when wearing my ‘business’ hat.

It was hard to build a network for both at once, so I decided to choose.

In the end, I decided that for me, I’d focus on ‘book Twitter’. Five years on and I’m now part of a very lovely and supportive author, book blogger and reading community on Twitter. It didn’t come overnight, though. I spent the years cultivating it but I definitely found the right space for me.

Like all social, Twitter can be a challenging environment if you don’t know why you’re there or who you’re connecting with. My advice? Choose your ‘tribe’ on Twitter and work at connecting with those people by being yourself, not a version of yourself you think people will want to see.

Linked In

I hold my hands up, I’ve neglected this network for a long while. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever engaged with it properly. I was never quite sure what to do with it. 

Was I supposed to be über professional all the time? As well as being an author, I also run more than one business. Thing is, that’s not really me. I don’t mean I’m unprofessional, but I’m relatively open and personable and I never really feel like I can marry professionalism and personality together on Linked In.

Recently, I’ve dipped my toe back into it and I can see I’m wrong. People inject a lot of themselves into their posts… it’s got more of a ‘whole person’ feel to it than I felt it had in the early days. 

It’s still a business platform (which I’m glad of) but it also seems to understand people are more than only their jobs… It now knows that careers are carved out by actual human beings.

I’m tentatively going back onto Linked In with a new mindset, primarily wearing my business head (but not excluding my novelist head)… time will tell whether I have the same issue with this as I did with Twitter when my debut was published but actually, I don’t think I will on Linked In – I think this network will support both.

Instagram

Instagram works brilliantly for authors, I think, and at the moment, I almost totally neglect it in that regard. In my business life, a lot of my clients have huge success on there.

At the moment, it’s not a network I use personally other than to post the odd picture of my dog or family.

The real point of this blog article is that all of the social networks are different and we should celebrate the fact we use them differently. 

As an author, you do need a social media presence – but you don’t need to become an ‘influencer’ on every available platform. You have to find the space you feel comfortable, the people you feel comfortable connecting with.

Social needs to be your space. You need to feel comfortable in it.

Yes, you’re trying to build a profile to sell more books or help attract an agent or publisher – but that’ll only work if you’re able to be your authentic self. That’s where the magic happens.

Don’t be swayed into thinking you have to be something other than yourself.

Finally, a reminder that you don’t need to be influencers on all networks. You need to feel comfortable and active on the ones that work for you.

*A version of this article was previously posted on the We Are Togethr website.

About The Author

Nigel Cooper

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