Social Media Marketing Strategies to Reach Your Readers
Just the phrase, social media, can overwhelm even the most experienced Christian author. There are so many opinions, workshops, systems, and advice out there it’s almost impossible to sift through it all and plot a course that feels like it’s worth the time and effort needed to reach your readers. Through my experience, I’ve come up with a list of Social Media Marketing Strategies to Reach Readers. In this blog, I will share a list of things I do and don’t do to reach my readers through social media.
But there is hope.
I’ve found that when I approach social media as an extension of my ministry, much of the confusion disappears. Changing my focus from serving myself to serving others gives me the direction I’ve needed to navigate the ever-changing landscape of social media.
Where I Started with Social Media
I used to think the only reason to do social media was to sell books. Unfortunately, that focus can guarantee failure almost one hundred percent of the time. The truth is that our world is tired of commercials, and even more tired of what they perceive as bait and switch.
Social media is about building relationships with our readers so that we can serve them and, later market our books to them. Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) has a great blog post about How to Market & Sell Your Book as an Author.
Readers are savvy. They know when an author is reaching out to sell books or when they’re reaching out with genuine help. When I stopped making social media all about me and turned my focus to all about my readers, everything fell into place.
Through my experiences, I’ve come up with a list—things TO DO to reach my readers through social media and things NOT TO DO. Today I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
Things to Do to Reach Readers Through Social Media
- Share value, not noise. Social media feeds are visually noisy. There’s a lot of content scrolling by. We need to make sure that what we share is beneficial to our readers and not something we post just to be part of the party.
I use this filter to make sure what I’m sharing is valuable: I ask myself if I would share the information I created if I saw it on someone else’s feed or if I’d pass over it. If it’s something I’d share, then I go ahead. If not, then I don’t post it.
- Promote others ahead of yourself. I build my social media platform by promoting other people. A lot of my audience consists of those in the publishing industry. They don’t follow me because I am knowledgeable, they follow me because I share valuable information from a lot of sources. Your readers will feel the same way.
This practice does a couple of things.
- It builds trust with my audience because they can see that I’m more concerned with sharing information that will help them than tooting my own horn.
- It also widens my audience because when I share information from other sources, the people who follow those sources get to know me. It gives us a connection point that isn’t about promoting myself—again, building trust.
- Limit yourself to 3 or 4 main topics. It’s important to be authentic on social media, but it’s also a good idea not to be so scattered that your audience doesn’t know what to expect. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to limit the majority of my social media updates to three or four principal topics. AND I make sure that one of those topics coincides with the content of my books. This allows me to share a variety of interests and still gives my audience some consistency.
- Learn how to use hashtags correctly. Every social media platform has its own culture. Instagram users expect more hashtags than those who hang out on Twitter or Facebook. Get to know what’s expected for every platform. But there are some guidelines that are applied to all platforms:
- Don’t assume. Research your hashtags before using them. See what kind of updates are showing up when a hashtag is used.
- Be specific. Don’t be too general with a hashtag. For example, as believers, we share a lot of updates that talk about how much God loves us. It might be tempting to use the hashtag #Love with those updates. However, love means different things to different people. So that hashtag brings up a lot of very different content. A better hashtag would be #GodsLove.
- Hashtags end with a space. The hashtag #socialmedia pertains to social media. The hashtag #social media pertains to dating and hanging out (because the hashtag ended with a space and the word media is no longer part of the hashtag).
- Understand that they are people, not just numbers. It’s easy to get caught up in the race for numbers. But the truth is, each number is a person, and that’s the essential value of social media. We’re connecting with other people—hopefully in a real and meaningful way. In our rush to grow, we can’t lose sight of the individuals we meet along the way.
- There are no shortcuts. Reaching readers through social media takes work. Short cuts—like buying followers—will take more effort in the long run. And if you get caught, you risk of being banned from a platform for life.
- Being Nice is important. The most basic building block of etiquette for social networking is being nice. The best social media rule is simple—treat others the way you want to be treated. I can promise you I have never once regretted being nice on social media. But I have regretted saying something snarky.
- Small steps bring big gains. With social media, it’s far more important to spend consistent time interacting than it is to spend several hours at a timeless often. Social media is a momentum-driven endeavor. When you quit for several days at a time, you lose momentum. That means you lose visibility, and that translates into a loss of followers. So it’s better to spend 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, than 5 hours at a time once a week.
- Don’t engage with haters. There are people on social media who are looking for a fight. Arguments and heated disagreements aren’t productive ways to spend your time. Be nice, but also be willing to back away from a fight.
- Understand that social media is reciprocal. If someone does something nice for you, like mentioning you or your book, return the favor. If someone follows you, and they’re not spammy or creepy, follow them back. You never know what connections God has planned for you.
- Don’t check your brain at the door. Keep your wits about you when you’re on social media. Don’t click links from people you don’t know. Don’t take things at face value. Check the sources of “facts” you read before you share them.
- Don’t post without proofreading. Social media is a less formal medium, but you’ll still be glad you read that update before you hit post. I remember reading a rant about grammar and the person posting misspelled YOU’RE and used YOUR instead.
- Pace yourself. I used to do social media seven days a week. Then I got tired. As I was searching for a remedy, I realized everyone needs at least one day of rest a week. Instead of hurting my growth, it revitalized it. I was better for taking time and not being a social media workaholic.
- Don’t try to be active on too many platforms. The keyword here is ACTIVE. It’s important to have accounts on all the major platforms, that means up-to-date info. So I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, MeWe, YouTube, TikTok, Goodreads, and probably a couple of others I’ve forgotten. So anyone searching these networks will see a recognizable picture of me and a link to my website. BUT, I’m only actively posting to two or three platforms. I’m not able to keep up with more than that. So my recommendation is to choose two or three networks and stick with those. Here’s a great post on Why You Should Use Pinterest for Your Business.
- Learn how to schedule posts. I use Facebook’s scheduling tools to schedule posts in my groups and on my professional page, as well as on Instagram. I also use TweetDeck to schedule my Twitter posts each day. This helps me stay visible without eating away valuable time.
- Beware of unrealistic expectations. Many authors treat social media as a get-rich-quick scheme. Building your social media reach takes time and effort. It’s also important to note that social media is affected by many things. One January, several years ago, my social media reach dive-bombed because most of the east coast was hit by a series of blizzards. At the beginning of the pandemic it grew. Then about 15 months into the pandemic—when everyone was sick of being online and inside—it shrank.
- Avoid the controversy. I am not recommending you water down the truth, but I do recommend you decide what God is calling you to share. Social media is a world with little context. Most of the people who read my social media updates do no know about my story. They don’t know the experiences that have shaped my beliefs. And more importantly, I don’t know theirs. Because of this, I steer clear of controversial topics. I’m happy to sit down with anyone—in person—and have a hard conversation. But announcing my opinion about hot button topics on social media is like yelling at a sea of faceless people.
As Christian authors, we write to make a difference in the world. Because of that, I’ve discovered that the point of engaging through social media marketing strategies lies with individuals who can be challenged by what I say, impacted by what I write, and changed by what I share.
About the Author
Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s challenged and encouraged audiences across the country and around the world. Her many books reflect her passion to help others develop their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Get more tips from her book, Social Media for Today’s Writer, co-authored with DiAnn Mills. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram.