Thanks to the Internet and social media, it is now possible for every person to have an international platform, and whether or not you’ve realized it every tweet, every post, every picture or video in your feed helps to create a public persona of who you are as an author and as a human being. So what are you doing with your platform?
Below are some ways in which successful authors use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media outlets:
To raise awareness of a specific cause: whether they are an advocate of animal, children’s or human rights, climate change, world peace or a myriad of other positive causes, they consistently post pictures, videos, tweets or posts—or share others—that promote positive, forward movement in the world. This could also be tied into their books where characters may rescue animals, defend human rights or be caught up in a conspiracy concerning climate change or a pandemic.
To connect with fellow authors: some authors, having bucked all the odds and become highly successful, use their platform to help other authors. This could be in the form of advice on writing or marketing, how to find a publisher or agent, or even partnering with lesser-known authors in franchising their work.
To educate: some science fiction authors are adept at sharing pictures of the cosmos and how those images help to inspire. For the rest of us, we view photographs we may otherwise not see and discover things about matter beyond Planet Earth. Other authors of books taking place in certain countries share images of those countries; still others writing about particular eras share information about history in the form of videos, pictures, posts and tweets.
To inspire: Inspiration comes in many forms and authors are in unique positions to share with readers and fellow authors alike. Some authors share recipes—perhaps favorites of their characters; other authors share interior design pictures and videos that not only inspire but also reflect how those influence scenes in their books. Others are committed to inspiring women or working women, themes that also thread their way through their writing. Still others inspire innovation.
To broaden our horizons: similar to educating, some authors enjoy travel and frequently post photographs or videos of places around the world. Perhaps they have a love of medieval castles, exotic beaches, natural wonders or the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Their pictures, posts and videos also reflect scenes or backdrops in their books.
To speak out against social injustice: similar to raising awareness, these are often grittier posts more specific to a region, place or culture, such as Aleppo or the current exodus from war-torn countries… or into the past, with facts about the Holocaust, wars throughout time, or the attempted genocide of a particular people such as native peoples during the times of the Spanish conquistadors.
Each of these themes provides additional information about the author’s genre, their research or the things that interest them both as an author and as a human being. The most dedicated fans are those that share the same values as the author, particularly when those values affect their emotions in a positive way.
Ways that authors squander their platform:
To post minutiae: They might be low on shampoo, they ate an egg for breakfast or they’re standing in line at the grocery. They waste their precious platform on things their readers find boring and their readers are assuming their books are exactly the same: filled with things that don’t much matter to others and incredibly boring prose. If you think of each post as a commercial, why would you waste it telling the world you’re the fourth in line at the post office?
To air a personal grievance: We all have them, whether it’s a rude salesperson, a dissenting coworker/editor/publisher, or the car that cut us off in traffic. But unless you’ve written a book about a person that takes personal grievances to a new level, what you’re really doing is spreading negativity. The reader will assume your books are filled with the same.
To spread personal convictions: If you are an author that writes about a specific faith, your following is likely of the same faith—in which case, it’s perfectly acceptable to give them more of the topic they want to read about. Likewise, if you’re the author of nonfiction political books, your following should consist of those that are interested in politics. But for the vast majority of authors, their followers consist of people of varying faiths and different political views. Posting things that seek to lessen the importance of another person’s faith or politics might boost an author’s following among certain people but it also runs the risk of alienating a larger group of readers.
Remember that most people will come to know you primarily from the things you say—whether in person or on the Internet. How do you want to be remembered?