When Less Is More on Social Media

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Today’s guest post is from social media expert Chris Syme (@cksyme). Learn about her June master class.

Social media boasts some pretty staggering numbers: nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media. And 70 percent of those users ages thirteen and up are on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.

Authors feel the steady pressure to be on social media channels promoting themselves, promoting their books, and searching for those ever-elusive readers. Some marketers tout it like it’s a magic pill, encouraging authors to be in every possible corner of the social media universe. After all, you don’t want to miss anybody, right?

The trouble with this advice is that it is antithetical to the present marketing culture. Marketing in this day and age is not about casting a wide net to get all the fish. It’s about knowing who your audience is, understanding where the best spots to find them are, and going narrow with the best channels for optimum results. If you want maximum results from your social media channels, less is more.

Fewer Channels Means More Engagement

I have long been an advocate of being on fewer social media channels to maximize engagement. There are several reasons for that, but I’ll give you the main three:

  • Finding where your audience members spend the most time makes it easier to target them.
  • Spending time on channels that grab less than 25 percent of the users online is a waste unless it is a niche channel specific to your audience.
  • Every channel is not conducive to selling. Choose channels where you can engage and sell.

When you take the time to really focus on who your audience members are, what their engagement patterns are, where they engage, and where they are buying, you get a pretty good idea of where you should be.

Because people are inundated with information on social media—much of it the same on all channels—they are looking for places where a culture of connection and sharing has been established. They do not want to wade through endless posts that sell books or products.

Amy Porterfield, a Facebook marketing expert, analyzed over a million high-engaging Facebook posts and found these six content types were most engaging:

  1. Posts that give: offers, deals, and contests that everyone can benefit from
  2. Posts that advise: tips, especially about problems everyone encounters
  3. Posts that warn: dangers that everyone faces (scams and the like)
  4. Posts that amuse: funny or entertaining pictures or quotes
  5. Posts that inspire: quotes, videos, and images that make people feel good and valued for who they are
  6. Posts that amaze: pictures, stories, and videos of amazing people and events

According to Porterfield’s research, people want to feel one of four things when they engage with social media: happy, informed, inspired, or supported.

If the majority of your social media content hits on all those cylinders, you don’t need to worry about being everywhere or asking people to buy your book.  As Mark Schaefer teaches in his book The Content Code, the law of internet marketing reciprocity will earn you the right to sell your products if you offer enough value to your fans.

The bottom line: social media is not about getting everybody’s attention everywhere. It’s about engaging potential and current fans in one or two spots where they are consistently present and interacting. Those are your primary social media channels. All the rest are secondary channels and only require an outpost strategy that aims people to the channels where the action is.

What Is an Outpost Channel?

An outpost channel has some of the following characteristics:

  • It is populated by people you are already effectively reaching on another channel.
  • It does not foster a commerce culture, or does not offer tools such as ads and apps that help you sell books or capture emails.
  • Less than 25 percent of the adult population uses the channel (see Pew Internet for latest numbers).
  • It is a channel where you post or interact less than the prescribed amount for ideal engagement.

There are some exceptions to these guidelines. Two major ones:

  • Genre-specific guidelines: LinkedIn can be a must for nonfiction writers selling courses or trying to establish an expertise. It is an unnecessary channel for fiction writers.
  • Demographic exceptions: If you are a YA or New Adult writer, you should consider the top channels in that demographic (such as Tumblr or Instagram) when you are looking to establish primary channels.

What Is a Primary Channel?

To identify your one or two primary channels to engage, consider:

  • audience demographics that match your books
  • the channel’s ability to sell
  • your skill set to implement the content that spells success on that channel.

For example, even though YouTube has the potential to sell books, if you don’t know how to produce good videos, use YouTube to establish sales channels, or have a detailed plan for gaining subscribers (YouTube’s magic formula), you will fail there.

You should identify one or two channels and work to establish a community—that means a community that you interact with as people, not as sales figures. Once you’ve identified your primary channels, you can set up a plan for maximum engagement. Use an 80-20 content formula for giving value (80 percent) to selling (20 percent). Yes, you still want to sell, but because you have loyal fans, you don’t need a constant parade of sales messages. Also, if you are engaging on a channel such as Facebook, you can rely somewhat on the presence of commerce tools to present an “opportunity” for fans to buy when they are ready.

Note from Jane: Chris Syme is offering a June master class that teaches you how to set up an outpost strategy. Find out more.

"Marketing in this day and age is about knowing who your audience is, understanding where the best spots to find them are, and going narrow with the best channels for optimum results. If you want maximum results... less is more." -Chris Syme, social media expert

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion and tagged , , , , , .

Chris Syme is a 20-year veteran of the communications and marketing industry and is the founder of  CKSyme Media Group. She is an author and speaker on the topics of social media marketing and reputation management. She is a former university media relations professional and crisis management consultant for college athletic departments, businesses, and sports event venues.  Chris also co-hosts the popular Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast with her daughter, USA Today bestselling author R.L. (Becca) Syme.

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[…] Social media expert Chris Syme explains why less is more in social media, and how to make the most use of primary and secondary social media channels.  […]

Benjamin Thomas

Less is more, I love it.

I’m a big fan of connecting and engaging readers versus stone-cold marketing schemes.

I particularly appreciated targeting a specific audience instead of spreading ourselves too thin across the abyss of social media. I just interviewed an indie author who spends thousands of dollars on book promotion. I’m starting to think he has the wrong marketing strategy.

Great post, thanks for sharing!


Avrum Nadigel

Chris – the title of this blog post alone drove me to your webinar (purchased/registered – though I’m moving on the 27th, and might not be able to attend the live webcast… drats).

So much of social media – to my ears/eyes – feels forced and inauthentic. So if there’s a “less is more” approach, albeit that feels authentic, I’m in!

Looking forward.


Love this! I have been feeling so overwhelmed with social media, how much to post, where to post etc. This has helped clarify it all for me, and now I have a plan! Thank you

[…] When Less Is More on Social Media (Jane Friedman) Authors feel the steady pressure to be on social media channels promoting themselves, promoting their books, and searching for those ever-elusive readers. Some marketers tout it like it’s a magic pill, encouraging authors to be in every possible corner of the social media universe. After all, you don’t want to miss anybody, right? […]

[…] on social media. Clare Langley-Hawthorne discusses social media etiquette and Chris Syme reveals when less is more on social media, while Anne R. Allen follows up her previous post with 8 more social media scams writers should […]

Jennifer Ammoscato

I have a love-hate relationship with my Twitter account. I have 15k followers but wonder about their value. Some authors I know swear by it; others barely touch it. I feel it’s harder to make an impression there versus the more engaging tone of FB. I’d love to kill the account but don’t want to be too hasty. {sigh}

Jennifer Ammoscato

Thanks for the advice. I just discovered your blog today via a post on FB someone shared. really love it 🙂


Thanks for a great article Chris. What do you recommend to newbies (aka unpublished aspiring authors) like me who have no social media experience. Where to start? (Big question I know). I’m writing YA fiction. Thanks again.

[…] you read this latest article by Jane Friedman When Less is More on Social Media people spend a lot of time trying to feel inspired, engaged and […]

joanna elm

Chris, thank you for making a distinction between primary and outpost channels. I am a traditionally published author from some years ago, aiming to make a comeback and so have returned to such a different world of websites and social media networks. All very, very challenging. However, I am puzzled as to why a network like Facebook gets more recognition for authors than say, Goodreads. Is there something I am missing here?

joanna elm

Thank you very much for such a prompt and detailed reply, Chris. I do absolutely agree with you on your last point. I have asked friends who read if they have heard of Goodreads, and I was really surprised that some of them had not. I had heard of it, but only recently joined as an author. I will see how that works out for me in the light of your remarks. Thank you again.

Sunny Frazier

I blindly did all the things you’ve mentioned and very early on. I constantly refine my tactics. Three things have worked best for me: I write a “Coming Attractions” column featuring cozy mysteries coming out and have targeted a large readers’ market for that genre. I started The Posse, a site to teach authors how to promote on social media. I developed a FB page for my character, Christy Bristol, an astrologer. I define planetary interactions when they occur and just started offering to do quickie personal info, such as where the moon is in people’s charts to define their… Read more »

Linda Thorne

Sunny, I think you’ve made the most out of social media with some of the “offshoots” you’ve brought into it (discussed above). I’m still trying to find my niche and I’m all over the place. Some authors post their books over and over until people may want to scream. Some get off on their religious or political views. I guess that’s okay if in small portions, but that is already everywhere you look, so if they are trying to sell their books, why tote their religious and political beliefs? I’m still fairly new at all this and it’s like a… Read more »


Hey Chris, you make some interesting points. I’m behind on all 6 suggestions. Thankfully, Sunny Frazier’s Posse is still riding. She directed us here. I will stop by again

J. R. Lindermuth

Another Posse member here. As always, Sunny knows where to find the sites with the most helpful information. Good advice, Chris. Glad to see I’m doing some things right.

[…] audience, but with so many platforms, we could spend all our days online. Chris Syme discusses when less is more in social media, Frances Caballo explains which audience is reached by Snapchat, and Lorna Sixsmith tells how to […]

Maggie King

Thanks, Chris. All of this makes sense and is a relief. As an author, I often feel pressured and nothing I do is enough. I’m happy to hear you say that LinkedIn isn’t necessary for a fiction writer. And that Goodreads isn’t as major a player as some would have us believe. I have a presence on LI and on GR, but I’m not really, well, present on them! I have to say that I enjoy Instagram, even though it isn’t may demographic (although I’m amazed at how many older authors are on it). When I post on Facebook about… Read more »

Chris Syme

You should probably have a profile on Goodreads and you could even be posting your blog posts there. In my opinion it is probably more valuable than Google Plus. You should be getting SEO juice from your profile there and your website. I am not sure Google Plus is even a player anymore. Keep up the good work!

Sunny Frazier

I tried Goodreads and got slammed for not taking part in more of their discussions. I was promoting give-aways from many authors. They apparently didn’t think their readers wanted to hear that.

[…] Syme presents When Less Is More on Social Media posted at Jane […]