Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest … Where do you start? How do you find the time? What do you post? Do you have to be on all of them?
Before you scroll through or dismiss this entirely, I’m going to ask you to take a moment to breathe.
Most of the advice that we see online is geared toward people who are trying to build a business and already use social media regularly. But what if you don’t spend time on social media? Maybe you have an account but it’s dormant, and all you want to do is sell some books and meet some other writers. Let’s start the very beginning.
We writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are working on building a portfolio and pitching articles. Others are building a following that could become a readership for a book we will be publishing. And still others want to approach influencer status and may be willing to spend more time on social media than the average writer.
Before diving in, consider your goals
Do you want to sell more books?
Hint: Take your pick, any social media platform will do.
Do you want to grow your email list?
Hint: Take your pick, any social media platform will do.
Are you promoting your blog or articles you’ve written?
Hint: Facebook and Pinterest might be your best bet.
Do you write poetry (micro work) that you want to publish directly to a platform?
Hint: Twitter and Instagram might be your best bet.
Are you trying to connect with people and share more personal information?
Hint: Instagram and Facebook might be your best bet.
Let’s break down the platforms.
Best if you want a little bit of everything; writing, photography and/or video
Full disclosure, this one is my favourite because in addition to writing, I also love photography. I like taking pictures and matching them to my text. Even though I know that a lot of people won’t take the time to read what I write, there are enough that do. To date I’ve made a substantial number of contacts this way. As Instagram competes with other sites, more features are being added. You can create short videos (aka Reels) and longer live videos. As a bonus, since it is under the same umbrella as Facebook, you can choose to automatically crosspost on Facebook. This is where a lot of people start to have heart palpitations since it sounds complicated, but it really is as easy as sliding a toggle.
Best if you want to focus on one liners and short text
If you have time, prefer to stick to text, and if you can think fast (the average lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes), then Twitter might be the platform for you. This is where agents and editors like to hang out, so there’s a good chance that you’ll hear about the latest trends or what they are specifically looking for. I have also found that quite a few magazine editors post their wishlists on there, and some will even answer your questions. If you are trying to get a reporter’s attention, this is a great platform for that. This comes in handy if you are trying to be featured in an article.
Best if you want to create short videos that are easily set to music
Ah, the new kid on the block (which at this point isn’t that new, but still seems to make people nervous) that has already taken the world by storm. I believe that it’s here to stay but I would approach it differently than Instagram or Twitter. I would absolutely use it to build a following to promote my books, but because of its fast-paced nature, I wouldn’t use it solely to build a community. While it is possible to send someone a message, the platform isn’t built to promote that.
The key to TikTok: bite-sized videos that you can swipe through quickly. If pressed, I would say it’s a bit like a dating site. You can meet someone but you’ll move elsewhere to get to know them.
While you do not need to be on camera to create TikTok videos, it’s actually a great place to get comfortable in front of the camera. They have also made it very easy to share your videos to other platforms, once you are comfortable of course.
Best if you want to write a lot and have longer conversations with your community
The old workhorse of social media. If you aren’t already on it, then I wouldn’t recommend trying to build a following from scratch. Facebook is just too slow for that. If you already have an account, then this is the place to find existing writing groups that can offer things like marketing advice. If you self-publish and you are building a street team, this is the place to curate that team on a private page. It’s conducive to long-form text, and more drawn out, in-depth conversations.
Best for people to find you
Fun fact: Pinterest is actually considered a search engine and doesn’t have the same social aspect as the others. It is, therefore, easy to use, and worth having because the time you will put into it is minimal and doesn’t involve much strategy. It’s worth setting up an account and cross posting from sites like Instagram. If you are building a business, you could post tips for your target audience, as your potential customers might be looking for information on Pinterest.
The beauty of all these platforms
You can use them symbiotically. The most obvious is Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram. So, when you post something to Instagram you can immediately post it to Facebook. I’m currently less active on Twitter, but I use IFTTT to post my Instagram posts to Twitter. It took about five minutes to set up and I don’t have to worry about them.
Here is the big secret
The best platform for you is the one you are going to use. Yes, at the end of the day, it’s that simple, because you are still making a connection with the outside world.
Instead of asking, “What’s the best platform”, you should be asking, “Which platform is right for me?” It comes down to your personality, what you like to do, and most importantly, what you want to achieve.
Whichever you choose, don’t be afraid. It’s very difficult to have the wrong approach. You can always change your mind and press delete. I have been on social media for over ten years and in all that time I’ve had one or two unpleasant moments that weren’t about me. My advice? Set up the platform that speaks to you, take another deep breath, and go for it!
Caroline Topperman is a European-Canadian writer, entrepreneur, dancer, and world traveler. Born in Sweden, raised in Canada with a recent stint of living in Poland, she holds a BFA in screenwriting. She runs Migrations Review and is a co-founder of KW Writers Alliance. Her book, Tell Me What You See, serves as a toolkit for her writing workshops. She has written articles for Huffington Post Canada, was the Beauty Editor for British MODE Magazine, and served as managing editor for NonBinary Review.