I follow a few author blogs about the craft of writing; even guest posts on these blogs concentrate on craft. Other authors I know have created a following by blogging and tweeting about marketing, the business side of writing, or indie (self) publishing. Generally, writers–rather than readers–are the ones following these blogs.
But I know one author who rarely uses Facebook to talk about her writing or her personal life. Her routine posts are focused on showcasing homeless, adoptable pets. Another writer shares her passion for food with creative recipes on Pinterest. One friend is a punner—every day another pun. Another is a Regency era fashion fanatic. Another posts mini-reviews of the books she reads. This second group of writers has acquired loyal followers who share their non-writing interests.
New authors know they should have a social media presence, but may feel discouraged when they can’t seem to get followers on twitter or Facebook, when no one is reading their blogs or looking at their pins on Pinterest. It’s true that some readers will enjoy anything a popular author posts—jokes, bawdy pictures, links to History Chanel programming or scifi poetry. But most of us eventually quit following authors who put up material that doesn’t interest us. And this is a good thing.
If being on social media meant creating new, interesting material for all ages and types of audiences every week, none of us would be up to the task. If building a following on social media required us to be an expert in as many areas of interest as possible, we’d all go insane.
Fortunately, unfocused and scatter-shot posting to dozens of target audiences doesn’t really work, anyway. Tightly aimed, special-interest posting does. Followers become attracted to your blog/website/Facebook page—and therefore, to you and what you write—because they find something there that satisfies a need or desire.
Give [a certain, limited group of] people what they’re looking for and you can create a following.
Fine-Tuning Your Lens
But how do you know what your focus should be? There are so many possibilities! So many things you’re interested in… It can be overwhelming.
Tricia Lawrence, of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, talks about using a very personal “lens” to filter and concentrate your online efforts at reaching readers. She recommends you start by listing some general areas of interest and then try to narrow down to specifics. Try using keywords like dogs and then poodles, archetypes then villains, home décor then bedrooms. General then specific.
“What do you see when you look through your lens? Do you see too much, a very big world that is overwhelming? Or do you see too little, not enough that qualifies as part of your lens?… If it’s overwhelming to you, it needs more differentiation; if it’s too small, you might have differentiated too much.”
Lawrence suggests you set up Google Alerts using the specific terms you’ve come up with.
“Each day, you’ll receive a roundup of stories from Google that include those key terms and inside is a wealth of ideas, either stories to link to on your social media (especially if they are weird and wacky or heartwarming) or stories that give you ideas to write about yourself.”
Eventually, you’ll find those few topics that get a reaction from readers and generate follows.
I did this when setting up my blog, TangledWords.com. On irregular Mondays, I post advice (like this article) from editors and agents. So I set up Google Alerts for Editor Advice, Agent Advice, Agent Interview, etc. Sometimes I post about teens who have become published authors, so I also set up alerts for Teen Writer, Teen Author, etc.
These are my topics. I haven’t been blogging long, and I often miss my own deadlines, but every time I post (and tweet about it), I get new twitter followers and new subscribers to my blog. They are people who are interested in what I’m talking about.
Remember, you can’t reach every single potential reader. You’re going after a loyal, steadily growing group of followers. People who listen to what you have to say. People who retweet you, and share your posts, and tell others to follow you. And might even buy your books.