Platform building is one of the most hotly discussed topics among writers, agents, and publishers. Publishers, and agents, consider an aspiring author’s platform when they make acquisition choices, and they look for authors who are active and authentic online, regardless of which genre you write. Social media isn’t the end all be all of author platforms, but used appropriately, it is an important tool in an author’s platform arsenal.
Social media is daunting. There are a whole bunch of platforms, and they all come with their own rules and tricks. Being 'on social media' does not mean you have to be on all social media. My suggestion is that you strategically pick the few platforms that work best for you and do them well, rather than trying to conquer them all and cannibalizing your own efforts. Another recommendation is to focus on on building your followers on only one or two platforms, and not thinning out your crowd amongst too many social channels.
Here's a few things to keep in mind about each social channel, geared toward fiction writers:
Facebook is a platform that's been around for a while. It was once the go-to platform for social media interaction, but constant change and fluctuation in Facebook privacy rules have made it a rather inhospitable place for authors. Rules have changed on what / how you can promote, and there is more noise than ever. Unless your willing to spend bucks on advertisements (and know how to wade through Facebook's algorithms to get your ROI, it might be best to be on the Book, but not put all your eggs in this basket.
Visual content is all the rage right now, and for this there's not better place to be than the Gram. Instagram has very active writing and reading communities and a lot of follower engagement groups to boost your interactions and ability to go viral. It's also a great place to build your visual brand, and show off your book covers, too. #bookstram is always a trending topic.
IG is not without its challenges. You need to know how to maximize your use of hashtags, for one. Filters are commonplace on Instagram, too, which has led to body image issues and can be a mark of extreme fakery. You also can't link within IG, so that's frustrating.
Speaking of visual, YouTube is the second largest search engine (behind Google) and it's a place to take visual one step further. Booktrailers are a great way to share content on YouTube, as are Q&As, live book launches, book trailers, interviews with other authors, etc.
IMHO, Twitter is the workhouse of the (adult) social media. It has a huge and very supportive literary network...and it also can turn very quickly into a vacuum of vitriol when the trolls get loose. Twitter is a great place to meet people, converse, and grow, but it's perhaps the most difficult place to be genuine (IG filters aside). It's also an easy place to step outside of the "novel writer" bubble and meet other types of authors, and other types of creatives--screenwriters, visual artists, etc. There are tons of writing events, like #pitmad that happen on Twitter, too, so it's quite the opportunistic platform.
Like IG, Twitter relies on hashtags. It's also a place you can/will/might spend a lot of time interacting on and there are more stringent character count limitations in individual posts.
Pinterest is also a (weirdly) popular place for writers. I haven't particularly figured out why, but I'm on it. Check back for details. Plus, while you're there, you can also find nifty recipes and cool DIY projects, so it is a great place to get lost online and I suppose that accounts for something.
Of course, there is some what not to do on social media, too. Primary amongst these is leaning on social media as a sales tool. Always remember that using social media as part of your platform is about interaction and engagment, not a sales pipeline. Sure, you can chat about your work and even drop a buylink or two, but your focus should be on interacting and building a community around your work, not forcing your book(s) upon them.
And, if you absolutely abhor social media, you don't have to use. There are endless other things you can do besides tweet, post, and share. For example:
If you have the funds, you can also hire an assistant or an outside firm to help manage your social media accounts. But, remember, authenticity is important in building a brand, and you'll need to keep careful watch over what's happening online. YOU are your own brand; be sure you manage it.
Be sure to maximize your social efforts, too. Link your blog to Twitter so it tweets when you have new posts. Get a scheduler (I use Zoho Social) so you can schedule your main pics and posts ahead of time. Slap that Pinterest HTML code into your website so you can easily pin. Make it easy for yourself to succeed and feel good about how you're using social media.
At the end of the day, remember that social media use is one part of your author platform...and it may not even be the most important part though it is an important component. It is critical for you to be active, to be easily found online, and to be authentic in your online interactions, wherever you're interacting. For further reading, here's an article on BookBub with 10 Tips for Authors on Using Social Media from a Literary Agent.
Of course, there's more to learning how to use social media than getting lost in the actual mechanics of doing so. You can also learn by reading the experiences of authors, agents, and publishers who do social media well, and by following them, too.