It’s the start of the year and I’m writing this blog, but something has become apparent to me all over again as I review my social media. Algorithms are in charge.
In some ways they work with us, giving us a validated experience by showing us popular posts and keeping conversations going with the peeps we talk to most. The danger for us authors is that we’re not reaching the amount of people we did in past years.
My day job is with a media training organisation where several years ago I conducted a class talking about the best ways to reach out as a broadcaster on Social Media. These tips apply to authors as well.
1. Use Twitter and Facebook as if you’re using My Space.
Over the summer break we went to Adelaide. We did touristy things. A gallery. A wine tour. A food market. Restaurants. Pubs. We played card games. We cooked. We caught up with friends while sharing an Air B’n’b with mates.
So for seven days I dipped in and out of social media, mainly checking my notifications, then getting back to our holiday. At one stage I used Twitter to conduct a survey. Out of my 4000+ followers, only six responded in a twenty-four hour window. My lack of engagement with Social Media over this period diminished the chances of my posts being seen by others. I did, however, keep seeing posts from the same small group of people.
We’re all getting used to communicating with that small number of people on Twitter and Facebook, and as they’re who we keep seeing in our feeds, the social media gatekeepers (a.k.a algorithms) keep us communicating with this small circle of friends.
So in order to reconnect with readers and other writers, go back through your ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ list and comment, like, love or whatever you deem necessary to get those people back in your feed. If you’ve already broken down your Twitter peeps into Lists, then you’ll know who to target and why.
2. Remember time zones.
Because most of my Twitter followers live in a completely different time zone, I rely on auto-tweeting to be noticed by them while I sleep. For example, this blog was published to meet Sunday brunch time in New York, so it means I had it scheduled for 1 a.m. Monday morning local Sydney time. All Twitter and Facebook posts about this blog are scheduled accordingly.
So, because of this time difference, I had no idea that writing hashtags existed until I had insomnia and logged onto Twitter. I found many authors chatting to each other by answering a daily question posed by one writer using a hashtag like #sensationalwip. While these conversations were held during prime time for Americans, I slept.
But since then, these hashtags keep appearing in my feed, thanks to Twitter algorithms knowing I’m interested. Sometimes they appear many hours after the event, but that doesn’t stop me from getting involved.
So my point is, if you are hosting one, auto tweet the questions several times over a twenty-four hour period. I did for one I co-hosted. Get all your followers involved.
3. Write dates in full.
There are only four countries in the world that write the date in MM/DD format. One of these is the USA. The rest of us use DD/MM.
So when you make fancy graphics promoting your release date, a sale or a book tour, actually write the date in full as in the example below.
It avoids confusion and stops people from having to think twice when reading a date that doesn’t make sense to them.
4. Facebook loves images and hates links.
Facebook prefers its users to stay on Facebook and not shoot off to another website. And it loves you when you share personal photos. The good thing is, it can’t differentiate between your images and book photos.
So when you write a Facebook post celebrating a great review your book received, start by uploading a photo before you write anything. Whether it’s the cover of your novel or a pic of you holding that novel, won’t matter. Just as long as it is uploaded before you paste the link in the post.
Facebook’s algorithms will see it as original content so it is more likely to be seen in your friends’ feeds immediately (thus becoming popular quickly and, in turn, showing up in more people’s feeds because of its popularity).
5. Vertical video. Why?
I studied film and television many years ago, and at one stage worked in television production, so seeing badly framed video is irritating. There is a reason video has traditionally been shot landscape, but before I talk about why, I’ll talk about when vertical video does work.
If you are designing your video to simulate a poster, perhaps with words on the screen, then go ahead. Book covers are vertical. Adding review quotes below will work.
There’s a beautiful term when shooting film called mise-en-scène. We were taught it means “everything within the frame” or as Wikipedia defines it, it is the arrangement in front of the camera of sets, actors, props, costumes, and lighting – which all make up the composition. Most of this is done successfully, horizontally.
Many vertical videos people shoot give us no context of place. They are telling, not showing. In the image above, there is no reason to see the actor’s entire body. She has a gun. She’s pointing it. And we know from costume and props we are in the 1940s. Video is about image telling the story.
I recently saw a vertical video of two people at a conference in Indonesia. Both had a third of their bodies cut out of frame, and only one Indonesian was in shot behind them. They were more intent on telling us they were at a conference overseas rather than turning the camera around and showing us the people at the conference. Remember, a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words. Don’t diminish it.
Above is a still from the ad for Google’s smart phone, the Pixel 3. This image gives us a grand sense of place. There’s no reason for the people in it to bunch up for this beautiful photo opportunity.
But for some reason they take a shot that is all about them and not where they are. No painter in history, no cinematographer and no family photographer before the invention of smart phones would have looked at this location and decide to show it vertically. It’s a horizontal shot.
Horizontally it’s a grand location with a bunch of friends. Vertically it’s a slither of something grand, as if you’re viewing it through an open doorway and are only allowed to see a lesser version of the whole thing.
Video shot the right way around gives context. As an author, your brand is important and you can add to this with the mise-en-scène you choose within your frame. If you do a book reading on camera, a medium-close-up is the best way to show us your friendly face. We don’t need to see the rest of your body. It’s not telling the story. But framing yourself in front of your book shelf or some funky room in your house tells us more about you.
Don’t shoot vertically to fill the frame with just yourself.
6. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
This section is about my personal musings on these three platforms. Your experience will be very different to mine. This is the part of our conversation I’d like to keep going, so please leave your comments below.
When I post personal images on Twitter, they don’t reach many people. Those same images are extremely popular on Facebook and Instagram. In spite of this, I’ve found myself recently sharing more personal photos on Twitter. I felt it needed personalising. These pictures are different to my Facebook and Insta posts because we’re only allowed four images in a Twitter post. So I carefully curate for my fellow tweeters.
I don’t promote as much on Instagram even though I should. Somehow Facebook and Twitter allow a mix of your personal and professional side to be shown, but I feel it’s not the done thing on Instagram. Your thoughts?
Let’s keep this conversation going. It’s harder to get seen on social media these days. It’s not impossible, but as authors we need to understand algorithms and talk accordingly.
Other Social Media posts: