The biggest to-do item of 2019 that is still languishing on my list is to figure out how to use social media to boost my blog. If you’ve wondered the same, chances are you’ve probably done some searching around and stumbled on a wealth of resources. However, they rarely seem to be geared towards book bloggers and more so for bloggers in general, especially those who seem to have a lot of time and money to invest in their blogs. This post caters to the very specific book blogging crowd and will also be helpful to those who blog as a hobby. I’m just an amateur when it comes to social media, so I had a friend help me out in putting together this post – Shruti @ This is Lit (the expert), who works in the social media analytics field. Her characteristic wit and professional insights will hopefully teach you a trick or two that will turn you into a social media wizard in no time!
Why do I need social media if I have a book blog?
Expert: Imagine this. You’re a shop owner. You sell a lot of useful wares. A lot of people walk past your shop and if they like what they see, they come in, interact with you, and buy your products. But these customers are all people who were already in the vicinity of your shop. What about the ones who want what you sell but have no idea your shop exists? Don’t you want to take out a billboard, a TV spot to tell them about your existence?
Your shop’s neighbourhood is the WordPress Reader (or the RSS Feed Reader your followers can find you on). Social media is the advertising for new readers. You need social media to provide the extra boost in engagement and interactions that your Feed Reader can’t give.
Additionally, social is also a great way to retain engagement from existing followers. Several bloggers, including yours truly, mostly forgo their Readers and rely on social to check out others’ posts. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s always good to be present where your own readers are.
Amateur: I also use social media to check out blog posts now that I have a hectic job instead of relying on the WordPress Reader. I mostly employ Twitter for this and I bookmark all the posts I glance through but want to visit later on for a thorough read.
Pro tip – Social media helps in getting more review copies
Let’s face it – we all love getting review copies. If you’re a new blogger, you’ve definitely heard of Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) and can’t wait to get your paws on them. Well, social helps.
Before putting you on their mailing lists, publishers don’t just want to know about your blog. They also require you to have a presence on social. Some even prefer a social media presence over having a blog. For instance, Indian publishing houses prefer Bookstagrammers more. They’ve identified that book buying is visual in the Indian reader market and that’s why they prefer bookstagrams over book blogs.
If you want to be taken notice of, you really need a social presence too.
Where can I find bookish people?
Expert: The first rule of social media is to hang out where your potential readers hang out. Here are a few platforms you should definitely consider being on:
- Twitter: This one is a must-have in a blogger’s social arsenal. I’ve personally found a majority of my reader base through Twitter.
- Instagram: Bookstagram is popular, period. Unlike Twitter, this one will not give you more visits to your blog. But it will introduce you to so many new book dragons and more bookish conversations.
- Pinterest: Book blogging doesn’t have a huge presence here but more bloggers are starting to take notice as it’s a major source of traffic for other bloggers. When searching for any kind of book, pins often come up in the top results, so this one is good to have, although it requires dedicated effort for any results.
- Facebook: Facebook pages are a low priority for me, mostly because even my mom doesn’t ‘like’ any of the posts I share. But Facebook can work out great for you if you post the right mix of your own articles and other interesting posts.
There are a lot of other platforms and Readers you can be on including Tumblr, Feedly, Bloglovin’, and more. Find out which one would help out the most in reaching your niche audience and use it!
Should I be on all these platforms?
HA, no. You will die.
Okay, you won’t die, but it will definitely drive you crazy. Unless you’re a superhuman whose blood is fully caffeine and you never sleep.
Jokes aside, here’s what you should do:
- Pick your poison: Which social network(s) do you like hanging out on? Are you getting site visits from these platforms? Find your faves and stick to them.
- Play around with different platforms: While you don’t have to be on all platforms, you can definitely play around with a few before deciding which ones you want to stick to. For instance, I dropped Bookstagram like a hot potato after being on it for more than a year because it wasn’t contributing to my blogging goals.
- Schedule, schedule, schedule: There are many services out there like Hootsuite and Buffer that help plan out your content in advance and post them at the most favourable time, so you don’t have to constantly be online and personally oversee everything. This is the secret that the bigger bloggers in other niches use to stay sane and still have fresh content available all the time.
Amateur: I’ve personally decided to focus on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I recommend limiting yourself to 3 social media profiles that are specifically for blogging as I think it is a good balance between getting more traffic to your blog and not sacrificing your sleep trying to juggle them all.
How do I improve my presence and gain followers?
Expert: Sell your soul to the Devil and you’re all set!
Wait, please don’t do that. Instead,
- Be present: Don’t post something and then disappear for several weeks in a row (been there, done that). The more present on social you are, the more people notice you.
- Interact with others: Don’t just post your own content and wait around for followers. The only noise you’ll hear is those of crickets. Comment on others’ posts, retweet generously and talk to people.
- Be genuine: Don’t comment for the sake of commenting. People know when you aren’t being genuine and commenting just for a follow-back. And please, for the love of books, don’t comment and ask for shoutouts. That’s just tacky.
Amateur: I have found that the more I champion others’ content, the more they are willing to do the same for me. I’ve made friends on social media rather than think of them only in terms of numbers. Being friendly, helpful and polite in your interactions will definitely help you keep the followers you’ve fought hard to win.
Should I obsess over my stats?
Expert: Never obsess over numbers. Nothing good comes out of going down that rabbit hole. But there is nothing wrong in occasionally checking your statistics. This process is two-part. You need to check the stats on:
- Visits to your own blog from social networks
- Metrics on individual posts on these networks
Firstly, you need to know where your readers and site visits are coming from. The WordPress Reader gives you this information under Stats.
Once you know where most of your visits are coming from, you can focus more on that social media platform.
Additionally, each platform itself shows you the high-level metrics you need to know about your accounts. Facebook pages have Insights, Twitter has Twitter Analytics, Instagram has Instagram Insights (for business profiles), and so much more. The onus is on you to decide how you’re going to modify your social presence to improve these stats.
Did your engagement fall after changing your posting time? Go back to your old time.
Did a particular day of the week give you more interactions? Post on that day every week.
Did a tweet have more impressions but no interactions? See if you can make it interactive.
Social media involves a lot of trial and error. I’ve spent several years on it and I’m still experimenting my way through it.
Amateur: I have found that the more time I spend looking at the numbers, the more it affects my mental health. Stats are a tool to help you better your strategies, not give you an anxiety attack. Resist the urge to check your too often, especially when you’re new to the game and everything looks shiny. There is a bit of a learning curve involved in figuring out what is your definition of ‘too much’ and it’s essential that you get an idea of that as early as possible to avoid unnecessary stress.
Should I schedule content in advance?
If you’re the busy type, you definitely should. You either need to schedule in advance or have some kind of writing and posting schedule in place.
Expert: Can you spare 5 minutes in the middle of your workday? Go ahead and post then! If not, there are a lot of free social scheduling apps that help.
- Buffer: The free account lets you have up to 10 posts in your Scheduler and also suggests the best times to post. But these times are purely algorithmic and I’d take them with a grain of salt.
- Hootsuite: You can schedule up to 30 posts in advance and also check some basic analytics.
We can vouch only for these two products as we’ve both used them (Shruti – Buffer and Nandini – Hootsuite), but there are other products and tools such as SocialOomph, TweetDeck, and more that could help you out. Remember to check out the features their free plans offer. In addition to scheduling, if a platform also offers basic analytics, go for it!
Amateur: After experimenting with Hootsuite for a month, I found that it wasn’t the one-stop solution I was looking for. While I’m still on the hunt for the magical service that lets me schedule Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest content with decent analytics for free, I have decided to go with a combination of TweetDeck + Twitter Analytics and Pinterest Business Profile for now. Both are offered by the social media platforms themselves and they provide scheduling and analytics services for free. Though the analytics are basic, I think it’s enough for a hobbyist blogger like me to get by.
Should I do things differently for different social media?
Expert: The audience on each platform is different, so yes, you need to post differently on each platform. For instance, you may tweet your blog posts, but you can’t exactly add a screenshot of them on Instagram. That’s not going to get you any engagement.
Save the jokes for Twitter, book pictures for Instagram, and blog post links for your parents and that weird cousin on Facebook.
It is your responsibility to figure out what fits on each social platform and post more of that there. Once again, looking at the native insights the platform offers will help you out here.
Amateur: Twitter likes it when you keep things brief and use few hashtags, Instagram is all for beautiful visuals and constant updates via Stories and Pinterest wants you to pin a lot on a daily basis. Each platform comes with its own quirks and inner workings. General blogging guides that keep up with the trends and changes in algorithms are a great resource to help tailor your social media strategy in a broad sense and the native analytics from each will help you narrow down your focus and come up with a plan that works best for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change things as long as you’re having fun with it!
Where can I learn more?
- Wednesday Wisdom by Shruti @ This is Lit
- The Ultimate Social Media Guide by Kaleena @ Reader Voracious
- Bookstagram 101 by Joséphine @ Word Revel
- Scheduling Tweets and Pins Using Hootsuite by Kaleena @ Reader Voracious
- Pinterest Guide for Book Bloggers by Eline @ Lovely Audiobooks
Shruti Ramanujam is a book blogger whose day job is in social media analytics. When she’s not professing her love for books, metaphors, and marketing, she’s down the rabbit holes that are viral Twitter threads. But she does surface occasionally to read a book or two and write poems.