by Helen Treharne


Social media can be a joy, expanding an author’s reach to new audiences and introducing us to fellow authors and other sources of support. I can also be something which absorbs our time, taking us away from the important task of writing. At its worst, we invest time and effort for little reward.

I must admit that I too have been sucked in by Twitter on occasion, largely as I’ve made some very good writer friends in the process. I’m keen to support them and interested in what they’re up to. I’ve unquestionably invested more time on Twitter than any other social media platform.

But has Twitter directly created a lot of sales? Short answer–no. Most of my Twitter interaction is still with other authors/ author-readers and not the general reading public. As a result, its impact is limited. There are exceptions of course, such as a particular PR campaign for a book or kindle deal, but the guts of my daily Twitter activity has offered little reward.

The reason of course is that it’s very easy to use social media platforms for entirely the wrong thing. It’s also easy to slip into bad habits, particularly when you see other, seemingly successful people doing the same things. For example, if you are an author, I expect that you probably follow a number of other writers. Your Twitter timeline in particularly is probably awash with posts about their books and why you should follow them.

Twitter is for engaging and building a community, it is not to sell products per se. I’m sure that few authors stop to consider how many of their promotional “buy my book” posts actually lead to referrals and eventual sales. If they actually looked at their referral traffic for their book sales or blogs, I suspect they’d be surprised by how little they are getting for their efforts. Twitter must form one part of a broader social media strategy to build a presence and build relationships/advocates, not your only activity.

Using a social media network in the wrong way perhaps isn’t surprising given how much they have evolved. Membership has evolved and sites are constantly introducing new functionality–Facebook in particular does this. The ability to cross post content without tailoring is also a contributing factor.

Despite my insider professional knowledge, I find myself being compelled to use platforms for entirely the wrong thing, against my better judgement. Facebook (personal accounts) has now become the domain of not just close friends and family, but colleagues and acquaintances. Twitter has become a catch-all for absolutely anybody, yet my attention has been almost. My LinkedIn account is awash with those interested in connecting about my personal life and hobbies (such as this blog or writing) and not my day job as a professional communicator. I suspect that I must take action to sort that out soon!

But writers aren’t generally communications or PR experts. They learn from other writers and by the example they set. This isn’t itself an issue–we should all try and share best practice whenever we can. A problem arises when we assume advice is correct, without having any further evidence.

For example, are you taking best practices from a bestselling author(s)? Is the writer you’re aspiring to emulate experienced in communications PR or has someone who works on promotions for them advised them? Are they someone who offers practical advice and tips and can support with examples and information that sounds credible? Or are you just doing what everyone else is doing, assuming that it must work?

If you’re interested in using social media to market your works, I’d recommend finding out a little more about digital PR in general. There are plenty of industry bodies out there who share practical advice and guides on their websites–the PRCA and CIPA to name a few (UK only). Advice can also be sourced via online communities, blogs and writers’ associations.

If you’re looking for something a little less daunting and accessible, then try following the #writingtips, #writetips and #indiepubtip hashtags on Twitter. Rayne Hall’s book on how authors should use Twitter is an excellent resource and covers the basics without overloading with comms-speak, which may prove daunting for the novice.



Guest post contributed by Helen Treharne. Helen is a fiction writer, blog post creator, and professional beta reader. Check out more of her articles on her blog.