7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

Social MediaI wrote a bit about platform last week. It’s not the end of the world for fiction writers if you don’t have one. (What is platform? Let Jane Friedman tell you.) However, it’s great if you do by the time your book is on the market. Not necessarily at the time of querying your book, but coming up to the publication of your book. Once you have your publication date, something you can work towards to build momentum is your platform which in turn will be your readership.

1. Be sure to follow lots of people. The chances of them following you back are high. It seems like a simple tip, but if you want to get more followers, extend a hand and follow more people. No need to be a perfectionist about being online; it’s called social media for a reason. The best way to find followers that you might like is to go to the account of a writer you enjoy, and is active online, and look at their lists.

2. Once you start following someone on Twitter or Facebook, @-reply to something they say within the first 3-5 days. It’s a simple gesture that says, “I’m not a spambot. I think we have a lot in common.” That starts the dialogue early and increases your chance of people following you back as well as recognizing your image and name.

3. Started a blog, but not sure what to write about? This is NOT to say that you must blog. It’s certainly not. But many writers start their online identity with a blog and then run out of steam. Here’s a handy guide of 52 (!!) blogging ideas based on your book’s content. Now you can’t say you don’t have things to write about. The most important thing about a blog isn’t always the content (it should be good) but the consistency. Make sure people know when they will receive things from you or can check in: weekly? bi-weekly? daily? There is no right answer. It’s about what works for you.

4. Don’t be afraid of hashtags. Yes, too many are confusing, but just one can make all the difference. Do you post to your blog on Mondays? Use #MondayBlogs. Do you engage with other writers? Use #WriterWednesdays. On Instagram they are essential so use #amreading #booksofinstagram or others that relate to your topic. That’s how people find you. You can make up your own hashtags but you have to use them frequently enough for them to gain traction. For general posts, you’re best to join in with another hashtag that already exists and people recognize. Here are 100 Twitter Hashtags Writers Should Know. And a scientific guide about when to use those hashtags.

5. When you talk about your book–leading up to publication–you must use a hashtag that captures the title. There are no excuses on this one. If you want to connect your readers to you and each other, you must be providing a link of communication. A hashtag of your title is that link. Readers want to socially engage with each other. They want to share quotes, reviews, and more. Give them that opportunity by leading with example. It’s not cocky to give your book a hashtag, it’s a reality of social media.

6. Once you have built a community, it’s not the time to spew links. You did the hardest thing, you build a nest egg following! Now, in order to keep them, you have to keep the promotional link spewing to a considerate amount. The point was to lead up to your publication date, right? Well, now that you have their trust you also have to respect their feed. Things like Goodreads copy giveaways and quote graphics are two good ways to keep things aesthetically pleasing. Think about it: what’s in it for them? Marketing is a call to action. A barrage of links isn’t what people want, but a free copy or story told in GIFs is! If you build it, they will come. i.e. If you have succeeded in creating good relationships they will support you when the book comes out because they like you not your links. Invite people to engage, don’t threaten them with spam.

7. Be memorable. What is it about your online persona that will keep people coming back? Are you an authority on something? Have a hobby other that writing? The best way to be memorable is to be you. If you feel like you’re putting on a hat when you do it then it’s not coming from an authentic place. Growing a following is a slow process, so it has to come from a place that you know. And that’s usually yourself and your writing.

Q: What are some surprising ways that you’ve connected with like-minded people online?

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27 thoughts on “7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

  1. The most surprising outcome, for me, of blogging is the following fact. I commented on a photograph I liked and asked if I could use it as inspiration for a childrens story. The result is mudpile wood and linking with Doris. Our illustrated book will be released in the next fortnight! So I say to everyone keep blogging you never know what will hapen.

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  2. I going to remind myself that I don’t know everything! I saw your article and thought, “Eh, I should read this, but nothing new to me.” WRONG! Thank you for your knowledge and constant support to us writers. I was humbled this morning…or maybe just a little hungover (But who is saying….) I learned a few things I will do! Keep the articles coming…I won’t EVER pass them by again.

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  3. Fantastic advice Carly. This post couldn’t have been written at a better time for me as I am in the process of setting up my blog and other social media platforms for myself as writer and my new multitouch iBook The Sword of Air. Thank you for posting this. The link to 100 twitter hashtags writers should know is very useful. Rae.

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  4. Thank you so much for your insightful tips for those of us out here wanting and needing to know how this works. I have a question, I have been blogging in Canada for over four years now under my blog name, and have never put my real name on it. I am now lucky enough to have my writing published in a national newspaper and have a monthly column in a local newspaper.Someday my dream is to have a book published. My question would be; to establish my name should I put my real name on my blog? My Blog is doing very well. Thank you. B

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  5. A very useful post Carly! I am at the polishing stage of my novel (3rd draft!) and I started to blog with a view to create a platform, under my own name. (Many years ago i blogged under a pseydonym.) But my question is this: i’ve written a novel but my blog is poetry, and i love poetry as much as I love prose – does it matter? And I don’t blog about writing as such – but anything that grabs my interest. So is that a problem? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

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  6. Thanks so much Carly. I recently started a blog as I was told (incorrectly it seems) that even for fiction writers that agents won’t even look at you if you don’t have a website. I thought long and hard about what that would look like for me, as I just didn’t want to create noise for noise sake. I am finding my voice, and still learning. Thanks again for the great information.

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  7. More great tips, Carly, thank you. May I add:
    -Follow and engage with your target reader-for example, my primary target readers are nurses. I have been pleasantly surprised by how they have embraced my novels and enjoy engaging with them.
    -Follow and engage with people who are interested in the themes in your book and organizations that support your themes. Example-I incorporate my passion for the sea, especially dolphins and whales, in my novels. As Carly suggested, following hashtags like #dolphins #whales #Blackfish has helped link me to others who have this passion too. The engagement is more natural since we share a common interest.
    Cheers!
    Susan Allison-Dean
    http://www.susanallisondean.com

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  8. Thanks Carly for the tips. My topic is unique, my sponsors are plentiful, I was approached for a TV show based on my blog, but I am just trying to keep it all together. Seems like I am on the cusp of something….

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  9. Many mercis (as usual!) for your practical post, Carly!

    And to answer your question … a surprising way I’ve connected with people online was through a discussion forum while researching something plot-related for my ms.

    I now have a collection of contacts in the southern states who send me tips & tricks of their trade.

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  10. Hi Carly, We met at the Writers in 3D conference in Edmonton in May of 2015 when I attended your session. I liked what you had to say so I have been following you on-line since. Following the advice from #4 above about hashtags, I went back in to my newish Instagram account and started adding more hashtags. I suddenly got a bunch of likes and followers in the time I was doing that, thank you. (I’m at likes_words, BTW. I post about writing, books, authors and nature.)

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