In the past few months, I've given my Social Media Master Class to writers and illustrators at SCBWI events in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. I still feel odd when people refer to me as a social media expert, mainly because I believe:
1. There is no ONE right way to use social media. What works for me may not work for you.
Also, it drives me a wee bit crazy when some come up to me and say stuff like, "You're so lucky to be so good at this! It comes so naturally to you."
I feel like yelling at them, "It wasn't luck! I started from scratch, made MANY MISTAKES, learned how to use social media gradually through observation and practice." But of course I don't yell because I've made the same sort of assumptions about others who work very hard to learn something over a long period of time; we only tend to see the end results. I try not to make this mistaken assumption anymore, to give people more credit.
When it comes to promotion, part of my "strategy" in social media comes from my introvert tendencies as well as my aversion to asking people for money. It's one of the reasons I very rarely help promote crowd-funding campaigns and will likely never use Kickstarter or similar venues to fund a project.
2. Respect your followers' time.
It's worth taking the time to craft a post that shows that you respect your followers' time. I assume that many others are like me, often feeling overwhelmed with the barrage of information and tweets and "click THIS link" and "look at THIS" posts on social media.
I never post on Twitter with a bare link, or a "Check this out! xxxlinkxxxx" because I rarely click through that kind of post. When I use auto-share tools, I try to customize the descriptive text whenever I can.
I try to make my posts as entertaining or informative or as visually enticing as possible. I try to include an image whenever I can; I have found that my posts with images almost always get more attention that those without.
3. As fun or useful as social media can be, your work needs to come first.
I strongly recommend figuring out what you want to get out of social media; I wish I had done this from the beginning. It will help keep you focused and time-efficient, plus save you frustration. Be realistic. "I'm going to find an editor who will publish my book" is not realistic. "I want to get to know what editor xxx is like" or "I want to find out if agent xxx is someone I'd like to work with" is more realistic.
These are just a few general tips, but they are three of the most important. I could write a book about social media advice (general and specific) for writers and illustrators, but why bother? Social media platforms change all the time; so much has already changed in Twitter since I wrote my Twitter Guide For Authors and Illustrators.
And a last tip: Try to have fun!
Debbie Ridpath Ohi wrote and illustrated WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (Simon & Schuster Children's). Coming out in 2016: RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS (author: Rob Sanders, HarperCollins) and MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE: WHAT'S THAT SMELL? (author: Lauren McLaughlin, Random House). Twitter: @inkyelbows.