Why Do Readers Connect with You Online?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

Twitter and Facebook Tips

I think many authors need to be reminded why a reader connects with him or her beyond the book, especially through social media. I’ve recently seen such a focus by authors on promotion both through Facebook and Twitter that I’m worried many authors are going to drive their fans away, and the online connection will be lost. Here’s what I believe readers are looking for when they follow or friend you online:

1) A personal connection. This is first for a reason. I believe that this is what drives most readers to connect with an author online. Think about the posts you like the best–they’re the personal ones, right?  The reader wants to get to know the author better–to meet a kindred spirit “in person.” Most times the reader has enjoyed a book of yours and then chooses to find you on Twitter or Facebook. These readers do want to know when your next book is coming out, but more than anything they want to be your friend. They want you to open up to them and share a bit of who you are and also to connect back with them on a personal level. The posts they are looking for are the kind you would put up for your friends and family. Be selective and careful with what you post, of course, but forming a bond of friendship with a reader will help you sell more books in the long run.

2) Freebies. We all love receiving prizes and free books, and this drives many readers to connect with authors online. Lots of readers know that an author is given some promotional copies for giveaways so they’re trying to get one. For most authors extravagant freebies aren’t financially doable but even basic book giveaways are a good way to get exposure with readers online who might not have read a book of yours yet. I think it’s a good idea to have some sort of giveaway every four months or so to broaden your readership.  Your current readers will advertise the giveaway to their friends/followers so you could gain a larger audience through offering a few autographed copies of a book or some bookmarks.

3) A desire to meet in real life. Authors often fail to realize how important it is to announce book signings and personal appearance events on Facebook or Twitter. Many readers connect with authors because they would love to meet them some day. Be sure to have your UPDATED schedule available at all times online and let your readers know when you’ve added new events.

4) Writing advice. So many readers are also writing–or dream of writing. Answering writing questions can get old, but these people are part of your audience. Find a way to link these writer-readers to some suggested writing books and tips that you’ve already pulled together on your website.  That way connecting with this portion of your readership can be easy yet personal. Your notes to these readers can contain some encouraging words and a link to your writing advice page. but feel free to also include writing tips in your status updates. You might be surprised with how many of your followers are writers too! (Actually, you could ASK them if they’re writers. Because the danger in putting out writing material is that you connect with all your writer friends rather than your readers. Then you’ve diverted yourself from growing readership for your books.)

So what should you be putting in your status or tweeting?

1) Mostly personal things. Pictures and updates about YOU! Try to keep it positive too. Complaining and whining are the quickest ways to drive away readers. Even if you are having a bad day try to find some sunshine for your Twitter and Facebook posts.

2) Tips and encouragement for other writers (if you know they’re a significant part of your readership).

3) Schedule updates. Where are you going to be so that these readers can meet you?

4) Some contests/giveaways, showing book covers and release announcements.

Remember to get personal! :)

Can you think of other reasons readers connect with authors online? Why do you?

What causes you to unfriend or unfollow someone?

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72 Comments

  • Rick Barry says:

    Rachel, readers who like our books also ask about upcoming projects we’re working on. Visiting the author and asking must be more fun than surfing the Internet and hoping to stumble across an interview that tells.

    They also ask about possible sequels and sometimes even suggest plots for them. :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      And answering questions is one of the best ways to promote your book on FB and Twitter because then it’s not you initiating the promotion. :)

  • I enjoy relatable posts from well-known authors. For instance, a WF writer I enjoy posted her failed pumpkin pie experience at Thanksgiving. Left me laughing out loud and made her oh-so human!

  • I love it when I realize an author is a real person too. And there’s something that makes you feel important (even just a little bit!) when an author writes back to you personally. I don’t know about everyone, but I remember that, and it endears me to that author…and it only takes an author a few seconds or minutes to respond.

    I unfollow people on Twitter if they are jamming up the feed with several tweets in a row, particularly when said tweets are about themselves or their products. A friend of mine tweeted something the other day that said something like, “When did Twitter become a virtual bulletin board?” So true! I think as writers we should strive to provide content that readers and other writers would find interesting–and not just be focused on selling ourselves.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Great point! I love the phrase “virtual bulletin board.” That’s exactly what Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be.

  • For me, I think the personal connection is key. It unlocks the door to true fandom and helps turn a “reader” into an “ambassador.”

    My connections are largely through podcasting, twitter and my blog with some secondary connections on Facebook.

    I like people who are real. Robo-tweeters, tireless promoters (even when they’re not always promoting themselves), and re-tweet engines don’t get invited onto my social media bus and I make it a point never to do those things myself.

    Sure, it means I’m not able to be online all the time and I go through phases where I’m online a lot for a few weeks and then fade out while I’m working. My fans understand that, even expect it.

  • Tiana Smith says:

    I agree with this post 110%. It should be required reading for authors. As a reader, I follow authors for the exact reasons you specified above. I don’t care as much about the freebies, but I love getting to know the “real” author.

    The biggest reason I unfriend someone is because they are being too promotional. If every other tweet is about their book, I just can’t take it.

    Another pet peeve is when they tweet 50 bazillion times a day. I like to follow them, but I have a life too, and I can’t read about yours every moment of mine.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      “I like to follow them, but I have a life too, and I can’t read about yours every moment of mine.”

      This made me laugh and is so true.

  • I will initially follow or connect with an author because I like their work. Then if I find that they share other interests of mine, they I get more excited. Writing is not (don’t throw stuff!) the only interest that is interesting. How’s that for bad grammar?
    I notice when an author discusses gardening or kids, but I’ll pop a few freckles (I have enough to spare the loose ones) if she mentions mission work or antique restoration. When one’s discussions can debate sapele vs mahogany, then I’m all ears.
    I will unfollow, deTweet or unfriend if they begin to get nasty about someone, or they seem to be entirely concerned with their “brand”.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I like to discover that I share interests with a favorite author too.

      And I also unfriend people who are being “nasty” in some way.

  • This post is spot on and bookmarkable. :) Thanks for the tips, Rachel!

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    This is great advice, Rachel. I rarely–maybe never??–unfriend anyone on Facebook or blogs. However, ranting about politics can raise my hackles.

    Twitter is a different story. People who follow me just so I’ll follow back then unfollow me get on my nerves. Also, spammy direct messages (“nice to connect with you–like my facebook page”)rub me the wrong way. Still, most of the time I just smile and ignore!

    I prioritize social media this way:
    1. Conversations
    2. Content (sharing tips, blog posts, etc..)
    3. Promotion

    That’s the order. If we aren’t having conversations and sharing content the majority of the time, we’re failing to engage. :)

    Again, loved this post! Enjoy the rest of your week!

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Great list for prioritizing! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you have a great week too.

    • “People who follow me just so I’ll follow back then unfollow me get on my nerves. Also, spammy direct messages (“nice to connect with you–like my facebook page”)rub me the wrong way.”

      That’s why I stopped following social media experts. The first message is a thanks for following, then direct messages about gaining more followers start. I don’t care how great your advice is, I don’t want my Inbox flooded with your messages.

      Same thing with Facebook groups. I want to participate, but in a way that works for my schedule. Being inundated with group messages just makes me want to leave.

  • Love this post! I remember when I first jumped into twitter. I enjoyed MOST the posts that were pretty much pithy thoughts on someone’s day-to-day life, not multiple (and relentless) advertisements for their books. But how quickly we forget! I find myself re-tweeting or offering links to other posts, but I need to intersperse it w/stuff from my life (I always wonder if anyone cares, though!).

    Trying to balance my blogging with writer’s tips and regular stuff from life. I like the idea of more frequent book giveaways. I find that my FB friends love when I post stuff I hear via ACFW about free books on Kindle–sharing that info they don’t have access to.

    By the way, did someone already win that Kindle fire over here?

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Hi Heather,

      Janet announced the winner on Monday’s blog.

      Thanks for the comment! I even get annoyed when people are over-promoting other people’s books.

      People do care what is going on in your life. Maybe not what you have for dinner each night, but we all like the person-to-person connections. Little fun stories of what happened to you, etc.

  • Casey says:

    This is perfect and so many of my pet peeves rolled up into one post. I think it’s great when authors want to share when their book is on sale or free on promotion, but please don’t tell me when it’s 50 cents off regular price or Amazon only has 3 copies left in stock. Talking sales numbers about your book on social media doesn’t make me want to go buy your book. Being personable and taking time to get to know me, (even though I know it’s not all about me… :)), but also letting me have a snapshot glimpse into your world makes me eager to know more about your writing.

    Friendships go a long way in the book industry! At least that is what I have noticed. Like Deeanne Gist, Cindy Woodsmall and Julie Lessman. They make themselves available for their fans.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Great comment! Thank you.

    • I have to tell this Deeanne Gist story…I knew her from an online group, but had never so much as exchanged a private email with her. When my husband died I hadn’t had internet access for eighteen months, I’d ditched it for personal reasons, so I hadn’t had any contact with Dee for a long, long time. And yet, when I went to the church for my husband’s funeral there were flowers there from Dee.

      I was dumbfounded. Can you imagine?

  • I remember Robin Gunn advising writers to post in the same voice with which you write. Since her books are funny, sweet, and inspiring, she uses that style in her posts. If your books are humor or sarcasm, that should be reflected in your posts.

    I recently unfriended a fellow writer because of a long series of unpleasant and combative political and theological debates that he was having with his readers. I’m not opposed to debate, I just don’t want to read it on facebook. And since I didn’t agree with many of his theological arguments, I’m going to be hesitant to buy his books in the future.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Robin Gunn and I learned a lot together when we were starting up her Facebook fan page. :) I am eternally grateful to her for allowing me to work with her for those years. She is a wise woman!

  • Dale Rogers says:

    I hadn’t thought about it that way, Rachel.
    Thanks for the suggestions.

  • Awesome post, Rachel! There are so many best selling authors who ignore their fans, I really hope they read this post and think twice. Good advice!

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I got ignored once when I was a teen and it broke my heart. I understand a lot more now how an author might be a bit swamped with fan mail, but as a 16-year-old I didn’t get it.

  • Jessica R. Patch says:

    These were great tips! Being positive even if your day is crummy is a biggie to me! I never mind anyone asking for prayer, but constant negativity gets irritating.

    I have unfollowed people who clog the feed with an over abundance of self promotion. I think authors need to find the balance! I know several who are great at marketing themselves.

    I tend to follow people who tweet personal things in a humorous way.

  • Great post! I’ve also found readers love to provide input for upcoming books. Not that they want to supply the tough answers to how-should-I-resolve-the-unresolvable-ending-I’ve-painted-myself-into-a-corner-with, but little snippets that help them to feel as though they’re part of the story. I recently asked my facebook friends what color my heroine’s dress should be, and got dozens of answers! I’ve also seen authors quiz their readers on whether their characters should have a dog or a cat, that sort of thing. It gives the reader an investment in the story, a reason to pick up the book later and find out just what color the heroine’s dress ended up being, anyway.
    Great fun!

  • I agree with Sarah that the points you make are spot on. In regards to myself, connecting with people is important to me. I love your blog and the other Books and Such blogs because there is a community. There is a dialogue. I don’t feel like I’m just writing to the airwaves. Rachel, I really appreciate that you respond to everyone who comments. I know that you are busy with a million other things in your work (not to mention your life), so the fact that you do this is especially commendable.

    Promotion is important, of course, but as you say, Tweets and Facebook comments shouldn’t be all about promotion. Actually, all the writers that I follow on Twitter respond to me and I to them, so that’s great. Again, it’s connection and community. So I want to use a musician I used to follow as an example of what I think you’re talking about. I began following her on Twitter when she was just starting out. She was just beginning to put an album together and she had about 900 followers when I started following her. For a while, she tweeted not only about recording, doing concerts, etc., but also about eating chocolate or the joys of getting a foot massage. I followed her because I admired her talent as a violinist and singer, and I liked who she seemed to be as a person. Just to be clear, she tweeted a welcome to me, but never responded to a tweet after that. That was okay. I understood that she was busy and I don’t expect constant attention. But by the time she reached two thousand followers and her album came out, her tweets became almost non-stop promotion and cheerleader-type tweets to re-tweet and tell others about her. Also constant tweets from her and her team to get her repeatedly voted as Ms. Twitter. I stayed with her for a while, but finally I just felt she regarded me as an unpaid PR agent. That was when I unfollowed her on Twitter. I still think she is an incredible musician, but I have no interest in following her career on Twitter or anywhere else.

    Also I will unfollow people who are mean-spirited or who use profanity.

    Blessings! :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Thanks for sharing this story, Christine! Hopefully some authors will read it and see it as a wake up call.

      Also, I try to respond to everyone, but I have to confess that some blog days I just can’t keep up. So thanks for mentioning and appreciating that I try, but I hope everyone will understand on those days that I can’t get to each comment individually. :-\ *blush*

  • Sarah Sundin says:

    Thank you for a post that should be essential reading for writers. I won’t follow-back someone on Twitter if the majority of their tweets are sales-related. On Facebook, they get relegated to my “acquaintance” list. If sales talk rubs me the wrong way as a writer, I can only imagine what “real” people think of it.

    Also, from personal experience, my status updates that get the most comments on Facebook are personal and funny. Usually related to something my yellow lab did. She’s getting older and better behaved, so I’m going to have to find new sources of material :)

  • Bonnie Way says:

    I’d agree with all of these points, although I actually don’t follow many authors on FB or Twitter. I followed a certain favourite author’s blog for quite a while, but got bored when she started writing more about her dogs than about her books. I loved her “behind the scenes” posts about the writing of her books, but I didn’t really want to see another cute picture of her dog sleeping on the floor or doing something else. I also don’t like too much self-promotion.

    I follow one author on Twitter (whom I also know through a writer’s group) and she’s always tweeting things about her novel – which she released several years ago – and I wonder who she’s trying to reach with those tweets. I know about her novel already. So do most of her other Twitter followers, likely. So why do we keep hearing about it over and over again? Yes, I’d like to know about her new book or about book signings or other events, but I don’t want to see the same tweet every day (or even every week).

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I HATE repeat tweets too. If you’re going to repeat the same information, at least rephrase it.

      You are right that you can go too far to the personal side as well. Authors need to be really careful about what they post so that they don’t overdo anything. (I like dogs though so it probably wouldn’t have bothered me. lol.)

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you Rachel, I these are great reminders. Thank you to everyone who comments. I learn so much from this blog.

    I also love connecting to readers through social media because they INSPIRE me. I am not published yet. I do have a blog and my readers provide me with such great feedback and often inform the direction that I take in my writing. I learn about what is valuable to them by conversations and interactions online. None of my writing would come to be without those who read it.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I love that! You are inspired by your readers. This is a great attitude to have toward social media and I think when you are published it will go far to help you make the most of your author/reader connections.

  • Karin Neary says:

    This brings up a question for me. When should you get an author page on Facebook? Before you get a contract to be published or after? It seems like publishers want you to already have a following before they sign with you. But that seems difficult without a book to promote. What would you suggest?

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I think it’s best to have a “fan page” right away. You might not get many “likes” before you start publishing, but it’s a good idea to have it there to begin with so that later you don’t have to switch everyone over to the “fan page” from your personal page. You’re only allowed 5,000 friends anyway so you might as well start “collecting” fans now to save you some work later on.

  • Rachel, I’m also interested to hear what authors are reading in terms of news items and books. And I always love to hear about where book ideas come from.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I do too! I love book recommendations that are actually personal (based on something that author is reading) rather than author-friend promotions.

  • This is a wonderful post, Rachel. I know I’m not personal enough online. It’s hard for me, but I’m working on it.

    One of my clients holds a contest during each virtual book tours. The person who comments at the most tour stops gets a character named after him/her in the next book in the series. People seem to enjoy it.

  • Jeanne says:

    What a great post, Rachel! I’ve been on facebook for a few years, and I know I need to venture over to Twitter one day soon. :) You’ve given some great information in your post today–definitely a keeper!

    One thing that has prompted me to “friend” authors is when I read something they’ve posted that resonates with me. A truth, an experience, something.

    I’m learning so much over here. Thanks for sharing your great tips on connecting with readers. Truly helpful!

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      It took me a while to get comfortable with Twitter, but I had friends to help me. :) Best of luck to you when you start tweeting!

  • I think your post was spot on! I really believe that you should only post comments that you would be comfortable having one of your (potential in my case) readers read. If it’s not appropriate for everyone to see, in-box it or direct tweet it.

  • Great post.

    And I think Christine Dorman has hit on a big one, too. Community is important. People want to speak and be heard.

    People want to feel significant.

    And it’s pretty easy to make us feel significant. A “thank you” every once in a while works wonders. Or a simple “like” on a status update.

    When authors ONLY go on Facebook or Twitter to tell others something about themselves–even if it’s not about their books but about something personal, they will lose followers, I think. You have to give as well as take. If you share your funny story, you need to stick around a few minutes and chuckle at someone else’s funny story.

    I think the failed recipe deal is great. People who are vulnerable and genuine are very attractive. I also think, though, that it’s not enough. I know some authors who love to be vulnerable. They constantly tell me how vulnerable they are, but I never see them caring about other vulnerable people.

    I’m not saying that busy people need to stroke all their fans, or respond to every comment on a blog. We all understand that others are busy and can’t “like” everyone’s updates. Authors don’t have to like MY status updates for me to love them. But they have to like someone’s status update besides their own. They have to reach out to someone who is weak.

    When we see Tim Tebow loving some kid with cancer, we love him for it and we don’t take offense because he failed to notice and respond to our tweets.

    OOOHhh who knew I felt so strongly about this issue? :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Great points! Thanks for the comment. I think many of us feel strongly about this because we’re faced with it every day.

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Another Twitter tip is to retweet information that might be of interest to your followers.

    For Facebook, I “unfriend” people who spew out personal attacks, always complain, post offensive information, or make frequently trivial posts all day long. Fortunately, I don’t need to do that too often.

  • Anita Mae says:

    Excellent post, Rachel. I’m quite relieved that it’s okay to talk about yourself because one of the things that seem to draw the most comments is when I talk about, or show photos and videos of, my life here on the Canadian prairies, or my travels.

    I retweet maybe 3 things a day, but only if it’s something I feel is worthwhile. (RealTimeTitanic excluded)

    Promotion for blogposts excluded, I talk about my writing when I think it will encourage others, when I need encouragement, or if I’ve made new progress and want to share. These tweets don’t overwhelm the circuit.

    My daily social media time needs to be effective, so I won’t click tweets that only hint at something without any real info. For example, these don’t grab me in the slightest: “You’ll never guess what happened to me!” or “Guess what I just bought!”

    I’ve only unfriended 2 FB people – one because of questionable photos, and the other because it was a teen from the youth group who was ticked and used the F-word. After the 3rd time, bye-bye. (My teens laugh because all their friends are sending me friend requests. Why? Is this normal?)

    I don’t accept all FB friend requests, and I don’t follow everyone who follows me. Both of these take research, and give me peace of mind.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I am also selective with who I accept as my FB friends, but I’m also not using FB as a tool to promote myself.

  • Yvette Carol says:

    Exactly! As fans as well as writers, we can sniff out being ‘sold’ something a mile away. We all want relationships with people who feel like real human beings right?!
    Great post.
    Yvette Carol

  • If somebody follows me on Twitter and they have more followers than people they follow I assume they’re just using it for marketing and ignore them.

  • Susan Craig says:

    Wow. Your post just answered a question I asked on a different website. Thanks for the very useful thoughts. I don’t usually unfriend people, even when they annoy me, but maybe I should. How else will they realize they are being annoying?

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I’m all for sending a private message warning first if that is something you want to do before unfriending.

  • Brenda says:

    Great write up! I’m a reader…JUST a reader…no writing aspirations. I so agree that we want to think of authors as real people and not just marketing their wares—or someone else posting for them or so it appears when all tweets/FB post are in 3rd person! Do I want to know what you are working on and when it’s going to be published? Yes! Do I enjoy winning a free book? Yes! But it really goes beyond just those items. I understand authors can’t respond/follow everyone…but I stand up and take notice when they do! And then guess what? i tell my friends about it!

  • Shelly King says:

    Good solid advice! I’m a social media manager for a major software company in addition to writing fiction, and I use many of these same tips for our internal social media team. Big or small, the principles are the same. Thanks for posting!

  • Such a great post and the comments have been educational and entertaining too. :) I’m sharing this and immediately put up a picture from today’s project on my Fb page. That’s one feature I don’t take advantage of often since I don’t have a smart phone.

    I block posts from people on Facebook who auto post Twitter. I have both accounts and I just can’t stand it when Twitter # and @ symbols take up more of the post content (on Fb) than the post. Now on Twitter, it’s fun sometimes to click that # and see who else is posting that tag. But please, folks, learn the difference between social media services and let them be different. :) That’s my pet peeve.

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