Lessons learned: social media won’t build your platform, but here’s 3 things that will

You may have heard the recent grumblings in the author communities about changes Facebook and Google have made, as well as Amazon’s changes to their KDP programs. If not, the gist of the issue is that authors wonder how they can build their author platforms on social media and Amazon, if these sources keep changing how their content is shared and ranked.

To put it bluntly, you can’t.

Despite what some marketing professionals try to suggest, as well as the social media platforms themselves, you cannot effectively build your brand on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Amazon. As long as what they need to do to keep their bottom lines up keeps changing, so will their algorithms and terms. It benefits them and makes life harder for you.

So then, why ever tweet or share or like ever again? I met author Joe Hill at a book fest when I was in Massachusetts earlier this month, and when I asked, his advice to me was to only use social media for the fun of it, not for what it will do for your career. That’s solid advice.

Now, I’ll tell you a few things that ARE likely to help build your author platform:

A blog - You’re reading mine right now, so point made right there. It’s not easy to come up with something to write about each week, but you’ll get the hang of it in time. Automatic posts to Twitter or Facebook can help distribute your content.

An email newsletter - If you get people to sign up for your updates and announcements, it means people are interested in your brand and your work. As you build out your email list, those readers may forward your emails to friends, family, colleagues they believe will also like your work. The list becomes self-perpetuating.

Appearances at forums, book fairs, and conferences - If you’re on a budget or can’t travel, don’t worry, you can usually find a few gatherings to participate in locally. But, really, nothing builds your platform better than showing up someplace in person and talking to people one-on-one.

If you have some tips on building an author platform that you’ve seen success with and want to share, feel free to add your comments.