Earlier in my career, I mistakenly thought that it was important for authors to be everywhere online.
I likened social media to zip codes. I would say, “Do you only want to sell in the 95405 zip code? Or would you rather sell your books in zip codes worldwide?”
With glistening eyes, writers would shout, “Worldwide!”
Okay, no one’s eyes glistened, and no one shouted, but you get what I mean.
As I look back on those talks all I can say to myself is, “Sheesh!”
I could beat myself up for my naivete, or I could simply accept the facts that I was in good company and that, thankfully, my advice change soon after that.
The fact that I was in good company at that time, in reality, provides little consolation so if you still think that you need to be everywhere, well, I’m here to explain why that is a false assumption.
Get to Know Pew Research Center
Lucky for authors, the Pew Research Center regularly produces surveys on social media use in the U.S., which can likely be extrapolated to many other cultures. This is what the newest report indicates:
- 79% of internet users have Facebook accounts
- 32% of internet users use Instagram
- 24% of internet users are on Twitter
- 29% of internet users have LinkedIn profiles
- 31% of internet users have accounts on Pinterest
Let’s break down the metrics further.
The largest demographic on Facebook are users between the ages of 18 and 29, followed by the 30- to 49-year-old age group. Facebook still has a sizeable number of users between 50 and 65+, but it can’t compare to the 18 – 29 demographic. With respect to gender, there are slightly more women than men.
Instagram is primarily the domain of younger adults in the 18 – 29 age group. The numbers drop off drastically at the 65+ age category. As we would expect, there are more women than men on this platform.
It’s not surprising that user growth remained stagnant between 2015 and 2016. There have been quite a few changes at Twitter, including CEOs, but it continues to be an important platform for some authors.
Younger adults dominate all social media platforms, and that’s true for Twitter as well. The 18- to 29-year-old demographic is strong here, with users dropping off drastically at about age 65.
There has been little change in the user base on LinkedIn. Twenty-nine percent of internet users say they also use LinkedIn. As in previous surveys, the 18- to 49-year-old age group dominates on LinkedIn. Usage drops off at about age 50 - 64 when most users have found their careers and are in fact keep their eye toward some type of retirement.
As the favorite social media among professionals, it makes sense that LinkedIn is especially popular among college graduates eager to find their first jobs. In fact, 50% of online adult users with college degrees have profiles on LinkedIn, and the annual household for most is about $75,000/annually.
About 31% of online adults use Pinterest, meaning there’s been no change whatsoever in penetration of this site since 2015. And women continue to dominate Pinterest: 45% of internet users are women who use Pinterest and 17% are men.
Perhaps due to their popularity, Pew Research Center again included a few facts about messaging apps.
- 29% of smartphone owners use general-purpose messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Kik.
- 24% use messaging apps that automatically delete sent messages, such as Snapchat or Wickr. This represents a 7-point increase from a survey conducted in 2015 (at that point 17% of smartphone owners used these apps).
- 5% use apps that allow people to anonymously chat or post comments, such as YikYak or Whisper. This was the first time Pew Research Center has asked about these types of apps.
What This Means for Indie Authors
From these numbers we can surmise several things:
1. The youth dominate social media, especially Millennials. There’s no surprise to this fact. Millennials were the first generation to grow up with the internet. Using social media is second nature to them. In fact, many of them have gone on to create today’s favorite applications. Anywhere you roam on the internet, you’ll find them.
2. Having made my point in No. 1, let’s now think of where we’ll find young adults (YA) and YA readers. Well, most likely you’ll find them on Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr. Tumblr is especially popular among teens. These are also good choices for authors writing Steam Punk and teen romance novels.
3. Women dominate Pinterest so it’s only natural that this would be a good option for romance writers. So if you write romance start creating boards for sexy lingerie and eyebrows, chocolate, and champagne, and boards that reflect what your characters wear, eat, and where they live.
5. What if you write thrillers? It’s worth mentioning that indie authors Mark Dawson and Nick Stephenson have paltry followings on Twitter because they invest their time and money (in advertising) on Facebook. I also think that Facebook is a perfect venue for romance authors. Those who don’t want to start a page have begun to form groups, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness of Facebook groups for readers for the average indie author. Still, I believe they hold great promise.
6. The key to knowing where to spend your time on social media is, above all else, to know your readership. My readership is mostly female and 45 years of age and above. Once you know the specifics of your readership—and you should—then refer to the research done by the Pew Research Center and you’ll know how to economize your time on social media.
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