Tips for Working With a Social Media Assistant

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From Writers in the Storm:

I’ve heard many authors—myself included—express our frustration and dismay at the expectation that we will not only produce wonderful books, but also carry out what amounts to a second full-time job as our own marketing team. Most of us don’t mind holding events, whether live or virtual, where we get to engage with readers. Nor do we mind interviews, written or recorded, where we can talk about our books and our writing process. But what so many of us do hate is the seemingly bottomless pit of social media engagement.

Facebook, with all those reader and writer groups. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest.

“Likes” and “follows.” Comments and messages and shares.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could do all this for us?

Someone else can—for a price, and with a few caveats. Whether they call themselves virtual assistants, social media consultants, or author assistants, there are people who will manage your social media for you.

. . . .

Unlike publicists, who seek media coverage on your behalf, or direct marketers, whom you pay to advertise your book on their sites, a virtual assistant takes over tasks that you could, if you wanted, do yourself or learn how to do yourself. They may do it more attractively, strategically, or frequently—but they have no special credentials like the high-level media connections of a good publicist or special access to important gatekeepers. What you’re buying, in effect, is time—and the freedom to use that time in other ways.

The questions are: How much is that time worth to you, and are there other benefits, besides freeing up your time, that a virtual assistant can offer?

. . . .

I decided to investigate these questions when I thought about how I wanted to launch my second book, coming in April. My debut (April 2020) had a great launch despite the onset of the pandemic, but I wanted to expand my thinking to consider what I did not do—or didn’t do very well.

The obvious gap, for me, was in the realm of social media. Like many others in my cohort, I didn’t grow up with social media and secretly wished I didn’t have to use it. Being both naïve and overly-aggressive (a bad combination), I made some mistakes the first time around that I still regret. For example, having misunderstood the absolute meaning of “no self-promotion,” I am now banned forever from two of the biggest reader groups on Facebook.

I’ve learned a few things since Queen of the Owls made its way into the world. I now understand that social media is a long game, not a quick grab. It’s about the slow, steady development of connection and engagement. Like all relationships, it takes time and commitment. You have to show up every day, not just on birthdays and anniversaries. And that means a serious investment of energy.

Not everyone wants to do that. After all, there’s no end to what we, as authors, might do to reach out to readers! Another thing I’ve learned is that no one can, or should, do everything. I advise those who ask me: “Just do the stuff that’s fun for you, and outsource—or forget—the rest of it.”

. . . .

Sometimes the answer is clear. If you want to pitch to the book review editor at The New York Times, you need a professional publicist to do so on your behalf—and even then, there’s no guarantee. Many authors I know are unhappy at what they now consider to be a poor “return on investment” after hiring a publicist at a cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. They’re wondering if there isn’t a middle ground between spending that kind of money, which most don’t have, and doing it all yourself.

A virtual assistant—someone who can manage author promotion on social media—can seem like an attractive option.  At a cost far below that of a publicist, with a direct appeal to readers that can actually be tracked, social media assistance is a rapidly-growing alternative.

And for those of us, like me, who do have a publicist, a social media assistant can—maybe—take over an important piece of the book promotion that publicists don’t do and that many of us authors don’t do very well.

. . . .

I encountered a number of models—different ways of working, with different price tags and different strengths and drawbacks.  I ended up selecting someone who seemed to be the best fit for my needs and style. While she hadn’t worked with authors, specifically, she was creative and flexible, which were two priorities for me.  I didn’t want someone with an expensive prix fixe package who required a three-month minimum commitment, as many did. I wanted to be able to explore and ramp up slowly, which this VA allows me to do.

So far, it seems to be working well. I come up with the concepts and she executes them—a division of labor that’s letting me keep to a reasonable budget, since she charges by the hour. On the other hand, there are possibilities I’m electing to forgo, such as analytics, story reels, optimization strategies, and so on—on the premise that no one can do, or cover, everything. For now, I’m simply outsourcing the creative part, which requires skills that would take me too long to learn to do well.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

PG will disclose that he consumes very, very little social media because he finds the signal-to-noise ratio to be much worse than when he wanders around parts of the web that he knows well. (He’s logged into Twitter 3-4 times since it first appeared and logs out in less than five minutes.)

That said, not everyone is like PG (thankfully) and some people enjoy checking into various social media platforms on a regular basis. Some of those social media fans buy books, so indie authors will be interested in reaching them with useful (and professional-looking) information.

Therefore, PG is definitely not a qualified social media guru, observer, expert, etc., of any sort.

He is an observer of humanity in general, however.

As he observes humanity, he can easily discern expert thumb-typists using smart phones. He doesn’t think any can beat his speed when he’s using a proper keyboard, but admits that he uses all ten digits while they use two, so a reasonable person would expect differences in speed.

(PG just tried to visualize a thumb-typist hitting 60-80 WPM which PG could easily do after he got warmed up in former days and could not imagine human thumbs moving that fast on teeny digital keyboards. For five minutes or two hours.)

Having worked with a few extremely intelligent college students over the years, if PG were to hypothetically consider using a Social Media Assistant, he might explore the college population. They’re likely to be intelligent and very familiar with the various platforms and the unwritten norms that govern interaction on those platforms.

Working as a Social Media Assistant for a celebrity like PG is much better fodder for a post-graduation résumé (AKA resume) than hustling for tips at a local restaurant, reshelving books in the university library or acting as a telephone operator for the antiquated university phone system at night when no one used it. (Note – The foregoing are a few of the jobs PG held when he was in college during the Pleistocene Epoch. (Sub-Note – PG never put any of those jobs on his résumé.))

PG is interested in comments from the always-intelligent and aware visitors to TPV concerning the social media challenge/opportunity facing authors these days.

One question just popped into PG’s mind (which was not otherwise occupied) – Can you still buy social media followers?

Several years ago, when you for-sure could buy social media followers and PG was in one of his experimental moods wanting to know if social media was useful or not, he gave someone something like $25 and gained over 10,000 followers very quickly. He didn’t notice any improvement in his life, so he didn’t give the person/organization any money after that.

Then he saw a mention of a small, very cheap little program (he doesn’t remember the name of it) that claimed to be able to increase your social media followers by automatically following people who followed you and following people it found online based on a few keywords selected by the purchaser. He gained another 10,000 or so followers very quickly with that program until it stopped working or was banned from social media in general.

Suffice to say, some of PG’s skepticism concerning social media arises from those two experiences. (He wonders if Kim Kardashian got started doing the same thing.)

(Which lead to PG wondering if the reason he never became a social media superstar was that he never though to post a photo of himself wearing a swimming suit.)

3 thoughts on “Tips for Working With a Social Media Assistant”

  1. As someone who has posted photos of himself in a swimsuit online, I’m mostly impressed with PG’s getting the geologic time division name right on Pleistocene Epoch (vs. Period, Era, etc.). Well done.

    • Those would frighten both children and former children, J.

      Sometimes I feel like I should get draperies for the mirrors in the bathroom to improve my self-image.

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