How to Handle Social Media During a Global Pandemic

Hey writers! I know most of you are already adjusting your online marketing and social media activities to match these crazy times. If you’re putting time and effort into figuring out how to alter what you normally post — what you’d already prepared and planned to post — then you’re doing the exact right thing.

We can’t simply continue on with marketing and platform-building activities as if the world were still the same. It’s vitally important that we all pay attention to what our readers want and need in this moment.

Nobody wants to be sold-to right now.

Most likely the people in your target audience are working on survival. Some are essential workers, putting in long hours and enduring the stress of being among people when there’s a pandemic. Many are trying to work from home, difficult in the best of circumstances, but they’re doing it with roommates or spouses or kids around. Many are trying to do the hard work of educating their kids with no experience and very little structure in place to help them. Millions of people are facing the worst financial crisis of their life. Millions are seeing their own anxiety and fear rise to unprecedented levels. As you know because you’re living in it yourself—times are not normal.

This means our social media presence and our strategies to connect with people online can’t be “normal” either.

If you have a book releasing soon or one that came out recently, this is challenging because you want to tell people about it. The only way to do that is in the context of how your book can help people through this.

The only way to be online right now is to SERVE.

Whether you’re marketing a specific book or you’re simply doing day-to-day social media in the effort to build your following, switching your focus to serving others will serve you in the long run. Right now it’s not about selling your books, it’s about showing who you are and being a person who is relevant and helpful. Your long-term reputation hangs on how you’re perceived in this moment of crisis.

You’re seeing this everywhere on the internet right now. How can you join and be part of it?

Here are a few ways authors can serve during the pandemic:

  • Offer encouragement. Many of you have written books that are encouraging in nature, so you could post quotes and excerpts. Others can find ways to encourage those in your target audience. I see so many authors already doing that; for example, parents encouraging other parents. You can be a positive voice letting people know that we’ll all get through this together (but apart).
  • Entertain. I’ve been so grateful for the entertainers — actors, singers, comedians, talk show hosts — taking to the web to keep us all from going crazy. Some are making us laugh. Others are soothing us by reading poetry or Shakespeare or children’s books aloud. You can find your own way to add to the entertainment available on the web.
  • Practical help. Some of you are already sewing face masks and others of you are creating care packages for hungry people. If you see a need you’re able to fill, think about doing that. One of my clients, Kary Oberbrunner, designed a Quarantine Writing Challenge and more than 50,000 people joined! Clearly there are a lot of writers out there who wanted and needed some help and encouragement to keep writing during this difficult time. Author Kathi Lipp has been hosting daily Facebook Live videos, helping people declutter their homes one room at a time. Is there a way you can offer practical help?
  • Be honest and vulnerable. I think people are really appreciating the authors and celebrities who are talking about what “staying at home” is really like. We’re all eating up the posts from counselors telling us it’s okay if we’re “off” and not productive, and sharing how it’s the same for them. If we all share our authentic experience right now, everyone will emerge from this in a more healthy way. If you validate other people’s experience, you’ll be someone they can relate to.

If you happen to have a book available that’s closely aligned with people’s needs right now, then go ahead and talk about it. But be sure your messaging is targeted NOT for the long-haul, but for what people are going through right now. Don’t sell but talk about how your book addresses the immediate need.

Normalcy will eventually return. We won’t be talking about the pandemic forever. But if you want to be relevant and appreciated in this moment, focus entirely on serving others. Nothing else will work.


If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Robin on April 15, 2020 at 6:17 AM

    This is good, Rachelle…insightful and practical. Thanks, friend.