How Much Time Should Writers Devote to Social Media?

Let’s face it. Building our social media followings takes a lot of time and hard work. (See this post: How To Build a Blog Following From the Ground Up)

For those who thrive on social networking, it’s all too easy to let facebook, twitter, and blogging, eat away at our limited time.

And for those who cringe at the idea of having to carve out more time for social media, it’s just as easy to sit in the corner and whine about all of the problems related to building an online presence.

Either way, social media is here to stay. We can’t let it control us nor can we scoff at it. We need to learn to use it wisely.

And part of learning to use it wisely is figuring out how much time to give it. How much time should a writer spend on social media sites if they hope to establish a decent following and build a platform?

There’s no easy answer to that question. But I’m going to attempt to lay out my thoughts on it.

1. Beginning to middle level writers:

Beginning writers should spend LESS time on social media (and less time worrying about their platforms) and should spend MOST of their concentrated work time learning how to write—studying and practicing (See this post: 6 Tips For Making the Learning of Fiction Techniques Less Painful)

The prevalence of social media and all of the talk about building platforms has put undue pressure on newer writers (those working on their first book or two). Many beginners are jumping in too strong and pushing to develop followings too hard and thus taking valuable time away from really learning how to write saleable fiction.

I’m not saying beginning writers shouldn’t have blogs or chat on twitter. Because I don’t think it’s ever too early to get connected, meet other writers, and develop friendships. But I do think new writers should take the pressure off themselves, sit back, and focus on first things first—learning how to write good books.

2. Writers nearing publication: 

Writers who’ve received critical and objective feedback that they’re moving toward publishable quality writing are ready to vamp up their social media time quota. This happened for me about the time I was ready to query. I found those months while I was querying, getting rejections, and waiting on agent responses, to be a good time to take social media to the next level.

I used those many months to visit blogs, meet new people, and get comfortable with social media. I scheduled in time almost every day for visiting and commenting on other blogs. I made a point of seeking out new people, not just on blogging but on twitter and facebook too.

However, I did NOT give social media more time than I gave my writing. I always, always kept writing in the midst of social networking. Through those early social media days, I learned to give my writing my best and most concentrated time, which has helped me do the same now after publication when blog tours, interviews, marketing, rewrites, etc. crowd in on writing time. I’ve trained myself to keep writing a priority even though other things demand my attention.

3. Published and beyond:

Around the time of publication, writers will find themselves becoming busier with other demands. We will likely have less time to spend visiting blogs and commenting and keeping up with everyone on facebook. Which is why if we wait to add social media until after getting a contract, we may not have the time and effort it takes to grow our followings.

I’ve had several friends email me and ask me how I was able to transition smoothly from less commenting and visiting without jeopardizing my following. If we’re well established as being reliable, offering consistent posts that resonate with readers, and we continue to be available to interact with friends in other ways (for me that is mainly through twitter), then we’ll likely be able to gradually diminish some of our earlier concerted efforts without ill-effects.

The bottom line is that eventually as we add in more, we can’t keep up with everything. We have to find ways to adjust or we’ll drive ourselves to exhaustion.

4. Non-fiction & self-published:

For those who are writing non-fiction or considering self-publication, devoting time to social media and developing a platform becomes even more critical. You will likely need to start earlier. And will probably need to continue to block in more time expanding your social media reach.

My summary: There’s no set amount of time any one writer “should” give to social media. As I’ve outlined, some of it will depend upon where we’re at in our writing journey. One thing is certain though, we can’t ever lose focus on what matters the most—writing a compelling, well-crafted book that readers can fall in love with.

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with my breakdown of how much time to spend on social media? And do you struggle to keep the time you spend on social media in balance?


  1. Hi Jody! I'm just coming off about a three week period of NO social media and now it's hard to get back into it. I fall into category #1, and I agree 100% with your suggestion of a beginner keeping her mind on writing a good book. The only thing I currently do is blog and comment on a handful of other blogs, and sometimes, even that takes a lot of time. I joined Facebook, but never go on it, and I'm not even entertaining the notion of Twitter until I am further along in the publishing process. There's something about not being published yet that keeps whispering "guilty, guilty, guilty" whenever I spend time on blogging. Whether it's working on my own blog, or commenting on others, I feels more like pleasure than work, and I have it in my head that my family thinks I just chat it up online all day with a bunch of girlfriends. :P

    Great tips this morning. Yes, it's a struggle for me, so I appreciate a pro's opinion. :)

  2. I've fallen out of the habit of rabidly reading and commenting on all the blogs I follow. Other committments have returned and I have had to start making some quick decisions about what posts to read and what posts to comment on. It's a tough balancing act, but I've just gotten through a large edit on my first novel and I've started the redrafting of my second, so I have to make the time up somewhere.

  3. I think you have great suggestions. It all boils down to organization and discipline. It is too easy to follow too many trails on the social sites. Sticking with the most viable and important helps weed out time wasters. Of course that doesn't mean we can't include a few things just for fun. Thank you for some great suggestions!

  4. This is very interesting to me, Jody, as I fall into that first category as well. I've really enjoyed the social media aspect, though. I think it keeps me excited about moving forward, because I tend to interact with authors who are represented or just about to release their first novel. But you're right, it is tempting to spend more time on it than writing. I think if I get to the point when I'm doing that, I'll have to re-evaluate how much I'm doing.

  5. I have to set boundaries around my social media time, too. And I agree--the time you set depends upon where you are in your writing journey. Great article!

  6. Great, balanced post, as usual. I'm really struggling with this now. Even as a self-published author (after publishing with a small press), I think writing is even more critical ... because the next book is so important to your career/sales/success.

    This morning, I'm catching up on some blogs. Then I'm turning off the social media and just writing. #hastohappen

  7. Makes sense to me.

    I find when social networking begins to become the slightest bit overwhelming I back off. I take some time to reevaluate. This has helped tremendously for me to stay the course and keep focus with my goals.

    ~ Wendy

  8. Being in the category of already published, I can vouch for the fact that there is less time than you can imagine!

    I think the trick is to do what makes you happy as a writer. It should at least be fun, right?


  9. Great post, and something I've recently started doing a LOT of - after deciding to self-publish. It takes a TON of time. It's a fulltime job, really. I do enjoy it, but I have to set limits for myself or else I may never get back to writing. :)

  10. Sound counsel, Jody, as usual.

    When I embarked on my writing journey six years ago, I didn't even know what a blog was. I hadn't heard of Facebook or Twitter. In fact, I didn't even know another writer. I wrote tucked away in my cave. A daughter of a friend told me about Romance Writers of America, and I joined. Their monthly magazine was my only link with the writing community.

    While I craved connection during those two years, I remained focused on my writing, cranking out five 100K manuscripts. I devoured several craft books. I entered contests I'd heard about in the RWA magazine and learned heaps from my generous judges. And I experienced the joy of writing.

    I used to think I'd have been better off had I found the wonderful world of writers online earlier, but I've changed my view. I didn't have the distraction social media can become or the pressures it can create. I feel for new writers who find themselves feeling torn between writing and the "need" to create a web presence. While visiting blogs, FB, and Twitter can be fun and enlightening, it can also be time-consuming and can cause new writers to feel a need to immediately incorporate every new "rule" they run across, which can inhibit creativity. To me, the number one goal on the first book(s) is just to reach The End and have fun in the process. Our early works are often our training ground. It takes many of us time to learn craft and reach the point where our stories are marketable. It did me anyhow, and I know you have "practice" books as well.

  11. This is fantastic, Jody! I've always found it difficult to judge how much time I'm wasting or taking away from my writing time.

    I like how you've set up the four stages; it's a great guidepost for writers to use as they move through their writing process. Now I know where I'm at, and what I should be focusing on from this; thanks for the great advice!

  12. Awesome post! It took me awhile to figure out what place social media had for me. It takes a lot of time/energy to start a blog ad meet people online. Now I write my blog posts one day of the week, and the rest I devote to my book. Then in the extra time during the day I'll comment on blogs and chat on twitter--but only after devoting the best most productive time of my morning to writing.
    That's what I do. Right now. Who knows how it will change in the future. =)

  13. Hi everyone! I'm enjoying reading all of your thoughts this morning!

    Shelley, I agree. I wasn't completely prepared for the new level of work that comes slightly before and then after publication. I've found that my work continues to increase as well with each book. I'm always juggling multiple responsibilities. For instance, I'm in the process of finishing writing one book, but have another book that needs more editing that my publisher is waiting for me to get to. I'm judging for a contest and also have a couple of endorsement books to read. That's just the tip of the iceberg! :-)

    And Keli, my writing process was very similar to yours. I spent years writing without being online. Those are my practice books and won't see the light of day, ever! :-) I'm also glad I had that time to write without any pressure. It helped me become the writer I am today.

  14. I agree with you, Jody. It helps me when I schedule a time for social media. I have set days that I post on my blogs.

    It also helps to have an iPhone. I can respond to tweets and comments, and read and comment on other blogs while I'm waiting in the grocery line, or waiting to pick my kids up from an activity.

  15. This is great! I'm finishing up the first draft of my first novel, so hopefully I'm almost at the crossing point between stage 1 and stage 2. Actually, thinking of it in stages really helps. It's true, social media has a different, or somewhat different, role depending on where we're at in our writing careers. That makes a lot of sense to me, and good advice on how to handle it in each stage.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  16. Wonderful post, Jody. In the past I would let myself play on the social media a lot but this quickly made me realize that building a strong social media presence is pointless if it severely cuts into my writing time. I decided to outline a goal plan which includes a certain time spent on Twitter, Facebook, blogging and commenting, with the main focus on writing. Having these goals specified, I have a better understanding of how my time is spent, and what needs an immediate attention in any giving week.

  17. You always have such great advice for beginners! Love it here! Good reminder not to get distracted by social media, esp when just starting out.

  18. Hi Jody!

    What about beginning writers who are epublishing? If one is traditionally published, he/she may receive more assistance with marketing/advertising to gain readers and help establish a platform. With epublishing, marketing/advertising almost exclusively falls on the shoulders of the author who needs to establish a connection with the populace to gain readership.

    I'm not disagreeing with you, I'd just like your thoughts on whether or not the publishing venue matters. Absolutely beginning authors should focus on their writing.

  19. Hi Victoria,

    I do say in point #4 that the amount of time spent on social media will probably be different for those strictly self-publishing (and I'm including e-self-pub in that). I do think e-self-pub will benefit from having a larger platform when they put the 1st book out there. However, the more I'm reading about those who are having success at e-self-pub, I also think that publishing a number of books in fairly quick succession also helps (as Susan mentioned above). So in that sense, writing remains critical for e-pub authors too in terms of growing your sales. But that's an entirely different subject for a different post! :-)

  20. I do think this balance is important, tho I tend to spend more time on social media than needed when my kids are noisy or doing their school, I find it too had to write in those times yet easy to read.

  21. Jody-

    I have a book already out and am working on another series. I find it difficult to devote my time to social media, however, it is vital in promoting my books! I have had the privilege of talking to kids at local schools about my book and find it useful to be able to share my blog with them and let them know I am on Twitter with book updates.

    Social media is the wave of the future! Next to the actual writing of the media is the most important thing in becoming a successful writer.

    Great post! Very helpful.


  22. I find blogging worth the investment on many levels. I have a set time for it, one hour, and take weekends off. Usually.

  23. Great advice. I just had a mild panic attack thinking about what would have happened if I'd had to build my platform from scratch right now with my debut coming out. Eek! I barely have time to brush my hair lately with all the things that need to be done pre-release.

    So I definitely agree with you--focus on craft before anything, but don't wait until the last minute to start building either.

  24. Very wise counsel, Jody, especially when it comes to beginning writers devoting more time to the craft and less to social media.

    There is both an educational benefit and a support aspect to being online -- there is so much to learn there from other writers and industry professionals. Unfortunately there's no end to the amount of info one can find in cyberspace, which tempts us to spend more time there than we should. We get dragged in over our heads long before we have the ability to sort out what's truly useful. I think information overload may discourage more novice writers than it helps.

  25. Oh dear, just when I've been ignoring social media for the past month while revising my book, I stop by to visit and stumble upon a post about why I shouldn't do such things. :)

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  26. It's hard to find that right balance. I think it will always be tough.

  27. Really needed to hear this. I love the social networking,but find myself spending all my time doing that and not writing. That really isn't going to work- build a platform for a work I don't have! I'm trying to even things out a bit, but still keep my connections. That's the tricky part:)

  28. Thanks, Jody! It's nice to see it all broken down like this.

    I've had to set myself a pretty stringent schedule for social media. Otherwise I get bogged down in it and don't write. So my solution is to focus on a different area each day of the week, and spend no more than a total of 2 hours a day with whatever the day's focus is. I'm a planner and list maker anyway, so my schedule satisfies that part of my personality, too, LOL.

  29. You're welcome, Kenra! It certainly helps to be organized! Wishing you all the best!

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