After starting my first writing project during NaNoWriMo, I started following a lot of writing-related people via Twitter and my feed reader. Some people get it very right, and it’s a joy to have a tiny vicarious window into their world. If they’re someone who writes books that I love, so much the better. But some people get it very, very wrong.
My last job was for a digital marketing agency; I headed the web team and SEO teams, and I learned a lot about building social media platforms for businesses. Social media is one of those things that everyone thinks they can do. Every man and his dog does Facebook and Twitter, amiright? How hard can it be? In truth it is very, very easy to get social media wrong and do your brand more harm than good. In fact, if you are a single person (rather than a corporation) and you think of yourself in terms of a brand, you’re probably already doing it wrong – just a guess.
There was a recent blog post that I read (as someone had linked it from Twitter, showing the importance of social media and sharing) entitled How to Network Without Networking by Nathan Bransford. One of his points was a very good one: Do Not Think of Your Network as a Network
“I don’t have a network, I have friends. And I’m really serious about this.
The thing about the word “networking” is that it has a mercenary edge to it, like we’re just going to get to know each other because of what we can get out of each other. And not only is that completely icky, it doesn’t work.
Because who wants to get to know someone else just because of what they can get out of them? How shallow is that relationship, and how is either party really motivated to help each other out when the time comes?
Find the people who you like and whose work you genuinely admire, and invest in those people. Become friends with those people. Don’t force it, don’t do it because they’re successful, do it because you like them and actually want to help them out.
Obviously when your network expands you can’t invest equally in everyone who is investing in you, but give of yourself what you can and treat people with respect and pretty soon you’ll be surrounded by amazing people that you’ll feel incredibly lucky to know.”
What he said. Treat people like people, make friends, have interesting conversations with those people. Do not push out status updates as though you were some corporate flack who had been handed the Social Media hat.
I unfollowed a writer yesterday because she had tweeted links to a post ironically entitled something like How To Build a Social Media Platform Without Pissing People Off. She posted these links every two hours or so, and I unfollowed her after six of them. How rude is that? Seriously, if you treat your posts like a sale at WalMart, why should I be forced to listen to your advertising? Be a person, post something interesting or funny or silly. Don’t be a hack.
Here are some things that I think work, and don’t work:
1. Post links to a recent post or article perhaps twice, well spaced out (for different timezone peeps). A friend said that three times is acceptable, and I would agree but say that three times during one day would make me notice it and start to get a bit irritated. Use your judgement. Any more than three times during a day is too much.
2. The same applies to Facebook status updates – don’t post the same thing over and over again. With Facebook’s recent changes it is hit or miss that people will actually see page statuses in their feeds, but still. (Facebook, yor doin it rong!).
3. Be a real boy. (Or girl, but that stretches the Pinocchio metaphor a bit.) People follow you because they want to know about the real you – be funny if you can, introspective, post links to things that you like and tell us about the stupid thing you just did. Be real – we want to know the person behind the books or the art, we want to know you. I think that Nathan Fillion is a master at this – although a very busy actor, he seems like one of the coolest, most down to earth and self-deprecating guys in the world. Captain Tightpants totally rules.
4. If you have a blog (and you should) make sure that your feed shows entire posts rather than excerpts. I generally unsubscribe to people who force me to leave the reader and go to their blog to read a post – that’s why I use a reader, folks. I read a lot of blogs and want them all in one place.
5. Have links/icons to your RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook page, etc., in a prominent place on your blog – don’t make people search for them. (I am guilty of that right now, since I can’t ftp onto the server right now.)
6. Don’t use Livejournal, ever. Those days are long over. Use a more modern, open system such as WordPress or even Blogger (although I am not a fan of Blogger – go WordPress if you’re smart). Even Tumblr is ok for short posts and pics.
Mainly what is comes down to is just having respect for your followers and readers. Talk to them, don’t broadcast or advertise. Remember that you are a person and not a brand.
Examples of people who do it right:
- Neil Gaiman
- Steven Lewis
- Felicia Day
- Nathan Fillion
- Laurell K. Hamilton
- Will Wheaton
- Chuck Wendig