Social Media: yor doin it rong


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:






5 thoughts on “Social Media: yor doin it rong”

  1. The ironic thing is, if I did the stuff you list above, it would be utterly mercenary. I have no interest in building a social media network. I don’t want to have to pay attention to Facebook or respond to things people direct at me. I’m just not interested in it.

    I use Facebook (because you’re basically forced to nowadays by the publishers) to post periodic updates. Anything more than that would drive me nuts.

    I think this is one of those things that comes naturally to people or doesn’t. I’m an internet introvert.

  2. I know you are, but it is really important. I retweet and repost a lot of the things you guys post – it is important to get the word out. Even if you did a lot of social media, I know that you wouldn’t be a shill or a hack. You would be better than that.

    Fans are kind of like stalkers…we want to see everything that happens in your life. We’re creepy and invasive as hell, but we buy books. :)

  3. I dislike the idea that this is now required, giving fans an inside peek into your life to get them to buy your books.

    I grew up loving Isaac Asimov. I didn’t know shit about him, but I bought all his books.

    I think the number one negative that social media has brought to the world is this sense of entitlement people now have to peek into your life. As if you owe people personal interactions because they bought your art.

    I mean, if you dig it and it comes naturally (like it seems to do for Felicia Day) then rock on. But the idea that it is a requirement is, frankly, kind of invasive and creepy to me.

  4. Well, to be honest, when I was a kid I collected all of the facts that I could about the authors that I loved. I could tell you all about the backgrounds of Robert Heinlein or Isaac Azimov, and I went to book signings even when I couldn’t really afford to buy a new book to have signed. It’s just a lot easier now to get that info.

    I can see that it would be creepy and weird from your side of the fence – but still you have to remember that each of those people are investing in you. They retweet and repost and review books (every man and his dog has a blog now, after all).

    One of the people that I really like from the list above is Chuck Wendig, partially because he’s so funny and is one of the most foul-mouthed bloggers that I’ve read. I feel as though if we went out for a beer (in some alternate universe) he wouldn’t feel like a stranger. I like that, and I did buy one of his writing books just because I like his blog so much.

  5. Not to beat a dead horse. . .

    But they got what they invested in. They paid money, and got a book. They didn’t get a book + access to my life. See, I see the dark side of this with my boss. He was one of the first writers to really communicate with his readers on his blog, and the sense of entitlement that some of them developed is really creepy and sad. They make up entire narratives about him in their own minds that don’t resemble the truth in the slightest, but because he answered a comment from them once, “they know him.”

    I dunno. I guess there’s a line you can walk. My pal Carrie is a NYT bestseller with a pretty active blog. But she is very careful never to put any personal information on it. It seems to work for her.

    And then there are the writer blogs where they talk about their personal relationships and complain to their fans when they have a fight with their spouse. Gah, I feel dirty just thinking about it.

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