As authors in the 21st Century, we need to be aware of where our readers are and how to reach them. I don’t think I’m telling anyone something new when I say that means paying attention to social media. The trick is how to reach those all-important readers without driving them away.
As I was working on this post, Forbes posted a pretty good article on how social media works: The Truth About Social Media. It’s got some great tips, but the main one that applies to my list is #5: Converse, don’t broadcast.
Everyone uses social media differently. Some people are on every service, some are active on just one or two services, and some ignore it completely. (I don’t recommend that last option, for the record.) What I see far too many people forgetting is the social part of social media. It’s not a broadcast box. You aren’t standing on a street corner handing out fliers for your comedy show and hoping they don’t end up in the nearest trash can. It’s a conversation. You’re talking to people, not at them. Or you should be, at least.
As a fairly heavy user of both Twitter and Facebook, I’ve come across a handful of practices that make me grind my teeth. If these things are annoying me, there’s a pretty good chance they’re annoying other people, too, but just to check, I asked on Twitter and Facebook what author practices drive people crazy. Most of the things that were mentioned were already on my list. (And big thanks to all of you who responded!)
In short: here are 8 things you as an author may be doing on social media to drive people (and thus potential readers) away.
1. Posting everything in triplicate
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with posting a link to multiple platforms (e.g., using a blog service that cross-posts to Twitter and Facebook), or even posting a link several times during the day to give followers multiple chances to see it. But if you post to your blog and you’re hooked into a blog networking service and an auto-tweeting service and a FB posting service… suddenly the same link to the same post shows up three times each on Twitter and Facebook at the same time. Or worse yet, you’re posting link to a link to a link, where Twitter sends you to Goodreads which sends you to Facebook which sends you the actual post. (Except that no one actually makes it that far.) It’s overkill, and it’s annoying.
Also in this category is Triberr. Some people love it. I’m not one of them, because all it does is duplicate tweets I’ve probably already seen, except with the added confusion over who actually wrote the original post. My advice is, if you do use it, use it sparingly.
2. Autotweeting ad nauseum
I’m glad you’re enjoying that Quotable Quotes website you found, but do you really need to repeat the same half-dozen “deep thoughts” over and over and OVER? Same goes for re-posting the same promo tweet for the same book. None of this gives me much faith in the originality of your manuscript. (Especially if the “novel line” you’re using is bland as melba toast.)
Also: auto-DMs/PMs, a.k.a. “how to lose new followers in a nanosecond.”
3. Services that tweet your horoscope or your follower/unfollower count
Hey, you know what? You can follow Twitter accounts that tweet information for your astrological sign to you, instead of broadcasting it to your followers, who are extremely unlikely to care even if they share your sign. And those auto-posting follower/unfollower apps are a great way to keep that unfollower number going up.
4. Retweeting/sharing someone else’s entire feed
I’m sure that other person/site is great and all, but if I wanted to read everything s/he had to say, I’d follow that account. Much better to say “hey, so-and-so is saying some great stuff. You should go read it.” (Special dispensation for sharing things from a Facebook page to your profile, since FB loves to hide page posts, but even then, be sparing.)
5. Groups/event invitations/mailing lists
Add me to a Facebook group without permission and I want to strangle you. If the content is spam? You’re unfriended and blocked. Buh-bye. Event invitations are also problematic because you’re usually requiring people to go in and decline the invitation if they don’t want to get further notifications. Better to stick to using that for specific events like book signings, appearances, and online chats—and for in-person events, limit it to people who are actually in your area. A “virtual release party”? Well, if you must, then don’t send invitations; make it an open event and post a link to your feed so people can join if they want.
As for email update lists, they can be great, but if you add people who haven’t asked to subscribe, you’re not just pissing them off: you may be breaking the law.
6. Follow Friday
Like cross-posting, this is a practice that’s fine in small doses. Give a #FF shoutout to someone you think your followers should know about, and tell them why! But long lists of random Twitter handles just come across as clutter. (And it doesn’t matter what day you do it, either.) Again: if you must, be sparing. Post only once or twice each week.
What constitutes “over” promoting? Ask 10 people and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. (And most people are going to give extra leniency if it’s your release day.) Generally speaking, the more active you are on a service, the more promo you can get away with. If you tweet a dozen times a day, no one’s going to notice anything if a couple of those tweets are book promo. But if all anyone ever sees from you is BUY MY BOOK (or “vote for my book,” or “review my book”), then your account becomes spam. For anyone who’s trying to market any product (even SPAM), that’s the kiss of death.
8. General lack of consideration for others
A lot of the things on this list could be fixed simply by viewing your social media feeds from the perspective of anyone not you. No, no one’s forcing anyone to follow/friend you, but a lot of these people are ones you’d like to get money from in exchange for books at some point. So you’d probably rather keep them around.
Take a critical look at what you’re posting. Does it make sense? Is it meaningful information? Is it repetitive? Does it say more than BUY MY BOOK? If not, then you’re probably driving people away—and if that’s the case, you’d be better off not using social media for promotion at all.
DISCLAIMER: All standard disclaimers apply. YMMV. My experience is not your experience. Contains opinions, which are like certain fun-to-play-with body parts. May also contain excessive parentheticals and American spellings. Side effects may vary. If rage ensues, discontinue use.
Image courtesy of photoraidz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net