As the Dowager Countess says in Downton Abbey about the telephone, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” Social media can certainly be both. Let’s break down the different tools in the social media toolbox, and then talk about ways they can be used, and ways they can be (however inadvertently) abused.
- Facebook – authors use Facebook in a variety of ways. Some separate their authorial page from their personal page; others combine them. Some authors have a separate page for each book they publish. As always, it probably depends on what you’re publishing and who your market is. If it’s a memoir, your personal page can probably contribute more to marketing and sales than a separate author page. If it’s a collection of expertise, it might make more sense to have an author page - keeping business and personal posts separate, in other words.
- Twitter – “microblogging” allows you to post links, offer thoughts, and interact with readers. It’s a chatty, casual way to truly converse with people.
- Blogging – blog posts are opportunities for informal, brief writing. Allowing comments is a good idea – this offers people the ability to turn your writing into a discussion. Commenting on the blog posts of others is also a great way to keep conversation going.
Social media is, fundamentally, personal. It’s about sharing – ideas, pictures, articles, feelings. This is its benefit, and its drawback. Here are some of the pitfalls of social media:
- Heavy selling – if every opportunity to comment leads to a sales pitch, potential readers will tire very quickly of what you have to say. Your work becomes more appealing to readers if you are genuinely interested in their thoughts. If you are not interested in what others think (not just of your work, but other things as well), conversation is not going to work well for you.
- Feeding the trolls – It’s tempting, but don’t do it. A troll is someone who clearly gets a kick out of antagonizing people. If you sense that someone online is baiting you, ignore them. Without oxygen, they die. Or at least go bother someone else.
- Attack – whatever you do, don’t attack people. Stay positive. Attacking someone always makes you look worse than the person who provoked the attack.
- Infrequent posting – social media accounts go stale very quickly. If you’re not adding new content to your blog, your Facebook wall – if you’re not tweeting a few things every day – it’s worse than not engaging at all. Infrequent posts make your social media account look like a dead mall. Nobody wants to go to a dead mall.
Here are some links to blog posts (well, cautionary tales) that can help you use social media responsibly and productively.
12 Social Media Mistakes For Authors To Avoid
The Social Media Mistake All Authors Must Avoid
Social Media Train Wrecks That Authors Must Avoid