Beware Milli Vanilli Syndrome
As a social media expert, I can tell you that there are many other schools of thought as to how to employ the vast array of magnificent tools we now have to build a platform. Part of my due diligence is that I actively pay attention to those people who claim to be social media/marketing/branding experts. There are scads of people who claim that, for a fee, they can brand an author. Ok, fair enough. Maybe they can deliver, but the smart writer is always a skeptic first. It is far too easy for someone to open a Twitter account and claim to be a branding expert (ready to take a new writer’s money). So caveat emptor.
I would be especially wary of author branding experts who don’t even properly brand themsleves. If readers can’t by a novel by @vampirechick, then we can’t buy a social media marketing book by @branding_expert either.
Content + Our Name= Brand
Stephen King was linked to horror fiction so many times that his name became synonymous with the horror genre.
Personally, I feel that most of our platform-building can easily be done using the methods I teach in WANA, but I am a tad partial. I have built a worldwide following and even hit the best-seller list using the same exact tools I give in the book. Aside from writing my blogs, my total social media output is less than 30 minutes a day. Maybe one day I will be so huge I need to outsource, but for now I am doing just ducky :D.
Back to my point…
There are firms out there who will offer packages designed to save an author time. These firms rely heavily on preprogrammed auto-tweets or even advise using a ghost-tweeter or ghost-blogger if the writer simply is so strapped for time she cannot possibly do it on her own. I believe these experts are well-meaning, but misguided.
I have come to call this Milli Vanilli Syndrome. Maybe I am a purist, but having others do for us what we can do for ourselves is just a bad idea. Don’t take my word for it, just take a lesson from the Milli Vanilli debacle.
Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus actually were talented dancers AND singers, yet someone got the bright idea to use other singers as the vocalists. Fab and Rob lip-synched their way to winning a Grammy…then their world collapsed when the real singers outed them as a fake. Angry fans didn’t care that Fab and Rob actually could sing, and no matter what these guys did to try and piece their reputation back together, people were furious and unforgiving.
Milli Vanilli Syndrome can affect writers, too. MVS is enticing. It promises us more free time so we can write more books. Ooooh. We can have a Twitter following without even tweeting or successful blog without ever writing a blog. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
First, let’s talk about Milli Vanilli Tweeter.
Getting someone else to tweet for us or programming a computer to interact on our behalf is being lazy. Sorry. It’s 140 characters. Really. We are WRITERS for God’s sake. If we are whining about having to type 140 characters 6-10 times a day, then maybe writing is not the proper career choice. Sorry. Have to be blunt.
We do not have to tweet a bazillion times a day to be effective. The real power in Twitter comes from forging alliances and building friendships, and that ain’t gonna happen if we are insulting other people’s intelligence by programming a computer to talk for us.
I see this all the time, usually from @branding_expert. An entire row of automatically programmed tweets that are supposed to “sound” conversational. When I see a tweet that captures my interest, the first thing I do is click on a profile, and if I don’t see any conversation or interaction, I think this person is a bot and I don’t follow. I only have time for people who have time to be real. So, at the end of the day, how effective is this approach if most people ignore what we have to say?
Many of these experts fill the Twitterverse with the same auto-tweets they recommend for their clients, and I generally ignore them because I don’t pay attention to bots. Not trying to be mean here, but there are hardworking folk who take the time to actually interact, and I am more interested in being friends with someone who can reciprocate. That’s called a relationship, and that is what social media is all about.
People who claim that auto-tweets are just as effective as real tweeting affect me like those people who are in love with their lifelike dolls. *shivers*
Mitzy and I never fight. It’s the perfect marriage.
Okay, okay. You guys get the point.
I do think that we can program a couple things for auto-tweet. For instance, Bob Mayer kept forgetting to mention the upcoming workshops he was teaching, so I recommended that he program those into Hoot Suite, but that was only a couple tweets a day. The rest of the time, Bob chats, RTs and serves his fellow Tweeps. I think most of us can deal with that, but this notion that a computer can take the place of a person? I saw I Robot and we kicked their a$$ at the end.
Now on to Milli Vanilli Blogger
I say that if you just do not have time to blog…then don’t. Please do not recruit someone to blog for you. Like Milli Vanilli, I feel that it is a risk that just isn’t worth taking. What if our blog becomes a HUGE hit? Then fans find out we didn’t even write it, and yet we took credit? Bad juju.
I often (okay maybe not too often) wonder if Rob and Fab might have gotten less backlash if they had a voice that sounded like a cat caught in a screen door. I think part of what made fans so angry at Milli Vanilli was that these guys COULD SING, yet still CHOSE to be fake. Same with blogging. If we are capable of writing, yet get someone else to write for us and take credit, I don’t see that ending well. All need happen is we fight with our ghost blogger and she outs us. Or, maybe the blog gets so big and successful that the ghost blogger now wants credit. Yeah, it could get ugly. Like Jerry Springer Ugly.
Ah, why are we even talking about Milli Vanilli Blogger? I wouldn’t have ever mentioned it except this practice is a recommended tactic. I think you guys are too savvy to fall for this, but when you are facing kids and day job and a sink of dirty dishes I want you to be strong when someone offers an argument like this:
Hey, Oprah doesn’t write her own blogs.
Yes, but she is Oprah and she gets to do things us normal people don’t. Oprah paid her dues for decades before she earned the right to do things like have interns write her stuff. No one on Twitter is likely thinking that Oprah is doing her own tweets. We have to do a lot of work before we earn this privilege. There are ways to work more efficiently, but there are no short-cuts.
Blogging doesn’t have to be such a huge deal that we either write it off or think we need to outsource. If the idea of blogging is all too overwhelming to you, I hope you will at least pick up a copy of my upcoming book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer before you swear off blogging altogether. Blogging doesn’t have to be a huge time suck and it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our career.
So what are your thoughts? Am I being too hard? Do auto-tweets bother you? Do you RT auto-tweets or do you feel cheated in the Twitter relationship? What about blogs? Would it bother you to find out your favorite blogger wasn’t writing her own posts? (Note: I write all my own posts :D).
What are your thoughts? Do you think it is better for a writer to do less and be genuine? OR do you think automation is a great tool for freeing up a writer’s already limited time?
I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
Until next time….
In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Brooke Johnson Science Fiction and/or Fantasy
Roni Loren’s Guest-Blogging Etiquette
Plotting for You or the Story over at BookEnds LLC
6 Signs You’re Not Ready to Be a Professional Writer by the hilarious Chuck Wendig
Susan Bischoff has a nice post about using TweetDeck for better efficiency.
Awesome craft post by Jody Hedlund 5 Foundational Areas to Focus on for Intentional Growth
FUN post by new blogger Tiffany White discussing favorite scary movies of all time. Friday FaBoolousness.
Christopher David Peterson has an interesting post Indie vs. Traditional.
The Business and Standard Operating Procedure of Being This Author by NYTBSA Bob Mayer
Also, an interesting post by Peter St. Clair about Columbine. Hard to believe it has been 12 years.