Manners Count–3 Rules of Social Media Success

Welcome to another WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to making your social media experience the best it can be by offering additional tools and insights on topics from my new book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to write a book about social media is that it seemed that there was a lacking of common sense. And much of that is birthed from our own insecurity or lack of knowledge. When faced with something new or overwhelming, often we make life harder than it really needs to be. Hey, I’ve been guilty :D.

Social media is just that…socialization. I hear all kinds of bad advice when it comes to social media for authors, and much of that bad advice I believe stems from a lack of understanding about a writer’s unique plight. Until we are huge like Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King, we are people, not corporations. What this means it that what works for corporations can actually hurt us as individual writers trying to build a platform. We need to act like people and socialize like people. If social media is, um, socialization, then doesn’t it stand to reason that a lot of the same rules would apply?

How many of you love talking to someone who only talks about herself? She never gives back or asks about your day or wants to know about your opinion? Just on and on and on about her, her, her.

Have you ever had a stranger be really nice to you, maybe even offer a compliment or even seem genuinely interested in you, but the second you let your guard down they tried to sell you something?

How many of you like door-to-door salesman? Nothing makes your day like a knock at the door and some guy with a big smile and a freezer full of meat.

No one? No takers?

It seems as society becomes more technologically advanced, the more isolated we have become. We talk to computers more than people. Checking out at a grocery store? Computer. Want your bank balance? Computer. Pay a bill? Computer. It also appears that this lack of face time has done something whacky to our human sensibilities. People talk less to each other and normal “rules of engagement” have gone by the wayside as we try to carve out new social rules for new forms of socialization.

But does it need to be that difficult? Today I am just going to point out some common sense manners when it comes to social media. Here are Three Social Rules to Social Media Success:

1. Be Low-Maintenance

How many of you just looooove high-maintenance people? No one? Then make sure you aren’t being one on-line. I have been on MySpace or Facebook where authors have used pictures of their BOOK COVERS as icons, yet I had to solve a string of CAPTCHAs, know their real last name and their e-mail address to make them a friend. Are they on MySpace or in Witness Protection? These authors made it where only people with the secret handshake could be their friend. I guess those are the only people they want to buy their book, too.

True story. I actually tried to follow an author/speaker on Facebook who claimed that she teaches social media for writers. Awesome! I figured I might learn something from her. Problem was, I had to answer a string of questions to be her friend. Seriously? Sorry. Not that motivated. Next.

Make it easy for people to befriend you. It is not that difficult to log in once a day and delete SPAM.

Making people on Twitter click on a website to verify they are human is being high-maintenance. Maybe it is a personal pet peeve, but I dislike anyone who makes me have to click on an outside link and go through a bunch of steps just to follow them. I will just move on to people who don’t make me run a gauntlet to be their friend. My opinion is that, if you are that high-maintenance before I even know you, that does not bode well for our future.

How many of you like shopping at a store where they have security guards at the door, cameras everywhere so you can see yourself shopping, convex mirrors on every corner of every aisle, anti-theft tags on everything, and a burly guy to search your bags before you leave? Most of us really don’t like being treated like thieves. Guess what? We don’t like being treated like spammers and phishers either.

Again, it is not that difficult to unfollow someone on Twitter if they misbehave. One click. Two if you choose to report them to Twitter.

2. Be Friendly

Treat Internet friends like friends.

How many of you looooove SPAM and junk mail? How many of you feel really special when you get an auto-follow message? Hey, thanks for following me. Check out my blog. Auto-follow messages are junk mail. If you really appreciate someone following you, say it publicly. It serves reciprocity and it is genuine. It takes all of ten seconds to click on a Twitter bio or a Facebook page, scan, then write something personal. Don’t have time for that? Fair enough. Most of us are not so insecure that if we don’t get a personal message from every person we follow, we’ll end up in therapy.

Yes, businesses send auto-follow messages, but businesses want to be perceived as personal. When actual people send automated messages, it has exactly the opposite effect. We become no better than a bot, which is counter-productive to building a platform.

3. Be Genuine

Only send genuine & personal messages. Limit group messages and form letters.

Social media is a direct reaction to the continual media bombardment that made us love our DVRs and spam filters. Facebook faced millions of ticked off users when they were busted for sharing personal information of Facebook users with companies for the purposes of soliciting. Why? Because many of us are on social media to escape being spammed all the time.

We are on social media because we long for community. We are not on social media to provide spammers a new way to slither into our personal lives. There are few things I find more frustrating that befriending a writer, only to soon be blitzed with form letters and links so I can buy their book, read their blog, download free e-samples, etc. I have yet to buy a single book from any of these uncouth writers who vested nothing in our “relationship” before they wanted my money or time. Provide community and people will reward you.

I know that as authors there are times to send out group invitations, and that is fine for once in a while. Yet, it is my opinion that this is something that should be relegated to a fan page. We expect form letters and group invitations from Starbucks, not from a friend. We risk being perceived in a negative light if straight out of the gate we are blitzing people with marketing. Fan pages, unlike a regular Facebook page, are perceived to be our “corporate side” which is one reason they are beneficial for writers. They give us a way to take care of business without wrecking how people perceive us.

As a general rule, just remember that social media is social. Think of Facebook and Twitter like one big social event. A great big cocktail party.

Is it okay to do business at a social event? Sure! It’s why I always at least keep a couple of books stashed in my car. Most of the time, in conversation, it comes up that I am an author and I have a new book out. Being a prudent businesswoman, I make sure I can get them a book if they ask to buy one.

But don’t you think I might offend more than a few people if I walked into the party, unfolded a card table, set out stacks of books and a credit card machine and then started pitching to everyone in the room?

In the end, this is just good old-fashioned common sense. Follow these Three Rules of Engagement and you will have a far better social media experience. If we are low-maintenance, friendly and genuine, we really won’t have to work that hard. People will want to connect.

Did I miss any social media faux pas? Post them here and share. We might have spinach in our teeth and not know it :D. Help us out!

Happy writing!

Until next time…


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  1. One question I have on social media is engagement. I’m seeing a lot of fighting going on now in publishing: two camps. The “traditional publishing is dead and I hope they burn in hell” and “self-publishing is doomed to failure and done by losers”. While I don’t agree with either camp, it does generate interest. The question is: is this good promotion?

    1. I never like people to rant on topics that force people to choose sides. Divisive topics do just that…they divide. Unless someone has the power to see the future, they don’t know what will happen. With a little extra effort, we can express opinions without making people choose sides. Be respectful of other opinions or face consequences. I have unfollowed people on Twitter for ranting. I am on there for community, not an upset stomach. I belive arguments can be made for and against both sides, but we can agree to disagree and be mature and respectful professionals. Ranting of any kind is unprofessional and by nature will alienate people. Not a good strategy for building a solid platform designed to generate sales.

      Social media, in its best form, is to put a personal face on an author’s product (our book). If that face becomes that of a self-righteous jerk, I don’t see that as a good thing. Now if you happen to be on social media just to hang out and give an opinion and you aren’t concerned about platform-building? It’s your business how you behave. But for authors, sales via social media have a direct correlation to how those in our network and extended netwrok view us as people. The more positive, the better.

      Great question, though.

  2. Hi Kristen. I’m pretty new to social media, but the social faux pas I see is people who deliver personal insults in comments on blogs and news articles. I tackle some pretty touchy subjects in my blog, but I try to do it with intelligence and respect. When people stoop to personal attacks to make their point, even a good point is lost in their malicious voice.

    Thank you for your post. All the best.

  3. Kristen,

    Excellent post with good advice!

    • gillarbuthnott on September 13, 2010 at 8:26 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen,

    As a novice writer-blogger who has stumbled on your WANA Wednesdays blogs by chance, let me say a big ‘Thankyou’ It has given me some great ideas, and pointed out things that should have been obvious to me, but weren’t (eg the blog shouldn’t all be about me – D’oh!) This is becoming such an important part of a career as an author that it’s great to plug into some sane advice…

    1. LOL…well there hasn’t been a lot of instruction TO writers on WHAT to blog about. We just get told, “You need to blog.” Ok. So don’t feel bad. Been there done that. I joke that the real title to my book should have been I Made all the Dumb Mistakes So You Don’t Have To. That is also why I advise writers to start blogging early. Screw up and be boring before anyone knows who you are 😀 In my book I teach you how to find topics to blog about to build a platform of readers. But you will be amazed how much blogging will make you grow as a person and as a writer.

      Thanks for commenting and best of luck!

  4. Kristen, I love your HONESTY. You’re funny, girl. Totally agree with your statement: “Provide community and people will reward you.” I stick to following people who are kind, genuine and aren’t afraid to show a little weakness. Those are the real people. AWESOME POST. 😀 p.s. I see an opportunity for you to teach a blogging class. I’d register!

    1. Ah, thanks, Ezzy. You are such an encourager and you are very much appreciated for sure. Actually, I will be teaching on Candy Havens on-line workshop the week of October 4th so go sign up :D. I will also be teaching a Blogging for Branding class at the 2100 DFE Writers’ Conference. Any other classes I will announce.

    • Kerry Meacham on January 10, 2011 at 12:35 am
    • Reply

    I think we sometimes do/say things online we wouldn’t in person. Treat people the way you want to be treated is pretty basic. I know I have a tendency to ramble online, so I won’t today. 🙂 Thanks for another great post. Kerry

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