Thursday, July 15, 2010

Social Media: What Not To Do

(Part One of a two-part series. Tomorrow will be "What To Do.")

Everyone seems to be jumping on the social media bandwagon lately. Supposedly it's a great way to build an audience and stuff like that—if you do it the right way. But let's face it, networking isn't always done right, and I'm starting to wonder if "online presence" is really beneficial for everyone. Or maybe some people don't realize they're doing it wrong.

So today I'm going to list some things I think should be avoided at all costs, both in blogging and on Twitter, since that's where I hang out.

1. Don't Be Mean
It's pretty simple, and for the most part people are great at following this. People don't really like mean people. Of course you are entitled to your opinions, but remember that when you post them on the internet everyone can see them forever.

Say you post a less than fair review of a book, and the editor sees that review (you'd be surprised how many have their authors on Google Alert—I have gotten hits from publishers when I mention books). THEN let's say your agent sends your MS to that want to think it doesn't matter, but what if it does?

Professionalism comes first online. I know it might sound like I'm telling you to be fake or something, but I'm not. I telling you to remember the internet is an online community—not a small circle of your best friends.

2. Don't Be Boring
More than anything, I'm positive being dull is the kiss of death online. Being mean will at least get the flamers reading you, I suppose. Being boring means you'll just be ignored, which in turn means you're putting in effort for nothing. Wow, that sounds harsh, sorry.

But the Internet is really about two things—entertainment and information. If you aren't providing one or the other, you can bet you'll get skipped in people's Google reader or glanced over on the Twitter feed, for the most part. And what good is that?

Of course "boring" is audience sensitive: your mother will love all those pictures of your newborn...the random stranger? Maybe not so much. A few examples of boring (I am sometimes guilty myself): Reporting word counts, telling all of Twitter goodnight, documenting every meal, blogging about vegetables.

3. Don't Be Annoying
This includes spamming in any form, posts filled with inside jokes you don't explain, extremely long conversations on twitter (as if you're instant messaging in your own world), drunk posts/tweets, an excess of all caps, etc.

I'm surprised by the people who are guilty of this, because it's a lot of published authors. I hate to say it—that's mean—but when one person fills up my feed with a lengthy RT session of every question readers ask them, filled with book spoilers and questions I don't care about, I get a little peeved. That's what hashtags are for! If I'm interested in your Q&A, I will click on the hashtag and read through. You don't have to pummel me with hundreds of tweets.

Basically, don't go overboard. Online networking is really fun, but when it gets out of hand it runs the risk of being super annoying. And when that happens? Yeah, the unfollow button comes next.

4. Don't Be (Too) Whiny
A little Pity Party now and then won't kill your readership. We all have our tough days and you guys know I'm not shy about addressing that, but here's the key:

You have to spin it positively. It has to be, "Yes, I'm struggling, but I'm pushing forward and working and not giving up." Otherwise you sound like you're whining about how unfair this business is, and no one needs to hear that. We already know, hehe.

Being whiny is also like being mean—it's just not professional. Say an agent happens to visit your blog the day you bemoan how unfair querying is and how all agents are stupid for not snapping you up. Perhaps that agent loved you, but maybe now they're thinking, "If she can't handle querying, then there's no way she'd make it through the rigors of submissions."

Yeah, that would suck.

Also, no one likes a beggar. I kind of hate that blogs have the "follow" function now. Did you know they didn't have that like a year ago? I feel so uncomfortable when people complain about not having a lot of followers. I squirm thinking I'm judged by that number and often consider taking it down. Blog followings take time—three years ago my mom was the only one reading my blog. Everything in this business takes time.

5. Don't Do Everything
Do you know anyone who's an artist/singer/writer/dancer/actor? Um, and if you do, are they GOOD at all of them? My guess is no. You don't have to be everywhere online—pick one or two, be good at them, and put up blinders to the rest. Otherwise you'll be spread way too thin. (Let's face it, my FB account is a joke at this point.)


Basically, think before you click. If your post is something that might fit better in a diary, perhaps you should reconsider. If your tweet makes wet paint look exciting, maybe it's better not to say anything at all.

Don't be afraid to be silent once in while—sometimes that's better than putting something lame out there. Save your words for when you really have something to say.


  1. Amen and thanks for saying this aloud! I get so annoyed when people have conversations on Twitter back and forth, starting with "Hello Twitter" and ending with "Goodnight!" By the time they log off, there are 50 tweets only going to one person. Sorry to rant, but it's definitely my number one cause for unfollowing someone.

    I think a good rule would be this -- if you don't want to read about it from someone else, why on earth would you assume people are interested in it from you? I try to not judge them too badly, I went through a learning curve too. For now I just ignore them, which I'm sure they hate and don't understand :)

  2. Yes, thank you for saying this! You're absolutely awesome for writing this post out--and I can't wait to see tomorrow's post! These are definitely things to consider.

  3. Spot on girl!
    I'm glad you mentioned the reviews - that's something I've been seeing lately. No matter how I feel about a book I've reviewed, I'll make sure I find something in it I like. I try to imagine if it were me reading the review about MY book.

  4. Agreed on all counts! Can't wait to see the "to do" list as well!

  5. love this post. You make a lot of common sense points that we all need to be reminded about.

  6. Lots of good things to keep in mind. Thanks for posting!

  7. Great tips! I especially like #5. It's quite freeing.

  8. Great post. You make a lot of strong points. <--- too boring?

    GREAT POST! YOU MAKE A LOT OF STRONG POINTS! <---(too annoying!)

    Seriously, great article. Thanks for sharing. ;)

    - Corra

    The Victorian Heroine

  9. Great advice! Hopefully I'm following it well so far :).

  10. Yes! I agree. I get easily annoyed with the inside jokes and/or lengthy conversations. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thanks for this post. I hope the right people read it. Twitter and Facebook both border on Big Brother voyeurism anyway. Don't add to it when you could just IM your buddy instead.

    Ditto not using your blog as a personal diary. The details of a person's day are usually excruciatingly boring. Even if the person is your lover. Knowing what a complete stranger had for breakfast? Boring. Boring. Boring. Silence can be so refreshing.

  12. Good post. A lot of what you written is common sense, but I do hope that my own blog posts are more exciting than wet paint.

  13. Great post. These tips are SPOT ON!

  14. Fabulous jellybeans post. I think these tips will be really helpful in "da future"!

  15. Drat - there goes that blog post about radishes!

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  17. Thanks for the good perspective! I'm afraid I was guilty for soooo long of #2. Gawk, I was even boring MYSELF. My blog was like an online diary, yawners. Just last month I switched to writing tips and makeovers, and not only do I have a few followers now, but more importantly, I'm enjoying making my posts. And I wouldn't ever do Tweets; I just don't have time, people! Keeping up with blogsites and networking that way is enough. We want to have time to write...right? ;o)

  18. Well said. The only boring that works is the tongue in cheek type, that does it for a reason. (might read a post about radishes but it working on nutrition...)

    I agree with the last point too. While I can do a lot of stuff, I only have certain ones for my social media, mostly writing. People don't need to know all the crap I can do okay or good. There needs to be some focus. Focus helps.

  19. Hey, Natalie, on my Artzicarol Ramblings blog I did a blurby little write up on your site today! I made a link to it and 3 other sites I have recently run across. Great site, keep up the good work. :)

  20. Yea, I'll say amen to that, but I'm pretty sure I'm boring half the time lol. Will definitely have to work on that. :) And no joke about people taking up your twitter feed with a Q&A session (but I totally say goodnight to my tweeps some times...).

    Thanks for posting, can't wait to see tomorrow's!

  21. Good advice (and a little scary--I did have that extra long conversation about Center Stage once with CKHB....).

    I agree that saying nothing instead of dumb things works well on Twitter and Facebook, where people only notice you if you're entertaining or annoying.

    But depending on how people keep up with your blog, it might require some more constant attention than others. I mean, folks following on Reader won't care--if you update, great, if not, they won't notice. But some people still use bookmarks and check their favorites manually (I know, right?), and they'll stop coming if nothing changes on the site.

  22. You know what sucks though? It's like that funny contest you had. If you tell me I have to be entertaining and funny, I can't do it.

    That's your whole plan, isn't it? To paralyze your readers, leaving you the only funny one left on the internet!

  23. Adam's catching on. We may need to send the Ninjas.

  24. Great post! I know I've been (and probably continue to be) guilty of at least one or more of these at some point. I'm trying to be better. It's one reason I got rid of the games on my facebook account. Thanks for this. Can't wait for the good habits list tomorrow.

  25. I second that! Or third or fourth or whatever.

    I have about 60 followers, and I love them. Some of them are like family, and at least of them read my blog everyday. One of the two I actually know in real life told me on Saturday, that my raving abour Kiersten have her totally hooked and now she can't wait for PARANORMALCY either. I'd rather have 60 readers like that, than 600 who don't really care.

    Also, I'm a blogger. I'm good at blogging. I don't tweet, and I will probably only join to see what it's like. Because, really I can't write contemporary YA when I don't even know what a hashtag is...

  26. Agree, agree, agree - is there a button for that?

    What about the LOL, LMAO etc factor? That can put me off too, sometimes it's best not to blog that stuff either.

    Regarding #1 ... some people seem to have forgotten the old common sense advice, 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.'

  27. That's one reason I like Wordpress--there's no following function (at least not that I've seen). I know I struggle with keeping the posts interesting--that's something I've not quite figured out yet :P

    Anyway, I think I focus on blogging the most, although I don't post nearly as frequent as I should--probably because I think my posts will be too boring!

    Also, you are right in saying that you never know who will read your blog--I've had a literary agent from a well-known agency post on my WiP page about how she was interested in me sending her something when I was done. One more reason I really need to get my act together and finish my book :)

  28. I just succumbed to #5. I wore myself out with this social media stuff and finally had to ask for help. I took the advice of other authors and developed a street team. My 21 year old daughter who refuses to read my books has even jumped in to help me out. Today is my first breather!