(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 editor...you 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.