Recently I got into a little snit regarding social media. I really enjoy social media. I enjoy the connections it allows me to make with people all over the world who share common interests. I've made some incredible friends through social media. I've had great opportunities arise for me through social media. I do not like, however, when people use social media for the wrong reasons. For the most part, I just unfollow, block, ignore those people who do so. But recently there have been some authors misusing social media and they are people I know personally and like. While some should know better than to behave the way they do, I realize that not everyone knows better.
So, this all led me to ask people to chime in on their feelings about social media. I teach a beginning social media class in my regular daytime job. So, I'll share some items with you that I teach our retailers and I'll share what others had to say about social media from their perspectives.
If this post helps one person to understand social media a little better then it will be worth it.
The most important thing to know about social media is that it is about BEING SOCIAL. It's about having conversations and exchanges. It is not a big billboard. The number one pet peeve of almost EVERY person who responded: excessive blatant self-promotion.
M.J. Rose wrote a nice post about authors using social media the other day that I felt was well done, but she compared social media to walking around in front of a bookstore with a sandwich board on. If that's the way you treat social media, don't waste your time. That's not the way social media should be viewed.
Whether you think you're doing social media right or not, I want EVERYONE to look at the last 20 posts they made to Twitter or Facebook or whatever forum you're using (FB fan pages withstanding). How many were about you - your book? your business? whatever. More than 2? Then you've posted too many about yourself. It doesn't matter if your book just came out, you're having a big sale, whatever. You've posted too many.
If you're using Twitter, how many tweets are a response to someone else? A retweet of something that did not promote you? If you aren't seeing many of those, you should be.
On Facebook, how many posts from your friends have you commented on or liked? How many have you shared? This goes for fan pages, too. If someone posts to your fan page wall, are you responding to them?
That's where the exchange takes place in social media. If you go to the bar at Bouchercon and someone starts talking to you non-stop about their book...they don't let you say a thing or if they do, they ignore you and keep talking as though you are not even there...how long do you hang out with that person? Social media is no different.
And automatically sending a person a direct message with a link to your book or webpage or blog or whatever you're selling immediately after friending or following or liking the person? Second biggest no-no from responders. "Hi, I don't know you but please buy my (fill in the blank)."
When I asked what people felt others should definitely do either on Facebook or Twitter, the answers were the same - ENGAGE, INTERACT, RESPOND. And by the way, you can't do that with automated posts!
Another question that arises at this point is "what about Twitter accounts and fan pages that are managed by someone other than the person whose name is on the account?" Overwhelmingly, people want to know that it isn't the person him/herself. People feel betrayed if they learn they haven't been interacting with the person they thought they were interacting with.
Then I asked, how are people using Facebook and Twitter well? Social media users like picture sharing. They like being asked their opinions and for input. They enjoy short Q&As, videos or hashtag discussions. People like giveaways in moderation. But again, the most common response was, "I like when people interact." A few authors have collected questions via social media and made videos where they answered the questions. This is a great use of social media!
Social media can be an effective marketing tool if it's used the right way. It's not the marketing tool of yesteryear. It isn't a billboard or a magazine ad or a commercial. The objective of social media is to build the relationships, to develop trust. When someone is invested in you through a relationship they want to see you do well.
I saw an author comment the other day on her Twitter feed about her "No Soliciting" sign on her front door. Just pretend every person on Facebook and Twitter has a "No Soliciting" sign. If you're their friend, they'll let you in their house. They're likely to buy girl scout cookies from your daughter or raffle tickets for your child's sporting team because it's a rare occasion-type thing and they want to support you; they may even sell to others for you. But if you are only coming to their door to sell to them, they'll either not answer the door or quickly kick you out.
When I asked if people had ever picked up a book because they learned about an author through a social media network almost all of the 40+ respondents said yes. Only about half said they bought a book because of hearing about it through a social network. But, if you're at least getting followers to try out your book by borrowing it from a friend or checking it out of the library, you have a good chance of gaining a fan.
Almost every one of the 40+ respondents also said they opted NOT to buy a book because of an author's presence on Facebook or Twitter. Simply being present isn't beneficial. You need to be present for the right reasons and you need to interact.
Think about it. What's the number one way people find out about new books? They hear about them from someone they trust - not from the solicitor at their front door, the telemarketer on their phone or the used car salesman...someone they trust.
Social media is not for everyone. And that's fine. No one should be there only because they "have to be there." No one wants those people around and it isn't helping them.
A vast majority of people who use social media, don't like all forms of social media. Some like Twitter and find Facebook useless. Others like Facebook and find Twitter useless. That's okay! Participate with what you enjoy. If you don't like what you're doing on social media, it shows; it really does.
This is my one caveat to the statement social media is not for everyone: actually give it a genuine try before you decide that. I'm a social klutz. I'm an introvert and I'm shy, but I enjoy social media. I also had to learn it.
This is a ridiculously long post, so I'll wrap up with some folks that the respondents feel do social media well. I can't list everyone, so I'm listing those people who showed up multiple times (I'm not familiar with all, but many):
- Alafair Burke
- Andy Gross
- Bill Cameron
- Jeff Abbott
- Beth Hoffman
- Tawna Fenske
- Joe Finder
- Harlan Coben
- Hilary Davidson
- Brad Parks
- Steve Mosby
- Duane Swierczynski
- Sophie Littlefield
- Laura Lippman
- Christa Faust
- Ian Rankin
- Gregg Hurwitz
One final item before I call it quits on this post. This is for anyone using social media. Follow people because you're interested in what they have to share; because you're interested in them. With Twitter, don't expect them to automatically follow you back and DON'T unfollow and refollow to try to get their attention. You'll get the opposite reaction. Your best plan of attack - INTERACT!!
On that same note, don't pass along information with the belief that anyone has to "return the favor." Pass along information because you think it's worthy to be passed along and you want other people to know about it. Be authentic, interact and have fun.
I know this is a long post. And if you stuck with me, many, many thanks. I also know there are other related questions and topics that can be addressed. I'd be happy to discuss them in the comments if anyone wants to share. As always, I just ask that you be respectful of each other when commenting.
Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts and opinions! Happy Reading.