Friday, May 6, 2011

Social Media - What's It Good For?

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 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
And I'll chime in and add Jonathan Hayes to the mix. When I asked for non-author people using social media well, I got such a slew of various responses. So, my suggestion, if you want some people to watch for ideas, ask someone you know and trust who uses social media. I'm sure they'll offer you up quite a nice selection.

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.


Beth F May 6, 2011 at 7:07 AM  

Great wrap-up!

Lesa May 6, 2011 at 8:29 AM  

You certainly hit the nail on the head, Jen. I had started to answer your survey, and then got bogged down. Yes, I know two authors I don't read, and I've even reached the point where I delete their emails unread. It's all about them. Every topic comes back to them and their books. I'm afraid I won't even buy books by one of those authors for the library.

But, your list of authors who use social media properly included a number of authors I read on Twitter, and often retweet there. They know how to make it fun.

I was talking with another librarian about this the other day. Her example of an author who knows how to use it - John Scalzi, author of the new Fuzzy Nation.

Thanks for a thoughtful, educational post, Jen.

Holly West May 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM  

One annoyance I forgot to mention when I answered the survey, and it's a big one for me, is people who use #followfriday, #writerwednesday, etc. as a promotional tool. There's not many who do it, but you know they are when your feed is suddenly clogged with twenty or more tweets where they #ff every person they follow.

Which brings me to another important issue--space out your tweets if you can. It's annoying when someone saves their tweeting for the end of the day (or whenever) and you get a huge block of tweets from them all at once.

Judy Bobalik May 6, 2011 at 11:33 AM  

Since it is Friday one other thing I missed when answering your survey. People who connect twitter to facebook and EVERY tweet goes to fb. Really only status updates if you must. RT,@,FF,anything with a # has no business on fb.
I often unfollow a person on twitter if every single tweet is showing up on fb. Do I really need it in both places?

SuziQoregon May 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM  

Wonderful post! Good information and tips for all.

Janet Rudolph May 6, 2011 at 1:04 PM  

and then there's the #FF issue. Being brought up politely, and Judy knows what I'm talking about, I feel I should thank everyone who #FF me..what an awkward turn of phrase..I do believe it clogs the feed, but what to do? help??
Also, Holly, the spacing of tweets.. since I'm now back to working full time, on Twitter, I only go on at certain I respond then..I'll be more careful.. Oh dear, you see I always think things negative are directed at me.

Good article, Jen!

Deryn Collier May 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM  

Great article Jen - I read right to the end! And great comments in the discussion.
Being new to Twitter, I'm just figuring things out, but I agree with Janet on #FF. I see it as a way to say thanks, and also as a way to find like-minded people to follow. (I've found a few in your #FF lists Janet!)

I so agree about FB and Twitter streams. I rarely post the same things there - for me they have quite different purposes. FB is a bit more personal - a party with a more "local" crowd. Twitter is global, and very industry specific.

I agree that "buymybookbuymybookbuymybook" posts are #1 offense in both places. But equally annoying is the "I'm here because my publisher/agent/mentor told me I had to be" author. That's the person at the bar who just wants to leave the party and go home early, and that kind of disdain for the medium shines through.

Such a great post Jen, I will definitely retweet...

Dorte H May 6, 2011 at 4:45 PM  

Thank you for this follow-up. For new authors it may be difficult to figure out exactly what is acceptable and what is too much. I enjoy Facebook quite a lot (a cosy play-ground for when I take a break from my writing), but I am not so sure twitter is really my thing - perhaps I am just not ´smart´ enough to figure out what to say.

Erin May 6, 2011 at 5:37 PM  

Judy, that is my single BIGGEST pet peeve. Oh wait...that and tweets that are never anything but "bu my whatever" links. And people who talk at--rather than with--people. Guess I have a lot of pet peeves. But can't tell you the number of clients I've had to break of the "cross post everything" habit!

Rebecca Cantrell May 6, 2011 at 7:13 PM  

Thanks for a great post, Jen!

Other authors who use twitter well are: RL Stine (funny stuff!), Janet Rudolph (makes me wish I wasn't allergic to wheat), and APMonkey.

Bernadette May 6, 2011 at 9:47 PM  

Indeed a good wrap up and I too read to the end. Sadly I suspect the people who need to read it are exactly the ones who won't (or if they do won't understand that they're the kind of social media participant being talked about negatively).

I've been slow to make use of twitter (and FB is not for me at all) but that was partly so I could look at what others were doing, find the people who I thought did it well - a nice mix of BSP and chatty stuff or links - and copy them. I'm sure I've made mistakes but hopefully not too many.

I have unfollowed several people who only do BSP - and that includes bloggers who auto-tweet their posts and have no other interaction. What - prey-tell is the point?

Pop Culture Nerd May 7, 2011 at 12:29 AM  

Insightful and instructive post, Jen. No wonder they have you teaching a class at your day job. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Pop Culture Nerd May 7, 2011 at 12:35 AM  

I forgot to ask a question. Janet mentioned this. I feel compelled to thank people when they RT or include me in #ff. (I don't thank new followers for following me, though.) I try to thank everyone in one tweet but sometimes I can't so is it annoying to see, say, two or three tweets in a row from me just thanking people?

Jen May 7, 2011 at 5:42 PM  

Thanks for all the comments folks. I'm out of town right now, so sorry to be slow on jumping in here.

PCN, I don't think a couple posts of thanks every now and again are a bad thing. But if you waited until Saturday to thank folks for everything that week, it might be a bit annoying!

A great resource for social media is a book called UNMARKETING. It outlines a lot of mistakes people make in using social media for marketing purposes. It is a good resource for anyone who sells or promotes anything.

Coffee and a Book Chick May 10, 2011 at 12:17 PM  

I think you fabulously touched on all the primary aspects of social media, and the first of which be social! :) Respond to people, interact, stay engaged. It's the best way to publicize yourself anyway. I learned that with my FB, Twitter, and blog - staying engaged with others was key - not just posting what was new in my world only.

Eric Beetner May 11, 2011 at 1:50 AM  

Well said. I am always paranoid about my SM presence. It's a balancing act, especially when I don't have a ton of time to be on Twitter or FB. GOt to make every update count.
From this post, you are obviously well-qualified to teach that class:) November 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM  

Good points! Helpful to a fledgling tweep like me. I think being social is the key as you said. I've unfollowed people already if all they do is repost every single tweet in their stream thinking that will count as interaction and then their only other kinds of tweets are self promo. says to me that they are only there to promote themselves and RT indiscriminately as a way to get their own things RTed.

Andreas Louw December 3, 2011 at 12:34 AM  

I'm a new author and surely abused the "bymybook-thing" on FB. Since only my personal friends read it at the moment they are as excited as I was when it got published and probably forgave my naivety.

I shall make a point not to exceed the three-hundred post limit to buy my next book (hehehe!).

As a newbie I'm glad I read your post, Jen. Hopefully I shall be more socially acceptable next time in my approach.

  © Blogger templates 'Neuronic' by 2008

Back to TOP