AP7: Getting Social
Updated: Jan 3, 2020
We’ve done all the research, sharpened our weapons. It’s time to put our warface on and make our social media presence known. But don’t go to war, yet. We don’t want to make any enemies. Or bad first impressions. Gosh this is hard.
Odds are good you already have a social media account. We may make adjustments to that as I fill you in on my approach and you figure out what your comfortable with. Let’s get started.
Who are you, and what do you want?
First, make a list of the accounts you have. You’ll want to know the name you used, the handle, email address and password. It’s a good idea to collate all that anyway for yourself. Of these accounts, how many match your author name? Which ones do you have a lot of political arguments with your uncle or pictures of kids you don’t want seen by your audience?
Let’s call the accounts you don’t want to share with the world your personal accounts. Rename those so they don’t conflict with your author name. Restrict this account to people you know, and you can easily explain the reason for the name change.
Now for the remaining accounts, aside from alternate private identities, these will become author accounts. We’’ll rename them match your author name, or make new ones. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first step is inventory what you have, and identify what you want to keep private.
How Social Are you?
As an author, you are a business. I’ve said that before. The more social media accounts you have, the more work it will take to maintain them. Practical advice is to maintain accounts on one to three platforms. For example, I am on Facebook and Twitter. Any more than that is more work than I have time for. Ideally, we’ll be posting at least once a week, if not more often on all of these. So you can see how they’ll add up.
Where to Socialize
You want to be where the audience is. There’s two prongs to that, writers and readers. Many writers are active on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s a good place to network and get initial followers. Facebook and Instagram are where the readers are (as of 2019). Things change. Instagram is picture based, meaning every post needs to be a picture or photo, perhaps with text like a meme on it. For me, that’s a pain in the butt. I’m not on Instagram for that reason.
Readers on social media are most likely on other authors and book genre discussion areas. Groups in Facebook, hashtags in Twitter. You’ll want to join those and participate, not pitch your product. People will grow to like you and check out your profile, that’s how you’ll grow an audience.
There’s a few details that matter based on what social media system you join, but mostly, the plan is the same. Make a new account or rename your existing account to match your author name. Maybe add “ - Author” or “ - Writer” to the end if you need to make it clearer. Set your profile picture to be your headshot. Insert your Bio where applicable. Use the same text and images on all accounts so it is obvious it is you.
Facebook and Twitter work differently from each other. In Twitter, you make one account per name you want to have. So a personal account is separate from your author account. It means logging in and out a lot or using two different browsers so you can stay logged in on both. Facebook prefers that your business self be a Page, not an account. So I have my personal FB account, and a FB Page that says I am an author. Most FB groups allow Pages to join now, so I join those as my author page. That means when I post, it says “KL Forslund - Author” and people might click on my name. This means they can Like and Follow me, instead of Friend me. That’s helpful, I like people, but I don’t need 3000 friends on my personal account, which make it hard to see what my political uncle is arguing about. That would be the problem if I joined groups as my account and attracted people as Friends.
The Guidelines are more like Rules
It’s your account, you can do whatever you want. But. As a business, you are subject to whims of public opinion. What you say and post can attract fans and trouble. Some people find posting political stuff gets them followers. It does. It also gets the other half of the people mad at you. Then you make it onto blacklists and discussions about how horrible you are. That’s not good, because inevitably, you will make yourself look bad for them.
Before you post, make sure you can answer yes to these questions:
Is it helpful?
Is what you’re about to post going to help them? Remember, you don’t need to be somebody else’s reality check, being harsh isn’t helpful.
Is it kind?
I’m in a lot of writer groups. I see a lot of stupid questions. Well, questions I think are stupid because I researched and know the answer, and the other person appears to not have tried. It’s not kind if the tone of my response makes the person feel stupid. I can’t recall who to credit with this idea, but I saw this advice once. If you can’t answer the question with patience and kindness, don’t answer. Maybe you’re tired, seen the same question a hundred times. There is somebody else who knows the answer, and isn’t worn out from answering it. Let them get it.
Is it true?
This should be obvious, but nowadays we have people bandying “FakeNews!” about. We need to be more circumspect. I stick to stuff I know, have the credentials for or have researched pretty well. It’s safe for me to talk about self-defense and Texas gun laws because I’ve got a black belt and took the training. I know a good deal about publishing because I looked things up. Not being a doctor, there’s no need to foist my ideas on vaccines. I also don’t forward or share anything but articles in my knowledge space. Stuff I can trust or personally vet.
Is it Necessary?
This is the toughest one, I find. Do I need to post an answer that is almost the same as somebody else’s? Maybe not. Do I need to make a funny quip about something somebody posted? Maybe not. This rule helps keeps me from over-posting or making a joke that didn’t turn out as funny as I thought.
And for those of you who like more specific things:
Don’t comment on someone’s appearance
The surest way to offend or appear creepy is to comment on how they look. It’s not kind to say something bad about their nose, we got that covered. But me as a guy saying, “you look hot” to a woman in a cosplay group might read wrong, especially my choice of words, or if it turns out I keep commenting on the same person. Just as awkward, if I compliment one person, what about the other person next to them. It is easy and safest to leave that stuff alone.
Don’t Private Message Strangers
Back in the business circles of old days, you needed an introduction before you spoke to somebody you hadn’t met. On social media, a similar thing applies. PMing your favorite author you’ve never talked to before is not cool. It’s a good way to get blocked. Spammers and creeps are guilty of doing this, so your cold-call approach makes you smell like them.
Don’t Sell All The Time
Chuck Sambuchino says in his book on Author Platform, that “You must give before you can receive.” That means only 10-20% of your posts should be “by the way my book is on sale…” You’ll have better results if you concentrate on being a good member of the community. Share jokes, answer questions that are in your wheelhouse, and help out. People will remember that and either look at what you’re making or they’ll try to support you when you finally do ask, because you supported them.
Do Not Respond to Negativity
I have seen few people able to reply well to a negative attack. Be it a complaint about your product or personal grudge. The safest way to maintain the high ground is to ignore it. Somebody writes a bad review? Extract what technical merit you can and forget it. Somebody calls you a no talent turd burglar? Ignore it. The stupidest thing I see people do is spend all their time complaining about something they hate. Every time you respond to them, you are feeding their hate. You’re better off muting and blocking them quietly, so they’ll move on.
Remember Every Post Is Your Brand
In other places of the internet, what I discuss and how I say it is private. There’s room to be gruff and apologize for a mistake. On social media, everything I say, in just about every conversation is available for a visitor to see, out of context from the original conversation. Let that sink in. If I’m taking part in a joke conversation of “say something horrible your villain would say,” then you know the visitor is going to my main page and they will only see that horrible thing I said. Yikes. You will forget this point. Somebody you didn’t expect will reply to something you posted, reminding you that people in the different circles of your life see everything on social media.
A shift to something positive. The key to staying out of trouble along with all those rules, really bubbles into being positive. Nobody ever got in trouble posting “Good Job!” or “I researched this and the answer to your problem appears to be X.” Well, unless they were posting on the Nazi channel.
This rule also covers not complaining. I get that we all have bad things happen in our lives, but our audience need not see us complain day in and day out of everyday things. It’s easy to get into a negative loop and feed off those little bits of sympathy. But in the long run, it’s a turn off. People are more attracted to positive people, because that’s who they want to be around. Being that source of strength also means that when you have that terrible no good rotten day, the support you receive will be genuine.
All this Power…
Now you know what not to do, what are you going to do? Join groups that talk about things like your book. I’m writing an Urban Sci-Fantasy and my favorite author is Jim Butcher. So I’m in a Dresden Files group talking about his books. Now and then, the subject of writing or how Jim wrote the books comes up. Guess what, great time to mention what I learned about writing or how I’m writing something like that. Not pushy, just part of the conversation.
Connect the Domain Name
A few articles back, I had you buy a domain name aligned to your author name. Now you have a Facebook Page, Twitter account, or what have. Later, you’ll have a proper website, but for now, let’s point your domain name to the URL the social media account you’d like to be your base of operations. This matters because you can order business cards or email the domain name and it will always work, even if we change things up.
For GoDaddy, here’s a link to how you do that:
Post like a Poster Child
That title was funnier when I made it up. Go look at what your favorite authors and up and coming authors are doing. Try different ideas, see what works for you. Don’t go nuts, but have fun. We’ll get to some specific strategies in another article. The first step is getting you out there like a pro.
For other articles in my Author Platform series, click here: