Social Media: What I’ve Learned So Far (Part 2 – The “Don’ts”)

*WARNING* STRONG LANGUAGE FOLLOWS *WARNING*

In my last post I started talking about the “Do’s and Don’ts” of using Twitter, trying to focus on building an audience or just enjoying yourself. What I probably didn’t really get into is that those two things are one and the same. Yeah, if you’re going to be a self-published author, developing your audience and social media in general are going to be part of your “job”, but that doesn’t mean it should be dull drudgery. Twitter is something you can, and should have fun with. It’s full of delightful people, crazy drunken authors, and random (possibly smelly) vagabonds. Become one of them! One of us! (One of us! One of us! One of us!)

Really though. If you’re a pleasant individual with interesting things to say, you will get followers. It may be slow at first, but like anything else, if its worth doing it isn’t going to be easy. Sure, there are a so many “pay us for followers” things in any social media platform that it will destroy any hope you have for the world, but, like the Dark Side, this is the quick and easy path. Plus you won’t actually be able to choke those who displease you or fling them across the room with abandon.

If you go in for “purchasing” your followers, you won’t actually have an audience. They won’t give fuck one about what you have to say. Sure, you’ll have a nice big number next to “Followers” in your profile, but it won’t mean anything. In this case, 100 people who actually read what you write is better than 10000 who will scan over it on their way to better, more interesting content. Which, bring us straight into the “Don’ts” of using Twitter. Hang on, its going to be a bumpy ride.

  • Don’t be a dick. Wil Wheaton may not have said it first, but he certainly is not “internet famous” for Wheaton’s Law, “Don’t be a dick.” By all means, participate in conversation, even debate, but as soon as soon as you start attacking people, you’re going down the wrong path. Everyone has an opinion about something on the internet, but you’re not likely to change their mind in 140 characters, or even 1400. The likelihood that you’ll influence them decreases as your comments become more caustic. Be better than that. Please.
  • Don’t spam. You know what?  I shouldn’t even have to explain this one.  Nobody likes spam and if you do it, no one will like you.  If you have a Twitter feed that is nothing but advertisements for your book, or other peoples you have a Twitter feed that is as forgettable as the coupons on the back of a grocery receipt.  Do you want people to know about your new book? Twitter is the place to put that!  Your readers want to know.  What we don’t want is to hear about it, hear about it, hear about it and hear about it.  Would you call your friend 5 to 10 times a day to tell them about your new awesome short story?  Even after they’ve bought your book?  For weeks and months, end upon end around 16,000 times?  No? Why?  Because they’d murder you and they would probably get away with it.  If you don’t think your friend would appreciate it, why do you think you can treat absolute strangers that way and expect them to not stab you in the eye block you.
  • Don’t Abuse Direct Message. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Direct Messages are for conversations that you don’t want the whole world to see.  Sooner or later you’ll encounter someone who auto-DM’s you as soon as you follow them.  If you don’t share my utter contempt for this practice, then I’m afraid we can’t be friends anymore.  It doesn’t form a “connection” and if its just a robo-message its just more spam to mark as read, delete and then unfollow.  Congrats, you just drove away some of your audience.  Take a second and ‘@’ reply new followers with a “welcome” message if you want.  Read their feed and find something to talk to them about.  Start a conversation.  That’ll make a bigger impact than five rubber stamped direct messages and be much less infuriating.
  • Don’t Abuse Hashtag.  This is related to not spamming.  I love the ‘#amwriting’ hashtag.  There’s a lot of opportunity there to meet new people and read interesting thoughts.  Then, there’s shit like this:2013-08-27 22.30.02Every time you do this, you break that awesome flow of information.  I get it.  I really do.  You want people to see your stuff, and hey, there’s a ton of people looking at the ‘#amwriting’ hashtag.  But you’re not writing are you? No, you’re pimping your book.  See, what you’re doing there is called Spam.  Its filling my eye-holes with unwanted crap against my will.  There are plenty of other venues that are just for authors to showcase their stories.  Just because its there, doesn’t make it a forum for you to advertise on.  You spam, you get blocked because I can’t stab you in real life.  How should you use the “#amwriting” hashtag?  Here you go:
    2013-08-27 22.29.15
  • Don’t ask people to do stuff for free. You have followers. That’s awesome.  Go you.  Don’t abuse them by demanding they ‘Retweet’ your book announcement.  If this, “PLS RT” is anywhere in your message, you fail at social media.  No, really.  Want people to spread the word about your book?  Do two things.  First, write an awesome book.  Second, make some actual friends on Twitter by interacting with people.  If you’ve got some actual friends and have some good news, they’ll go and retweet it on their own.  Doing anything else is just treating your followers like a megaphone and I don’t want to follow someone who views me as just another number, potential sale or extension of my social reach.
  • Don’t retweet all willy nilly.  The other side of this is not to retweet crap like that.  Retweeting is awesome and fun and I love it.  Use it how its supposed to be used: To highlight someone else’s awesome tweets and to make yourself look better by associating yourself with someone smarter and better looking then you.  Don’t use it to further the schemes of some second-rate author who’s abusing the audience that you’ve gone to so much trouble to cultivate.

That should cover most of the major offenses.  Give me a second while I regain my cool and let the rage die down to a lower level.

Ok, I’m better now.   You’ll notice that I talked a lot about “developing an audience” but really, that’s the wrong way to think about it… yet also the right way.  If you’re thinking about it like increasing your number of followers for the sole purpose of getting a bigger megaphone to sell more books, then you’re being a bad person.  Social media is about being social.  It’s about making friends, keeping in touch and learning new things, terrible truths.  Approach it like that, with that goal, and you’ll accomplish the former goal along the way.  At the end of the day, you should be enjoying yourself.  Be someone that other people want to follow, and you’ll gain followers.  Treat them well, and you’ll gain more as those mindless drones new friends spread your name.

Also, this post isn’t exclusive to Twitter.  Apply it to Facebook, Google+ and what have you.

This post has included a lot of the lash, so now its time for a little carrot.  Want some good examples?  I’ll close with a few of my favorite authors on Twitter.  Happy Tweeting!