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


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!


Social Media – What I’ve learned so far (Part 1)

In the not too distant future, I want to be able to write, full time, and not be a homeless bum. The chances of this happening are somewhere between small and insignificant. depending on a variety of factors. One of those factors is developing and keeping an audience. Right now, I've got 136 followers on Twitter, picking up an extra one or two a week. I think that's pretty decent, considering that I haven't even DONE anything yet, aside from being my delightful self out where everyone can see. So, I'm something of novice when it comes to socializing on the web. That being said though, I've learned some very valuable things in the last few months. I wanted to share some of those things here, and maybe encourage some discussion on the topic.

First off; I love Twitter. It is the perfect platform for someone who's brain is as riddled with ADD as mine is. It's also great training for learning how to concentrate complex thoughts into as short a space as you can. You've got 140 characters to express an idea, feeling or carry on a conversation. Just from a reading standpoint, its incredibly interesting and fun. If you're a bit of an introvert, sharing short succinct interactions with people is perfect too. If you're an author, looking to build an audience, you could do worse than to get yourself on Twitter and start tweeting. There are a few do's and don'ts that come with it though. Here's what I've learned:

  • Do: Find yourself a good Twitter agent. No, I don't mean hire someone to use it for you. I mean a program that helps you keep track of the things going on on Twitter. In my browser, I use the TweetDeck extension in Chrome. It's fantastic! You can have several columns that show your main feed, the interactions that you have with other users and create custom columns for hash-tags (I'll get to this.) On my iPad, I use TweetBot, at least for now. I'm always bouncing from one solution to another on my iPad and iPhone, because the pace of development is pretty quick. I'm also open to suggestions here. Does anyone else have a favorite program?
  • Do: Find people whose content you enjoy. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Twitter has quite a few ways of discovering fun and interesting people to follow. If you're an author, I recommend looking up other authors you like. One of the first things I do, when I discover a new author, is find out if they've got a Twitter account. Authors will also interact with each other, tweet about new books they're writing or that friend in their network are writing. Plus, they have some of the best conversations on Twitter. Writers are really awesome people.
  • Do: Learn how to use “lists”. Twitter has an excellent feature that allows you to create sub-feeds, called “lists”. Are you following 1000 people and unable to find the tweets from the people you're most interested in? Make a list! You'll find that you follow certain people back, just to be polite or for other various reasons (I'll address this too) but you don't really want to read every stupid thing they post. To this end I've created a “short list” of people that I follow who have the most interesting and entertaining or educational tweets. I've also got an “author's” list that just contains the authors that I follow. Another tip: You can make your list public so that other people can follow it. Find someone on Twitter you like? See if they have a list. It may lead you to more good people to follow.
  • Do: Learn how to use hashtags. Hashtags are a handy feature of Twitter, and a couple other social networks, that let you “tag” your tweets by putting a '#' in front of a word. This lets users search on that term and find everyone who's tweeting with that hashtag. A great one for authors to keep an eye on and use is #amwriting. This is where Twitter has really been shining for me in the past month since I made a special column in TweetDeck for that hashtag. Its increased how many people that I'm exposed to and I've had some very fun interactions because of it.
  • Do: Jump into a conversation. Its weird, I know. Twitter will sometimes seem like a bunch of people shouting into the void. You'll probably feel like that when you're just starting out: Like you're standing on a cliff in the middle of no-where, shouting out into nothingness. You're lonely, you're scared, and you'd just like someone to come along and tell you that you aren't a gibbering mad person. I think a lot of people on twitter feel this way. The truth is though, you're actually in an infinitely large room, full of people who are largely talking to themselves, alone in a crowd. This, is stupid. There's people everywhere! You don't need to be alone, and neither do they. Go up and talk to someone. Use the #amwriting tag. If someone says something interesting, or funny, tell them. If they ask a question, answer. Make a cheeky response. Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won't. I remember getting royally chewed out once for being friendly, but that's the exception, not the rule, in my experience. Put yourself out there and make some friends! You'll be glad you did.
  • Do: Be polite, damnit! Seriously, this isn't a hard one and it correlates to the next rule, and its a rule, not a “suggestion” but we'll get to that later on.

Wow…this is ending up being a lot more of a post than I thought it would be. So, for the sake of sanity, and having some good content to post the rest of the week, I'm going to break this into two parts. So, stay tuned for the second part of this post where I go into the “Don'ts” of using Twitter. Until then, get on Twitter and have some fun!