Yes, social media can be very helpful for authors. In fact, I recently asked one of my readers, Amy (@MyFriendAmy on Twitter), to give me her perspective about authors and their use of social media. She has over 4000 Twitter followers and has a fantastic blog where she reviews books, so I figured she’s been around and seen enough to share her thoughts.
Here’s what Amy had to say about the positive influence authors have on social media: “Without social media and the charming presence of some authors on social media, I would never have discovered their books. I have a lot of fun conversing with authors on Twitter and am definitely more likely to want to support an author who has been kind, witty, or helpful on Twitter. I get excited to read their books because I hope that those same qualities will come through in their writing.”
Social media has the power to help authors. Immensely. But it also has the power to hurt them. And of course, I had to ask Amy to share ways that authors have alienated her on social media sites. Here are a few of the ways authors can turn off their readers (a combination of mine and Amy’s thoughts):
1. When authors voice their opinions TOO strongly.
Here’s what Amy said: “Authors who are too strong in their political views and say spiteful things about other political parties, who belittle any group of people. Readers want to engage with authors online, and readers come from all sorts of different backgrounds.”
2. When authors handle criticism POORLY.
Amy indicated when authors don’t handle criticism on their books well, it alienates readers. She said it might be unfair, but when authors come across as really angry and unpleasant, she’s less interested in their books. She said that many readers feel the same way.
3. When authors use social media ONLY as a promotional tool.
I loved what Amy said: “Social media is a conversation, not a promotional tool. Readers WANT to engage with authors and get to know them better. We want to know there's more to you than your book. And yes of course we do also want to know ABOUT your book . . .sneak peeks into the cover process or choosing a title . . . but we also want to know about what great books you're enjoying reading, how that marathon prep is going, the latest greatest free ebooks you've discovered, and whether or not that recipe turned out the way you thought it would.”
4. When authors DON’T acknowledge the comments of readers.
Amy said: “I also like to see authors acknowledge me if I say something to them on Twitter. For a lot of readers, it can take courage to send that first tweet to an author or post a comment on their blog or Facebook page. If authors make their readers feel noticed and appreciated it can really go a long way. I think there are ALWAYS more readers watching than actively take part and it's important to be mindful of the whole audience. If my tweet is acknowledged or you reply to me on Facebook--WIN!”
5. When authors make readers feel they’re too BUSY for them.
This has probably been one of the biggest turn-offs for me personally as a reader interacting with other authors. It’s presumptuous of authors to think that they’re busier than others. Everyone everywhere is busy. It’s good business practice to give each consumer (reader) the feeling that they’re the only one, that they’re important enough to receive our full and undivided attention, and for us not to complain about how busy we are to them.
As Shakespeare said (in As You Like It), “All the world’s a stage.” Now with the expansion of social media, all the world has taken on new meaning. More people are watching us than we realize. And with the greater exposure comes greater responsibility.
As writers (both unpublished and published), we would be wise to evaluate how we’re doing. Of course nobody’s perfect. But are we doing our best to have a positive social media presence?
What do you think? Has an author ever alienated you because of something they did on a social media site? What did they do? And how could they have improved their interaction?
*Picture from Toby Young's Memoir: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
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