7 Social Networking Mistakes To Avoid

Everyone says you must social network as part of your author platform.

Publishers, agents, self-publishing marketing people, other authors. It now seems part of the non-negotiable author platform for indie authors and those wanting a traditional deal.

But there’s more to social networking than just marketing.

I started blogging, tweeting and Facebooking over two and a half years ago and consider it a life-changing experience. I have made some fantastic online friends, connected with peers in the industry, gained an online platform that now reaches thousands of people and my novel, Pentecost, is still in the Amazon bestseller rankings after six months, based on a launch fueled by social media. Twitter in particular is an important part of my social life as well as my work and I am a passionate evangelist for the platform.

It doesn’t matter what social network you want to jump into, there are principles that apply to all and some basic mistakes that you can avoid which will make it a much more effective place for you to be.

Here are the top 7 mistakes authors and writers make in social networking.

(1) Not being useful/interesting/entertaining.

If you want to stand out in a crowded market online you have to offer something to people. Remember the phrase ‘what’s in it for me?’ Everyone wants to know things that will help them, or interest them or make them laugh. If you’re not offering that, then you won’t get attention. If you don’t have attention, it won’t lead to interest in you or action in terms of buying your book. So focus on being one of these things as the main pillar of your social networking. For example, I tweet useful links to blog posts on writing, publishing and marketing @thecreativepenn .

(2) Not understanding generosity and social karma.

There is an understanding online that we are not competitors, that this isn’t a zero sum game, that the pie just gets bigger. In fact, those of us in the same niche post on each others blogs, share posts that aren’t our own and promote other people’s products, even if they overlap with ours. The blogging and social media world is all about being generous with links, with information, with help. It makes the community a very positive place to be and we all benefit. It’s important to do this for it’s own sake but it also generates social karma, as in you will receive back in the measure you give. I don’t mean this in any spiritual manner, just that ‘what goes around, comes around’ as in any community.

(3) Not being personal enough.

Yes, you have to be useful but you also have to be a real person. Don’t just tweet information all the time. Intersperse some updates about your life, your writing, maybe your pets or interests, some photos. People connect with people, not info-streams. Use pictures and also link to multi-media that you create or participate in. Remember that people buy from those they know, like and trust so you have to earn that. I also recommend using a picture of your face throughout your networking. It’s much more personal to connect with someone specific rather than an avatar or random picture. Using the same picture all over the web is a good idea and will help people recognize you across the networks.

(4) Being too personal or too marketing focused.

Of course, personal does need balance. You can’t just have personal updates as no one is interested in that. Also, do not just tweet about your new book. The fastest way to get blocked by people is if you are just interested in selling your stuff. There’s a time for that but it’s AFTER you’ve built up some social karma and goodwill with the online audience. Also, if you want to get retweeted, or Liked so your post is shared across other people’s networks, it needs to resonate. That generally means it should have a good headline. I frequently rewrite headlines from blogs in order to get more Retweets. Basic copywriting skills will serve you well here. I recommend Copyblogger as the best place to learn about this and much more on internet marketing.

(5) Expecting short term gain.

Social networking is basically hand-selling to people around the world. You have to connect with people over a longer period of time, before you try to sell them your book. Many authors dive into social networking just before their book launch and then try to sell immediately, or try desperately to grow their following at the last minute. But it doesn’t work like that. You need to work on it consistently, putting in the effort to create relationships over time. This is a long game. Luckily, authors are used to long term projects!

(6) Not being consistent with niche and timing.

People tend to clump together around their interests online, so people will follow your twitter stream for several reasons. They like what’s in your profile (writer/author/loves books!) or they like your tweets/updates, or both. It follows that you need to be consistent with the topics you share because those people will be turned off if you start in a completely new direction. So I tweet about writing, publishing and book marketing @thecreativepenn. I can be tangential e.g. creativity, books I’m reading, things that relate but I won’t be sharing on things really outside the niche e.g. weight loss/ TV programs etc. If you stick to your niche, you will develop a nice, tight community who share your interests. Consistency is also important in terms of timing. If you don’t tweet/update/post for months, people won’t follow you. Simple as that.

(7) Not being global enough with tweet timing and book availability.

Online social networking opens up the world to your books. That is truly exciting…but only if you take advantage of the opportunity.  I’m based in London but 70% of my traffic comes from the US and 15% of my podcast audience is in China, and there are many others represented in my twitter stream and blog traffic stats. The only way to reach people everywhere on social media is to use a scheduler for your tweets. I use Su.pr but you can also use SocialOomph or Hootsuite. Scheduling in multiple time zones means you can appear in streams at different times of day. It’s what I used to specifically try to network with Americans (and it works! Hello American friends!) However, you should also remember that there is only a point in connecting internationally if your book is also available everywhere i.e. on Amazon.com and also in ebook format.

So, those are the top mistakes I see people making on the social networks. If you have any more lessons to share, please add them in the comments below.

 Do you need some more in-depth help with social networking?

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It has a 59 page ebook, plus audios and 4 behind the scenes videos on all the major social networks. I share all my top tips and strategies for building your social network and using your time most effectively. I help you through the process saving you time and effort in jump-starting your social networking platform.

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Images: iStockphoto.

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    • says

      Thanks Cathy – I’m pretty stoked with sales. Must get the next book out though to capitalize on it.
      On twitter, it does need to be a regular thing to be effective….

  1. says

    These are 7 really good points! Especially #5 – I see that a lot… author friends getting into social networking for the first time to flog a new book because their agent or publisher or fellow writers have told them too. Social networking doesn’t work that way. They come across like fish mongers at a market.

  2. says

    A nice summary. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups where all the authors seem to want to do is plug their own stuff and it gets tiresome. I even pointed out in a comment at one point that they were really only hammering the same four hundred people over and over again, people who, if they were anything like them, will have been already overrun with books to read and review. We all have to promote our wares but the hard sell has been proven to be a bad idea. We don’t like it so why would anyone else? The key phrase here for me is ‘long term’. I’ve been online for just over four years now and only just starting to see some benefits for all my hard work.

    • says

      Thanks Jim – I agree with you and I’m coming up to 3 years this December on this blog and really, it only shows benefit after at least 6 months to a year. But I enjoy it all as a part of my daily life so don’t find it an issue. I love blogging and I love twitter!

  3. says

    Excellent tips..I started twitter a coupe years ago to promote my blog initially but eventually learned over time that it’s useful in so many other ways: keeping up to date with news and friends, especially. Been nervous about doing so via my acct but now i realize that I’ve been basically doing that all along, only I’ve been marketing myself and my blog instead of a product like a book. Fortunately the same principles apply. Thanks for sharing your tips on marketing.

  4. says

    I actually haven’t started with Twitter yet, so I’m finding this post particularly helpful. :) Thank you, and congratulations on your book being a Best-Seller.~

  5. says

    Joanna, these are such important tips- thank you!

    I love “the pie is big”- generosity is the rub isn’t it?

    I do think diversifying your tweets here and there is good- shows you’re human, connectable, fun.

    Love these!

      • says

        Dear Joanna, your tips are invaluable. I hadn’t even realized the importance of ANYTHING! until I came across your blog. Thank you very much for doing this!

        And I couldn’t agree more on “the pie is enough for everybody” concept, since almost all reviews for great books cry out for more of the kind, asking what other book would be as awesome.

        Keep it going!

  6. says

    Thanks for all the really helpful tips, Joanna. I am just starting out on the social networking journey and finding it to be a vast new universe. However, getting your important vital coordinates should make it a really rewarding journey.

  7. says

    I agree with every one of these points. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes under each category! It’s an ongoing learning process. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your success!

  8. says

    A good post with lots of useful information. I like #2 best myself – I get much more out of collaborating with people in my industry than I would if I saw all the other editors as rivals! In my line of work, there are always times when I have too much work and need to pass something along, and that’s on the understanding that the person I pass it to does the same. The same if we have something that suits someone else’s speciality. It’s even more the case with writers, as unless you write almost the same book, someone buying yours isn’t going to really stop them buying someone else’s too! (even if you write almost the same book, there are people who like reading the same book over and over again!)

  9. says

    These are so helpful Joanna! I am a new author and am really enjoying building my community. Social networking has been a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and connect with old ones. Thanks for encouraging us to be focused and personal. Makes sense to me!

  10. says

    Here’s an American waving back, Joanna! 😉 Thanks for these tips. I’m relieved that I don’t seem to be doing any of these, but I’ve just dipped my toe into the blogging waters, so this post is a great reminder.

  11. says

    You rock Joanna! What a thorough post. I especially love the part where you mention that it is NOT a competition, and that’s what I love the most about what we do. Not only is it fulfilling for us, but that fulfillment grows with each person we connect with and help via our businesses.

    You are 100% a twitter ninja and I love it! Great idea too on scheduling for multiple time zones–I didn’t even know that existed! xo

  12. says

    Thanks Joanna, I was wondering how to schedule tweets for different time zones, so I’ll check out those links you mentioned!

    I also think an important thing to remember is to provide value or content at least twice as often as you ‘promote’. This is one of the tips I gave in a recent blog post on 10 Marketing Tips for Authors: http://julietmadison.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/10-marketing-tips-for-authors-from-a-business-perspective/

    Always appreciate your posts, thanks :)

  13. Cellophane says

    May I add #8: Keep your politics and religion out of your marketing material. I don’t want to hear your prayer of the day or which politician makes you want to vomit. Remove that part of yourself from your writer persona. Create an alias to do your kvetching.

  14. says

    These are great tips, thank you. What I still don’t get is followers who tweet absurdities and expect you to follow them back (?!) I keep wondering what I wrote or “hashtagged” to get their attention :S
    Anyway, I can’t say enough bout #1 – Provide some value – otherwise, why are you there…right?

    Thanks Joanna.


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