Social media has revolutionized how we relate to each other as a culture and a society. I can share my thoughts, impressions, feelings, and silly photos with the entire world if I want to. Not that the entire world cares, but I can, which is unprecedented. I’m thirty, so I’m old enough to remember the dawn of internet usage as a home application (and I have the stacks of old AOL disks to prove it), and I remember joining Facebook sometime during college. Now I think I talk more to my friends on Facebook than I do face-to-face. Now, I’m not here to complain about social media’s presence in our lives, but I want to talk about how writers and professionals need to view social media.
Most of us have heard people say, “I’ll post what I want. It’s my wall.” They are correct on that score. Far be it from me to censor folks, but there are certain things we need to be aware of before we pound away at our keyboards.
Your writing is being judged.
As writers, we know the importance of language. If you don’t, then perhaps you should think about that a little longer. Our first customers when we release a new book are often our friends and family who wish to encourage us and see us succeed. It’s not a dirty thing to think or say, either. However, if your usual posts on social media more closely resemble a teenager’s texting habits then you are going to put them off. They might buy the book because they love you, but they won’t be expecting good writing.
This also goes for posts in groups. I don’t care if you are writing from your phone, if you are posting with impossibly lazy grammar or, worse, using netspeak, it closes the door. I lose interest in what you have to say because that shows that you are not willing to put effort into communication which makes me think your writing will reflect that attitude.
Most people won’t care about a few misplaced commas or typos when communicating on social media. I know I sure don’t. My blogs have them, too, because I don’t hire a copyeditor to go over all of them before posting, and I usually am writing out my thoughts rather than trying to polish articles. However, I make an effort to write using good grammar and punctuation because it suggests that I put my money where my mouth is.
Your content is being judged.
As much as your social media pages are your place to express yourself, you need to consider how you are using them. If you are using a fan page to communicate with potential readers and clients, then what you post on your personal page (assuming you use proper privacy settings) isn’t as much of a concern. However, if you use your personal page to communicate with clients, other authors, and readers, you will want to take into account how much of your personal life you want to reveal, what type of content you want to share with your network.
For example, I don’t post a great deal about politics or religion on my page because I don’t want to invite argument, and I don’t want to upset my friends and network. Now, that is a personal choice and not a business requirement. I don’t hide my personal views, but at the same time I try to not bring up topics on Facebook that I wouldn’t at a cocktail party for the most part. I also try to avoid cursing on my page because, again, it’s poor manners in a business setting.
Different rules apply to different types of writers, too. If you write erotica and people are shocked that you write about sex on your Facebook page then they aren’t your target audience anyway. Unless it’s your Aunt Thelma and her little dog. In which case you should apologize before going to Christmas dinner. However, the general rule of thumb is that you should really consider what you post rather than just “like” and “share” whatever amuses you.
Your attitude and personality are being judged.
Even if your posts are mild in content and well written, if all you post about is how miserable or angry you are, or how jealous, or how biased you are, that will affect other people’s perceptions of you. Again, this is your decision, and if you are using your personal Facebook account for personal communication then it’s less of a concern. However, the more a public figure you become, the more of an issue this is.
If you look at recent scandals involving celebrities how many of them involve social media posts? Of course, it’s most often referring to Twitter, but the rest of social media matters as well. The days of authors being islands unto themselves and locking themselves in cabins to only deliver manuscripts to their editors and otherwise being hermits is pretty much over. In today’s world we have to connect with our readers. That means being viewed as likable or at the very least interesting and eclectic. While this puts a strain on us and our communication, it’s an aspect we need to consider when we post to our network.
So where does that leave us?
Well, with any luck, we know how to be polite to people. While being “interesting” is a difficult shoe to fill, we can find ways to do that, too. We need to post what our readers and network would find useful and entertaining. We need to think before we hit “share”. If this sounds daunting it’s only because it is. Most writers, in my experience, are introverts who prefer the company of their pets, Netflix, and perhaps significant others. Interacting with people is tough, and we often see it as cutting into our writing or daydreaming time.
While I’m not going to give a full lesson here on social media marketing, I will say that a good percentage of it is being authentic without being rude, being funny without being crass, and being relatable without being whiny. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.