This Is How You're Doing Social Media Wrong... And How to Do It Right

Social isn't "real life," but the humans who are typing things on their keyboards sure are. The same rules apply online as do to face-to-face communications: be polite (say please and thank you), don't be a bully, use your inside voice.
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When it comes to marketing our work (authors, artists, musicians) on social media, here is what's interesting: When you suggest to an author, who is doing nothing but spamming (repeatedly sharing the same link to hundreds or thousands) their book links on Twitter, Facebook, etc., to unsuspecting and frankly, uninterested people, that maybe, just maybe, they might want to interact, connect, share, promote others instead or in addition to blasting their own stuff and they YELL AT YOU IN SHOUTY CAPS when you dare suggest that what they're doing is...

Well, what exactly?
  • Wrong? Maybe. Twitter does have spam guidelines, which these folks are clearly violating (and probably don't know or care about),
  • Ineffective? Depends on what parameters you define (more below),
  • Annoying? Clearly. No question,
  • Lazy? Yes.

Let's deconstruct.

Is It Wrong?

Social media is about building relationships -- it's not radio (one-way broadcasting). Twitter does have rules, and if you look at the Help section on what constitutes spam, it's about a page long. What stands out for authors is this:

  • If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates, you are spamming.
  • If you send large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions, you are spamming.

What to do? Familiarize yourself with the guidelines of each social media channel before you jump in. Twitter has rules (check their wonderful Help Section for answers to practically any question), and if you are doing nothing but spamming your links, you deserve to be suspended.


Not necessarily. According to social media scientist Dan Zarrella:

  • Tweets that include links are 86 percent more likely to be retweeted
  • "Like photos, links appeal to Twitter users. Links, however, are more likely to increase your number of retweets than engagement rate. This is helpful to keep in mind, as you might want to broaden your reach (get more retweets) rather than engage your current followers (increase engagement with photos)." (Fast Company, December 2013)

So in plain English, links can be effective if you're growing and gaining new followers. If you're blasting your same following with the same message, you're missing out on an opportunity to gain interest because they will tune you out.

What to do instead: Try mixing it up with pictures, news articles, pins (via Pinterest), humor... in other words, add "other"-based content. Learn the lingo (hashtags are now used across all social media and get more retweets and shares).

Don't be afraid of hashtags. They don't bite. Hashtags seem to confuse people, but the concept is pretty basic: "People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search."

And the main reason to use hashtags?

"Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement. Keep hashtags to a minimum. 1 or 2 will get you 21% more engagement than if you add 3 or more. This could be because hashtags often connect a tweet to a particular topic or Twitter chat that others are following or interested in. Keep appropriate hashtags in mind when posting, especially if engagement is something you're looking to improve." (FastCompany).

Remember, you get what you give in social media.


I've been on Twitter since 2009, Facebook around the same time. Everyone is a "newbie" at some point. There is a culture, if you will, to every social media channel, so it's interesting to me how some folks jump right in, thinking that because it's free and billions use it, the best course of action is to blast, spam, and even harangue people to share or buy their stuff.

Think again.

Social isn't "real life," but the humans who are typing things on their keyboards sure are. The same rules apply online as do to face-to-face communications: be polite (say please and thank you), don't be a bully, use your inside voice.

So what to do instead? Twitter and the rest give you space for a bio, a link to a website (or two), a picture (aka avatar), a header, a background (go to Settings) -- all of which can and should be used to market and brand your work. Take advantage -- create a custom header or background (even with the new layout changes on Twitter, the background still shows on all pages except your profile, which is weird, but whatever).

Which brings us to...

Are You Just Lazy?

So many people complain to me daily that their following isn't growing, but when I dig a bit deeper, they tell me that they're not actively following people.

It's not rocket science: To grow, you have to follow others! (I recommend using free Manage Flitter -- it takes just minutes). Follow using targeted keywords - who is your demographic? What topics do you write about? What topics are others interested in?

What to do? Think like a business when it comes to growing your following. (Tip: get around the Twitter following ratios -- learn how to manage your following). Also, download a free version of Hootsuite (that's my preferred social media management app to schedule in some things, live interact -- it's a great help to help you market and free up your time to write). Tweetdeck and Buffer are also very useful (and also have free options).

Social media doesn't give a hoot who you are or what you're hawking, because you're just another one of the millions doing so. You must stand out by following others, sharing interesting content, and being authentic.

Build a following by targeting the content you are sharing to your readers -- how can you help them? What do they want? What are they reading? (I suggest using free Pluggio to find targeted, updated articles on your topics of interest).

Find out -- ask questions, read what others share, and remember that it's perfectly fine to occasionally share your own book or blog links -- as a part of a bigger plan to share great content overall.

Do it right.

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