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?

Many people want to be successful at social networking but they are afraid of wasting time and not being effective, as well as the concerns of privacy and just not knowing where to start. So I have launched a multi-media mini-course that will help with this.

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.

It’s just US$39.99. Click here to learn more about it .


This is a reprint from Joanna Penn‘s The Creative Penn. Images: iStockphoto.