There are many ways to shoot yourself in the foot as a writer. For example, using clichés, such as “shoot yourself in the foot.” The advent of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) has definitely added to the list. Here are what I consider five of the most common mistakes authors and would-be authors make on social media:
Mistake #1: Don’t “do” social media
I’m always surprised when an aspiring (or, sometimes, accomplished) writer says to me, “I don’t do social media.” Really? That’s a little like a politician saying, “I don’t give speeches or kiss babies.” It sort of goes with the territory, you know? Or like the aspiring writer who, in a book proposal email, wrote, “Just so you know, I will be deleting all my social media in a few days.” In the subject line. Not that social media is all a writer needs these days to become famous and successful; it’s not—not even close. And you don’t need to be on every social-media platform that’s out there. But having some social-media presence gives you—and your publisher, God willing—a starting point, at least, for making connections and building a following.
Mistake #2: Use social media primarily as a selling tool
A sure way to lose people’s attention (and respect) is to constantly promote your book or website or blog or pyramid scheme on your social-media feed. An occasional plug or announcement, sure. But, please, don’t endlessly ask me to buy your thing.
Mistake #3: Don’t offer value to your followers
Social media works best as a conversation. A back-and-forth. A “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” If you’re a writer, it’s not only for people who already know you. People who don’t yet know you will follow and read your social media if there’s something in it for them. Laughter, maybe. Tips. Inspiration (not “preaching”). Entertainment. Community. Education. So, identify what your social-media site will offer, and then give it away on a regular basis.
Mistake #4: Get political or abusive on social media
Have you ever discovered the social-media account of a celebrity or writer you like and then discovered that that person is, well, you know, a rabid partisan whose views are anathema to you? Or that he or she said rude or abusive things to or about someone? Did it make you more likely to follow that person? To buy his or her next book? To support his or her ministry? Probably not, right? So, keep in mind that the things you post can either shrink your following—your “network,” your community—or expand it. Agents, editors, and publishers generally prefer the latter.
Mistake #5: Don’t curate your social media
Social media sites need to be “curated.” It’s not just the things you post that can turn people away and even cause division, dilute your message, and dishonor the Gospel of Jesus Christ—it’s also the posts and tags and comments people add to your site. It’s not rude to delete a questionable or offensive comment; and it’s a privilege, not a right, for someone else to tag you or post something to your page. If their contribution isn’t in line with your values or priorities, delete it, without apology or regret.
These are only five common mistakes I see all the time on writers’ social media. I’m sure you can think of others. So now’s your chance. Mention other writer’s social-media mistakes (or your own) in the comments.