Okay, we all talk about how to make social media work for you. But lately I’ve noticed some things that don’t work at all. Some of which have been tied to the whole political climate nowadays. Others, though, have been around for a long time, and I’ve just kind of hit the wall with them. But all of them have been really effective tools—if the goal is to ensure people quit those FB pages, blogs, or other social media spots.
Make it about selling your books. Okay, yes, we all need to promote our books. That’s part of being a published author. And we want to celebrate when something fun happens in our career. That’s not a problem at all—so long as there’s a balance. But when most of a person’s interactions on social media are along the lines of “Buy my book,” “Come see me at this signing,” “I just won another award,” “Here’s another interview with me,” and on and on…meh. Who needs it? Sure, I want to know about my fav authors’ special events and sales, but is that all I want to know? Hardly. I want to know what they think and feel, what they’re doing, what matters to them. I’d love to see a few pix of their grandkids (or, to be honest, of their pets). Things that give me the sense that I know them beyond the public persona. If all I’m getting from your social media is commercials and your accolades? No thanks.
Use your audience. This takes it a step beyond the issue above, to treating your social media community like they are part of your marketing team. If the lion’s share of a person’s social media content is along the lines of “Share my post/blog/tweet,” “Post a review,” “Tell everyone about my sale,” “Spread the word,” and so on, count me out. I’ll spend my time elsewhere. Someplace where I don’t feel used.
Overshare. Yes, I want to know about my favorite authors. To an extent. But folks, too much of a good thing can be…icky. How do you know when you’ve gone too far? Here are a few things to consider. Think twice about posting something if:
- You’re unsure about it. Why take the chance?
- You wouldn’t say it in public, among folks who know you, like in church or with your parents or your sweet old Sunday school teacher.
- You’re saying it just for shock value. You may well get a lot more than you bargained for.
- You’re saying it because you’re ticked off. Anger is seldom conducive to good judgment. If you feel you absolutely HAVE to say it, write it out first in a letter. Print it out, let it sit for a few days, then read it over. And ask yourself, “Do I want to say this for me, or am I saying it to help others?”
- There’s anyone who might be shamed or embarrassed by what you want to share.
- It’s not yours to share, and you haven’t asked permission first. I did this once with someone I love. I was concerned, so I posted a request for prayer, which would have been fine if I’d avoided details. But I didn’t. Nor did I ask for permission. My intent was good; my execution was rotten. I didn’t have the right to post about the situation, and the fact that I did so ended up making a difficult situation even more difficult for the person I cared about. I learned a valuable lesson. Just because you care about someone, that doesn’t give you the right to post about them or their lives on social media.
Let Your Uncensored Anger Fly. Sure, we all have our…um…issues. And triggers. We have things that that can raise our blood pressure in a nanosecond. But I tell you what: I’m hard pressed to imagine where there are more careless, hurtful, even vitriolic words thrown at people than on social media. It’s as though the second folks sit at a keyboard, all restraint dissolves. Fingers fly and toxic words follow suit. If you’re ever tempted to join in the fray, remember: once it’s online, it’s not going away. Even if you delete something, that doesn’t mean it’s gone.
The momentary satisfaction of saying something mean or snide or vitriolic—of putting some simpleton in his or her place–is never worth the hurt or negative impact your words may have. On your career, sure. But far more important, on someone God loves. I don’t care if it’s about politics, faith, national security, lifestyles…the topic doesn’t matter. We who write to share God’s truth should never abuse the gift He’s given us of using words with skill and precision. The moment we use words out of anger, we make what God has given us into a weapon. And we darned well better not do that unless He makes it abundantly clear we’re supposed to do so.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Don’t be careless with your words. Use common sense. And let these words from James 3 be your guide in what you do and don’t say on social media:
“…the tongue is … a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals…but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! … If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. …the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
I so, so appreciate this, Karen. You have expressed it so well. Thank you for reminding us not to toot our own horns, not to widen the divide between author and reader with anything that is not uplifting. I also find shared ministry moments too much. Is it just me? I doubt it. Something should be left quietly with God. I hope I’m learning that better than I used to.
Laura Conner Kestner
Wow, what a great post! Especially loved the whole section on not oversharing – even when our intentions are good. And this: “You wouldn’t say it in public, among folks who know you, like in church or with your parents or your sweet old Sunday school teacher.” Pure gold. Thank you, Karen!
Karen, you just reminded me of the old schoolyard reply to taunts. “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces back and sticks on you.” I promise I will never post that, in a battle of wits, my opponent is unarmed (at least not with any names attached).
Actually, before posting any comment, we need to THINK. By that I mean ask ourselves whether what we are about to launch into cyberspace is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.
Wendy L Macdonald
Excellent advice, Karen. I’m less likely to purchase an author’s book if I feel pressured into it. But I’ve bought books because I like their voice; I like how they treat visitors to their site; and I like the genre they write in. When writers motivate me to walk closer to God and be a better person, that also makes me want to spend more time with them–reading their books is a great way to do that. 🙂
When I blog on a sensitive subject, I ask permission and get feedback from others before posting it. I’ve even made a note in an article that it was shared with permission so that both the reader and I feel more comfortable. I hate that yucky feeling I get when I’ve said something stupid or unkind. We need to remember that whatever we post on the internet is available for anyone to see. That’s humbling, that’s scary.
Blessings ~ Wendy
One thing to consider is that you’re not only representing yourself; as an author on social media what you say can reflect on your agent and publisher.
Wendy L Macdonald
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Thank you for that wise advice, Karen. Since I hope to launch my website and blog very soon, your words were very timely. I appreciate you!
Good words! As my Gramma would say …. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. Good advice for all.
I’ve seen quite a few “How to Improve Your Social Media Presence” articles pop up lately, but this is the first one I’ve read clean through. Such a fresh approach, honest, and informative.
What I’d love to see next? “An Introvert’s Guide to Stepping Out in Social Media.”
Thank you, Karen for your words of wisdom. I’ve seen how words can hurt others or how words can be taken out of context and used in a spiteful way. This is a great reminder to think before we write. Blessings to you and your family.
Karen, I really like the section about letting your uncensored anger fly. I am often tempted to do this (particularly after reading someone else’s uncensored rant on Facebook). Instead, I go for a workout. While I’m exercising, I mentally write and post my rant. Then I mentally delete it. By the time my workout is finished, the urgency of what I felt like ranting about has dissipated, and I never published the angry update and then regretted it.
Laura, I so agree with you! The other day I read another person’s opinion on something on Facebook, and anger flashed in me. I took a few steps back (not only mentally but physically), and I realized that my anger came because I was offended by their comment.
Although I didn’t exercise (that would have been a good way to cool off), I talked it out with my sister later in the day. It relieved the pressure and frustration in a safe environment.
I’m going to definitely learn from your example, though! Exercise!
Hmm. So the way to maintain a good relationship in person applies to social media too. That should be easy enough.
Patricia Annalee Kirk
Politics used to (well, still does) stress me out. So I thank God every time I DON’T leave a comment. Besides all your good reasons, I don’t have to hate myself later.
Thanks, Karen. It seems like social media is on steroids! It’s important to consider all this before we get caught up in it. Usually, I am super careful and sparse with what I post, but I’m freshly convicted about a tweet I wrote a few weeks ago out of anger at the political battle using tragedy as a platform. I should have thought longer about it before I posted, and yes, I regret it. I’m so glad that our sin is erased by Jesus even if we can’t undo a social media mistake!
Wish we could put these bullet points in flashing lights for all media users to see! I stay away from controversial issues and sometimes, even if I agree, I tend to not hit the “like” button. Some things are just not worth the emotional yo-yo!