Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Discussion on Social Media

For my job that pays the bills - and buys my books - I've been building an online course about using social media in a marketing plan. And as I was researching and working on the course, I couldn't help but think how all of this information really applies to anyone using social media. And since blogging IS social media, and social media has also become a big part of the book and publishing world, I thought it might be a fun post to talk about effective uses of social media. I hope you'll chime in and share your thoughts in the comments as well.

One of the resources that I consulted was a book called SIX PIXELS OF SEPARATION. It's a fascinating book if you're ever in the need of such a resource. The author, Mitch Joel, talks about three elements necessary to build a 3D Personal Brand:

  • Give Abundantly
  • Help Others
  • Build Relationships

The first two essentially deal with this idea: "stop worrying about what others can do for you and think about what you can do for others." Excellent piece of advice. As a regular user of social media I can immediately tell those people who are more concerned about what I can do for them than vice versa. Don't get me wrong, I love to help people, but when you feel like they EXPECT you to help them and that's all they're interested in, the desire to help just kind of fizzles away.

But the last point is the one I'd like to talk about in this post. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Joel also clarifies this even further and says "build REAL relationships." So, what's essential in building a REAL relationship? For me "trust" comes into play, and that is a word that pops up repeatedly where ever you look for information on effective social media plans. What are ways that people have built trust with you in social media? For me there's a consistency factor. While I don't expect everyone to be on Twitter or Facebook or where ever every hour of every day, I also don't want to only see them when they want something from me: buy my book, vote for me, watch my show, read my rave review, etc. If you want to use social media, build in a regular time in your schedule to use it, to connect with people and have fun. If you make your social media all about business, people are going to start ignoring you, hiding you, unfollowing, etc.

Be authentic. If you don't like people then social media is probably not what you should focus on. Otherwise, be yourself. Let others get to know you; that's why they're there. It's interesting to know that one person is a new father, one's a new pet owner, one's a huge college sports fan, you get the idea. Isn't that what you do with your friends in person? And if it isn't YOU on the other end of your social media account, don't try to pass it off like it is. Because it won't take long for people to figure out it isn't and then you've just destroyed that trust factor. If your followers/friends were interested in knowing your assistant/PR rep/spouse/whoever, they would follow that person and not you. If the account says something like "John Doe's Books" or "John Doe's Fan Club" or something like that then users aren't expecting that to actually be John Doe. But if your account says "John Doe" and it's actually "Joe Schmo" posting to it, that's deceptive.

Reciprocate! I hear this comment probably more than any other: "I tried to engage [insert name here] in a conversation, but they wouldn't reply to me." If someone is directing a question to you in person and you don't respond, what kind of reaction do you get? That's essentially the reaction you're going to get on social media, too. It comes across as an elitist attitude. "I'm too important to respond to you." And it ties back into the first two points that Joel made, you come across as being concerned about what others can do for you more than what you can do for them. If you're not willing to interact, then social media may hurt you more than help you. People notice that. If they asked a question, they did so for a reason. Don't make the mistake of thinking it isn't important to them.

I thoroughly enjoy social media; it has enabled me to get to know a wide array of people: authors, musicians, bloggers, crime fiction fans, publishers, etc. I can talk to family and friends. And I've made many new friends through social media. I've discovered people I want to support through social media and I've discovered people I will never support again through social media. Whenever someone asks me about social media, my standard advice is "be yourself and have fun." If you take it too seriously, it's a chore and it shows.

O.k., so that's my two cents about social media. Now your turn. What irritates you and makes you want to unfollow/unfriend someone? Who do you know that does an outstanding job on social media and why? What's your advice to people using it? Time to sound off!


Alan August 31, 2010 at 6:38 AM  

My advice is to focus on people instead of numbers. If you keep firmly in mind that social networks are a way to interact with other real people and keep your thoughts on interacting and building relationships with them, you can get a lot out of social networks.

Too many people, imho, focus on trying to grow their list of followers and contacts without thinking much about whether they like or have any interest in the folks they are adding to their lists. Relationship marketing can be very effective, actually. But never forget that first you have to create a relationship with someone.

Beth F August 31, 2010 at 7:22 AM  

There is a lot of good information here. But I think the principal message is that social media is like any other type of interaction and experience: you get out of it what you put into it and you need to be nice to others.

Relationships come first, readership and followers come second.

Jen Forbus August 31, 2010 at 7:50 AM  

YES! I couldn't agree with you both more. It's the quality of the relationships, not the quantity. And relationships take time and effort. Put the relationship first! Thanks Alan and Candace!

Steve Weddle August 31, 2010 at 8:41 AM  

I find the idea of whether to "follow back" on Twitter interesting.

Someone said to me the other day -- "I thought [a writer] was cool, but he's a dick."

I asked why.

"Because he won't follow me back."

Seems silly on the face of it, but I absolutely understand. You follow along when the writer links to a blog post about his book signing. He's having a book give-away, so you retweet it. You care about the author's work and want to help, want to be active in promoting.

You've made an investment in that author, spending time and effort spreading the word, as it were.

In turn, the author doesn't follow you back. Of course, authors are often as busy as "real" people, so maybe the writer forgot. Maybe he only follows people he knows in person. Or maybe it's something simpler than that. Maybe he doesn't follow what you say because he doesn't really care that much about what you say.

My take on it is that I try to follow everyone who isn't spam or unattractive pr0n. If I don't follow back a real person, it's probably because I forgot or haven't gotten around to it. Engaging with folks -- even if it's just once or twice for some people -- is really part of the fun and coolness of Twitter.

@ellenfbrown August 31, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

At a seminar on social media last week hosted by the James River Writers, one of the speakers recommended the following approach to social media: "Give. Give. Give. Ask. Appreciate."

Unknown August 31, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

I think the major problem with a lot of folks on the social media sites is that they look at what they're doing as work as opposed to just having fun. FB and Twitter, this is how I blow off steam, not how I attract an audience. Sure, building an audience is one of the residuals of social media, but it's not the entire purpose of it. I like 'meeting' and interacting with people and I've actually made some real friends because of it

Jen Forbus August 31, 2010 at 10:16 AM  

Ellen, that sounds like good advice!

Keith, me too. I've made quite a few good friends and like you said, I've done so by just having fun with it.

Dana Kaye August 31, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

Great post, Jen! You do have a very good handle on social media (which is why you have so many followers!)

I always tell people the best friends/followers/subscribers are the ones that come to you because they are interested in what you have to say, not the ones you get by trolling the internet.

Hilary Davidson August 31, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
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Hilary Davidson August 31, 2010 at 11:40 AM  

Jen, thanks for this amazing post! I completely agree with you that social media is all about relationships, and anyone who ignores that and uses Facebook/Twitter/other media as a tool for nonstop self-promotion is missing the point.

One funny aside: I've met several of my Twitter friends in real life now, and they are just as funny and charming and wonderful as I expected to be. When people are authentic on social media, it shines through.

Naomi Johnson August 31, 2010 at 11:44 AM  

I can bring a cliche into any topic, and in this case, "if you want a friend, then be a friend" applies.

Janet Rudolph August 31, 2010 at 11:55 AM  

Great post! It's all about engagement...on so many levels. Thanks.

Jeff Abbott August 31, 2010 at 12:13 PM  

I never think anyone is a jerk because they don't follow me back. Not everyone can deal with hundreds/thousands to follow. I don't auto-follow everyone (I would never get through my Twitter feed if I did) but I am far more likely to follow someone who engages me after that follow.

Lauren August 31, 2010 at 12:26 PM  

So many thoughts on this topic (as you well know, JF), so I'll try to keep it semi-short. First, with the good. Jen, you, Naomi, Hilary and others have all said this here already, but I'll echo the relationship point from a different perspective - the 'nobody' or 'fan.' And I don't use those terms derogatorily at all. But I'm not a 'writer' though I write for a living. I have nothing to sell, and no power in the industry other than the word I spread and recommendations I make.

That being said, Twitter has been really interesting for me. It's often very clear who is interested in establishing relationships based on 'what can you do for me' and others are just interested in establishing relationships. Jen, I have nothing to offer you other than me, and yet you welcomed me to Twitter with (very) reckless abandon and you have become a great friend in the process. Twitter win. Twitter has been a 'win' for me in many respects, including Hilary, Naomi, PCN and many others. I have met and conversed with totally fascinating and fun people like Steve, Julie Summerell, etc..., that I would not have had a chance to meet otherwise. Again, Twitter win.

Where else could I actually have a 'conversation' with Allan Guthrie?

People fascinate me, thus Twitter fascinates me. Educates me, entertains me, heartens me, disheartens me.

The 'bad' side can't compare. Steve's "he's a dick" story rings true to me as I have had similar experiences. An author who is very active on Twitter and presents him/herself as someone who 'engages' with the public is a case in point. I don't care if someone follows me or not. I find that if you send an @ query to someone, they see it and generally respond.

This author goes so far as to ask his/her 'audience' questions. At times, I have responded. At times, I have asked him/her a specific question about something I was interested in. Response? Radio silence. Result? I don't think the author is a 'dick,' just a phoney. If you're going to try and set yourself apart as someone who engages, author or not, then engage, and not just with those who have something to offer.

I still follow the author, but don't share my thoughts any longer. Why bother? I have limited time to spend on Twitter, I'd rather spend it (1) engaging those with whom I've established relationships and (2) making new contacts. Forget the bad, go for the win.

Jen Forbus August 31, 2010 at 1:55 PM  

Great comments everyone and good advice all around.

Jeff, I don't auto-follow either. I usually take a quick glance at what the person is Tweeting. If they're engaging with others and doing more than spamming Twitter I'll likely follow, but I've also ended up following many folks who simply engaged with me.

Lo, if reckless abandon gets me friends like you, I'm prepared to have a rip-roaring time on Twitter!

Thanks everyone! Enjoying this convo. Hope it inspires some others to do a check every now and again to make sure they're being authentic...being true and having fun.

Beth Groundwater August 31, 2010 at 2:12 PM  

Hi Jen,
Great post! YOU are one of the people who come to mind when I think about someone who does an outstanding job on social media. I think a common mistake that people make when starting out with social media is to think they have to do it all--a solo blog, a group blog, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and on and on. They spread themselves too thin and don't have time to establish meaningful relationships on any one media.

That's why I think it's important to choose just a few places where you're going to hang out on-line and to be active in those places. I focus on my blog and Inkspot and Goodreads and Facebook and a few yahoogroups. Then, when I'm writing the rough draft of a manuscript, I pull back even on those. "Real life", real family & friends--and real book deadlines--have to come first!

Pop Culture Nerd August 31, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

Oh, great topic, Jen! And great comments from everyone else, too.

Steve's "dick" story is interesting because I know writers who absolutely refuse to use Twitter because of that very thing: fear of alienating fans just because they can't follow everyone back. I wish fans wouldn't resent authors for that. There are thousands of us and only one of them. J.K. Rowling doesn't follow me back but I don't hold it against her.

Pop Culture Nerd August 31, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

Wanted to add that not following back differs from ignoring someone altogether if they tweet at you. I don't follow all my followers but if someone takes time to ask me a question, I always try to reply.

Lauren August 31, 2010 at 4:25 PM  

Elyse - Totally get and agree with the distinction. Heck, even I don't follow everyone who follows me. Firstly because they are obviously mentally challenged and secondly because I just don't have the time to read everything that many people post. I often follow and unfollow quite a bit depending on how much time I have. So I don't hold it against anyone who doesn't follow back.

It's the ignoring of the thoughtful @ tweet that gets me. And I think they can be missed on occasion, so would even say it has to be multiple ignorings before I start to think "this person isn't here to truly engage." Or, "Hell, I'm as boring as I think I am!"

So I would say to those hesitant authors - come on board and just check your "@" list every once in a while and respond to folks. It really doesn't take much effort and what you can gain is tremendous.

There are people on twitter whose work isn't really up my alley, but I promote them all the same because (1) their work is good, just not my cuppa; (2) they are good people and (3) my followers, or at least some of, have different tastes than I.

Damn, here I go taking up space again. Can you tell I'm in the middle of reviewing 16 boxes of litigation documentation and starving for just about any human interaction? :)

Pop Culture Nerd August 31, 2010 at 4:53 PM  

Hi Lauren,

I like your bandwidth-hogging comments! Let's see if I can compete.

I've made the same suggestion as you to hesitant authors but they think that's not good enough for two reasons:

1) Some people (e.g. the person Steve mentioned) feel they MUST be followed back. Unfortunately, I think that's true--about some people's feelings, not that authors must follow all their fans.

2) If on any given day, 100 people tweet at them, they'll have to take time to respond to all those, which takes them away from writing their books. If they only respond to some, others will feel snubbed and think they're a dick.

So these authors stay off Twitter, which I understand but think it's too bad.

Unknown August 31, 2010 at 5:01 PM  

I couldn't agree with you more. Social media should be fun. If you have stopped having fun with social media, then stop using it. That's about it.

Lauren August 31, 2010 at 5:39 PM  

Totally get your points, PCN. Which is too bad. I wonder if the "if you don't follow me back you're a dick" people are the majority or minority. I would hope minority, but people have surprised me more on lesser issues.

Ok, I'm getting out with one paragraph, going to type in "buterput" and submit.

Jc August 31, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

I find the most difficult thing is not how to interact with your followers once you have them, but to gain followers in the first place.

One can be tweeting to an empty room for a while before someone pays attention to them.

Jeff Abbott September 1, 2010 at 10:38 AM  

I think it's useful to set aside a specific time during the day to handle your social media duties. Otherwise Twitter/FB can become a black hole of suck, esp. if something you post starts to get traction/generate commentary.

I gave up Twitter and FB for Lent this year and I got a lot of time back. My follower counts kind of stalled out, though. One agent there said 40% of his authors were late with their manuscripts this year, and he blamed Twitter. He was kidding, but only partly.

Lesa September 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM  

Late, as usual, Jen, with readin your post, but this time I had a reason! I agree with your comments about social media. It has to be fun. I've met wonderful friends through my blog and Twitter. I comment on DorothyL, and I'm on a librarians' listserv, but my emphasis is on my blog and Twitter. I read other blogs, and try to comment when I have something worthwhile to say.

And, meeting up with other readers and fans of crime fiction through social media has led to wonderful meetings in person. I finally met you! I met Kay Stewart when she came to the Poisoned Pen. And, I wouldn't have had so many of the great experiences I've had in the last year if it hadn't been for social media.

And, on a sobering note, I can't tell you how many wonderful "friends" of my husband I "met" when he died. Notes poured in from all over the world because Jim was active on a number of boards.

It's a wonderful tool to gain friends and share common interests, if you're not selfish as to its use.

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