Social Media Best Practices and Etiquette Basics for Authors

"Share, Don't Sell" and More Helpful Tips

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Social media is arguably the most important book marketing vehicle. But even though authors have become "the number one assets to their own marketing campaigns," many authors haven't yet taken advantage of the various social media platforms or are misusing them. Here's some information to help.

Note to authors who are absolute social media beginners: Dip your toe in! If you haven't tried any social media, I'd suggest signing up for an account on one right away.

While I used Facebook personally, my own author social media gateway drug was Twitter – poking around, it felt informative and fun.  Feel free to "lurk" for a little bit, but truly, you'll understand it better once you start. If you have a smartphone, Instagram is an easy way to share some of your home life without much effort.

Bonus! Many social media platforms can pull "friends" or "followers" from each other, so once you sign up for one, don't be surprised if you get automatic followers on the next ones.

Social Media Best Practice Basics for Authors

On social media, "share" your news, don't "sell" your stuff. This is, unfortunately, an important principle that many authors (as well as others) ignore to their own detriment.

Social media is not the place for a hard sell; it is "social." Think of it as a Tupperware party you're hosting. Yes, you hope that someone at the end of the night buys plastic food storage items from you, but first, you're providing entertainment, information, games, camaraderie.

Who wants to go to a party where you know you are going to be given a sales pitch early and often? Nobody.

Instead, share lots of stuff, and occasionally post things like: "Hey, my new book just came out!" "Just won a contest – woohoo!" "Thanks for your shares! They really helped spread the word," "I'm doing a book signing at the Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca - would love to see you there!" and so on.

Don't forget to link. When you are announcing, link back to the information on your author website or retail site so that those who do want your info have a place to find all the details and buy if they want.

If you inform and entice your friends and followers they will buy if they're interested (or close enough to you to buy anyway); if not, their goodwill will mean much more in the long run than a few sales.

Especially avoid this Facebook faux pas: On your personal Facebook page, the hard sell is especially tacky and off-putting (and might lose you some friends). Keep this vital audience of your nearest and dearest supporters on your side by sharing your good news.

Engage with your book or topic-related social media communities. Yes, the internet can be a time suck (albeit a pleasant one) if you don't keep to a social media plan and a schedule — but don't be tempted to skip interaction with your communities. Regularly look at the feeds of key fans and important influencers in your genre or topic, see what they're up to, add your voice and share. But…

Know what you're sharing on social media. Many social media newbies rely on retweeting, reposting, and otherwise sharing other peoples' content versus their own.

This is a great way to start BUT don't share unless you have a full understanding of what you're putting out into the world. Make sure to click on any links and read the articles or other posts fully. Many beginners share links from friends or colleagues only to find later that they do not adhere to the beliefs being spread. Your authorial self is an important "brand" - stay true and authentic by knowing what you're sending out into the world.

Acknowledge, be thankful, reciprocate your fans and followers. Thank those who have commented and shared your posts; be generous and (with the above caveat in mind) share the content of those who have generously helped you. 

Ignore the social media trolls. These are the people who foment ugliness and dissent in the hopes of gaining page views (and maybe even for other, nastier reasons).

They tend to prey on the popular but they should be ignored. Engaging with trolls is a losing battle – don’t do it. And hopefully it goes without saying, but I'll write it because I've seen some unbelievably bad author behavior...

Don't be a troll yourself. In case you're tempted to badmouth or retaliate out of anger or for the promise of increased page views DON'T BE TEMPTED! There is such a thing as author karma. Don't screw up yours by spreading ugliness.

Now that you know the basics, learn next-level social media strategies for authors as well as content marketing for authors. And read more about utilizing social media networks for book marketing and about Twitter hashtags for authors.