Five Golden Rules for Social Media: A Cheat Sheet

Terrified of Twitter? Flummoxed by Facebook? Never fear, the Girls are here.

1. If you want to be a successful author, marketing is your job. Even if you have a publisher, you need to be your own cheerleader. Showing your face at conferences, bookstores, and conventions is valuable, but it also requires a lot of time and cash. Social media is free, and you can do it in your pajamas. Don’t be a technophobe: learn it, live it, love it!

2. Marketing is about community. Do not, we repeat, do not spend all of your time on social media talking about yourself. As in life, be empathetic, be interested, be awesome on social media and people will respond. Plus, mixing in commentary about and plugs for other people’s work every day will keep you from resorting to tweets about your sandwiches when you don’t have much to say. Connect online with book folks you meet in the real world, and vice versa.

3. Consistency is key. Putting your words out there on social sites may be uncomfortable to you as a writer who’s used to a drawn-out editorial process, but remember that it’s more important to keep your content consistent than to make it perfect. As long as it’s clean and you’re comfortable with the content (gut check: if your post was on a billboard, would you be okay with it?), then go ahead and press “Publish.” Don’t let the tumbleweeds roll in while you’re trying to make every tweet a masterpiece!

4. Check your karma. Treat your social community well if you want it to support you. That means not being a narcissist (as mentioned above), but it also means being mostly positive. Having opinions is great, but before you slam someone’s work, consider what you’re adding to the community by doing so. Unless you’re Michiko Kakutani, probably not much. And if you are criticized? Respond with grace, or don’t respond. Don’t get into a back-and-forth; no one wins when you feed the trolls.

5. Do what you like. You have lots of choices of social platforms, and any of them can help you build a following if used consistently and thoughtfully. If you only want to blog, try Tumblr for an added social-networking touch. Want short and quippy? Maybe Twitter is for you. Only want to talk about books and don’t want to see pictures of babies and baked goods? Goodreads is the answer. You get it. There’s a social-networking site for every taste, topic, and tangent imaginable. Pick your poison and commit to it.