The Social Media Conversation

social13Earlier in the week, a blog about self promotion for writers made the rounds. It was titled “Please Shut Up: Why Self Promotion By an Author Doesn’t Work”. I’ll give you all a minute to read it. Go ahead, click over.

Are you back? OK, here’s my issue with the post.

Social media isn’t marketing. Sure, it can be used for marketing. But social media is a tool of engagement. Conversation. Connection.

Yes, Facebook tries to monetize. No, using Instagram may not lead to direct book sales. I know–Klout scores on Twitter don’t translate to your place on bestseller lists, would that they did. Goodreads is a place for readers, not necessarily for authors. Pinterest is a blast, but does anyone buy anything from it? You can use all of these tools, and they may not sell a book.

Frustrating isn’t it?

Or is it? Facebook is the grandfather of all of this, and it just turned ten years old. Ten. We are still at the beginning of all of this technology, and figuring out what it can do. And how best to use it. I am an early adopter, and have tried out most platforms. Some of them I like, others I don’t. But you’ll never hear me say “I don’t see the point of it.”

The point is to connect with like minded people. What connects you could be a friend, an interest, a passion, a complaint, a hobby, an election, a sports team, or an author. Different platforms foster those connections in different ways, but that’s the point.

Of course, you can use social media for marketing. But not for marketing alone. Think of it like a big cocktail party. You are talking to one person, and all they are doing is talking at you, about what they want to talk about. How fast do you run across the room? How about the person who asks about you, who has a few shared interests, who is pleasant to be around, and who you feel connected to?

Some of my thoughts on using social media well:

  • Be kind as your default. Always.
  • 90% of your use shouldn’t be about you at all. It should be sharing articles, supporting friends, having conversations, connecting. The other 10% can be a soft sell. But even that should be conversational.
  • Never beg for sales, for likes, for shares.
  • Don’t push. (The point that I agreed with in that blog post.)
  • If you don’t like a platform, don’t use it. There are a lot of choices out there, so there’s room for everyone.
  • Remember, it isn’t all about you. Ever.

Social media is in its infancy. I think it’s wonderful, and helps keep me connected to a lot of people in my life. Some of them will buy my book, but most of them won’t.

And that’s fine.

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About J.A. Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes

J.A. (Julie) Hennrikus writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series under the name Julianne Holmes. JUST KILLING TIME, the first in the series, was published in Oct 2015 and was nominated for a BEST FIRST NOVEL Agatha award. CLOCK AND DAGGER was released in August 2016. CHIME AND PUNISHMENT will be released in August 2017. Julie's Theater Cop series will debut in the fall of 2017. A CHRISTMAS PERIL is the first in this series about an ex-cop who runs a theater company. wears two hats. Her short stories have been published by Level Best Books: “Tag, You’re Dead” in THIN ICE, “Her Wish” in DEAD CALM, and “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” in BLOOD MOON. Julie is an arts administrator and arts advocate. She tweets her writing life as @JHAuthors, and her other life as @JulieHennrikus. She is an avid theater goer and a member of Red Sox nation. Her website is jahennrikus.com, and she blogs with WickedCozyAuthors.com and KillerCharacters.com.

46 thoughts on “The Social Media Conversation

  1. Thank you for these excellent reminders, Julie. Wise words, as always! I’m nominally on Instagram recently – but since I don’t like using my phone for social media, I can tell I’m not going far on that platform. But will hop over to twitter and facebook and push this post out!

  2. It’s not about me?!? I found that article interesting and helpful, as is this piece, Julie. I think people can tell when someone is being genuine, even across the monitor.

    Two anecdotes: This week on FB, a writer acquaintance declared that she is going to stop following anyone on her FB feed who rants about politics because she hates politics. Fine, that’s her choice. I like politics and I love ranting, but not everyone does. But then this person went on to say she doesn’t want to unFriend anyone because she *needs* them to buy her books. And I thought, uh oh. You don’t want to hear people’s opinions, but you want them to buy your books? And you wrote this for the world to see? Faux pas. My gut response was, I’m going to stop following her you first.

    Second, on a list serve, I occasionally see people declare how much they despise social media but they “have to” do it to market their books. A list serve is a private place, so maybe it’s okay to be honest there. But five minutes later, when I see a post by this person, I can’t get out of my head that he or she doesn’t want to be here and their friendliness is not sincere. So my desire to interact with that person is diminished and, to be honest, so is my desire to purchase their books.

    Sorry to be so long, but the post has had me thinking for two days. People don’t like being used, and that’s how it feels if I discover you are in a place you don’t want to be, just to get me to buy your book.

    Thanks for letting me get this off my chest, Julie and Wickeds.

      • Ramona, the thoughts you just touched on are ones I was thinking of when I posted my comment that I thought the blog article, “Please Shut Up: Why Self Promotion By an Author Doesn’t Work” was brilliant.

        I was surprised when there appeared to be some negative response to my reaction by some of my favorite authors who don’t do that. I thought it was obvious that if I am a regular and enthusiastic commenter on a blog my writer friends and authors would know that I was there, on their blog, because they don’t blog in the offensive way described in “Please Shut Up… .”

        I am a regular/semi-regular commenter on very few blogs. Wicked Cozy Writers is one. Another is yours—including your riveting Facebook posts, Ramona, and Lesa Holstine’s, and Jungle Red Writers. A comment I made on Jungle Reds expressed my feelings of what all of you mean to me, so I will repeat it here. Insert your name or blog title as needed, because if you are still with me here, this is meant for you:

        [On Jungle Red Writers, Hank asked the question if Facebook matters. I interpreted that as an extended question to include other social media like blogs that prompted reader response and connection.]

        “Reine said…

        Facebook made me do it.

        And Ramona. But Ramona keeps me honest with sprinting. So she will always have a pass. Then again, she makes me talk too much. Yes it is her fault. Blame Ramona.

        Facebook made me happy again. Even when it’s too hard to do some days. Even when I’m thoughtless. Even when people unfriend me. Or worse. Facebook is there with someone else who gets me.

        Jungle Red Writers caught me when I dropped down a big hole, and they did that with Facebook prompts to their blog. This is a really bad time, but I can see you from over here on Facebook.

        I love you.

        MARCH 16, 2015 AT 9:29 AM”

    • Ramona, the thoughts you just touched on are ones I was thinking of when I posted my comment that I thought the blog article, “Please Shut Up: Why Self Promotion By an Author Doesn’t Work” was brilliant.

      I was surprised when there appeared to be some negative response to my reaction by some of my favorite authors who don’t do that. I thought it was obvious that if I am a regular and enthusiastic commenter on a blog my writer friends and authors would know that I was there, on their blog, because they don’t blog in the offensive way described in “Please Shut Up… .”

      I am a regular/semi-regular commenter on very few blogs. Wicked Cozy Writers is one. Another is yours—including your riveting Facebook posts, Ramona, and Lesa Holstine’s, and Jungle Red Writers. A comment I made on Jungle Reds expressed my feelings of what all of you mean to me, so I will repeat it here. Insert your name or blog title as needed, because if you are still with me here, this is meant for you:

      [On Jungle Red Writers, Hank asked the question if Facebook matters. I interpreted that as an extended question to include other social media like blogs that prompted reader response and connection.]

      “Reine said…

      Facebook made me do it.

      And Ramona. But Ramona keeps me honest with sprinting. So she will always have a pass. Then again, she makes me talk too much. Yes it is her fault. Blame Ramona.

      Facebook made me happy again. Even when it’s too hard to do some days. Even when I’m thoughtless. Even when people unfriend me. Or worse. Facebook is there with someone else who gets me.

      Jungle Red Writers caught me when I dropped down a big hole, and they did that with Facebook prompts to their blog. This is a really bad time, but I can see you from over here on Facebook.

      I love you.

      MARCH 16, 2015 AT 9:29 AM”

      • Reine,

        The Wickeds would not have as good a time without you. This whole thing is very touchy for folks, isn’t it? None of us want to overstep. But, as you said, the people who overstep aren’t usually the people who worry about it.

        Julie

  3. Brilliant, Julie — you have such great perspective! I think the other article feeds into all my anxiety about marketing my book and over marketing my book. I like to use FB to post the photos that I love to take and to tell funny stories. Best of all I’ve found old friends and made knew friends some of whom I’ve never met face to face.

    • Sherry, I think you’re posts are fun and always engaging whatever the topic. I’m always happy to see your comments and posts.

      And I believe what Julie says below. Paying it forward does matter, all the more so for you, and others like you, who are sincere. It’s fairly easy to tell when someone is just putting their time in. So when you speak heart to heart, people love that. ❤

  4. It’s impossible to ignore social media these days, especially since half of our network news is being scooped by someone with a cellphone. But as a marketing tool for books? Not so much. You’re right: make friends, let people get to know you. But skip the “buy, buy, buy” part (well, maybe once when the book comes out). And Sherry’s right too–share what you think is funny or interesting.

  5. I’ve made so many friends on social media that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Writing is such an isolated occupation and I love being able to “talk” to people without even leaving my office. Frankly, I don’t care if they don’t buy my book when it comes out (well, maybe I care a little). I’m just happy to have like-minded people to hang out with.

    One of my big pet peeves is when an author is on Twitter and their only tweets are “buy my book.” Even worse is when you follow one and they send a DM with a link to buy it. I immediately unfollow them. Like Julie said, it’s all about engagement and conversation. If I like a person, and they’re interesting and fun to talk to, I’ll buy their book.

  6. I do see Facebook as a conversation, an exchange where people interact with one another, sharing ideas, experiences and thoughts. But I also observe a lot of what I’ll call “Social Media Narcissism” and it does make me say, “Please shut up,” which meansI keep scrolling and ignore it. That is the choice we have. Ignore what offends, bores, or turns you off in any way. The one comment the author made does ring true because as a newly published author seeking the wisdom of those with more experience, I’ve heard it said often. “Because here’s the secret: None of us know what we’re doing, but we’re all trying our asses off. We are all hungry.” I’ve decided to read and listen to what established writers have to offer. But in the end, I’m just going to have to do what feels right to me and I’m finally okay with that.

  7. I must admit to being a Facebook junkie. Most people on my friend list are actually people I know and have met. I like to share my friend’s good news and I love the ability to “chat”. Social media has worked well for promoting the events at my shop, but as for writing,I leave all that to my blog. I’m not offended by the writers who beg people to “like” them or vote for their books, but it does make me want to avoid reading those books. Thanks for your post, Julie. It was definitely filled with information people should reflect on before posting! (Including me!)

  8. The authors I love on social media are the ones who are engaging and interesting. They talk about their writing (as in when they are writing), but they also talk about other things they are doing. Writing is just part of who they are. Then there are the ones who are about nothing but selling their book. That is a huge turn off, and I won’t buy your book as a result.

    It’s something I struggle with as well. I hear “You must be on social media to promote your blog.” Mind you, I enjoy the social media platforms I am on, but how much is too much. And when should I shut up about other things on Social media so I don’t turn people off to me period. (The whole politics thing. Yes, I lost a real life friend from Facebook (not real life) in the last couple of weeks as a result of what I’ve been posting.)

    This blog’s comments about Facebook holding a page’s posts as ransom certainly hit close to home for me and made me laugh at the same time. Honestly, as much as I love it, that site drives me bonkers at times, too.

    • Mark, I think that sometimes just linking to your blog but talking about what you posted works well–you do that, which is great. It is also helpful that you now have a Facebook page, so that we can tag you, etc.

      The monetization of Facebook is actually a gift in some ways, since you can target posts to such specific audiences. Again, Barb Ross is the queen of the data, and is really good at tracking that.

    • Mark, I think you said it very well about authors on social media.

      I haven’t read your political posts lately, but it’s hard to imagine anyone unfriending you!

  9. I don’t know–even if I find an author engaging and interesting on Twitter (I’m not active on FB), I’m not sure how much that will influence me to buy their book. I do know that some author’s tweets have caused me to swear on my sweet Italian grandmother’s grave that I will never, ever, ever buy their books, so there’s that.

    I’m still waiting to see some hard, objective, empirical evidence that a “social media presence” by itself influences the decisions of book buyers.

    • In my other life, I work in theater, and the issues around the use of social media are similar. I doubt that social media and influence folks directly (unless you are talking about a Facebook ad, but that trips from social media to marketing.) BUT I do think that social media helps with familiarity, and with having a “good” feeling when you read or hear an author’s name.

      That the reverse is true is the real “watch out” moment for us all. A number of folks have said “I’ll never…”. Boy, is that powerful.

      thanks for the comment!

  10. Very wise, Julie. You know I was a late adopter, a reluctant adopter of Facebook. Yes, it’s a way to connect. To be a person not just a face on the book flap and a shill for the book. I’m in Los Angeles right now talking about my book and hoping to connect with people though Facebook to continue and expand the conversation.

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