Last Friday Maureen Johnson shared with us her concern that she might have annoyed her followers on Twitter by promoting the fact that 13 Little Blue Envelopes was now available for free for a limited time. Then she linked to a wonderful blog entry about her experience on a panel for “social media experts.” I suggest you read that. It made me want to cheer.
Meanwhile, it all brought up some interesting questions. What is the “right” way to use social media (for this instance, Twitter) as a person with something to sell (in this case, as an author)? That’s obviously not all you are, but when you are a person (let’s say an interesting person, one that might have THINGS to say in 140 characters… for argument’s sake) and you have a career or something else that you’re passionate about, it’s understandable that you’ll want to share news and information and links that have to do with your product. And as long as your product is not the only thing you have to offer your followers, I think that’s fine.
Twitter, like a great deal of socia media/networking developments in the past 10 years, is an inherently narcissistic creature. You talk about yourself all day long, and it makes sense that something that is a huge part of your life will be mentioned now and then. But you also read about other people’s lives all day, don’t you? So you’ve put yourself willingly in a position of listening to other people’s narcissism. But isn’t that what we do in person? We want to share, and we want to be shared with. Humans are social creatures, and that’s a very good thing.
I’ve read a lot recently about how to network via social media, how to get your name out there, how to create a web presence. A lot of what they tell me makes my skin crawl and my stomach knot. I don’t want to sell myself. I want to share things I’m excited about, and I’m ecstatic when people are interested in what I’m doing or when they’re excited too and want to share my news. But it’s not all that I am. I am a writer, yes, and I want people to buy what I write because my dream is to make a decent living from telling stories. But I don’t want to write just because I want people to buy it. I don’t want to do anything because I want people to buy things from me. It takes the love out of it, and doing anything without love, especially writing, is not a part of my plan.
I’ve heard a lot (a LOT) of talk about “personal branding” and how important it is and yadda yadda yadda. And you know what? I am not a brand, just like the people who will read my books are not a crowd. They are not just an audience. They are people. The point of social networking is to connect with other people, and not solely for personal gain. I know I can tell when you don’t care about me, or when I’m being sold to, or integrated into some kind of super-twitter-marketing plan, and you know what? I really don’t like it. I don’t like commercials on television or radio, and I don’t like obnoxious and often misspelled, grammatically incorrect Facebook advertisements, and I certainly don’t plan on following anyone on Twitter who only ever updates about new sales, blogs, or articles featuring them or their product.
And I firmly believe that the people I connect with on the internet, and the people who will be reading my books, are just as smart if not smarter than me, and will be able to tell just as easily when they’re being sold to. I have self respect enough not to slog through advertisements, so I sure as hell am not about to make my twitter followers do that.
So what is the “right” way to use twitter to your advantage without disrespecting your followers? As in all things, my answer is “balance.” But here’s a more practical method: you want to get to know a lot of your new followers, sure, but you’ve probably got a lot of close friends on there too. So when you make an update, ask yourself: “Does my friend want to hear about this?” Ok, maybe they won’t care about the picture of Canadian geese chasing someone across the street (true story, but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera), but they probably won’t feel manipulated if they decide to scroll past it.
What about you, what do you think is the “right” or “wrong” way to social network when you’ve got something to sell?