Remember that party when you were a teenager? Yeah, that one. The one that scarred your social relationships for years because of how totally awkward and invisible you felt. Or maybe, like me, you were too much of a nerd in high school to even get invited to any parties.
Maybe you had a huge crush and huge hopes that did not end well.
You grew up, people got more normal, and you learned valuable skills on how to make a good impression--whether it was a job interview or a date. But that ever-embarassing memory from middle school, high school, college still lingers.
Everyone wants to be liked. And as a writer, having a strong, loyal following can be HUGE when it comes to selling a book to a publisher, and then selling a book to a readership. So, while those nerve-wrecking parties may be a thing of the past, getting along well with other people is definitely not. Even if you're one of the many, many introvert writers, you still need to raise interest in your story through social media. And look at it this way-- at least now, you can interact from behind the security blanket of your own computer. Hey, if you're like me, you can even do it wearing Hello Kitty fuzzy pants. (And really, who doesn't love character-themed fuzzy pants?)
One person I know who is brilliant at establishing an online presence is Colleen Coble. If you don't already follow her on Facebook, go head over there as soon as you're finished reading this post! She has a perfect balance of friendliness, openness, and a normal line of privacy so that you feel like you really get to know her without feeling like you know every detail of her life.
So what do you need to remember in order to have an active, interesting presence online?
- People do not want to read another sad story. It's totally fine to post prayer requests and be honest about your heart. For example, the situation in Iraq and the current threats to Pastor Saeed in Iran have really hit me hard. I've shared some of this stuff on my Facebook with the hopes of raising awareness (especially to the campaigns seeking signatures to free Pastor Saeed) and also ask other people to pray. But you know what? These links and stories are not what get the most comments/likes-- and that's not why I posted them. I get it. Facebook can be a downer sometimes, and if you're constantly posting sad things, people are going to start skimming past whatever you're saying. They've got enough challenges in their own lives and may feel ill-equipped to take on more. If you have a choice between a complaint and a good report, choose the good report (most of the time, at least) and bring a smile to people (and yourself).
- People want to get the vibe of who you really are. I love how Amy posts pictures of sweet little Eisley for us! It's such a fun way for her Facebook friends to feel like we've connected with Amy each day. And I love seeing all those little Eisley outfits! Don't be afraid to post pictures, short videos, etc. that help people get to know you.
- On the other hand, don't give us too much detail. Have you ever been on a date or met a new friend, and everything is going pretty well until they suddenly start giving you way more detail about their life than you're comfortable knowing? You start to feel like they don't have an appropriate boundary in their social relationships, right? Well, the same thing can happen online. While you want your readers/friends to get to know the real you, at the same time, don't share every little detail.
- Do NOT become that person who pretends to be perfect on social media. We all pretend to admire that person, but we all secretly hate that person. Am I right? ;) I believe that one of the pit falls of social media is that it can perpetuate this perfection myth (as can Pinterest) that everyone else has a perfectly clean house, that their skinny jeans fit every day of the year, and that they have zippo problems with time management. The reality is, comparing ourselves to idealistic, unrealistic social media appearances (whether it's on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or something else) is just as bad as looking at a magazine cover and thinking to yourself how you'll never compare. So the flip side of that is, don't perpetuate the perfection myth. Be a real person in person and on social media. I know I said not to harp on the negative aspects of your life, but the flip side of that is, don't try to make people believe you're living in a fairy tale either. You'll come across inauthentic.
- Help other friends and authors. Make a habit out of investing in others on social media, and do it because you really care about them, not because you're trying to get something out of the relationship (otherwise people will resent you and feel cheated). Yesterday, for example, I shared the Amazon sale on Becky Wade's My Stubborn Heart because I LOVED that book, and I think everyone else should read it too. Casey is wonderful at this-- she's constantly using her blog to promote other authors, and I know for a fact that when she's published, they'll want to return the favor.
So what about you? Do you ever struggle with knowing what to post and what not to post on social media? Can you think of an author who has a great social media presence? Why?
Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.