Social media platforms have become a marketplace for authors promoting their works — and it’s a great option if you do it the right way. Of course there are a lot of opinions about what is “right,” but there are a few things an author (or entrepreneur) can do that actually work against them. If you’re on the best-seller list you don’t really have to worry about what you’re posting, but if you’re trying to get to that thrilling elevation you need to work on making connections.

Here’s the key: You have to sell yourself, not your product.

“What? I don’t know how to do that!”

Sure, you do. Nobody knows how to be You better than yourself.

Social Media Platforms Are Like Convention Venues

Think of social media platforms as convention venues. We go to them to ooh and ah over our favorite stars, learn how to become those stars, meet people who can help us along the way, connect with other fans, attract our own fans, and so on. I’m focusing on Twitter today, but these principles can easily be applied to other forms of social media as well.

So you’ve got your account (ticket). You’ve showered and dressed appropriately (customized your header, uploaded a good picture/icon, and created a good bio for your profile). You’ve packed a giant tote bag with promotional material (books, bookmarks, business cards, flyers, t-shirts with your logo/book cover/book quotes, inflatable characters, megaphone, flashing blue light). And you’re off! You’re so excited!

Before you fling yourself into the throng, it might help to know the top four mistakes that will drive people away and cost you potential fans or useful connections.

1. Buy My Book!

Buy Me! (4 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make on Twitter)

Most of the people at the convention (Twitterverse) are strangers. Would you walk up to someone, shove your book in their face, and holler “I wrote this book! Buy it NOW!”? Or jam your business card and say, “Here’s my card/link, call me!”?

Probably not! We don’t know anything about you. Go away, you’re scaring us.

2. Auto DMs

Auto DM Problems (4 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make on Twitter)

“DM” is the abbreviation for Direct Message, which is used to send a private message to another user. This action is loaded with with ways to offend people.

  • Using a service to generate a message is impersonal. It suggests that your new follower isn’t valuable enough for you to spend five seconds on with a reply you type yourself. (And auto DMs are frequently made obvious by such tags as “via @NameThatCompany”)
  • The auto-message frequently employs Point #1 above, “Buy my book!”
  • —Or it orders a person to follow you home, like you, or friend you. This is kind of creepy and sounds desperate.
  • The auto-message comes from TrueTwit (or any other validation service). It isn’t enough that someone pressed the “follow” button because they thought you were interesting. Now you want them to prove it?

Those are the fastest ways ever to make your would-be followers (customers, reviewers) punch the “unfollow” button. Or, to stick with the convention analogy, we’re more interested in the guy that wants to talk to us than the recorded message emanating from a box with your picture taped to it.

3. Do Me a Favor!

Do me a favor…  (4 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make on Twitter)

This involves both of the previous points, and while we don’t mind helping people out, we’re a little put off when the very first interaction we have with you is a request for us to do something for you.

4. Spam

Spam Hashtag Litter (4 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make on Twitter)

Did you know that the word “spam” was apparently derived from the words “spiced” and “ham”? I don’t know what spiced ham has to do with streams of virtual trash, except that not many people like it. What kinds of things qualify in this context?

  • Spam Thanks (4 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make on Twitter)Repeated use of Point #1 or the equally unappealing “follow me” directives
  • Retweeting messages without changing the hashtags (which is like having one person shout a message, and then forty-eleven other people barking the exact same thing, one after the other)
  • Tweeting the same thank-you message to all of your new followers — one at a time (Do you really want to look like a robot?)
  • Loading your tweets with hashtags (Social media professionals suggest limiting the number of hashtags to two or three)
  • Posting your follower/unfollower numbers (“Look at ME! I have SIX new friends!” Or, “I just found TWENTY people that unfollowed me. I’m going to unfollow them back!”)

You might have noticed that the convention (Twitter) is a wildly busy place. Most attendees will skip right over the trash. Er, spam. At worst, it will make them mad because it’s in the way. (Cue the “unfollow” response.)


Do This Instead

So what can you do make the convention (Twitter) a useful, positive experience?

We’re back to the key I mentioned before: Sell yourself, not your product. And by that I mean “show us what you’re really like.” Strike up conversations with other attendees (Tweeps). All you have to do is reply to something someone said. One of the advantages to this medium is that we don’t have to introduce ourselves or be invited to participate.

Boost your karma by re-Tweeting other people when they share interesting or useful things.

Respond to @ messages or mentions. (I’m going to advise that conditionally, because I won’t respond to spam or to most auto-messages.)

To have a friend, you have to be a friend. If other people like what they see you doing and saying, they’ll check out your profile. They’ll go to your blog. They’ll find you and follow you on other social media platforms. They’ll buy your books. They’ll write reviews. They’ll tell their friends about you.

And that’s what you want, right?

If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of Twitter for authors, take a look at some of the articles I’ve found helpful: