I have been on the Internet for 18 years, used everything from IRC to AOL chatrooms to EGroups to Twitter, and probably made every rookie mistake you can think of in that time. Thus, I figured I would impart some of my hard-won wisdom about engaging on social media. This primarily applies to Twitter, because that’s where I live, but can just as easily be common sense for Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
1. Decide whether you are a company or a person, because those accounts should be approached differently. A business account is solely to promote a company, a brand identity and a product. That is not where you want to post cat videos and bitch about your co-workers. A personal account is more suited to talking about your work in general terms, your fannish peccadillos, grievances and how wasted you got last night.
2. Be yourself. If you don’t know who you are, Twitter is not the place to figure it out. Go for a walk. Journal. Make some “RL” friends. But don’t have a journey of self-discovery entirely on the Internet. Because it will be awkward, and the Internet never forgets.
3. Corollary to the above two points: When I decided to open up author accounts for Suleikha Snyder, I thought I could create a completely different persona. I gave her cats, boyfriend woes, etc. I could not keep that up. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an open book. (No pun intended.) So, I swiftly quit pretending she was somebody else and “came out” as a romance writer. Now, I’ve divvied up “tasks” between my personal account and my author account. Mala tweets primarily about TV shows, books and living in New York. Suleikha is the political activist with a potty mouth. Which leads into…
4. Keep your content fresh. No one wants to see you tweet the same things over and over or Facebook the same thing over and over. If you’re live-tweeting or live-blogging a TV show, “That was so awesome!” does not help anyone on your feed who doesn’t watch the show. The best way to get yourself muted or hidden is to be dull.
5. If you decide on a personal account, do NOT spam. Imagine you are in a room full of people. Would you jump up every 10 minutes and say, “Hey, I wrote a book”? No. That’s obnoxious. But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you relentlessly self-promo on Twitter or Facebook. Remember that you have a captive audience. Emphasis on captive. Unless you want to waterboard your followers, calm the hell down.
6. Unless it’s part of your brand identity (you’re an erotica author, a film/TV critic, Perez Hilton, a porn star, etc.), don’t be crass. Sexual jokes and scatological humor can be off-putting to strangers and undercut your online presence instead of strengthening it. And sometimes it really just makes you look like a creepy creeper that creeps.
7. Engage people. Don’t expect auto-follows or likes. You’re not owed anything just by existing. Unless you’re a celebrity account and you can never tweet but have a million follows. Don’t just @ reply people. Put your own thoughts into the mix. This is really just another underscoring of #2 and #4, but it does bear repeating. When someone navigates directly to your page and all they see is you tweeting/wall-posting/re-blogging other people, that gives them no value in following you. And your social media presence needs to be about you. However, that doesn’t mean you’re the most important, shiniest, special-est snowflake…
8. Don’t barge into other people’s spaces and get on your soapbox. Say what you have to say on your own account, but no one on social media has to tutor you, respond to you or be harassed by you.
9. Don’t @ reply famous people unless you A) know them or B) are making a point or c) advertising their latest release. Asking for birthday wishes, for prayers, for them to RT you because you love them, just makes you look like a needy twit wanting validation. Also, no1curr. No, seriously. They probably have millions of @ replies and DMs and PMs and they don’t care about you. Now, we all do it once in a while, and that’s fine, but, seriously, if you do it all the time…that’s about your desperation, not them. Knock it off.
10. Don’t be a dick. This is probably my basic rule for life offline AND online. Just…don’t be a dick. Unless you are a dick. Then you do you. Shine on, you crazy, dickish diamond.