10 Things Authors Need to Stop Doing on Social Media Immediately

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

social media, authors, sales, books, facebook, twitterAlmost every author has been told at some point, “You gotta get online and promote.” But only a small percentage of authors have actually been coached on social media best practices, resulting in hundreds of authors using social media completely wrong and turning readers off rather than attracting them.

If you are guilty of any of the following social media practices, for the sake of your readership, please stop immediately.

1. Overusing hashtags. A hashtag is not the secret to getting discovered, and no one meaningful is going to follow you based on a tweet in which eight out of 10 words are hashtags. Instead of trying to game the system and latching on to various trending hashtags, consider posting meaningful content that would attract your target audience.

2. Oversharing. As authors, your social media followers expand beyond your friends and family. Your followers are your readers, your publishing team, librarians and booksellers. I see too many authors who forget about this, and continue posting about all aspects of their life, from photos of their breakfasts to complaining about writing and publishing. You are a public figure; your social media content should reflect that.

3. Auto-tweeting Facebook posts. We’re all looking for ways to save time, but this isn’t one of them. If your Facebook posts automatically aggregate to Twitter, you’re not using either platform effectively. Facebook posts tend to be longer and meatier; tweets, on the other hand, are short and pithy. If your lengthy Facebook content is tweeted, those tweets will be cut off with an ellipsis, and followers won’t understand your content. If you post shorter, pithy content to Facebook, that content won’t perform as well. Take an extra few minutes and translate your content for both platforms.

4. Messaging people about your book. I can safely say that all of us, at one point or another, have received a Facebook message or @ reply on Twitter from someone asking us to check out their book. Social media is not about the hard sell, which, by the way, is the quickest way to have your account blocked.

5. Scheduling posts and forgetting about them. When tragedies like Sandy Hook or the Orlando shooting take place, no one wants to hear about your upcoming book tour or recent four-star review. If you’re going to schedule posts ahead of time, establish a system that reminds you when posts are going out, or stay attuned to the news cycle so you can cancel content in the event of a national emergency.

6. Auto-posting the same content 5x a day. Yes, I know your book is out today. And yes, I know you have a newsletter. Yes, I already saw your tweet about your book tour. If you want to run one in-case-you-missed-it (ICYMI) tweet at another time of day, or remind me once a month to sign up for your newsletter, fine. But if I see the exact same tweet 3-5 times a day? The only thing you’ll get from me is unfollowed.

7. Posting about sex, politics and religion (unless you write about those topics). It’s an election year. We all have opinions. But as a public figure the quickest way to alienate half your audience is to post content that offends or enrages them. If you don’t write about sex, politics or religion, then adhere to dinner party rules and don’t post about them.

8. Posting without revising. You wouldn’t send a book into your editor without giving it a read through, so why would you post on social media without rereading your content? Tone is hard to convey on social media; that’s why I recommend reading your posts aloud in a deadpan tone. Does it convey the same attitude or message? Or could people take it the wrong way? If there’s a chance you’d offend someone or the post would come off as bullying or antagonistic, delete or revise.

9. Only sharing other people’s content. The purpose of social media is to establish your online brand and create relationships with potential readers and influencers. How can you do that if you’re only re-tweeting and sharing other people’s Facebook posts, not posting any content of your own? When I see authors only sharing other people’s content, it’s usually because they’re unsure of what content they should be posting. Which brings me to the final social media don’t…

10. Posting without strategy. Before you post your first Instagram photo, before you sign up for Tumblr or Snapchat, it’s imperative that you develop a content strategy. You wouldn’t start writing your book without an idea of the characters, plot and genre. So why would you start posting to social media without a plan?

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18 thoughts on “10 Things Authors Need to Stop Doing on Social Media Immediately

  1. Chris Syme

    Dana- I could say a hearty amen to all ten of these. Great post. Number nine–only sharing the posts of others–is a common mistake I see all the time, especially on Twitter. You hit the nail!

  2. Lee Rowan

    Sorry. I write m/m romance fiction and I am a bi woman married to another woman. I cannot and will not keep politics out of my facebook posts because, excuse me, there are too many right wingers who would literally execute me for who I love. Also, hello, I live on this planet and corrupt politics and greed are literally putting all our lives at risk.

    I hate politics but I cannot stand apart from them at this point in my life. If I ‘alienate’ homophobes.. well, they probably won’t like my books anyway. If my publisher drops me for this… so be it. There is nothing more important right now than keeping Trump out of the White House.

    1. Ronnie

      AGREED! I write non-fiction and current new is relevant to my readers’ interest. Also, have you never heard of fb.me? Posting links to longer posts on Twitter is the norm.
      Once again, we have someone casting broad strokes that will condemn a huge section of us with undeserved criticism. This article makes something useful into something gauche.

  3. J R Tomlin

    Actually my followers are a lot wider than readers, librarians and (god help us) a ‘publishing team’. I post about things that actually interest me and my followers. What a sad and narrow life you must lead to refuse to discuss anything except selling your books.

  4. Earl Jules


    good job. . . good article. . . good advice. . .
    I like it. . . right on target. . .


    Until that time. . . Earl J.

  5. C. Lee McKenzie

    Amen. I’ve stopped a lot of visiting to fb because of the political rants by authors. I’ll get my political information from other sources thank you ver much. Excellent post.

  6. Marion Gropen

    I run a number of groups on publishing, and I keep having to put authors on moderation or ban them. The primary reason is that they insist upon overtly promoting their books to a group that doesn’t allow any such thing.

    I’d add a best practice: join groups that relate to your interests and to your book’s audience. And a worst practice: violating the rules and/or norms of those groups.

    No one likes spam, and shouting about your book when it’s inappropriate is just that — spam.

    1. Dana

      Nobody is going to magically find you no matter how good your book is if they don’t know you wrote it. Even the big publishing companies don’t go to bat to heavily hype up every book they publish.

  7. Sandra Farris

    No. 6 is especially true. I just unfollowed an Author for posting about 8 of the same book and after a minute or two, the same thing again.

  8. Nancy Foster

    Great post! I would also add please please please if you are a parent of a precious special snowflake, don’t even think of uploading a gazillion posts of the poor toddler naked or doing something that will utterly embarrass them when they get bullied as teenagers. A family photo for xmas? Good. Maybe once a cute costume photo? Okay. A photo (you think is funny) of the kid butt naked running out the door because he doesn’t want to be potty trained with a witty comment? Please don’t even think of posting that!



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