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When it comes to building your author platform, Social Media is a zero-sum game. Your readers should only like one writer: YOU! There’s simply not enough social media to go around. As an author, you must either conquer social media outright or leave nothing behind but scorched earth.

Luckily for you, I caught a panel discussion at this year’s BEA called “The Worst Social Media Advice Ever” — and I’ve summarized some of their intentionally terrible advice, added a few of my own tips, and offer it all here for your edification.

Some important things to remember if you want to win at social media

1. It’s all about you — Duh. They’re your “followers,” after all. Treat them as such. Your readers’ only social media medicine should be a daily injection of 100% maximum YOU. And make it clear you’d prefer your monologue to run without interruption.

2. Be a brand, not a person — Don’t let your fans forget the reasons why they followed you in the first place: your corporate sponsorships, your clean website fonts, your newest signature perfume. Don’t draw attention to your art or your humanity,… that’s just weakness. Embody the brand and the brand will embody you, making you all-powerful. For extra impact, be sure to use terms like “direct-to-fan” and “value-added” whenever you post on social media.

3. Don’t ever talk about politics, religion, or your personal life — Sure, these things might be important to you. They might even be central to your identity and to your writing. But you risk offending people when you get real. So don’t get real. Don’t you dare. Stay polite at all costs, or even better: stay fake.

Let’s pretend for a minute, though, that you DO get into a disagreement with a follower on social media. Well the only correct course of action at that point is to crush them. Make an example of them. Show no mercy.

4. Be everywhere — Deities can do it, so why shouldn’t you? Omnipresence is not only possible on social media, it’s required if you want to establish total domination. If you feel like you’re getting stretched too thin on social media and losing time for writing, suck it up already, will you? It’s your future we’re talking about here. If you can just handle Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, G+, Flickr, Pinterest, and Vine, I’m sure one of your minions would be happy to help out with the rest of the platforms.

5. Sell, Sell, Sell — The more books you sell, the more money you make. The more money you make, the more books you can write. The more books you create, the more readers you’ll have; and you need to collect them all to win. That’s science, of course. So you might assume it’s also common sense. Unfortunately, no. It’s crucial that you remind your followers to hold up their part of the social media bargain and BUY something, and then something else, and then something else. They need to buy everything. All the time. If constant product announcements aren’t enough, guilt is usually a good motivator. Lay it on ‘em. If that doesn’t work, beg.


I hope this advice on how to win at social media was helpful. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be doing everything wrong in no time.

OK. All kidding aside, what are some of your social media pet peeves? What mistakes do you see authors commonly make online? Let me know in the comments below.

Twitter for Authors
Chris Robley

About Chris Robley

Chris Robley has written 502 posts in this blog.

is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

6 thoughts on “Bad advice for writers: how to suck at social media

  1. GemGirl says:

    If I like an author or other professional whose work I find of value, I will gladly forward their newsletter or inform others about the work they do.

    But when people send too many emails, I unsubscribe even if I generally like the information they share.

    I do not need a weekly newsletter from anyone.

    We all have varied interests, and if anyone attempts to place themselves in the center of my universe, as if what they have to say is so important and more important than all other competing interests, I will delete them.

    I sometimes make a note to consider them a nuisance when they put too much pressure on to attend a workshop or buy something from them.

    Narcissism is not pretty.

  2. Paul Race says:

    Chris, I forwarded this to some up-and-coming musician friends who are trying to navigate the Social Media waters. It applies just as much to them. Thanks for posting. Also, GemGirl, that’s a great, thoughtful response. 🙂

  3. David says:

    After reading your post I have decided to SUCK at Social Media. I would never ever be fake. Why should I? If my followers can not accept my views; then I am nothing for them. Really bad advise. Better to be true than to be false.

  4. Chris,
    The Molly Hatchet cover art from Frank Frazetta demonstrated the importance of engaging graphics. Whatever you do as an author, only give them words, right? That’s why they followed you, right? 😉


  5. Sue says:

    If you want to dominate Social Mediate, the most important discipline you must follow is post your Call to Action every 10 minutes, IN ALL CAPS and plenty of *****’s : ***BUY MY BOOK NOW! ***21 TEMPLATES THAT RUN YOUR WORLD *** BESTSELLER***

    Without the caps and the stars, no one will bother reading your post. If you don’t post every 10 minutes, they will forget you. JUST DO IT!!!!*******

  6. When I first started with Twitter, I received a direct message from a guy that said: I don’t usually respond to DMs, but you seem awesome! Nice to meet ya!

    Boy, was I flattered.

    And then I realized that I wear a disguise in my photo, and I hadn’t tweeted anything direct but “thanks for following,” so this DM must have been an automated response and the guy didn’t think I was awesome at all. How’s that for ego-deflation?

    I don’t DM anyone anymore unless I want to have a private conversation.

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