Social Media Savvy–The Art of Making Others Feel Welcome

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you make the most out of your social media experience. I teach, specifically, social media for writers. Writers are unique. Our social media presence is different than a business or even a casual user. We straddle both worlds, and often we feel as if we are in social limbo. We have to make sure to be friendly and personable and interact, but we also must remember that we are a business and have an image to build and a reputation to protect.

In my book We Are Not Alone, content is my primary focus. For me, walking a reader through signing up for a Twitter profile isn’t nearly as important as coaching that individual on what to do once she begins to “tweet.” What should she say? Last week I wrote a guest post for Genreality and I introduced the concept of T.H.I.N.K.ing before we post anything. Before our hot little fingers can dash across the keyboard, we need to engage our brain and T.H.I.N.K.

Ask:

Is it TRUE?

Is it HELPFUL?

Is it INFORMATIVE?

Is it NECESSARY?

Is it KIND?

Social media is, above all else, social. Yet, it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when we are sitting in the privacy of our homes. Our main goal as writers is to use social media in order to build a platform of individuals who know us, like us and support us. To do this, we must be personable, kind and genuinely interested in others. We must also be cognizant that everything we do is a calculated business decision. We are free to do anything we want on social media. We can gripe about other authors, agents, and publishing houses. We can grouse and get into Twitter fights. We can tweet dirty jokes and rant about the economy, the war, the state of public education. We are free to do all of these things. No Writer Police will show at our door and haul us away. But, even though we are free to do all these things, we must ask ourselves if it is wise from a business perspective.

In my book and in last week’s Genreality blog, The Power of Positive Tweeting, I recommended that writers stay away from subjects that are polarizing. Sex, politics and religion are topics guaranteed to quickly divide people and create ill will. So, unless these subjects are part of our platform, it is just a good idea to steer clear.

Gasp. Why, Kristen, we have beliefs and a faith and a viewpoint!

Okay, fair enough. So do I. But I imagine most of you are a lot like me. I like being friends with all kinds of people, not just those folk who believe the same as I do. I want all kinds of people in my corner, buying my books and wishing for my success, not just those people who believe the same things I do. As writers trying to build a platform, we are wise to think of social media like one giant social gathering, and that means we need to be great hosts. Others are a guest on our blog or in our space, so we should show them kindness by making them as comfortable as possible.

Few people are logical. We operate on emotions. Recently I had a writer ask me to evaluate his blog. It was a 1200 word ranting about a politically volatile topic. I felt sick to my stomach by the third sentence and I literally felt bludgeoned by the third paragraph. Do I believe the writer intended that response? Of course not. He was being bold and passionate and blogging about something he believed fiercely was right. But I would wager that, for at least 50% of his audience, reading that blog would likely rank up with dental surgery as in not an experience we care to repeat.

If he is a fiction author, then what did that blog just do to his platform? It split it clean down the middle by alienating half of his following. Any comments on the blog would also be split. One side would think he was a grand ideologue, and the other half would want his head…and would likely tell everyone they knew to steer clear of him and anything he wrote.

Remember our little acronym, T.H.I.N.K.? Was it true? For him, yes. Was it helpful? He certainly thought so. Was it informative? Oh, indeed! Ah, but was it necessary? For a fiction author, probably not. Thus, this author could fracture his following needlessly by blogging on a divisive subject that did nothing to support his fiction platform. For a political writer, this is great blogging. For a novelist, this is a needless travesty.

Emerson once said that good manners are made up of petty sacrifices. Am I asking writers to give up who they are and what they believe in? Not at all. But I do firmly believe in your talent as writers. Surely those of you gifted enough to create entirely new worlds are talented enough to be yourself in a way that always makes others feel welcome and included.  Yes, it takes more work and takes self-discipline. And, yes, sometimes it will be maddening to not bait to some other party’s on-line rant. But think of the goodwill we will be spreading to others! Our tweets and blogs and status updates will be a welcome refuge, a safe-haven from a world blighted with pessimism.

Humans crave positive feelings. We can’t get enough of them. Blogs that educate, encourage and inspire? Those are the blogs that gain our subscriptions our loyalty and our referrals. I recommend Tawna Fenske & Jody Hedlund every chance I get. Why? Because I KNOW their blogs are guaranteed to make me laugh, to make me think and best of all….to make me a better person.

Ben Franklin once said, “If you argue and rankle and contradict you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you never get your opponent’s good will.”

When it comes to how we will use social media, we all must make one key decision. Would we like to have an academic victory or a follower’s good will? I would endorse good will any day of the week.

So here is to making the world a brighter place one post, one blog and one tweet at a time,😀.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

The Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s In It for the Long Haul for those who want a CAREER as a writer.

Need some inspiration? What do the most highly paid authors have in common? brought to us by The Creative Penn

Mary Carroll Moore has a fantastic blog about Creating a Page-Turner

Editor of Writer’s Digest Jane Friedman, as always, has an wonderful blog, “The Future of Publishing: You Get to Decide” about all the different avenues of publication.

10 Simple ways to Become a Powerhouse Blogger, brought to us by the fountain of excellence @4KidLit on Twitter.

Want to know more about how to win friends and influence people on social media? I recommend a tried and true classic. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People should be a staple in every writer’s library.

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  1. #1 by Nikki Barnabee on October 13, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    I would add to your list of things to ask: Is it too revealing? When we send our personal information, thoughts, feelings, out to the Internet, it can’t be undone. It will be out there forever … or until an asteroid hits the earth & we go the way of the dinosaurs ;-}

  2. #2 by Susan Bischoff on October 13, 2010 - 4:07 pm

    There’s a line in the movie Blast from the Past in which Eve’s brother, Troy, says of Adam, “But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.” Good manners all boiled down to hospitality, having the sense to think about others, and then treating them Golden Rule style. I carry this line around in my head a lot because this is the way I’d prefer to be seen. Nice post, Kristen. Thanks.

  3. #3 by Piper Bayard on October 13, 2010 - 4:11 pm

    T.H.I.N.K. is a terrific concept. I’m going to use that with my blogging. Thanks so much for your post.

  4. #4 by marilaglubag on October 13, 2010 - 4:28 pm

    I love the idea. Maybe that’s why self-help authors that aims on making people feel good sells well.

  5. #5 by dtrasler on October 13, 2010 - 4:36 pm

    Arrgh! You make too much sense! I shall have to delete several planned blogs that rant. I did have fun raising a controversial topic a few entries ago, but that was responding to a Facebook wall conversation – social media feeding off itself, I guess. It was a controversial subject, but the discussion was good-natured.

    • #6 by Kristen Lamb on October 13, 2010 - 5:14 pm

      Well, as Dale Carnegie says, “If you want to make honey, don’t kick the bee hive.”😀 I feel your pain. I have a degree in Political Science, specifically Middle East and North African studies. For years I was a pontificating ass and couldn’t understand why people ran screaming the other direction. Why I was so clever and witty and brilliant….and full of my own opinion. I had no clue how many people I was alienating, people who liked me up until I drew a big fat line in the sand. And I figure, if a pit bull like me can mend her ways, then there is hope for everyone, LOL.

  6. #7 by Michael Bowers on October 13, 2010 - 5:04 pm

    Another winner Kristen! I understand the challenges of keeping the material up-beat and positive. Sometimes I actually have to write a ‘ranting’ article, which I’ll never post and then go back and do one that has a better approach and tone.

    Keep up the great work!
    Michael Bowers
    http://characterq.wordpress.com/

  7. #8 by Bridgette on October 13, 2010 - 5:21 pm

    Too true! In the last few days, I’ve deliberately avoided some tweets, blogs, posts from folks who make a habit of commenting about politics. I love to talk and read politics, even (maybe especially) with folks who hold different opinions from me. I wasn’t offended by their comments, but felt it was too big a temptation and would get me off-track from my goals.

  8. #9 by Jes Carey on October 13, 2010 - 7:22 pm

    Currently I am searching for a job to replace selling books. This brings me to action in my writing, Kristen. There is so much inside of me that wants to come out! I am so glad you answered the door this summer. Hope you are well- I am eating up your words. Peace

  9. #10 by Adventures in Children's Publishing on October 14, 2010 - 1:24 am

    Another excellent post! And it’s true. It’s always so disappointing to come across blogs where you have to wade through negativity to get to anything worthwhile. Those aren’t the blogs we want to come back to. And you are so right about Tawna Fenske’s blog and Jody Hedlund’s. Those are two of our favorites too!

    And thanks very much for the kind words about us!

    Martina (and Marissa)
    @4KidLit

  10. #11 by Amy on October 15, 2010 - 9:38 pm

    Interesting post….but I’m unclear on two points: are you claiming the credit for the term THINK? Because I’ve seen it for years, and it was one of my mom’s most famous (and thus annoying, sayings!). I’ve also seen it in print as well.

    Secondly, while you reviewed this writer’s website, I’m not sure I can agree with your take in imagining what “most” or “some” of his reader’s think. The wonderful thing about a blog is that you can say what you feel, and it’s your forum to do so. They may not appeal to everyone, but they may also not be expecting to do so. Personally, I find it fascinating to see what subjects serve to create passion for some people. I don’t have to agree to recongize their passion, and I certainly don’t expect them to tone down their words to please some who “may” be offended-it’s very difficult to know how people will respond. Indeed, a blogger may come off completely bombastic, but then again, that reveals a great deal. It’s up to the reader to discern if they want to agree or not.

    To take a Pollyanna approach and assume that everything should be shiny and happy is not realistic-some bloggers tackle subjects that are difficult and controversial. A reader has the option to simply move on-they aren’t locked in. Similar to an editorial or a letter to the editor in a newspaper: we can move to another topic if we disagree. But the ability that the editor or letter writer has to vent/rant/etc is an important part of free speech.

    I’ll give an example of my own: there’s a website group that is very active in book reviewing/publishing/general chatter. I get a great deal of useful information from them, but I personally am often offended by their free use of obscenities, graphic sexual innuendo, and some of their political beliefs. Do I expect them to change to comfort my sensibilities, or take the good with the bad? As an adult, I find it possible to take what I want, buffet style, and ignore the rest. I also have the choice to avoid them like the plague. It’s up to me.

    I completely agree with you in the sense of an author’s page: certainly they don’t want to alienate anyone. But for bloggers in general, their content is their choice. And sadly, it’s often someone that we disagree with politically that we tend to complain about…whereas someone on our side of the spectrum might not bother us at all.

    I appreciate the message you are sending…it’s useful to anyone from email to social media…tone reveals all. But, I’d much rather read a fiery tirade with feeling than a subtle attempt at being manipulated through sweet talk.

    • #12 by Kristen Lamb on October 15, 2010 - 9:56 pm

      No, my mom used the term T.H.I.N.K. and I wasn’t claiming it as mine, just recommending it as a useful test. What needs to be made clear is that writers need to just consider the cost of being divisive. Sometimes that is part of the platform. For instance, Howard Stern creates contraversy. So, for him to be contraversial serves his purpose. There are writers who address contraversial topics in their fiction–transsexuality, honor killings, incest, whatever. Their platform is contraversial so topics that incite fiery opinions are part and parcel.

      But, there are a lot of writers out there scrabbling for topics to blog about and contraversy IS NOT part of their platform. Ranting about Obama or the Tea Party has nothing to do with a YA fiction about dragons. My blog post was to make writers consider what the blog’s purpose was in the context of their overall platform before they posted and needlessly fractured a platform. And I am not giving any advice an agent wouldn’t give. This is a job and if we are getting in Twitter fights and ranting in blogs about topics that don’t help our platform and it is painting our books in a negative light, we will face consequences.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment,🙂

  11. #13 by foxpudding on October 15, 2010 - 10:51 pm

    Yup, I agree. You can find someone combative everywhere you turn. It gets old. I’m more interested in writers who share. Thanks.

    http://foxpudding.wordpress.com

  12. #14 by bill hubiak on November 2, 2010 - 4:52 pm

    Thank you for your insights. I’m just beginning to explore the blogging universe and will be following your blog regularly, among other reasons to remind me to T.H.I.N.K. Was it Mark Twain who said that every minute spent angry was sixty seconds of lost happiness?

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