5 Social Networking Mistakes To Avoid

More aspiring authors than I can mention in desperate need of a platform refuse to use social networking. They see it as a waste of time and a time sink. Published authors needing to promote their books also won’t go near Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+. Somehow, it is beneath them, an activity not befitting a real writer.

Yet, social networking offers much benefit for all writers—at least those wanting to build platform, brand themselves and sell books. And it can be done quickly, efficiently and pleasantly if you know how. In fact, it can be fun and life changing. Like today’s guest blogger, once I embraced social networking, I found I enjoyed it and it enhanced my life on a personal and a professional level.

Author Joanna Penn joins us today to offer her advice on how writers can use social networks correctly. I recommend Joanna’s newest product, “Social Networking for Authors & Writers,” for all those aspiring authors and published authors who don’t want to become social networkers. Learn from a fellow author how to use the social networks with this product that includes an ebook, an audio interview with social media expert Alexis Grant and personal videos on how to use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as the reader-specific social networks like Goodreads and Shelfari.

For those of you already wearing your social hats, take note of the mistakes Joanna mentions in this post. And for those of you getting started, book mark it; you’ll want to put her advice to use immediately after setting up your accounts on all the social networks.

5 Social Networking Mistakes To Avoid
By Joanna Penn

Everyone says you must use social networking as part of your author platform.

Publishers, agents, self-publishing marketing people, other authors. It now seems part of the non-negotiable author platform for indie authors as well as those wanting a traditional deal.

I started blogging, tweeting and Facebooking over two and a half years ago and consider it a life-changing experience. I have made some fantastic online friends, connected with peers in the industry, gained an online platform that now reaches thousands of people and my novel, Pentecost, is still in the Amazon bestseller rankings after seven months based on a launch fueled by social media. Twitter in particular is an important part of my social life as well as my work, and I am a passionate evangelist for the platform.

It doesn’t matter what social network you want to jump into, there are principles that apply to all and some basic mistakes that you can avoid that will make it a much more effective place for you to be.

Here are the top five mistakes authors and writers make in social networking.

1. Not being useful/interesting/entertaining.

If you want to stand out in a crowded market online you have to offer something to people. Remember the phrase “what’s in it for me?” Everyone wants to know things that will help them, or interest them or make them laugh. If you’re not offering that, then you won’t get attention. If you don’t have attention, it won’t lead to interest in you or action in terms of buying your book. So focus on being one of these things as the main pillar of your social networking. For example, I tweet useful links to blog posts on writing, publishing and marketing @thecreativepenn.

2. Not being personal enough.

Yes, you have to be useful, but you also have to be a real person. Don’t just tweet information all the time. Intersperse some updates about your life, your writing, maybe your pets or interests, even some photos. People connect with people, not info-streams. Use pictures and also link to multi-media that you create or participate in. Remember that people buy from those they know, like and trust, so you have to earn that. I also recommend using a picture of your face throughout your networking. It’s much more personal to connect with someone specific rather than an avatar or random picture. Using the same picture all over the web is a good idea and will help people recognize you across the networks.

3. Being too personal or too marketing focused.

Of course, personal does need balance. You can’t just have personal updates as no one is interested in that. Also, do not just tweet about your new book. The fastest way to get blocked by people is if you are just interested in selling your stuff. There’s a time for that but it’s AFTER you’ve built up some social karma and goodwill with the online audience. Also, if you want to get retweeted, or Liked so your post is shared across other people’s networks, it needs to resonate. That generally means it should have a good headline. I frequently rewrite headlines from blogs in order to get more retweets. Basic copywriting skills will serve you well here. I recommend Copyblogger as the best place to learn about this and much more on internet marketing.

4. Not understanding generosity and social karma.

There is an understanding online that we are not competitors, that this isn’t a zero sum game, that the pie just gets bigger. In fact, those of us in the same niche post on each others blogs, share posts that aren’t our own and promote other people’s products, even if they overlap with ours. The blogging and social media world is all about being generous with links, with information, with help. It makes the community a very positive place to be, and we all benefit. It’s important to do this for its own sake, but it also generates social karma, as in you will receive back in the measure you give. I don’t mean this in any spiritual manner, just that “what goes around, comes around’ as in any community.

5. Expecting short term gain.

Social networking is basically hand-selling to people around the world. You have to connect with people over a longer period of time, before you try to sell them your book. Many authors dive into social networking just before their book launch and then try to sell immediately, or try desperately to grow their following at the last minute. But it doesn’t work like that. You need to work on it consistently, putting in the effort to create relationships over time. This is a long game. Luckily, authors are used to long term projects!

So, those are the top mistakes I see people making on the social networks. If you have any more lessons to share, please add them in the comments below.

Do you need some more in-depth help with social networking?

Many people want to be successful at social networking but they are afraid of wasting time and not being effective, as well as the concerns of privacy and just not knowing where to start. So I have launched a multi-media mini-course that will help with this.

It has a 59 page ebook, plus audios and four behind the scenes videos on all the major social networks. I share all my top tips and strategies for building your social network and using your time most effectively. I help you through the process saving you time and effort in jump-starting your social networking platform.

About the Author

Joanna Penn is the author of thriller novel, Pentecost, described as “Dan Brown meets Lara Croft.” Her blog www.TheCreativePenn.com helps people write, publish and market their books. Connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn.


Don’t miss the final telesminar of this year’s WNFIN event on November 30th, “Content, Character & Connection: Becoming a Successful Writer in a Bottom-Up World,” with Michael Larsen.  To be register, click here.

Like this blog? Vote it one of Writer’s Digest‘s 101 Best Websites for Writers. Learn how here.


  1. I’m a proponent of paying it forward and the karma thing. I can’t imagine not being involved in social networking now! Wish more of the “buy my book!” people would read blogs like this.

    • Yes, Karen, I wish they would, too–and I’m a karma propopnent as well! Unfortunately, those authors aren’t wanting to get involved in social networking in a “real” way. They just don’t “get” it or see the value.

  2. Some great tips! I’d add just one more: Forgetting to write in the quest to self-promote through social networking. The best marketing tool hands down is a great, well-written book. All the social marketing blasts will do little good if the book isn’t good to start with.

    • That’s true, Linda, but social networking/marketing builds author platform–before a book is published–as well. All around, social marketing is an awesome tool all aspiring and published authors should be using. (And those aspiring authors who aren’t writers can use it, too, and hire a great editor or ghost writer…)

  3. Thanks Karen – I know what you mean – I can’t imagine my life without social networking, but perhaps the people who need it aren’t reading this 🙂

    Hi Linda – thanks for joining us here! A great book is definitely no. 1 but if no one knows about it, it will still sink like a stone… let’s aim for both great books & great marketing!


  1. […] of Your Website 11 Reasons Your LinkedIn Company Page Sucks Avoid these 10 time-wasting tweets 5 Social Networking Mistakes To Avoid 8 Steps to Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat When I Unplugged From […]

Speak Your Mind