I don’t know what’s going on in these “Social Media Best Practices For (insert your creative field here)” webinars and courses I see listed, but I’m somewhat confident that they don’t actually teach best practices for hanging out on social media. But that’s just based on the clumps of people I run into on social media who all seem to use the same moves. The problem seems to stem from not understanding the difference between marketing and networking, and being generally uncomfortable using social media for some reason other than sharing with friends and family . (At least, I’m hoping this isn’t how they use social media with friends and family.)
Let’s start with marketing, since I see a lot of this on a daily basis as fellow creatives follow me on social media spaces. I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t just follow back people who follow her (and I don’t expect to be followed back when I follow). I take the time to go look at the person’s profile, read their posts, and see who we have in common. But if the person’s stream is nothing but various takes on “Buy my work”, clearly posted by some automated service, or punctuated by replies that thank people for following/sharing, then no number of people in common will encourage me to follow back. And if the other person thought about it, they’d probably realize that they don’t follow people who do that (or do, and resent that person for filling up their stream with all of their marketing posts with no other posts whatsoever).
The other type of marketer that confuses me no end is the creative who posts “Buy my work” links to industry groups. It’s great that you’ve completed something and released it into the world, and fellow creatives who aren’t battling self-esteem issues will be happy for you. But unless your new release is something that would benefit the development of their own work and career (and you’re posting to a space that allows for that kind of promotion), they aren’t your target audience. And you’ve just told them you aren’t even competition because you don’t know how to accurately identify a target audience.
There’s a difference between, “This is my new project. Go buy it and tell all your fans, family, and friends to buy it,” and , “So, I just did this. It was really (adjective) because (opaque process talk).” One you say to your fans; the other you say to fellow creatives. If you can’t sort out which is marketing and which is networking, read other people’s posts and don’t say anything until you figure it out. Because you know when you are being marketed to, and you know you don’t necessarily enjoy it. It works both ways. Keep that in mind.
And while we’re on the topic of knowing whom to market to, don’t be this guy. Earlier this year, I auditioned for an audiobook because it was the right genre, age group, and performance requirements for me, and offered an acceptable compensation. I continued auditioning and working, and eventually received a generic rejection note for this project. Such is the life of an audiobook narrator. Some months later, the author sent me a message that effectively read: I don’t know if I sent you a personal rejection letter, but you’re clearly a fan of my work because you auditioned for this project. My narrator is awesome and we just released this awesome audiobook, and you should buy it and tell all your fans to buy it. (Parts of that are sadly not paraphrased.)
There aren’t words for how many things are wrong with this marketing approach, but it’s an excellent illustration of misunderstanding your audience. Unless someone who has expressed an interest in working with you has explicitly expressed an interest in the actual project itself beyond just working on it because the Help Wanted ad sounded interesting, don’t assume they’re some mega-fan and don’t market the product you rejected them from to them. That’s just tacky.
All right. One last point, and then I’ll stop. I want to talk about the act of serial adding and dropping. You’ve seen these people on nearly every social media platform. You might even be one of them. These are the people who go through tools, “friend of a friend” lists, and topic lists add everyone in sight, and then drop anyone who doesn’t add them back within a given (usually short) period. There are a few reasons people do this. They want to build their numbers by snagging anyone who autofollows or manually follows back everyone who follows them, or by snagging bots. There is no connection. And more often than not, the serial add/dropper suffers from some of the behavior I described above. It’s annoying to watch it happen on your own list, and I’ve recently noticed Twitter has started identifying people who engage in that behavior as trolls and suspending or terminating their account. (Sadly, I noticed it because two serial add/droppers who have been dogging my digital footsteps for the better part of a year have both started adding and dropping me from whole new Twitter handles.)
The thing about social media is that it’s really about building relationships. Having the most bots follow you, or annoying people you’d rather have as allies, isn’t how you “win” at social media. If you’re ever unsure about that, find someone you feel gets the results from social media you wish you were getting, and quietly watch their moves. You’ll learn a lot, and alienate fewer people.