Nate’s Rules of Social Media Marketing

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

May 2, 2021

Everyone tells authors they have to be on social media, but how exactly are you supposed to go about marketing yourself on social media?

I am not really sure, but lately I have come to beleive that approaching social media from the viewpoint that you should be engaging in “marketing” is a mistake.

That’s why my first rule of social media marketing is:

1. Don’t.

Social media is for socializing, not marketing. (The act of socializing is your marketing.) This is in fact why I hate the term social media marketing; it gives the wrong impression that one should be marketing when you’re supposed to be socializing.

2. Don’t automate things like sharing links to your blog posts. (TBH I break this rule all the time) The point is to be yourself, not a bot, which is why I stopped using Buffer to share links from my link post. Instead, I now share the links by hand, all on Sunday.

3, Don’t only share links to your book pages on Amazon, or mention your services. At most, you should do that only infrequently. People want to socialize with you, not with your ad. The one exception to this is if you have an event coming up which would be of interest to your audience. That you can mention.

4. Don’t get on a social network just because you were told you have to. Instead, only join a network if you plan to learn how to use the network correctly.

What does that mean?

For many social networks (Pinterest excepted), you basically need to live your life there. It needs to be personal. It is a performance. It is the online equivalent of catching up with the friend you happened to spot in a grocery store.

And no, those four sentences are not contradictory; I see them as intersecting in such a way as to define a space. What you do on social networks needs to fall in that space.

5. Be nice to everyone. If you can’t be nice on a part of a social network, don’t go there. (This is why I tend to avoid the FB news feed and Twitter home page.)

6. Politics are fine, just avoid being rabid.

I know that some rulebooks say no politics, but TBH there are people who I would not want to work with because we have different views. It’s better we should find this out before, rather than after.

7. (this is also 2a) Your objective is to provide content valuable to the other people on the social network. This can be entertainment, or useful info, etc. The reason you shouldn’t automatically share things like your blog posts is that the link plus title is not valuable.

Now, if you want to rant about the blog post you just wrote, thus contributing value to the social network, go ahead. On a related note, did you know this post started as a chain of tweets? (I was providing valuable content directly on Twitter.)

Those are my rules; what are yours?

* * *

As I sit here reading this list, it occurs to me that most of the rules were designed with Twitter in mind. The various social networks differ to such a degree that these rules cannot be applied equally.

For example, if you applied these rules to FB on a literal basis, you might reach the conclusion that I am against running ads. That’s not really what I was going for; I was thinking that these rules applied to your personal account, not your FB page (your business account).

And what about Goodreads? How would these rules best be adapted to Goodreads?

image by Jason A. Howie via Flickr

Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

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1 Comment

  1. Felix

    Excellent advice! Someone had to write it down.



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