Archive for February 28th, 2012

Like all tools, social media can backfire

Social media is indeed a fantastic tool for authors, but as with all tools, there are dangers. I am sure that as SBMs* you are way too smart to ever make any of these errors. Nevertheless, anytime I find myself thinkng, “It should go without saying,” I know the lesson most certainly bears repeating. Remember the first rule of social media? The SOCIAL part. Well, some folks seem to forget: errors are made by big companies, individuals, publications – almost all types of users have had their challenges. Read on and learn these lessons well.

USE YOUR COMMON SENSE. First off is a host of errors compiled from 2011. The headline on this should say “Twitter Fails,” as all are incidents in some way related to the microblogging site, but they are good reminders of what NOT to do. From extremely high-profile incidents like Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal to an F-bomb insult that cost New Media Strategies their contract with Chrysler, these are some of the higher-profile incidents from last year.

GET INVOLVED BEFORE THE DAMAGE IS DONE. From smaller companies like Paperchase to behemoths like BP, another mistake participants have made in the social media realm is waiting too long to get involved. Says SocialMediaInfluence.com about a plagiarism incident involving the upscale greeting card retailer: “Paperchase is learning a hard lesson: brands ignore Twitter at their peril. Paperchase is engaging with this community only now, just as a crisis arises.” BP suffered a far worse fate when a wise guy co-opted the Twitter handle @BPGlobalPR. Tongue-in-cheek commentary still rains from this microblogger – truly the last kind of “PR” the oil company could hope for.

OWN UP TO YOUR MISTAKES. In other plagiarism news, TampaBaySocialMedia.com details the wicked response from Cooks Source, a free advertising-supported publication distributed in New England, when they were accused of stealing content from a blogger:

A series of events came to a head concerning Monica Gaudio, a blogger and writer, discovering that an article she had written had been copied wholesale and reprinted in an edition of Cooks Source without her permission. During email conversation with the editor, Judith Griggs, she requested compensation for the copyright violation in the form of an apology (printed and via Facebook) and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism (roughly $.10/word). Ms. Gaudio, astonished at the reply she received to this request, printed Ms. Griggs’ response on her livejournal:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free! (excerpted)

Needless to say, DON’T steal other people’s stuff. Secondarily, if you screw up, own it. Trust me, I know how difficult this can be – and it’s only made more so on a ginormous public forum like the World Wide Web. But digging in and justifying your bad behavior is never, ever the answer.

LET BAD REVIEWS LIE. A couple years ago, there was the case of the Scottsdale pizza proprietress and her online war of words with a diner who wrote a less-than-flattering review of her establishment. From a MyFoxPhoenix.com story about the incident:

Among the comments from Joel T’s review about Amy’s pizza: “I took a bite and was immediately underwhelmed.” … “After two small pieces I decided I was wasting my calories and just gave up on it.”

“These people are internet bullies they have nothing to do but sit behind their computer and lie and try to hurt people,” says Amy.

“It was really strange that they chose to lash out at me,” says Joel.

And lash out, Amy did. Writing in response as Amy B. on Yelp she said, “Dear Joel T. it is blatantly obvious to me why you were alone on a Saturday night” and “the pizza was fresh and amazing.”

“If he has freedom of speech so do I!” Amy defends.

“I was just kind of shocked that someone would attack me personally,” says Joel.

The fusillade of internet crossfire between the two triggered a Yelp war from those supporting Amy – and those backing Joel.

It went on for months.

I’m not sure whether the episode harmed Amy’s Baking Company, but it sure did make her look like an idiot. This is just my opinion – but reviewers are entitled to theirs. She might have thought the pizza was amazing, but for whatever reason, Joel did not agree. It’s unreasonable to believe that everyone’s going to like her pizza – just as it is unlikely that everyone will like your book. Even the best books receive 1-star reviews on Amazon. Some are from cranks, of course, and others are from those who simply hold another point of view. If most of your reviews are positive, let the negative ones go. If the majority of your reviews are negative, it could seriously indicate some room for improvement.

DON’T WRITE/POST FAKE REVIEWS. Evidently, bad reviews don’t originate only with dissatisfied customers. This incident is a bit older (five years ago – eons in the lifetime of social media). MediaPost.com details the story of the CEO of Whole Foods who was discovered anonymously posting fake bad reviews of his competition. Really, John Mackey? Need we say more? Don’t write fake reviews! In a related move, the FCC passed a law several years ago requiring those who use online testimonials (a form of review) to notify site visitors when reviewers had been in any way compensated for the review. This means that if you give a free book to a reviewer – they must mention that fact in the review.

DON’T INSINUATE YOURSELF INTO A MEDIUM THAT’S NOT FOR YOU. The University of Orgeon’s Strategic Social Media shares the story of retail magnate Walmart’s attempt to crash the Facebook party back in 2007. Part of the reason for their failure had to do with poor planning. Other problems included trying to be something they weren’t (mimicking their rival, Target) and trying to force themselves onto a platform that didn’t suit them. This could be a valuable lesson for you. Just because one author sees significant success with a particular social media channel does not ensure that you will see the same results. As we’ve mentioned previously, find the one(s) that work for you. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

GIVE YOUR FOLLOWERS WHAT THEY WANT. I’ll wind up with another catchall story by HypeBot.com about five social media fails by musicians. Though I don’t necessarily agree across the board, I do like their opening remarks:

Artists have myriad possibilities when it comes to social networking. The way these are utilized is often woefully misguided, and as a result artists become their own worst enemy.

Musicians often fail to realize that potential fans are not interested in what your music means to you; they are only interested in what your music means to them. Similarly this approach should be taken with you status updates. You need to ask yourself, “Why would anyone care about what I am about to say?” Just because you want the world to know doesn’t mean the world actually wants to know.

HypeBot’s list of musicians’ social media fails:

  1. Putting too much focus on Twitter
  2. The lame question
  3. ME, ME, ME
  4. The overly positive 
  5. Posting quotes from famous people

Social media can and will work for you, provided you are smart, creative, interactive, and avoid the obvious and not-so-obvious landmines. Use your best instincts and you will likely do well.


*Savvy Book Marketer


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Wednesday, February 22 – 25 social media success tips for authors

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