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10 Ways to Kill your Writing Career using Social Media

15 Jul

I recently experienced an unpleasant incident where an acquaintance of the family began posting abhorrent statements about me via friends and family’s Facebook pages. The incident stemmed from a perceived slight years before, and I had no knowledge that she even held any animosity towards me. Luckily, the incident was resolved without too much damage when my friends and family deleted her postings. It did make me think, however, about how social media can affect our writing careers.

In April of this past year, an author’s online rant about a bad review she received turned into a Virtual Witchhunt. Unfortunately, Jacqueline Howett made the grave mistake of firing back profane comments that only fueled the fire in a review that could have gone quietly unnoticed. While Ms. Howett has now gone back and removed her derogatory and profane comments, the damage to her career was done in an instant. Viewers swarmed the sites where her book was posted and left a stack of negative reviews. She has since pulled her book from the market, but the trail of destruction in cyberspace still exists.

So what can we learn from experiences like this? Here are ten things to think about your online presence.

  1. Combining personal and professional accounts. Your audiences are different. Their expectations of you are different. How you interact with them should be different. Create a separate author account for your social media sites. Keep your personal life personal. Keep your professional life professional.
  2. Your online photos. Is that picture of you doing the Boot Scooting Boogie on top of the pool table really what you want a potential agent or publisher to see? How about that picture of you at the Christmas party after a bit too much scotch?
  3. Complaining. You may really feel the need to vent about your job, your agent, your publisher, your bad review, and all the things that distract you from perfecting your novel, but you never know where they will end up. Did you know that Twitter’s posts (tweets) are searchable? Do a search for your name (use quotation marks around your name for better results) and see what comes up. Remember that tweet about the boss’ wife who wore hot pink pants to the office get-together. It could pop up.
  4. Conflicting information. Your bio says that you have a Masters in Fine Arts from Goddard, so your agent contacts the Program Chair at the school for a promotional quote and the Chair has never heard of you. Oops!
  5. Unprofessional status updates. You are angry at your publisher, so you vent to your best friends (all 876 of them) on Facebook. Don’t think they won’t hear about it. I once promoted a clothing drive on Twitter that my local office was hosting and corporate office called within two hours because they had seen the company name. They don’t have to be on your friend list. If you use their name, they can find it.
  6. Embarrassing “Likes”. The great “like” button. We hit it with so little thought. We become fans of everything. Remember that fan club you joined at the suggestion of your friend back in 2009? Seeing Old Fat Shirtless Men Jiggle As They Run Down the Street. Yeah, that one. Your agent just saw it and guess what? He is elderly, over-weight, and not amused.
  7. Event attendance. The concert was great. The party afterwards was even better. Everyone is talking about it…including your editor because you told them that you were too sick to get finish the rewrites and they extended your deadline until Monday.
  8. Tag! You’re It! Your friends thought it was hilarious to post that picture of you passed out on the toilet and your cousin just tagged you in a post about cheating your way through college. In both cases, you just lost fans and possibly representation.
  9. “Controversial” comments. Recently I was tweeting back and forth with a Twitter friend about chicken recipes. I was looking for suggestions and one friend asked if I was cooking a whole chicken. I replied with the single word, “breasts”. I lost 5 fans immediately. Obviously they had not read the whole thread, but you never know what can offend. I have lost fans for mentioning a particular sports team. I have lost fans for saying something derogatory in jest about my dog that had locked me out of the house. Of course, these fickle fans are not really true fans, but it illustrates a point. Things that you do not think will be controversial might create firestorm and things that you hope will get attention sometimes disappear in cyberspace.

10. Security settings. We want our fan pages open to the public so that everyone can access us. You should have your personal pages marked private so that only friends have access. This will not solve all of your problems, but it will eliminate quite a few.

If you are unsure about what your online presence looks like, it is time to clean up. Not all embarrassing mentions online can be removed; they will be floating around in cyberspace forever. But you can do things to prevent future mishaps. Create a Google alert to notify you whenever your name is mentioned online. Search for your name on all major search engines. Consider changing the name on your personal sites to a nickname that only your friends and family will know. If someone tags you in an unprofessional circumstance, ask them to un-tag you. Delete unprofessional comments that appear on your site and ask friends to do the same on theirs. Of course, the easiest way to avoid online embarrassment is to avoid embarrassing behavior in the first place. You need an online presence to create your author platform. Keep it professional.

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25 Comments

Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Marketing tips

 

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25 responses to “10 Ways to Kill your Writing Career using Social Media

  1. Rue Volley

    July 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Nice article Rachel:) I enjoyed…definately gives people something to think about:) xoxo

     
  2. Shaun Hutchinson

    July 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I agree with you but I actually think this whole thing is ridiculous and has gotten out of control. It’s enough that over the last year, I’ve thought seriously about withdrawing from social media completely. The benefits do not, in my opinion, outweigh the disadvantages. I mean, who is a publisher to judge me on a Facebook page? So long as I’m not doing anything illegal, it’s frankly none of their darn business. It’s to the point that I hardly let real-life friends add me on Facebook, and when they do, I have to give them this big lecture on what is and isn’t appropriate to put on my page.

     
    • rachelkovacs

      July 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      That is exactly why I keep my accounts separate. I want to have the freedom of having a personal page, but I also want to build a platform. I keep my personal page private and my professional page open. Good luck!

       
  3. Tracy

    July 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Excellent Advice. Thnx.

     
  4. Jaye Viner

    July 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Frightening to think what little remark could be misconstrued the wrong way.

     
  5. Beth

    July 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Good points, but if I have to worry about everything I say I’d just rather not social network. (Although, I don’t love social networking the way some people do anyhow).

     
  6. Carol J. Garvin

    July 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I dropped in via Twitter and have to comment. This is such a great post! I followed the Howett controversy for a while, only because it was such an excellent example of how un-private social media is and how much damage can be done by a public temper tantrum. I’m still amazed that some of my friends believe their comments to each other on FB aren’t seen by anyone else. Even when privacy settings are adjusted, it’s not difficult to move between friends’ photos and comments, and end up seeing conversations that were never meant to be public. It reminds me of my mother’s admonition about gossip… to *never* say to *anyone* anything you wouldn’t want to have broadcast on the evening news.

     
  7. Taylor

    July 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Yeah it is something to worry about, but not too much. I don’t care if people see me passed out on toilets (I never am).

    http://www.taylornapolsky.com

     
  8. Melissa Adams

    July 30, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Posting something on the Internet is tantamount to putting it up on a billboard in Times Square. It’s amazing more writers & other folks don’t realize this.

     
  9. Kimberly

    July 30, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Actually even a private email can be sent around and/or publicly posted and make you look horrible. Especially when viewed out of context and/or with commentary detrimental to the writer by the unethical poster. My pissy emails at my ex friends have been all over the net. :(

     
  10. Tiffany White-Writer

    July 30, 2011 at 5:34 am

    I am having a hard time migrating my reader/writer connections to my fan page. I don’t know how to do it. I am an impassioned atheist, liberal and I say so on my Facebook page. That is for friends and family. But I CANNOT seem to get people who friend me or who are already friends to move to my Facebook fan page.

    And while we’re at it, if you have lists on Facebook, you can control who sees what by clicking the lock icon on your wall status area. You can CHOOSE who sees what. Thing is, I use an aggregator that does not allow this option. It’s a mess. I remember the days when a writer just had to write, not worry about “social media”.

    Tiffany White

    http://collegelackey.com

     
  11. EBDavis

    July 30, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Very good post! It’s one of the reasons that I have my facebook and twitter accounts under my pseudonym instead of my real name, however facebook keeps suggesting me to friends and family, which really ticks me off. I don’t want to ignore friends and family, but at the same time, I’ve stated in my bio info that I’m on facebook and twitter for social networking (to promote my work). It’s a pain having high school friends, who have a very skewed view of you, connect.

     
  12. parajunkee

    July 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Excellent advice…this can be translated into most venues of professionals. My last employment was a very large corporation which had a large amount of clients that liked be “friend” us. I was actually reprimanded because of my LinkedIn profile said I still worked for a prior company (I hadn’t updated my profile in a year). I know people that have two facebook accounts, one for “work friends” and one for “real friends”. I really wonder how things will be in ten years, will everyone be “checked in” wherever they go? Will there be no fibbing to employers, editors or even family… because it is obvious you are at that concert instead of Uncle Ricky’s 81st birthday party. Slippery. But we LOVE every new online innovation.

     
  13. Chloe

    July 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    This is a timely article for me.

    I used a pseudonym for years in SM and to write my blog, but I accidentally “Weinered” myself when I hit the share button for my blog and it posted to my private facebook page. That outed me to my family and friends. After some turmoil, since I’m basically what I would call a “Memoirist”, I embraced it, but not without a lot of fear and trepidation.

    I’m trying to find that balance between my privacy and the fact that my most passionate writing is self-revelatory. How much fear and worry should I entertain within myself, and at one point would it or will it stop me from writing altogether? I just don’t know.

     
  14. Jenny Milchman

    July 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Good reminders, thanks! Note to self: Do not Like Jiggling Shirtless Men

     
  15. Pj Schott

    July 30, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Excellent advice, all.

     
  16. Tara Maya

    July 31, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I can certainly see the common sense of not acting unprofessional, and keeping personal and writing accounts separately. A difficult area for me is politics. In general, I avoid it, but I don’t feel I should be ashamed of my values — even if I risk alienating people who disagree with me. I do tweet and post sometimes about human rights issues I feel passionately about. Once or twice, I have been drawn into a argument on a political issue, and realized it was going nowhere fast; that kind of fiasco is better avoided. My “policy” is that if I decide to say something on a political, moral or spiritual issue, I just state my opinion or share my link and leave it at that. No arguments. That way leads to doom.

     
  17. Paula Martin

    August 1, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I SO agree about keeping your professional and personal lives separate. There’s no way I will tweet about inane things like ‘I’m drinking coffee right now’ on my professional site (actually I wouldn’t do it on my personal site either!), or tell everyone about my family. I keep me as a mother. grandmother, personal friend totally separate from me as an author.

     
  18. Eileen Schuh

    August 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Ummm, I have nothing to hide. I am what I am and most seem to like me. If I were to do and say things online that were offensive to my fans, my friends and family probably would also be offended. Not saying I’m perfect. Just saying my imperfections are part of who I am both personally and professionally. Security settings and separate sites and pages won’t change that.

    New motto for high-tech social media-age: If you can’t say something nice, send it via personal email or messaging.

     
  19. Mary

    August 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I have to figure out how to separate my family FB from the writing one.
    I try to make students understand that those pictures and cuss words, etc will haunt them in the job market but they laugh. Even with High schools and colleges teaching courses in this stuff it doesn’t sink in.
    Appreciate that you stressed because you delete it doesn’t make it go away.
    Very timely post.

     
  20. Mistletoe

    August 6, 2011 at 2:54 am

    I think you make excellent points which illustrate the absolute importance of pseudonymity (which is not the same thing as anonymity). Would that Google + would figure this out.

     
  21. rachelkovacs

    August 11, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you to everyone who has left comments. A double thanks goes out to everyone who has shared.

     
  22. carrie m

    August 20, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Great post, thank you. I have been struggling with FB for separating family/friends and business. You’ve made up my mind that these two worlds need to be clearly separate. Thanks!

     

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