Social media is a scary place for a lot of people. Or it can be a comforting place — maybe too comforting.
On the one hand, what you say will be seen by hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people. And it’s out there forever. You might be able to delete it, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. A good rule of thumb is that everything you put out on the internet will exist there for all of eternity, whether you realize it or not.
But on the other hand, it is a place to gather with friends, co-workers, and people who you may not know but share a common passion with. It’s a community represented by avatars, where everyone can be exactly who they are, and damn the consequences. You have opinions, after all, and they need to be heard.
There are pros and cons to both approaches. Do you be professional or do you be personable? Do you spend all day promoting yourself, or do you sit around and tweet about how flipping adorable your cat is?
The answer is both. As with anything else, you need balance. You need to be professional because, yes, everything on the internet stays on the internet. But you also don’t want to assault your family, friends, and fans with links about your next book every day, all day.
You need to have spunk because people fall in love with the person, not the product. They want to get to know YOU, not become familiar with your Amazon links. They want those pictures of your cat, but maybe not every day, all day.
See the pattern yet?
I represent a lot of facets of myself. On the one hand, I’m a blogger. On the other, I’m a huge nerd. I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader. I’m a journalist and an editor, but I’m also just a person. So I need balance to show off each one of those aspects of myself without overwhelming people with one or the other.
I’m not saying I do it right all the time (God knows I talk about Teen Wolf more than any single person should), but I do have some general guidelines:
1. Don’t say anything you’d be embarrassed to say to your parents (or your grandparents or your children, etc.). One day they’ll find it, and that’ll be awkward. This is just a general rule of thumb for life anyway. Don’t be rude and obnoxious. You wouldn’t act that way in front of your grandmother, so don’t act that way when she’s not around.
2. Keep the links to a minimum. Sharing is caring, but don’t spam. People will eventually learn to ignore you, and that’s counterproductive.
3. Talk about your day. People actually want to know, believe it or not. They’re on social media to — get this — be sociable. If you talk about how you spent three hours chasing a chipmunk out of your house and back into the wild, someone will come along and share a similar story. Or at the very least laugh at your misery.
4. Interact with your peeps. Ask questions and you’ll get answers. Ask for tips and you’ll get suggestions. People are friendly (for the most part) and, like I said in the previous point, they’re there to talk to those who have interests similar to their own.
5. Have a filter. Sometimes I really want to rail on something I’m mad about. But is Twitter really the place for that? Is Facebook? Sometimes it is. Sometimes you just need it off of your chest. But other times no one cares. They don’t want to be dragged down by your daily reminders of how depressing your life is. (Harsh, but true.) Social media is a tool to use to your advantage. Whether you’re a writer or you’re just on there for fun, save the private conversations for private. You’ll thank me later.
6. Have fun. Be professional, but have a personality. Don’t think of social media like a chore and it won’t become one. But don’t let it run your life either. It’s addictive, and it will take over if you allow it. Set yourself limits if you have to, but remember that people want to get to know the real you. So loosen up and enjoy.