Wednesday, June 8, 2011

20 Social Media Tips for Writers

By Ellen Meister

The past year has been a crazy ride for me, as I prepared for the release of THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam, Feb. 2011), found out it was optioned by HBO for a TV series, and learned more about social media than I thought possible.

So I'm taking the opportunity to share some tips with you here. Most of these are Twitter-specific, but a few apply to Facebook and other social media sites as well. Hope you find them helpful ...

1. DO use the name you write under, not a cute nickname. This makes it easier for people to find you, and also enhances name recognition.

2. DON'T put the word "Author" (or "Writer" or "Poet") before your name. It comes across as unprofessional.

3. DO post a profile picture of yourself. People want to feel like they're connecting with a person, not an account ... or a book. 

4. DON'T be afraid to have a little fun. If you want to switch it up for a day and post your embarrassing high school yearbook picture or that awful mullet from the 1980s, go for it. (But don't forget to change it back!)

5. DO include a profile! People want to know who you are before following you.

6. DON'T lock your tweets. It's all about exposure, and there's no reason to keep people from seeing your updates.

7. DO comment on others' posts. Remember, you're there to connect.

8. DON'T engage in social media blackmailing. Telling someone "If you check out my blog I'll check out your book" is an immediate turn-off.

9. DO find an area of specialization related to your book. Then post frequently on your topic and find followers who are interested.

10. DON'T use applications like TrueTwit that discourage people from following you. (IMO, TrueTwit is the black plague of Twitter)

11. DO follow back! Social networking is all about building relationships. 

12. DON'T have unrealistic expectations. You're not going to land an agent/publisher/blurb-from-a-bestselling-author just because you retweeted something.

13. DO be gracious if you get turned down, no matter how much it stings. Remember, you're there to build bridges, not burn them.

14. DO share your publishing accomplishments. When something big happens, tell us, and let your natural enthusiasm come through. We're happy for you and want to celebrate your successes!

15. DON'T focus exclusively on your book. You'll turn people off if it's clear you are only tweeting to sell books.

16. DO try to keep the number of people you follow about even with your followers. 

17. DON'T be afraid to un-follow people who don't follow you back. There are applications that make this easy, like

18. DO be aware of who is seeing your responses to a particular tweet. If your message to someone appears BEFORE the @name (i.e., Everyone should follow @_DorothyParker!) all of your followers will see it. If your message appears AFTER the @name (i.e., @_DorothyParker, everyone should follow you!) it will only appear to the followers you have in common.

19. DON'T clog up the Twitter stream by posting dozens of updates in a row. This will annoy your followers and you may lose them.

20. DO share this blog post with anyone you think might be interested ... and feel free to add your own tips in the comments below!


Ellen Meister is the author of three novels and would love to connect with you online. You can find her on Twitter and on Facebook. You can also connect with her muse, Dorothy Parker. For daily quotes from the beloved American wit, connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. great post and lots to think about!!

  2. Thanks for the great tips, Ellen! It's a big deal figuring out how all this social media stuff works. Wish I could join you this Friday, but I'm booked at that time. Maybe next!


  3. Thanks for the great tips, Ellen...and the flashback picture! ( : I'll tweet to my peeps.

  4. I was just thinking about the "flood the screen with tweets" issue yesterday. I read a lot of blogs and like to tweet the good posts, but I was worried about spamming. I don't want to do that. What are some options for tweeting good info, but not flooding inboxes? I've heard folks say you can schedule tweets. Maybe that's an option?

  5. Robin, so glad you liked it. Thanks!!

    Sarah, it's quite a lot to learn. I'm still figuring it all out.

    Erin, appreciate the RTs! Glad you like the flashback pic--I'm proud of my courage in posting that! Lol.

    Janice, yes, if you stagger them you're fine. Good luck!

  6. Good advice, all pretty common sense... I guess I am missing "don't use a bot to spam the same ad every few hours" on the list though!

  7. Great advice, Ellen!! I'm not on twitter yet, but you're inspiring me! More advice, please!!!

  8. As always, great advice, Ellen! ;) I'm thinking of trying Twitter...again. With these helpful hints, maybe it'll make it easier. Thanks again!

  9. Loved this post Ellen. You are Exhibit A on how to do social media so it works for you not against. Going to repost because there are way too many Twitter and FB annoyers who need these important tips. In fact, you could be the Emily POST on social media rules!

  10. I so love your mullet photo, Ellen!!! That would endear you to me instantly (if I didn't already know what a wonderful gal you are! Yes, I said "gal"--I'm starting to sound like my dad!). Great tips! I'm no Tweeter, but I am still mastering the Art of Facebook.


  11. I'm not sure there can ever be enough wisdom injected into the social media game so thank you for this!

    Thoughtful article, Ellen, and one we should all observe. Our mutual connection Saralee Rosenberg passed it along via Facebook and I was not only pleased to learn a new thing or two, but relieved to note that, per your wise suggestions, I'm in-line on decorum for the most part!

    Congratulations on your writing success; I'll look forward to hearing more about it.

    (And I, too, love your mullet. I have some '80's shots that would be on par! :)

    Lorraine Devon Wilke

  12. Really great tips. I actually tried Twitter a second time after attending a book fest where a few authors asked my twitter name and to follow me etc. Since returning I'm learning my way around, and liking it, it helps when fun people follow you:).

  13. Awesome tips! I'm so glad someone's put a list of these up, it's nice to get an overview, especially since I know I mess up a lot when I'm on Twitter since I'm so chatty and I figure a lot of my followers might get really bored with half of the things I say. =^.^=

  14. Hi Ellen - good to know I blew the first two right off the bat :-) - my twitter handle is @writerbeverly.

    I'm not sure that's a horrible mistake for me, though. My experience has been after many years giving out my name professionally, in various contexts, people remember meand my first name, but stumble over spelling my last name. For only having 5 letters, it's amazing to me how very many ways it's been misspelled - even after I have slowly and carefully spelled it to someone 2, 3, 4 times.

    Love all the tips through, and the mullet rocks!

  15. Nils, that's a good one to add. Thanks!

    Brenda, let us know when you take the plunge--we'll all follow you!

    Jill, thanks so much! Appreciate the FB links, too!

    Saralee, Lol @ Emily Post! There's surely a need for a handbook on social media etiquette!

    Susan, took me a long, long time to warm to Twitter. It's really very different from Facebook. As far as the photo, we should all post pics of our worst haircuts!!

    Lorraine, glad you like the mullet! Nice to meet you and thanks for clicking in.

    Anita, I had a Twitter account for a long time before I actually started using it. It's a big learning curve.

    V, chattiness is GOOD!

    Beverly, I understand ... though I have some good friends named Diehl so the spelling isn't mysterious for me. :)

    Maria, thank you!!

  16. What a great post, Ellen!! I liked Facebook right away, but it's been taking me a long time to get the hang of Twitter. (Probably because I'm an overwriter type and can't keep anything to 140 characters. ;) Thanks for passing along such helpful tips!

  17. Ellen, thanks for taking the time to write these tips, I learned a couple of things. I’m sharing it with everyone.

  18. Great post!
    Do you have any advice for Twitter overload? I get hundreds of Tweets per day and no time to even scan them all. I am only following about 70, mostly industry.

  19. Thank you so much for listing these all in one place for all of us to see. They're such great rules to follow. Social media is all about making friends and acquaintances through Twitter, Blogs, and FB, not about us selling our books. Great advice.

  20. Great post! Thank you for sharing. I do break rule number 2 on twitter because someone else had @dlsparks. *sad face* so I used the "authordlsparks" when I realized people were following the wrong account. Do you think I should change it?

  21. Marilyn, thanks and yes--Twitter took me a long time, too. My account was idle for about a year.

    Joanna, glad you liked it and thanks for sharing.

    Addison, you don't need to read or respond to every tweet in your stream. (I follow over 7000 people, so I only even see a tiny percentage of their tweets.) Just check in when you can and respond to what moves you.

    Patti, so glad you liked the post. Thanks!

    Spiritual Tour, out, damned bot!

    A View, so glad you liked it! I don't think it's the end of the world to have that "Author" in front of your name, but I worry that people will take you less seriously. Maybe you could use D.L.Sparks with periods? Or some folks use the underscore: DL_Sparks

  22. Good one Ellen! I liked the "have fun" part, and would add to just be yourself.

  23. Thank you Ellen. These are all great tips and as a new writer I am looking for all the help I can get. These are a great start.

  24. Very good points. If someone posts ten at a time, unfollow them as quickly as you can! As for myself, posting links to stories about publishing, e-books, technology, gadgets, social networks, is fairly relevant to most followers, and then there are the in-genre links, sf/f/h, etc. It's all about gate-keeping. I never re-post disparaging stuff about anyone, least of all if I don't know who that other person is talking about.

  25. Great post Ellen! Great points to follow as I try to get a handle on Twitter. Thanks!

  26. Really excellent tips, Ellen -- I agree with them all. The best thing to be on Twitter is yourself.

  27. Some great tips there, Ellen. Thank you.

  28. Chris, yes! Being yourself is vital. Good point.

    Rebecca, glad to help. Thanks for stopping by.

    Louis, all good points. Thank you!

    Marian, I'm still getting a handle on it. :)

    Jael, yes--people can sense if your voice is your own.

    Kitdomino, you're welcome. Glad you liked this!

  29. This is a good post. Very useful for us writerly types.

    One thing. Can you elaborate on #18, regarding the RTs and @names? I've been using Twitter for a while and I may not be using that function the right way.

    By the way, I am @MarketingBuddy

  30. Ellen,

    These are useful tips. As someone who is a relatively new blogger and who is about to market her first book, I will take all of these to heart.

    Thanks for connecting via the social network world and good luck with the book and HBO series! Exciting!

  31. Great post, Ellen! Just retweeted-- I know it takes a little time to get used to using Twitter and FB and such, so people are always looking for tips on how to use it well without annoying people.

    Since a few people here mentioned they're trying to get going on Twitter, I hope you don't mind my posting a link to my Twitter tutorial here; it starts out really basic and goes on from there:

  32. Buddy, glad you liked the post! I'll try to clarify #18. If I respond to one your posts with the tweet, Nice to meet you, @Marketing Buddy, ALL of my followers will see it. But if my entire message went AFTER your name, i.e., @MarketingBuddy, nice to meet you, it would only appear in the Twitter streams of followers you and I have in common. Does that help?

    Stephanie, glad it helped ... and thanks for the kind words!

    Lynne, thanks for the RT and the link to your tutorial. :)

  33. Social media has only just taken of in the mainstream and Facebook is just one of the first big trendsSocialkik . Google has many more strings to its bow, it IS sort of worrying when you look at the kind of data that Google seems to want to collect about the people of the planet, my guess is that Google is an alien overlord priming us all for eons of interplanetary slavery.

  34. The best blog post I recently read. This post is great stuff. I stand up and say is fantastic! There is good reason that your article has more visitors

  35. Your article includes the information that i was looking for. Your post includes great tips and you managed to keep it simple and understandable.

  36. Great tips, Ellen. I'll be following you on Twitter as soon as finish this comment!

    And now that I'm finally getting the hang of Twitter, I'm dipping my toes into G+. Are you there? If not ... I can send you an invite!

    Never seems to be an end to our building the author's platform!

    Good luck with yours,
    Doreen Pendgracs

  37. This is an enlightening blog post that has opened my eyes to new avenues that need to be explored.
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  38. Great post. Since I'm new to twitter, it was nice to learn a few things I wasn't aware of! Thanks :)

  39. Great tips! As someone who's been using Twitter for 5 months now, I do have another to add:

    "Please don't Direct Message a follower asking a direct question that warrants a response when you aren't following back. These people take the time to politely answer your query only to have the message pop up saying you can't DM someone who isn't following you. This is especially frustrating when someone is using their mobile phone to answer you."

    #10 is absolutely true. Forcing someone to endure that TrueTwit verification service is not only rude (it makes you look like a snobbish True Twit), it's next to impossible if they're using Twitter via their cell phone. FYI, to someone who's only been using Twitter for 5 months, it makes you appear aloof, unfriendly, & self-important--quite the turn-off. Which would you rather risk? A few bots following you now & then or losing a real human being follower who is interested in your work?

  40. Thanks for the great tips!

  41. These tips are amazing! Thank you so much for posting this! I think that every social media company out there should have a list like this that they provided to all their clients. It would definitely be super helpful! Good job!

  42. I agree with Jasperost. These tips are great! I myself am in the seo business and I've learned how important it is to keep your social media accounts up-to-date and also interacting with your followers/customers on a regular basis, since this tends to create positive relationships with the target audience. Thanks for posting this. I will go ahead and use a couple of the tips right now :)

  43. Didn't know the tip about tweeting before or after the name. Thanks! I reblogged the article at

  44. Very useful advice to newbies like me, thank you.

  45. UNLESS your pen name is completely taken everywhere: URL, on twitter, etc. Then I had to do @authoramberlin. And if you say "pick another pen name" well, you might be right, but it took long enough to find this one! :)

  46. Hello! I still pop into this post once in a while to read comments, so thank you all for your kind words. So glad people find this info useful!

  47. Great advice, Ellen! It's really so fundamental, but social media is nothing but one enormous conversation. I'm a bit of a newbie to Twitter myself, so your tips are well-timed and so helpful! It also helps to realize that it's not blackmail to follow and unfollow if things get out of whack.

  48. Interesting tips, and although it was originally posted long ago and I've been on Twitter now for 3 years, it's all still very true and good to refresh our focus every once in a while. I agree that locking tweets is insane unless it's a child tweeting and only to be seen my family members, etc.

    Glad to have found this site.

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