We spend a lot of time on social media. After all, it’s one of the best ways to connect with readers, fans, and clients. With how many authors and readers we see in a given day, we’ve compiled quite the list of best practices: what works, what doesn’t, and what’s just going to backfire and annoy folks. While we could probably talk for hours on this subject, today we’re going to provide a quick and easy list of dos and don’t to keep your social media accounts happy, healthy, and effective.

Do:

1. Use social media to connect with fans. Do you write about sweet romance? Tweet, blog, or post about romantic date ideas, sweet tips, or other books you’ve read in your genre. Are you a cookbook author? Then send out recipe tips, favorite kitchen appliances, or ideas for re-purposing defunct items (do you have any idea how many craft projects use old wine corks?).

2. Share different content on each platform. Sure, post your blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. But don’t hook up your accounts so that posting to one auto-posts to the other. Do you know what happens when you auto-post from Facebook to Twitter? Your followers get a tweet that looks something like this: “Did you know that you can make… fb.me/link.” What does that say to your Twitter followers? There’s no context. You could be talking about wine corks, pizza, or greeting cards. When you share content to Facebook, you have many more characters than you have on Twitter. So scope your content appropriately.

3. Be where your fans are. Each genre has its own unique social media makeup. Did you know that YA readers spend a lot more time on Instagram than contemporary romance fans?  Unfortunately, you’ll need to experiment a little to see exactly where your fans are. Look at your engagement. Have you been on Instagram for six months, post all the time, and never get a single heart or comment? Then maybe your fans aren’t there (or maybe you’re not posting the right things). Is your Facebook author page engagement in the basement? But do you get a ton of twitter replies? Then focus your efforts on Twitter and minimize posting to Instagram or Facebook. We suggest having a presence on each platform, but don’t stress out over posting to every platform all the time. Pick the ones you feel you can do. Or hire someone to help you (hint: we do social media management for an affordable price).

4. Do some research on the proper hashtags for your genre, niche, and fans. Some of our favorites are: #amwriting, #amediting, #amreading, #podcast, #catsofinstagram, #dogsofinstagram, #pubtip, and #MondayBlogs (only for blog posts, not book promotion). Sprinkle those hashtags in. Try not to use too many on Twitter, as they can get long and annoying (seriously, we’ve seen tweets with every word hashtagged). But on Instagram, hashtags are king. Use with abandon!

5. Do use a schedule. TweetDeck, one of our favorite tools, makes pre-scheduling content easy. It can be hard to

Don’ts

Ah, the don’ts. Let’s have some fun with these, shall we?

1. Don’t send an automated @ reply or DM when someone follows you on Twitter. Please. We’ve gotten some of those that actually say “I’ll literally drink bleach to get you to buy my novel.” We’re not joking. Well, Mr. I’ll Drink Bleach, hasn’t anyone told you that’s dangerous? And if we’ve followed you, then we probably know who you are because we’ve looked at your profile. We’re aware you’re an author (because that information is in your profile and bio, or should be) and if we want to check out your books, we will. An auto-DM is like an acquaintance you’ve met once at the grocery store following you home and knocking on your door with a book, asking you to buy it. Just don’t do it. Would you go up to a random stranger and shove your book in their face? No. So don’t do it on social either.

2. Don’t auto-post from one platform to another. The exception to this is from your blog to the various platforms. You can configure a social plug-in for your WordPress blog (or other blog) so that you can push your blog posts out to Twitter and Facebook easily. But don’t link your Facebook posts to your Twitter feed or tweet every new pin you add to your Pinterest boards. It’s perfectly fine to share the occasional status update in multiple places. After all, you want your twitter followers to know you offer content on Facebook too, or that you’ve just joined Pinterest and are setting up a board for your books. But if you offer the same content on every platform, all the time, you’re basically hitting your followers over the head with such content, and that’s not considerate.

3. Don’t use social media to sell. Constant tweets or post that say nothing but “Buy My Book” don’t work. Sure, you can tweet a teaser from time to time. Tweet or post your sales on Facebook. But try to stick to the schedule of one promo tweet for every 5-10 non-promo tweets. This way, when you do share something promotional, your followers will pay attention because you’re not overwhelming them with buy, buy, buy.

4. Don’t spam. We’ve seen plenty of authors (and other professionals) send the same exact tweet to every one of their followers. One tweet after another after another. This violates Twitter’s terms of use and could get your account blocked or banned. Never harass your followers with profanity or offensive images.

5. Pick your subject matter wisely. Politics and religion are two subjects fraught with danger. If you don’t write about either of those topics, steer clear of them on your author account. Or at least, be cautious. These two subjects can be very divisive, and you can offend your fans with a single careless tweet or Facebook post. We’re not in any way suggesting you don’t be honest and authentic. But be aware of the ramifications. Of course, if you’re writing political satire, then by all means…tweet away about the latest debate or political controversy.

Social media should be exactly that. Social. Have fun, be smart, and build your community.