10 out of 10 and you can have the rest of the year off…

I just want to end this year by saying a huge THANK YOU to all the lovely people who have read my blog, supported my writing, and of course, bought my books ( or given them a plug, which is definitely as good!) Your kind words and frequent shares and likes have kept me going, thank you.

Wishing everyone health, happiness, peace and prosperity, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones around you, God Jul, Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten, E keresimesi Oma,  Gëzuar Krishtlindjen, Boldog karácsonyt, Śubh krisamas, and Wesołych Świąt! Let’s all get together in a week or so and takk about the old days of 2017, if that’s not too soon for such a painful year.

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Let’s play nice out there

Apparently the anonymity of social media, coupled with the at-arm’s-length feel of the Internet, means that we are often tempted to speak and act in a way we probably wouldn’t if we were face-to-face with a person or situation. We can get mean. You know what I’m talking about. The sarky comments, the temptation to wade into someone else’s mess, the need to correct, criticise, ridicule, offer up our own viewpoint, or just be abusive because someone has ticked you off.

But sometimes, we say a bit too much, and obviously people can get hurt, and relationships—online and off—can get damaged, and before you know it you’re blacklisted. I’ve done it myself. I made a comment. I meant it in a jokey way, but someone found it overly critical and was offended. Result? Someone I respected and enjoyed following has blocked me!!!! I apologised but it didn’t make any difference. It’s easy to say ‘Well they shouldn’t be so easily offended.’ It’s not really their fault – I just didn’t think before I ‘spoke’, I was so keen to show off my hilarious wit. It’s my fault, not his.

We’re quite keen to say that things are other people’s problems, but that ‘I’m all right, you’re the one with the problem,’ attitude doesn’t get us far. Lucy Mitchell on her brilliant blog BlondeWriteMore suggested we should perform one random act of creative kindness daily. A lot of us, especially writers, sit at home all day working away on our own. So the words of a stranger on the other side of the planet can have a deep effect. Don’t mess up someone’s day just because you got carried away with your own cleverness or were eager to be seen interacting on your platform of choice.

When you make a comment, remember you are talking to a real person, not just a collection of bytes. Don’t disguise a nasty sideswipe as a witty comment; don’t act as if you are the almighty writing boffin just because you’ve had some success and they are still working towards theirs. Don’t laugh at the NaNoWriMoers, at the aspirers, at the strugglers, at the people with the lousy book cover, poor editing, ideas that–to you–seem hackneyed or cliched. We are all just trying to get by. To hone our craft we all have to start somewhere. My mum used to say ‘If you can’t say something nice, keep quiet.’ So play nice, be generous, be gentle, be kind.

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I didn’t recognise you in that media!

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Apparently we all lie on our CV or Resume. I never did, but then I was brought up to believe that my sins would find me out, so I never took the chance. It would have been tempting to award myself a PhD in Business Management in the hope of landing a job paying big bucks, but I always knew that sooner or later, someone would come along and ask me that one deep question that would reveal my ignorance in all its glory. So I never lied on my CV.

But just like trolling, it seems we can often leave the straight and narrow behind once we get close to our keyboards. Bending the truth on your social media profile is okay, even desirable. Don’t get too carried away–the internet really isn’t as anonymous as we like to think. Out there somewhere are all the people who spotted that you had ditched another class back in the day, or that you got a terrible grade for that science homework, and they will tell all at the least opportune moment.

So keep yourself and your reputation squeaky clean. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate, let alone downright lie. There is no bigger fall than a public one, especially if you are hoping to use social media to market yourself for work or online business.

Keep to the truth. Don’t say you are a New York Times bestselling author if only your mum and your cat have read your book. Don’t post a profile pic of yourself that is thirty years/300 pounds out of date. Tell us what you have done with your life, we will understand if it’s not all been unalloyed success, we’ve all been there. Skate over the grimmer details by all means, but keep to the truth and don’t bluster or make excuses. Don’t spam. Don’t batter people with ‘buy my stuff’ messages and never, never, never put someone down if you don’t want it done to you.

Thanks for reading. Rant over.

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‘So tell us a bit about yourself,’ or upping your Twitter Game.

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Okay Writer-Tweeps. Yes. You need a profile. If you want followers, they need to know who they’re following. Plus they are drawn in by revelations of your human side.

Too many social media posts are impersonal, automated, and say nothing other than ‘BUY MY PRODUCT!!!’ So many of the tweets I receive every day are just a book title and a link to the sales page, nothing else, not even a ‘please’. I know we all want more sales as well as a larger following, but frankly a constant stream of unvarnished, bald sales pitch tweets are a massive turn-off.

Even a lot of the messages I get from people I follow or who follow me, and want me to reciprocate say quite simply, ‘Follow me on FB’ and a link, or ‘Check out my book’ and a link. There’s not even a pretence of being interested in me or my world. I am not seen as a person, I am a wallet, a statistic, and all I’m getting is a demand for payment. They rarely even offer to reciprocate by following me or buying my books. These people don’t care about me–they only want to stand on my corpse to reach a little higher.

Don’t be like that. That is not the way to build true relationships on social media or to gain real followers. Sometimes I send them a message back saying, ‘Follow me on FB.’ or ‘Buy my book.’ Usually I just ignore them. Only very occasionally do I think, actually yes, I will buy your book because it sounds really good.

Beware the ‘Buy 5000 twitter followers NOW’ bods too. If you don’t buy, they will unfollow you in a week or two. If you do, all you’re getting is people who ignore your tweet and won’t engage with your feed. Plus you will get bombarded with requests from everyone else trying to sell on their lists too. Are these even real followers?

But don’t only follow people like yourself. If you only follow other writers you will severely limit your reach.

Think about your interests. Twitter is all about comments and short snippets of information. follow gardeners, Mums, bird watchers, chefs, celebs, boy bands, The National Trust, The British Library–anything that you find interesting, retweet, engage, comment, ‘heart/like’, twill help to fill out your twitter feed without demanding too much brainpower, and is a great way to gain new followers who share your interests.

If followers are few, build up your following by searching the subjects that interest you or people who interest you, and follow their followers. go through the list of people you follow every to or three weeks and unfollow anyone who hasn’t followed you back unless you really, really find them fascinating or noteworthy. I should point out that if you don’t have many followers and you trawl Twitter for people you can follow, you will find you reach a maximum at 2001 at which point Twitter will not allow you to follow any more people until the numbers following you even up a bit.

And to come back to my opening comment, don’t just put in your name and a picture of your dog and expect loads of people to follow you – well, maybe they will, but if you put a smiling pic of yourself on their along with a few personal details in your profile such as ‘Rabbit whisperer and mother of six, writing Westerns in my spare time’ or ‘Bakes cookies, mum and chauffeur to six kids’, people will be more interested in following you because you’ve given them a little snapshot of your life and interests – you’ve made yourself into a real person they can relate to. No one follows a blank sheet. From this they know a) you;re female, and b) a mum, and c) ordinary just like them – you have to stop being fabulous and take your kids somewhere, and you wrangle pets just like they do. Now if you said ‘Bakes cookies, chauffeuse to six kids, and Author of Westerns’, that would tell them even more – a) you’re a parent of six kids, b) so you’ve obviously got no TV, c) you know French, d) you’re a bit nit-picky or an accuracy nerd, and e) you’re a little bit different. Then that might make them take a look at your books.

If you’re worried about having something to say, well it’s easy on Twitter–say it quick and get out. 140 characters (a combination of letters, spaces and/or punctuation) is the max, plus you can put on photos or other media too. My husband has a favourite acronym KISS which stands for, as you probably know, Keep It Simple, Stupid. I prefer to think of it as Keep It Short and Sweet. It’s a bit like writing a postcard, you’ve only got a small space, so make every word count: ‘Argggh! Hair Dye Disaster! Another shower curtain ruined!’ or something daft. Or, ‘What a fab film last night – really love Ridley Scott’. Reach out to people, and they will reach back. Keep it short and sweet, be precise. I tweet a lot of Haiku, because they’re really short – so they’re the perfect length for a tweet, and I love the discipline of having  to say what I want to say quickly.

So in short – tell people who you are, let them knowing they’re following a real person just like them and it’s not only about the sales. We don’t have to be Twitter Automatons.