The Seven Deadly Sins of Online Networking
by Dana Lynn Smith
Online networking offers a wonderful way to meet people who share your interests, to develop relationships with peers and potential customers, and ultimately to increase book sales.
But there’s sometimes a fine line between letting your contacts know about a book and being overly promotional. If you’re too passive, you may not get much benefit from networking, but if you’re too aggressive, you may turn people off.
Here are seven common mistakes people make when networking online to promote a book, along with tips on how to avoid them.
Mistake #1. No book information or Web site links on social network profiles. I’m amazed at how many publishers and writers don’t even mention their books on their social profiles, or make it easy for people to find information about the books.
On your Facebook profile and fan page, include information about any book you’re currently promoting, and have a link to the book sales page and Web site(s) on the Info section. Writers can also list themselves as authors in the Current Employer section of their personal profiles, which makes the author status show up at the very top.
On Twitter, be sure to mention the book in the description on your profile page. Since you have only 160 characters to work with, consider saying something like “[Title] and four other romantic suspense novels” if you have several books you want to promote.
On LinkedIn, take full advantage of the Title field. This space is designed for job titles, but authors can use it to showcase expertise and author status. For example: “Parenting expert and author of Raising Happy Kids in a Crazy World.” That “title” will appear along with the author photo wherever the author interacts on LinkedIn.
Also, link to the book’s sales page and Web site in the Websites section of the profile, and make sure the Publications section includes the book title(s).
Mistake #2. Not mentioning the book you’re promoting in status updates. It’s fine to talk about your books in the status updates that you post on social networks, as long as that’s not your main focus and you’re not too pushy. Intersperse messages about the book with other types of messages (personal notes, tips, links to helpful resources, thoughts on a new book you just read, and so on).
I recommend that no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of your status updates be promotional or self-serving. No one wants to read a constant stream of “buy my book” messages.
One way to talk about a book without seeming too promotional is to discuss marketing activities and achievements. For example:
• I just received the preliminary cover designs for my new book—what do you think of these?
• Today I’m contacting bookstores about setting up signings for [Booktitle], and it’s now available at
• I’m so excited! Just received word that [Booktitle] has received an award.
• I just scheduled a radio interview on [station] to discuss tips from [Booktitle]—booktitle.com.
• Today I launched the redesign of my Web site for [Booktitle]—what do you think? booktitle.com
And you can always mention events and special promotions:
• If you’re in the Seattle area, please join me at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday at [location] for a free
presentation based on my book, [Booktitle]. booktitle.com
• The Kindle version of [Booktitle] has just been released! You can find it at booktitle.com. If you
don’t have a Kindle, remember you can download the Kindle app and read e-books right from
• Monday Madness Sale! Spread the word—today only, all my parenting books are on sale for
30 percent off. Go to booktitle.com to order.
Mistake # 3. Sending blank friend requests on social networks. More than 90 percent of the network friend requests that I receive have no introduction at all, and most of the others have generic notes like “Let’s be friends.” The trouble is, I don’t know who most of these people are.
When you send friend invitations, be sure to introduce yourself—tell the other person who you are and why you want to connect. What interests do you share? If you know something specific about the person, say so. On Facebook and many other networks, you can click the “Add a personal message” button in the “Add as a friend” box, and type in a personal greeting.
Mistake #4. Posting promotional messages on other people’s profiles or pages. It’s just bad manners to post promotional messages on other people’s social network profiles or pages, especially those of your competitors. I delete any such posts from my own pages.
You usually have more leeway in posting messages on group pages. You’ll want to observe what others in a group are doing so you can get a feel for the group’s etiquette. Generally, it’s acceptable to make a wall post introducing yourself and your book, and also to share good news or resources with the group occasionally (see #2 above for ideas).
Mistake #5. Getting too personal. It’s great to tell your online friends something about your interests, but if you’re using social networks for business, you probably shouldn’t be discussing your health issues, your mother-in-law, or your kid’s problems. (Too much information!) In that context and others, it’s also good to be cautious about posting things like the dates you’ll be on vacation.
If you actively use your Facebook profile to network with family and friends, you might want to reserve your profile for personal use and use your fan page for business.
Mistake #6. Sending sales pitches to people you’ve just met. It’s nice to do a wall post or send a message to a new friend with a greeting (Great to meet you, have a wonderful day), a compliment (Your Web site is really terrific), or a note about something that you have in common. You can even invite the new friend to visit your site, if you’re subtle about it and include other things in the message. Just be careful that your message doesn’t come across as a sales pitch—that’s not the way to make a good impression on a new contact.
Mistake #7. Abusing direct messages. Many social networks let you send messages to your contacts or members of groups that you belong to. Unfortunately, some people abuse this feature.
On Facebook, the use of direct messages to send promotional pitches has become so prevalent that many people simply tune out their messages. On LinkedIn, someone in a group that I belong to sent me several sales pitches for her products by direct message. I’d never heard of her, and she’s not even on my list of connections.
If you use direct messages, do so sparingly, and be cautious about annoying people—remember that they can “unfriend” you if they get tired of hearing from you.
One good option is using direct messages to send a newsletter of sorts—a message that contains some helpful tips or resources, along with a link to your book at the end. You can also use direct messages occasionally to announce “news” such as your book launch.
Remember—the golden rule works for networking too. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Dana Lynn Smith, the author of several books, including The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to Successful Social Marketing. Her Top Book Marketing Tips e-book is available free when you sign up for her free newsletter at BookMarketingNewsletter.com. She blogs at TheSavvyBookmarketer.com. To learn more, explore her sites and follow @BookMarketer on Twitter.