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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tread Carefully On Social Media by Sarah J. McNeal

I learn everything the hard way and, believe me, I have a lot to learn when it comes to social media. I have Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, and Facebook. The only ones I actually use are Twitter and Facebook. Honestly, I still don’t understand about hashtags. Whatever. Once in a while I write a post and try to get it all in the allotted character number—next to impossible to do in my opinion. My eyes cross when it comes to all that hashtag business.

Facebook is my favorite place for posts and keeping up with my constituents, family, and friends. I don’t have a special page for book promotion. I think that would be stretching the limits of my expertise. 

I’m more like Betty Flintstone stuck in techno idiocy still hanging on to my land line phone while I try to figure out my smart phone and all those apps. Because my Facebook page includes personal connections as well as professional, I try to be careful what I post.

With yahoo groups becoming less popular for book promotion, I have come to relying on Facebook to keep in touch with readers. How to do this takes something akin to magic. I try to post things about me I think others may find interesting or funny. I also want to engage people by answering comments or at least “liking” their comments so they know I paid attention to what they had to say. I only post blatant promotional posts when I have a new story out or a blog I’d like them to read. I find too much blatant promotion turns people off. I want to read some personal things I can relate to from an authors sandwiched between those layers of promotion.

Manners on Facebook is sometimes tricky. I try to be vigilant about who I invite to “friend” and whose friend request I accept. I want people who are genuinely interested in writing and reading books, so I always check out their Facebook pages before I accept those invitations. Once you friend someone they can write and post on your page. You sure don’t want them to write something you don’t want on your page or that goes against the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. My Facebook page is not a dating service or a soap box. Just sayin’. Beware of weirdos and predators!

Politics and religion are two topics I do not want to become involved in on Facebook. I never post on my page nor comment on someone else’s page on these two subjects. I’d like to keep my page all-inclusive and transcend political and religious lines.

Another thing I don’t do is post self-promotion on someone else’s Facebook page unless specifically asked to do so. I consider it ill-mannered to draw attention to myself at another’s expense. Their Facebook page is their platform, not mine. Emily Post hasn’t written a good cyber manners book about social media—not that I know of anyway, so discovering what considerations one should have for another in these areas can take some time and experience.

There are still things I don’t understand like requests to “like” a page from people I don’t know. I don’t even understand how liking a page can help someone.

What are some things you like or don’t like about social media? Have you ever had an experience you didn’t know how to handle? What are your pet peeves? Have you ever unfriended someone? I’m open to advice about using social media if you have some to offer.

Social Media does not show up in my Wildings stories, or at least not yet. I'm in the 1950's generation of Wildings who still use telephones--no cell phones let alone computers. I'm safe from social media at least in what I write.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Hi Sarah, Facebook trips me up. I try to do minimal family stuff for privacy's sake, (although I can rarely resist pix of the back of my curly-headed grandson's head) so I try to concentrate on animals and minimal book stuff. I find I get a jillion likes on an animal and just a few on a book release. Oh well. Like you say, learning curve lol. Great post!

    1. I like the pics of your curly headed grandson, Tanya. Isn't it curious how people respond so positively to animals and their stories on Facebook? Maybe it's because animals don't judge. There is so much I don't know about Facebook and Twitter--and I know absolutely nothing about Google Plus and LinkedIn.
      Thank you for coming and commenting, Tanya. I so appreciate it.

  2. I had Facebook before I was bringing out books; so there are a mix of friends, family and other writers/readers. I do post on political issues but try to stay off religious. I don't generally write my political opinions but my sharing someone else's is probably the same for irritating someone who disagrees. I've been outspoken on politics for too many years probably to quit now but agree with you, it can cost a person friends or potential readers.

    I have a facebook author page where I do most of my own promoting of my books. I pretty much agree with you-- it can lead to problems if a person oversteps.

    I have found with some of my more passionately political 'friends' I just do an unfollow if I simply cannot take more of what they are posting. You don't have to unfriend someone unless you truly want to hurt their feelings ;) and there are such times, I guess. I haven't come across any yet though on my end.

    One thing I've felt uneasy about is commenting on another writer's post where I mention I am a writer. I have felt some don't even want that and yet sometimes my comment would be from that viewpoint.

    There are times it'd be easier to not use facebook for all the pitfalls, but it's my only place right now where I have a regular social interaction and especially with other romance writers. For me, it's more for that than for the promoting that I stay there. -- I have to get out in the world more ;)

    1. Rain, I can see your hesitation. I have some, too. I have unfriended a person. Actually, it was my fault for not going to the FB page of a guy who requested a friend before I accepted his invitation. It became clear to me very quickly he was using FB as a dating ploy. After several suggestive comments from him, which I ignored at first, I just wiped him right outta there. I didn't care if his feelings were hurt.
      When someone steps all over a promotional post I just made by posting their own, I'll admit, I am very tempted to say something to them or delete their post, but I don't. Making enemies of people who may not realize the error of their ways will not help me. I don't retaliate in any way, I just totally ignore them.
      Personally, I think it's fine to mention you're a writer in a response to another FB author as long as you're not listing your books and links. Your reply to whatever they've said may be very helpful if they know it's coming from another author who has experienced a similar circumstance.
      It's all a trial and error thing on social media. I've learned so much by observing others and doing the wrong thing myself. I have a gift for stepping in deep water. By the time we all catch on to how it's done, there will be a new social media group going on. LOL
      Thank you so much for your input, Rain.

    2. I agree if someone gets out of line that way, I do unfriend them. I generally avoid it by not adding anyone without a lot of friends and photos of family that go back more than a day. One guy was trying to come on to me in a very sad way. I just emphasized I was married and happily. He stopped sending me messages but I do see he continues to show up on my facebook once in awhile trying to get another woman interested. Pathetic. The unfollow thing for me comes when the person just can't stop putting out hateful political stuff and frankly that's on both sides. I am not mad at them. I just don't want to see what they are throwing out.

    3. Yeah, Rain. That's one of the things I learned early on, too--check their FB page before you confirm them as friends. The least little doubt about them and I delete their request.

  3. Great post Sarah. I am guilty of spending too much time on fb. I think fb is a great way to keep in touch with family, friends and those who enjoy our books.

    1. Well Barb, I'm certainly guilty of spending too much time on FB, too. I try to visit friends, family and authors who show support to me. But it can take a chunk out of my day. Of course, there are times when I do it to avoid working on a WIP. That's not a good thing for me to do.
      Thank you for your comments, Barb.

  4. Hi Sarah: Great post, yes! And I, like Rain, use FB in a variety of ways. I do have an Author Gail Jenner FB page where I try to share meaningful writing tips (most 'stolen' or reposted), and sometimes my promotion or announcements. My "personal" FB page is where I do repost or share political and (what I consider) encouraging spiritual posts. I probably irritate a few people -- I know I do -- but since, as ranchers, our personal life has become a political issue in the West, it is one way to try and share another POV. Sometimes I hide from FB, and at other times, I pounce! I do only go "on" FB early in the day for about 20 minutes (running down through the posts quickly), maybe at lunch when the guys all come in and I want to be in their company but maybe not part of the conversation (I often have up to 5 guys at lunchtime), and then about 20 minutes at night. I'm getting much more disciplined about time spent on FB....but the good part is that I have met some wonderful authors and wonderful people through it. I've also reconnected with students (from as much as 30 years ago!) and some old friends and family. Since I have cousins in Italy and Europe, this is another positive of FB exchanges. All in all, it is a TOOL.

    Twitter I use far less often, but occasionally find it interesting. I am on Linked In, but really haven't found what it is I should be "doing" there!?? Any ideas?

    1. Dang Gail, you've got some good structure going on. I'm afraid I don't. I spend too much time visiting and gabbing on FB.
      I don't post political views and I don't comment on the views of others. I just leave it alone because I think it can alienate people who are wonderful people even though my politics are different. Still, it's everyone's right to express their views and beliefs because it's the freedom we have as Americans.
      Are those 5 guys family and ranch hands? If they are, that would be some interesting conversation to listen to. I'm here on the east coast with city folk, so that would be a treat for me.
      I like when I see inspirational posts or posts about writing. Sometimes people post some positive quotes they've found and I like those, too. I see some of those on Twitter--otherwise Twitter is kind of a drag.
      Maybe if I owned a corporation or business I would have more use for LinkedIn. But I don't, so it's mostly a useless place for me. I have no ideas there. Got any idea what goes on with Google Plus?
      I appreciate your contribution here, Gail. You always have something interesting to say. Thank you so much for coming.

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    3. Hi Sarah -- Yes, the 5 guys are family (hubby, 2 sons, b-i-l, and nephew). They ARE the ranch hands :-) And yes, conversations are interesting, but sometimes it's all about repairs and parts OR it's a 20-minute 'snooze' (esp. in summertime when they put in a good 12 hour day and a brief nap at lunchtime is the only break in the day!!). A lot of times I'm a participant and/or listener, but sometimes it's a good time to sit back and give myself a break, too!!

      Right now the guys are rushing around trying to get seeds in the ground, between repairs and breakdowns and cows over fences and heifers and cows getting mixed up when a gate got left open (no one is claiming to have done so ) days are starting to get longer and longer, and the guys are getting pretty dirty and dusty.

      I love it all, though -- the long hours, the dirt and grit, the tempers flaring :-) all the while, it's a beautiful time of year. We have snow still on the peaks surrounding us and the pastures are GREEN and lush, the flowers are blooming, as are the apple and plum trees, and the streams are running. The cows are content, and I'm getting ready to start my garden. This is picture-card perfect weather and I have to push myself to stay inside and write when I'd much rather be outside....

      As to Linkedin, etc, I don't have much input as I'm simply 'there' --- like others, I don't have time. And in reference to separate FB pages, I also have to maintain 'our' Jenner Family Beef FB page! It's a business that the 7 "Jenner" gals put together and we now sell 100% Natural Beef to local and regional restaurants and consumers! So I float between 3 FB others, it gets a bit overwhelming, but the posts are pretty limited and I only post about 3 items a week -- including lots of family photos. If you're curious, it's JennerFamilyBeef FB.... you can check out a few of our family shots!

    4. Your ranch lunches sound like something from a cowboy book or movie, Gail. It must be a fascinating life there.
      I love gardening, too. I can't do it this year, but I'll be glad to get back to it in the next year. There's nothing like digging in the earth and watching what I planted grow. It brings peace of mind and spirit.

  5. I enjoy the social aspect of FB and to a certain degree Twitter. My personal FB page has merged with family, friends, readers and authors so I strive for a balance of personal pics and writing-related stuff since not everyone likes both. It's funny which posts get the most interaction--it's usually one I don't think is that interesting. Recently it was one about teaching my 16 year old daughter to drive. It really struck a nerve with people. I love that type of interaction, the sharing of a common dilemma. It's one of the most positive things of social media. Great post!

    1. I agree, Kristy, about blending the different social areas of my life onto one page. And I also agree about the strange things people get interested in that I post. It's often unexpected what they become interested in. Maybe it's just that, as humans, we can relate to the every day things we deal with rather than huge issues or global issues.
      Thanks so much for coming and adding to the conversation, Kristy.

  6. One thing I truly wish I had possessed the foresight to do was set up a separate account for writing under my real name. I started joining writing-related pages and connecting with authors before I decided to create a separate account under Zina Abbott. Now, my writing contacts are mixed with personal and church friends under Robyn Echols. That means I am more restrained about sharing some posts that writing contacts might not appreciate, and my personal friends probably get burned out on my writing posts. With the pen name it would mean having three Facebook accounts, but at least I wouldn't have gotten to the point I hardly turn on Facebook on Sundays to try to catch to posts by friends and family because it feels too much like work.

    1. I've never had a pen name, but I can see how difficult it might be for you. I usually post things I think any and all would be interested in. People like to hear about what you're up to. For me, posting about books and blogs is more like an, oh by the way, kind of thing.
      I do think it helps your career as a writer to be personable and FB is a pretty good place for that. Most people interested in your work are going to look you up and buy your books because they find something about you they can relate to and like.
      FB can be a lot of work. I can't visit everyone on my friends list. I'd never get off line.
      Thank you so much for your comments, Robyn. It's always good to hear from you.

  7. I agree with everything you said. FaceBook, especially can be a bit tricky if one does not keep on one's toes. One negative phrase and somebody is gonna jump down your throat. Sooo...I go gently into the fray. Still, FB is filled with potholes and landmines, and we must learn where to trod along with confidence or tiptoe along timidly..afraid of stepping on someone's proverbial toes.
    I do question one thing--posting on someone's Timeline. I was told from the beginning this was a no-no, a faux pas, at best. So, I don't do it. The exceptions I accept are the rare post my publishers want to post on well as others...because it concerns me and the sale of books. In those cases...I appreciate it. Also, if some relative wants to tell me something, it's fine with me.
    Timely post, Sarah...we should all take note and be careful out there!

  8. It's interesting to see a post on FB that generates interest and a touch of controversy. It will generate comments and occasionally, a little blow-back. I've seen you open a crack in the proverbial door once in a while and I thought it was great to get people involved in a mature and meaningful conversation even at the risk of someone sputtering a little negativity. You can't carry that off if you tend to be defensive--or offensive. You have some real skills with that delicate balance, Celia.
    I especially like your blogs that tell a personal story like the one about your mom doing permanents. I became so enthusiastic about reading your personal history blogs it drew my attention to your work. And isn't that exactly what we all want. You're like my Yoda on that technique. LOL
    I always love your comments and open honesty. It's such a joy to see you, Celia. You warm my heart.

  9. Sarah, you are right on in your observations. If anything I tend to not promote my own work enough.
    If someone becomes crude or harsh, I'll unfriend them. Life is too short to put up with people who have no understanding for other points of view.
    Great post and keep the learning curve, hey, I don't even have a cell phone I use all the time. I prefer to control my phone time, so...


    1. There's a happy medium in there somewhere, Doris. I've seen some authors who are relentless in their book promotion. After a while, I just kind of numb out when I see them post in a group.
      Life really is too short to allow ourselves to be abused. I don't blame you one bit for ditching people who are rude or unkind.
      Believe me, we're all on that learning curve, Doris. Keeping up with technology is a daunting task. All the best your way.

  10. I really can't add anything to the conversation, because it's all been very well said! :-D

    I'm constantly amazed how many people appear to have been raised in barns. Do folks throw their manners out the window when they sit down at a keyboard and log on to one of the social media sites? I worry someone could be seriously injured by all those plummeting manners, but the manners probably weren't big enough to hurt anyone in the first place. :-|

    Politics, religion, and self-promotion in someone else's thread are the manners-challenged behaviors that get my goat the worst. Do you ever want to reach through your screen and apply intense pressure around a few throats?

    Great post, Sarah! You do such a good job on social media. I completely agree with you: Be a genuine person who's genuinely interested in conversing and sharing, and social media can be a whole lot of fun! Just...carry a big stick in case you run across a snake. ;-)

  11. LOL, sometimes I do go into a slow burn when someone does something thoughtless on my FB page, Kathleen. I could work my way to an ulcer with some of it. People surely cannot be so ignorant as to realize they're trespassing on someone else's turf. I give 'em the silent treatment. No sense making everybody feel uncomfortable by making a scene.
    Manners are something most of us learn as kids. My parents were sticklers about it. We had to use our table manners every day at supper time. My sister and I thought we should be able to relax a bit it being "just family" and all, but nope. Amazingly it was my dad who was the manner monitor. He loved some good conversation at the table, but our elbows better be off the table and our please and thank yous better be used. Weird though, he would slip food to the dog, a big Irish Setter, at the table even when Mom grumbled about it.
    Thank you so very much for taking the time to come and join in the conversation. I know how busy you are, so I appreciate it even more. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

  12. Wonderful post, Sarah. I wish I had your ability to present things so well online and also your technical expertise to manage it! I just bumble along as best I can as a techno idiot with a little help from my friends. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done online and also have a life in the real world. I wish you continued success with your books.

  13. Linda, you crazy thing, I am no expert with technology. Anything I know I either learned the hard way--meaning lots of mistakes, or someone else helped me with it.
    The only thing I feel somewhat comfortable with is Facebook.
    I am so glad you came. I thoroughly enjoy reading your books. This Time Forever is still etched in my memory. You're such a busy and talented author I can see why you have limited time on line.
    Thank you so much for coming over here and commenting.