Marketing and social media are surrounded by a lot of misconceptions and myths which can mean the difference between failure and conquering your online presence.

Here are my top tips for how businesses and (aspiring) authors can avoid the biggest rookie mistakes when it comes to social media.

1. Don’t like it….’say’ you like it

You probably have heard that engaging with other people is key to your success on social media, and what you’ve heard is right.

Liking other people’s posts and comments is a great way to build a network of supporters and people interested in your work.

But ‘liking’ content will only get you so far.

When you see something you really like on social media, something that resonates with you, then ‘say’ you like it. It’s far more effective to add a comment expanding on why you like it.

This is likely to get you more engagement and appreciation than a simple ‘double tap’ or thumbs up will get you.

2. Numbers don’t count…unless they are the right numbers

Many social media users can get hung up on the number of followers and likes they get, but here are a few things to consider.

On some platforms, particularly Twitter, you may find it reasonably easy to get followers – sometimes without even trying. But when you drill down to look at those followers, how many of them represent your ideal target audience?

While the number of likes are one indicator of engagement levels, they can also be skewed. There are bots, particularly on Instagram, that automatically like photos. Even if that’s not a problem you’re experiencing, as we said above, double tapping or giving a thumbs up is a quick way of engaging in social media content but also can be an indication of ‘low investment’ in your content.

Real engagement is measured in terms of the relationships you form with your followers, through conversations.

3. Automated posting is okay…as long as you back it up with engagement

These days there are loads of options to automate or schedule your social media posts, but this is considered passive posting, unless it is coupled with engagement.

What I mean is, you can’t just set and forget when it comes to social media. This kind of posting is the equivalent of going to a party, announcing loudly to the room who you are and what you’re doing, then walking out again.

No one is interested in a party guest, or social media user, who only wants to talk about themselves. Real engagement comes from two way conversations.

It’s absolutely okay to use automated or scheduled posting for some of your posts, but you also need to take the time to monitor and check your feed and engage in other people’s posts, as well as respond to users who engage in yours.

4. Followers will find you…only if you are looking for them

Unfortunately social media on the most part is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’.

Sitting back and waiting for people to find you and follow you, will limit your overall number of followers but also the kind of followers you get.

The best way to increase your follower base is to consistently search for social media users who reflect your ideal audience and post content you like. You can use hashtags or the built-in search facility on social media platforms to find accounts relating to topics you are interested in.

What you will see is that a lot of the time you will get follow-backs and you are building a targeted community of people who resonate with you.

It’s best to do this very regularly, rather than in one big burst. This way you can keep your follower/follow back ratio in check and you won’t exceed any follow limits.

5. Always follow people back…unless…

One of the most effective ways of getting followers is to follow back those people who follow you.

Generally I follow back people who follow me unless:

  • They say they are The Rock, Prince Harry or some other celebrity that they clearly are not.
  • The user does not have a profile picture.
  • The bio is riddled with mistakes or information that doesn’t make sense.
  • The follower is clearly unrelated my areas of interest, and I’m not even sure why they followed me. I find this is often a bot that has followed me, looking for a follow-back. Soon after, bots just as often unfollow you, even if you liked them back.
  • They haven’t posted recently or at all.
  • Their profile and/or bio contains offensive material.

I’ve gotten pretty good at screening followers, and a quick glance at their profile and/or bio usually determines my follow-back.

I do sometimes find out that an account I am following doesn’t turn out to be what I expected and I immediately unfollow or even block if needed.

That all being said, I generally follow-back and try to do so in a timely manner (within 2 days of a follow).

6. Be the most interesting…listener

You should never set out to be the most interesting person on social media.

That doesn’t mean you should strive for boring. It means you should be yourself. Show the best version of yourself, but at the end of the day, be authentic.

But that is not the most important thing to take from this.

On social media it’s vital to be ‘interested’ rather than ‘interesting’.

Be a listener. Ask people about themselves and their content? Start conversations not a one-way showcase of how amazing you are.

7. Post exactly what you’re thinking…within reason

We all have issues, people and topics we feel strongly about but it doesn’t mean we have to vent all of them on social media.

Sure if there is something you really believe in or is highly relevant to your work, that you feel compelled to share, even if it may upset some people – then by all means go for it (as low as it’s not unlawful or defamatory to do so).

Generally, I choose to avoid politics and rants, as well as anything really personal. If I do share something potentially controversial, I usually share something from a credible third party rather than just ‘my opinion’. I also choose not to show images of my child, unless his face can not be identified. That’s just my personal choice.

Where possible I will share content that has a positive angle to it, where action is being taken to right a wrong.

For me, it’s important for people to feel inspired, interested or entertained by my content, rather than angry or outraged.

Of course for some people it is important for them to share their authentic voice in its full glory, and I support this. In fact I follow a lot of people with very strong views.

In any case, there are always consequences for posting on social media. Even the most innocuous posts can rile up a person in the most unexpected way, resulting in them making nasty comments on your account.

When this happens, you can ignore it, politely and professionally respond, or block the person if necessary. It’s your call.

Bonus tip for aspiring authors

To finish up, I’d like to share this tip for aspiring authors. Generally, the writing world is a very supportive one and even highly successful authors are happy to engage with their followers.

Don’t assume that just because someone is famous or a best selling author that they won’t be interested in you or your content.

Take the time to engage in their content and you may be surprised to find…they’ll engage right back.

To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and articles like this, .