4 Sure-Fire Steps to Being Authentic on Social Media

Sharing is caring!

4-7-14 eyeToday I’m going to tackle an issue I’ve never discussed on my blog: being authentic on social media. This issue has weighed on me in recent months.

As we all rush to social media to build our marketing platforms, spread the news about our books and, hopefully, sell books, are we proceeding in a direction that reflects us as authentically as possible or do we sometimes sacrifice authenticity to promulgate our messages and sell more books?

Discussions on social media occur at lightning speed. Today, a viral video spreads quicker than a winter flu virus. News about an earthquake breaks on Twitter before traditional media has a chance to report it. Would the Arab Spring – the revolutionary wave of protests that began on December 18, 2010 in Egypt – have happened without Twitter?

As social media tools become widespread – Facebook now has well over 1 billion users – they are increasingly being used to support revolutions, propose marriage, announce a pregnancy, share feelings about the death of a relative, express pride about promotions, and notify friends of an out-of-state move. Platforms such as Facebook are especially useful at helping former neighbors, high school pals or college classmates reunite, even if it’s a virtual connection.

Can you imagine life without social media?

Writers, Authenticity and Social Media

As writers, we use social media to announce the publication of new books and new blog posts as well as book readings, signings and workshops we plan. How well do we balance news about ourselves with news about other writers and even our readers?

Do we adhere to the 80/20 rule (80% of the time we promote others; 20% of the time we can promote ourselves and our books)? Should we be adhering instead to a 90/10 rule (90% of the time, we promote others; 10% of the time we promote ourselves and our books)? Guy Kawasaki thinks it’s time to start talking less, and he may be right.

As we plan our Facebook status updates, tweets, shares and posts, are we taking time to listen to what our readers say or our blog subscribers think? Do we survey our blog readers for their input? Or do we spend so much time “talking” on social media and on our blogs that we forget to stop and just listen?

In some ways, social media can fuel our own narcissism. There are times when we disseminate too many messages about ourselves and not enough messages about our colleagues, Tweeps, competitors, editors, and friends. Right? I know that I’m guilty of this. In an effort to sell more books, do we oversell ourselves?

How Authentic Are You on Social Media?

What is authenticity in social media and is it achievable? It can be difficult to define authenticity. The dictionary defines it as “the quality of being authentic.” Authentic is defined as being “of undisputed origin; genuine.”

I like that definition. So, are we always genuine when we post information on social media?

For example, let’s say that I do not read erotica or romance novels even though I believe they are worthwhile genres. Would it be inauthentic of me to follow erotica and romance novel writers? Would it be disingenuous of me to retweet writers of those genres, or would it be open-minded of me to do so?

I think some would say that I’m being open-minded by following writers of genres I haven’t yet read. Others might disagree. This is what I think: It would be inauthentic of me to not include genre authors precisely because I believe that genre fiction serves an important role in our reading culture.

Let’s say that a friend doesn’t like genre fiction, doesn’t support it, and refuses to follow authors of genre. If his feelings are that strong, then it would be inauthentic of him to follow genre authors just for the goal of increasing a fan or follower count.

And that’s the other piece of authenticity in social media. How many of us consciously decide which users on Twitter best match our interests? Do we blindly follow anyone because we’re trying to reach the holy grail of 40,000 followers? Or, are we more precise in who we follow?

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Danish Lord Polonius said to his son, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Are we true to ourselves? If our answer is yes, then it must also be true that we are being authentic in our approach to social media for how we can be true to ourselves without being authentic in every way we interact with others.

4 Sure-Fire Steps to Being Authentic

  1. Only say on social media what you would tell someone if she were sitting next to you.
  2. Review your posting schedule and determine if you are following the 80/20 rule. Is it time to adjust your posts to the 90/10 rule?
  3. Make a commitment to listen more to what others are saying.
  4. Review your process for following Twitter users.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Photo Credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE via photopin cc

Avoid Social Media Time SuckAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

Sharing is caring!


  1. Honestly, yes I am relatively authentic on social media, though I will say that I censor myself online as much as I would with a person that I just met in real life (with my friends I swear like a sailor though).

    And as far as 80/20, I’m sure I could do better, but I like to think that I RT and Fave people a great deal. But it’s definitely worth looking at!

    And I follow most people indiscriminantly on Twitter just as I would in real life. Seeing and accepting the things that make us different only makes us stronger.
    But those bots… I don’t follow the mechanical robots that try to lead me astray in my every day life and I won’t follow them on Twitter! 😉

    Great post!

  2. I just started writing on my Facebook page a few months ago and I have just signed up for tweeter. Thank you for your advice it is really good help to me and I am going to start listening better to what people have to say. I only write and share what I would share with people setting beside me. I sign up for your newsletter.

  3. Hi Frances, Interesting dilemma about being discriminating in who you follow back. I do discriminate since I have a “brand,” that being memoir, so I generally do not follow back mystery, sci fi, romance writers, etc., who follow me for the writing/publishing info I also tweet, but often follow historical fiction writers. (Let’s not talk about spammers and those indiscriminately trolling for followers.) If you follow everyone, it just gets overwhelming! I also check the tweets of those I consider following, to see if they are worth following, and totally agree with the 80+/20- rule although many of the writers I tweet about don’t get the part about symbiotic social media relationships!

    • Thank you, Linda, for your comments. I agree that it’s not a good idea to follow “everyone possible” just to inflate one’s numbers. One strategy I use is that I create lists on Twitter and in the mornings I review the tweets from users in those lists when I’m curating information. That keeps everything from becoming overwhelming.

  4. I think you are RIGHT ON with this post. I was naive enough when I established my Twitter account that I thought Twitter was about communicating with one another. WRONG! Twitter seems to be exclusively for those interested in self-promotion. I have asked several bona-fide questions of my “friends” on Twitter, and how many answers do you suppose I have received? You guessed it — none. I am not going to retire my account, but I am sorely disappointed in “the Twitter experience”. It is too bad that sites like this have to disintegrate into the morass of self-promotion, as they could be very helpful to many if utilized correctly. There are a few groups on FB that do not allow self-promotion, and those I have found invaluable.

    • Thank you, David, for your thoughtful reply. I can relate to your disappointment. I also belong to groups that don’t allow any self-promotion and I find them to be refreshing and educational.

Speak Your Mind