Social media offers opportunities to connect with people you know, as well as people you’ve never met. You can even follow celebrities. But it isn’t always clear exactly where the line is, between sociable and overfamiliar.
The rules are unwritten, and to make things a little more confusing, slightly different on each app.
As an author, I have a modest following across a number of social media channels. I’ve made some great connections. I’ve also experienced some behaviour that has made me uncomfortable.
So here’s my guide to following people you don’t know, on the apps I use most often.
There are two kinds of page on Facebook. Personal pages and business pages. Individuals can have business pages, for example I have a blog page. These pages are easily distinguishable because they have a ‘like page’ button and a ‘follow’ option. You can leave comments on their posts if you want interaction.
Personal pages are for people you know in real life. The content people put on their personal pages is exactly that – personal. The only connection option personal pages have is a friend request.
Unless you actually know someone, you should never send them a friend request.
Example connection methods
|Comment on post||Do|
Goodreads is a place for readers to check out each other’s reviews and follow authors. It’s fairly straightforward; if you want to follow an author, click the ‘follow author’ button. If you to follow someone’s reviews, click the ‘follow reviews’ button.
The ‘friend’ option is meant for people who are actually your friends. Aside from making people feel uncomfortable, there is another reason not to use this lightly – Amazon does not allow book reviews from the author’s friends. While they don’t tend to enforce this strictly, they can if they want to.
If you suggest you have a relationship with an author, whether you actually do or not, any reviews you post for that author’s books on Amazon – the world’s largest bookstore – are going to get deleted. Authors are businesses, and businesses need reviews.
If you want to get to know an author better, you can use the ‘ask a question’ option on their author page. Fan mail is welcome but sending a direct message saying hi to someone you don’t know is likely to appear creepy.
Unless you are an agent, publisher, bookstore owner or reading organiser, it’s generally best to stay away from the message option.
|I love your book!||Do|
|Could you do a reading at my store?||Do|
|What inspires you?||Use ‘ask a question’|
Twitter is a platform for all types of people to showcase their work and promote their brand. Anyone can follow anyone, and you can join in any conversation you like. It is not a sales channel or a dating app.
You shouldn’t send a direct message unless you actually know the person or have a business proposition for them. Sending someone unwanted messages that have nothing to do with their posts will result in you being blocked. Your account could also be suspended.
|I would like to write an article about you.||Do|
|Would you consider a guest post on your blog?||Do|
|Buy my product!||Don’t|
|You look nice in your profile picture.||Don’t|
LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Some people have a connect button on their profile which sends a request for a connection that they have to approve. You must either know the person or have shared connections or a good reason for connecting with them.
Other users have a follow button, which means anyone can follow them.
Example connection reasons
|I used to work with you.||Do|
|We work in the same type of business and have shared contacts.||Do|
|I have an opportunity you may be interested in.||Do|
|No connection, no opportunity to offer.||Follow only|
There are many other social media platforms out there. These are just the ones I use most often for my author posts. If you have helpful following tips for any others, you are welcome to add them in the comments.
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