A friend of mine recently finished up her marketing degree (Congrats, Amy!). She was telling me about an interesting experiment they did in class one day. Everyone pulled out their phones and brought up their Facebook page. Then they passed the phone to their neighbor. They went around and gave the class descriptions about who their classmates are based on what their last few posts were.
That really got me thinking. What would someone say about me based on my last three FB posts, Tweets, or Tumblr posts? What would someone say about you?
You might not think this is a big deal. Readers probably aren't perusing your Twitter feed to make sure you're the kind of author they love before picking up your book. But guess who is doing that...
1. Agents/Publishers: Yep, they are looking to see that you understand appropriate social etiquette, are active online, and aren't being a Negative Nancy when it comes to your publishing career. No one wants to work with someone who is a constant source of doom and gloom.
2. Reviewers: Oh, right...those amazing people who wield a mighty power. They are absolutely gonna check out your social media feed before agreeing to read and talk about your book.
3. Press: Before any news agency even considers running a story on you, they are going to do their research. That includes your Facebook and Twitter activity.
Social media can and should be fun, but keep in mind that as an author, you are a constant representation of your brand. If you need to vent or rant, do it privately with your friends, not as a public post.
Same thing with reactions to bad news about your career. I see this one a lot and cringe every time. "Check email. Another rejection letter. Add it to the stack." Yes, we all get rejections. It's a natural part of the process, but that doesn't mean you should keep a running tally for everyone to see. Imagine an agent is considering signing you. They check your FB feed and realize you've posted 30 times in the past month about rejection letters. The agent who was considering you is now second guessing that decision.
And for the love of all things good and holy on God's green earth, never, ever, ever bash the publishing industry. I don't care if you are the most successful self-publisher in the business and would rather eat a live crow than sign a traditional deal. Don't do it. You never know when you might need a favor. I'm not saying you can't criticize, but do so in a professional manner. This means no name calling or knee-jerk reactions. There is a big difference between saying I think publishers need to pay higher eBook royalties and posting that publishers who pay less than 35% are a disgrace and should be strung up by their pinky toes. Constructive discourse, good. Hate filled lambasting, bad.
So take a few minutes and give yourself the social media feed test. What kind of person would a stranger think you are based on your most recent posts? Make sure you are sharing an image you can be proud of.