in which I make up a point just to get to post this twitter feed

(a Twitter / Facebook / social media how-to)

by Toni McGee Causey

Okay, look, there are lots of discussions going on (one at Thrillerfest this weekend, moderated by our own Allison Brennan), wherein Social Networking is dissected and analyzed and pondered and ground to a pulp. Since I sadly was not at Thrillerfest (whimper) and missed their terrific panel, I have no clue what was discussed there… but I’m willing to bet that there was at least some reference to using social networking sites for “branding” and “getting your name out there” for the public and “keeping a presence” on the interwebs and promoting your book.

But, mostly, social networking is really just supposed to be social. You know. Fun. 

[I will tell you one thing–I have had people follow me in order to be able to DM me about their latest release. It’s not a personal DM (direct message)… it’s a canned message. Spam. I hate it. I will not buy a book if I’m spammed like that. If you have a review that you’re proud of, that’s great. Or a blurb? Terrific. If someone is excited about someone else’s book and mentions it–wonderful–in fact, I’ll tend to pay more attention if someone is mentioning you than if you’re doing it yourself. I will follow links to reviews and I have bought books like this. But a direct spam in my private in-box? No. No no no no no. And really? No. Don’t do it. You don’t want to look smarmy and socially inept. You wouldn’t show up at my door in a shiny leisure suit when I was having a casual party for friends and barge in and announce that your book was out today and you had this great offer and by the way, what was my name again? Well, maybe some people would, and those people get deleted and ignored.][I don’t care *how* famous you are.]

So, back to social networking. I think it’s okay to mention what you’re working on, talking about the process of what you’re going through. It’s okay to mention when your book is coming out, because that’s an event in your life. But if all of your posts to Facebook and Twitter (etc.) are promotional, people are going to tune you out. You will become the equivalent of the DVR’d commercial: zip, on to the next interesting thing, instead of hanging around and getting to know you.

Instead, social media should be used for fun. Networking and promotional stuff is just a side benefit, a little lagniappe, if you will. Take, for example, this exchange Friday night, wherein we pick up this story with Colleen crouched on her sofa, wielding a spatula:



I’m not afraid to eat fried worms but I am afraid of this monster flying roach thingie that’s aiming for my head. #whyineedashotgun



@colleenlindsay A fast remedy for the flying roach and you’ll think I’m crazy, but it works–hair spray. If you don’t have bug spray.



@ToniMcGeeCausey Er, um, I have a buzz cut. Thus, I do not own hair spray.


@colleenlindsay oven cleaner? windex? really anything spray-able. Also, I now know what to tell your clients to get you for Christmas. 😉



@colleenlindsay Got any Raid? And a lighter? Instant flame thrower!


@Jinxie_G The way my luck has been going the past three weeks, I’m just as likely to set the whole house ablaze. Good suggestion, though!



@colleenlindsay Yeah, I thought of that after the fact. LOL Seriously thought, what Toni suggests should work with the sticky wings.



Damn it, SIGOURNEY WEAVER would know how to kill this giant roach!



@colleenlindsay uh, Sigourney didn’t fare so well by the third movie. She was having alien baby, killed self. Do not go down that path.



I swear to God Stinkyboy just offered that roach a martini.

[note to reader: Stinkyboy is Colleen’s cat.]



This roach needs to die. #whatwouldBrianBoitanodo? #hedmakeaplanandseeitthrough #withaflamethrowerprobably



@colleenlindsay Honestly, Colleen, put on your big girl panties & deal with it. I know actual babies who’re tougher than you. #sissylindsay


@literaticat I am not denying my inherent sissy nature. I AM NOT ASHAMED TO BE A WUSS.



@colleenlindsay Scrubbing Bubbles Foam will kill any multi-legged beastie & make your surfaces gleam while it’s choking the life out of ’em.

@JM_Kelley I HAVE SCRUBBING BUBBLES! I will BUBBLE it to death!



ACK! Just dive-bombed my head again.



Sneak attack! Have disabled Mothra with Scrubbling Bubbles. It fell behind stove. Not waiting around to see if it crawls back out, dammit!

Meanwhile, in a related conversation, after HC mentioned she had firebombed a spider once…


@ToniMcGeeCausey He pissed me off, trapping me in the house like that. I finally got so mad, I made SURE my revenge was not served cold.


@HC_Palmquist LOL… damn, girl, you’re hard core. I’ve Raided ’em and WD 40’d em and Lysol’d em, but I have never firebombed one.



@HC_Palmquist of course, given that it’s *me*… me+firebomb would be a very sad thing. I once tried to shoot a rat with a gun, tho.


@HC_Palmquist missed it.


@HC_Palmquist managed to kill a really nice piece of molding and a desk leg.


Then a few minutes later… after we hadn’t heard from Colleen in a while…


Waiting for Fat Biped to fall asleep. We will then offer her up as a prearranged sacrifice to the Great Flying Roach God. Shhhh! Don’t tell!


There were signs the next night that Colleen lived. Stinkyboy will lounge to doublecross another day.

We had fun, goofing off, all of us. I don’t know Colleen, other than she’s a literary agent at FinePrint Literary Management. I did not start following her because she’s an agent — I am extremely happy with my agent, Stephanie Kip Rostan of Levine/Greenberg. (Exceptionally happy.) I started following Colleen because someone retweeted a funny comment she’d written.

Here’s the thing… Colleen accomplished something pretty smart with her playfulness — she demonstrated that she’s got a great sense of humor, she’s self-deprecating, she’s easy to interact with, and she’s human–not at all stuffy and scary, the way so many agents are perceived. She does a Q&A every so often (I haven’t kept track of when–perhaps she’ll mention it in the comments), and if I were ever asked by anyone if I knew anything about her, I’d say that I thought she was a lot of fun, and clever and approachable and yet, I’ve also seen her answer questions very professionally. Now really, she wouldn’t have accomplished that if she were telling me she was fun and clever and yet, professional. She simply showed it.

Show, don’t tell.

Treat your social media as fun; be a friend, interact as friends. Ask people about their day, see how they’re doing. Respond to what’s going on in their lives. Don’t try so hard to be anything important and for heaven’s sake, don’t just interact to promote yourself. Do pass along links of interest and contests you’re sponsoring–those are often appreciated, but don’t get so aggressive that you pass along every freaking contest you’ve ever seen on the internet. Most of all, relax. Twitter and Facebook are the equivalent of gathering for a break at the water cooler. If you were standing there, you wouldn’t want to hear someone evangelize or detail their latest colonoscopy or try to sell you some Amway. You’d just want to hang out, have some fun, maybe talk about something interesting in the news and then go back to work. You’ll remember the people who made you laugh and you’ll avoid the ones who were hounding you for something. Social media works pretty much the same way.

Plus, you learn that Raid + lighter = flamethrower, and you just never know when that might come in handy.


So tell me, ‘Rati, what odd / fun / interesting thing have you learned lately from a social media site?





32 thoughts on “in which I make up a point just to get to post this twitter feed

  1. Jinxie_G

    Great post about the FUN aspect of social media, Toni. I agree with you. It’s supposed to be fun, and constant promoting takes the fun out of it. I’ve been on Twitter for two years now. People wonder if I sleep (I actually do). I promote my blogs, but I also promote others’ blogs, posts, contests, whatever. It can’t be all about me, me, me all the time. Wait, can it?

    I follow Colleen, not because I’m looking for an agent, but because she cracks me up almost daily and she’s fun to talk to. She doesn’t rep what I’m querying anyway. =) Her blog is great to read and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a good laugh coupled with great literary advice.

    I learn something new every day from social media, probably because I’m online entirely too much. lol

  2. Crystal Posey

    Seeing as I have a major phobia of these creatures (Just has Jinx and HC about this), it was painful to read this. However, you have to be the funniest woman on the planet because NO ONE has ever made me chuckle where a roach is involved. *shudders*

  3. HC Palmquist

    Great post, and I’m not saying that just because my homemade flamethrower incident was mentioned. I learned Scrubbing Bubbles takes out bugs and that putting out a call for help on Twitter leads to a bunch of writers doing what they do best. Getting creative and offering suggestions not always in the best interest of the doer.

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Toni

    I’m ashamed to admit that I am the latest of late adopters when it comes to social media/networking sites. (note to self – must try harder, must try harder)

    But I did once take a propane burner to a wasps’ nest in the garden, wearing only a Tyvek oversuit and some safety goggles. Does that count?

  5. Barbie

    I just went ALL the way to Twitter to follow poor Colleen after her most traumatic experience. Roaches are the evilest creatures to ever walk on this Earth and anyone who’s been through such horrific situation concerning them deserves love and nurturing and… followers! 🙂

    As a mere mortal, who’s got nothing to promote, and follows a bunch of people with loads to promote, let me tell you, I NEVER click on a promotion link just for the sake of it. If Mrs. My New Book Is Coming Out And Everyone On Twitter AND Facebook Need To Hear About It Thirty Times Until The Release Tomorrow comes with her advertising, I gently go and press "unfollow" or "Hide Mrs. Longest Name Ever", and, ta-da, I can go back to enjoying the whole thing. It annoys me when people describe their own work as great "Listen, Tweeps, I have a great book coming out." To me, that discredits it. It’s the same as telling me your child is beautiful. Like you’d know! On the other hand, I’ve discovered authors because I saw their posts — talking about their daily lives and such — and it made me think: "If they’re this funny/witty/intelligent/punny writing a book, then I REALLY need to read their book" (*waves to Toni* Hi !! )

    Seriously, though, I love social networking for the very self-explanatory meaning of the term: socializing and networking. It’s that simple. Now, had it been called "Social Advertising"instead… For me, who live in the other side of the world (or the hemisphere, assuming you’re in North America") it’s fascinating that I get to interact with people from all over the world through this machine. I’ve met one of the most important people in my life, who means the world to me and is one of my very best friends, through Twitter. Yes, I said Twitter (and it’s Rocki, in case you’re curious) 🙂 I got to meet some of the most awesome people EVER!!! who inspire me greatly and interact with them (Hi, again Toni!!! *waves to Allison*). And what I love the most about these people are not when they’re all Almighty, but when they’re real people like me and my neighbor over there.

    I’m in a weird mood. 🙂

    (And, Toni, I thank Twitter for getting me to interact with you — I’d never have the guts to comment on your blogs if you hadn’t met me there first)

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Could NOT read the roach part. But thanks, Toni, for this public service post – Twitter and FB spam is just about as vile as the aforementioned – crawling things.

    I’d like to add – please don’t suggest that I’ll like something when you don’t even know me. Please don’t give me friend suggestions. Unfortunately I have one of those memories that retains unpleasant experiences and I WILL hold it against you, even if it’s pretty much unconsciously.

    My FB message box is for people who have something personal to say to me, or for direct business (although why people use FB for business is mystifying to me…) No one else belongs in it. It’s icky and uncool.

    And Barbie, please, please please for the love of God, tell us – when you click HIDE on the right next to a wall post, does that hide everything those people post, but no one but you knows that? I don’t want to unfriend, but there are oh so many that I never want to read hide nor hair of again….

  7. JD Rhoades

    Hilarious exchange, t. I love it! it’s stuff like that that keeps pulling me back to Twitter, but then I get bored by the masses of ‘I just made a ham sandwich" type posts and drift away again.

    But you make a good point…if you want to attract people to your site, feed, or what have you, and thus to your work, be entertaining. Spam is not entertaining. So find stuff that entertains YOU and share it. People who like the same stuff you do are more than likely to be your natural audience. In a nod to Bruce Lee, I call it "the art of marketing without marketing."

  8. Allison brennan

    You should have been on that panel with us! It did turn out pretty good. We made the point not to force it, to be natural and only do what you’re comfortable with, but no one mentioned that it was supposed to be fun! We did mention no drive-by promotion. I’m still trying to get into tweeting more regularly, but Im not good at the interchanges like you have (though I enjoy them!) so vie decided to tweet things I find interesting about writing, characters, quotes (like one i posted by Steve martini in a workshop I was at yesterday) because it feels natural and what I would say in conversation.

    Great, great post!

  9. Alafair Burke

    Can’t say I’ve learned anything that colorful but I have fun talking about stupid celeb gossip, current reads, and interesting criminal cases. I also agree that writers should only be using social media sites organically. Every person will have a different comfort level.

  10. Paula R.

    Toni, that exchange was pretty funny. You guys seem to have a lot fo fun on Twitter. I don’t have any fun stories, but I just wanted to say that I am glad many of my author friends are on FB. I get to interact with them as people. If I want the deets on books coming out, contests, blogparties, etc, I go to their pages. I love the chatting that goes on through that social medium. And in most cases, you can choose to say or not say anything, but still get and glimpse of their daily lives. I also love it because I get to spread the word, a lot faster to my friends, about books and authors that I like. I also give my author friends the chance to glimpse pieces of me. So, it is a mutual exchange. Thanks for this write up.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  11. PK the Bookeemonster

    Great post!
    I recently remembered that I HAD a Twitter account. Last weekend I was working on the newsletter and emailing some authors for excerpts (I’d say 20% of authors have excerpts available for new releases, very sad). An author who shall remain nameless wanted proof that I was a real person and asked for my website (I provided blog site), Facebook and Twitter account names. She didn’t ask for my social security number or date of birth or the three digit number from the back of a credit card. Times are changing. 🙂

  12. judy wirzberger

    sorry, munch munch, it’ the Sunday Breakfast Buffet in East St. Louis. Burp, ‘scuse me. Cripes, here comes J.D. with a to go box.

    What a wonderful post; sets my mind to thinking. Isn’t it a great big wonderful world we live in – Now does anyone know how to get rid of Daddy Longleg spiders?

  13. TerriMolina

    Great Post!
    I use Twitter for fun–and not because I don’t have anything to promote *weep* although I’ll promote for other people’s works/stuff.
    I enjoy reading the funny posts and exchanges, which is why I follow certain people. And occasionally I’ll post something worth a laugh…really….I will…okay, maybe laugh is a little ambitious…but at the moment my Twitter account is all screwy and I’m not getting any @ replies…normally I wouldn’t blame Twitter, just my own social-ineptness…but all of my @ replies have vanished so it’s clearly Twitter’s fault.
    Anyway….funny post! Thankfully, we left the cockroaches in Texas….haven’t seen one here except at the ballpark which is twenty miles away, thank goodness!!

  14. pari noskin taichert

    Wonderful post, Toni.
    I’ve got a Twitter acct. but haven’t started following yet. But I AM enjoying FB. Though I do agree, the spam to the mailbox is annoying and gets deleted — or blocked. Period. I don’t do that to other people and I don’t want it done to me. Same with my personal email box. Sure, if I know you and you’re a friend, I want to know when your new book comes out. But a stranger? Nah.

  15. toni mcgee causey

    Allison, I wish I could have been there!

    Alex, on FB, hover your cursor on the same line as the person’s name, and the move it to the right. A "hide" button will appear at the edge of that column. Click that. If the person has posted a game/widget of some sort, you an opt to just hide that widget/whatever from now on, but still see the person when they post regular stuff, or you can opt to hide the person entirely. If they haven’t posted a widget, then the only option you’ll see is to hide the person.

    Thanks, all — I have fun on Twitter and can generally disappear from it for days and then pick up a fun conversation now and then. I will definitely hide people who do nothing but spam. I haven’t auto-followed everyone on twitter because there was a really long time there I didn’t use it… but if someone tweets something to me or retweets something I’ve sent out, I’ll follow. I pretty much auto follow on FB because it’s easier to catch people I might’ve missed when I was going through a non-FB period.

  16. Tom

    I learned on FB that I have great friends in Nigeria, who will make me ever so wealthy in return for a small act of financial assistance.

  17. Marcia Carter

    Hey Toni, I would try to be funny/humorous or just plain odd if my head didn’t ache so bad I contemplated lobotomizing myself. I love following awesome witty people too. Those are the people I follow for fun, not just because I am a fan of theirs. I know that reading what people let slip on social media can be an indicator that, hey, they are normal human beings just like us mortals. It can be disillusioning, but useful to know who has feet of clay, that you wouldn’t want to socialize or work with after all. I
    just thought of something. Whenever there is a random killer or stupid criminal type on the news, it seems like a LOT are from Indiana, which can embarrass us Hoosiers. I know my daughter and I cringe when Jay Leno’s headlines are about a stupid criminal, and oops, from Indiana.
    Back to social media, I really dig get dm’s from someone I admire or a celebrity. Thank you.
    Sorry if I rambled. The demerol shot at the ER helped, but my head still hurts, and no, it”s not a migraine. Apparently I am expected to live however. I think I communicated on the topic in this somewhere.

  18. toni mcgee causey

    Tom, aren’t they just the friendliest people? A little sadly inept about their money, though. Amazing how many of them have so much and then either keel over without relatives.

    Yikes, Marcia, I hope that headache’s better soon! That can be so horribly debilitating. Take care of yourself.

  19. Tom

    In truth, I did learn something ABOUT the speed and presence of comm on the internet yesterday.

    An singing buddy from back when is now one of the top dozen soprani in the opera world. She and her husband live in a small farm town outside a large Midwestern city. She got a text message during rehearsal from Darling Hub, back home at the 70-year-old house: "Fire during work on the addition; fire department arrived, no significant damage, animals and I are fine. Call when you get a break in rehearsal."

    Fourteen hundred miles in ten seconds. That’s real-world Star Trek.

  20. JM Kelley

    That entire episode made me laugh harder than I’ve laughed in a long time. Big fat tears rolling down my cheeks.

    I follow a lot of agents, not to stalk, but to hopefully learn a few things in my fledgling writing career. I followed Colleen even though she doesn’t rep my genre. Why narrow my learning field? I see great tips and get insight into an agent’s day. It helps me deal with my big bag o’rejection when I see someone who honestly feels bad when they can’t accept a manuscript, or shows me what a busy career they have. I get it, now, and don’t take it personally when I get that "Dear Author: Sorry, but…" email.

    Like I said, Colleen doesn’t rep my genre, sadly, but oh if she did, how fun would it be if I could whip up a query letter saying….

    Dear Ms. Lindsay: I’m Scrubbing Bubbles Girl. I help kill cockroaches. My novel is about….

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