It’s election season here in the United States. Even though we’re past the buzz of Super Tuesday, I haven’t yet forgotten the pulse in the air as voters and broadcast journalists used the radio, the Internet, and probably the TV networks with the latest tidbits of voter updates, sound bites, and reports of insults lobbed against by candidates against their current foes.
Compare our marathon of an election season with Britain’s. In the U.K., the campaign season lasts one month and “virtually nothing,” according to the Chicago Tribune, is spent on either campaign. Here, it seems to last forever and cost, according to The Hill, $5 billion.
The election cycle begins with leaks that someone will run, formal announcements, debates, and the primaries. Then we have the two conventions, announcements of nominees, more debates, and finally an election. Whew!
How do you handle all this brouhaha when you turn to your social media? Well, let’s talk about that.
There are authors who are taking stands, showing their political biases, and in some cases, bashing particular candidates. I’m remaining neutral, and I recommend that you do the same.Your presence on social media should focus on your career as an #author Click To Tweet
However, there is a caveat to my rule of neutrality. Did you write a nonfiction book that delves into the political system or examines particular political eras?
Doris Kearns Goodwin would never take a stand on social media about our current list of candidates even though she wrote No Ordinary Time, about the Roosevelts during World War II; Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln and his administration; and Lyndon John and the American Dream. She could talk about the Republican party’s transformation since the time of Lincoln or compare Johnson and Roosevelt to today’s Democratic candidates.
She does comment on current events but not in a partisan manner. Take this example:
Now look at this one, which garnered a total of 20 comments, 398 likes, and 30 shares.
Finally, there’s this one. This post triggered 21 comments, 65 shares, and 297 likes.
Another example is Thomas Burgess, who will publish From Here to Prosperity, A Practical Policy Agenda for a Sustainable Economy and Greater Social Justice, in April. His book tackles the crisis of economic inequality and he’s not shy at pointing out the sins of the 1% and the crisis of poverty in the world and the United States.
It would make sense that Thomas would support Bernie Saunders and publicly say so. Look at some of his tweets:
Whether you agree with his position or not, his tweets are consistent with the premise of his book and issues he explores in his book.
Now look at the Facebook posts of an author (She’s a friend and colleague so I’ve not included her name.) who doesn’t fall into the above categories.
The posts by the first two authors make sense. In the case of Doris Kearns Goodwin, she provides a historical context for current events. In the case of Thomas Burgess, he stays along the ideological lines that he poses in his book.
In the third example, the author puts herself out there. She may gain some readers and clients, and she may lose some. Either way, the expression of her feelings and beliefs seems more important to her.
But if we look at the intent of social media, for engaging with your readers, being so vocal during election season when those views don’t relate to your books can cause your readers to disengage from you and your books as well as the books you plan to write in the future.
After all, everything you do online should represent your brand. Whenever someone searches for you online, everything can surface in a Google search, especially your Google+ posts, and Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles.Everything you write online can surface in a Google search via @CaballoFrancesClick To Tweet
Do you want to lose readers because your political beliefs differ?
Your presence on social media should focus on your career as an author. If you look at the Facebook accounts of Jane Friedman and Joel Friedlander, there’s no mention of the elections or their candidate preferences. They don’t belittle candidates or support controversial issues.
Instead, they ignore the campaign publicly and continue to engage with readers and clients who want to learn how to reach their audiences better, market their books, and read their newest posts.
Penny Sansevieri, a publicist, generally speaks about the election and maintains her natural humorous bent. On Super Tuesday, she posted this image on Facebook:
The day before Super Tuesday, one of her tweets was about how she used the 2000 presidential election for a unique marketing campaign for a romance novel she wrote titled, The Cliffhanger. As you recall, that election was between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Penny used postcards with the book cover on them and printed this message on the back:
Getting tired of the Presidential cliffhanger?
Try this one.
The Cliffhanger, a novel.
No politics involved.
The response to her campaign? Phenomenal. A local TV anchor said this,
This has got to be the best thing I’ve ever seen. This lady wants you to go buy her book. I say everyone should rush out and buy it.
Penny used this image to accompany her blog post:
So what should you do? Follow these parameters:
- If you’ve written a book similar to the one Tom Burgess wrote, the more you express your opinions, the more you will engage with your readers. No one would buy From Here to Prosperity unless they were aligned with Thomas philosophically and politically.
- If you’ve written historical accounts similar to the books of Doris Kearns Goodwin, remind your readers of similar historical context for current day issues.
- If you can use the election season the way Penny Sansevieri did, I wish you much success.
- Remember the risk in revealing your disgust for certain candidates or support for other politicians or controversial issues.
- The essence of social media is to be social. Determine the content that your readers most want to learn about or enjoy and keep providing it. Be friendly, open, and upbeat.
- Never use your social media as a bullhorn. Don’t talk at your readers; converse with them by engaging them.
- Stick to the reason you’re on social media: to engage with readers, support your readers, and find new readers.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
About the Author: Frances Caballo is an author, podcaster and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributing writer at TheBookDesigner.com. She’s written several books including Social Media Just for Writers, Avoid Social Media Time Suck, and Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free here on her website. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Ask Frances to prepare a social media audit for you.
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