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Look, I’m not an expert. I don’t claim to be. I do know this:

  • If you walk into a cocktail party wearing a sandwich board and walking up to strangers telling them to buy things while handing out flyers, you will not be invited back. You will likely be barred from said party circuit and shunned by the party goers when in the community. You know, for being an over-zealous crazy person.
  • If you go to a cocktail party and use the guest book to start emailing all the party goers later about your latest product, you will be shunned, blocked, and ignored.
  • If you go over to someone’s house and plant big signs advertising your latest thing, expect said person to chase you off his or her lawn, with a hose if you’re lucky.

Which brings us to social media. Don’t “friend” people just to spam them. If they like you, they might buy your book, try your brownies, look into your schnauzer-cleaning service. If they like your book, your brownies, or how shiny their schnauzer looks, they’ll probably tell other people they think would enjoy books, brownies and shiny schnauzers. They also might not. Or they might hate your book, brownies, and shiny schnauzers. (Right about now I’m wondering why I picked the work “schnauzer” to type over and over.)

If you start following someone on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, follow their Tumblr, Instagram, Pintrest, etc., feel free to interact with them like you would at a party. Talk about things that interest you both. Perhaps make witty comments if banter is his/her thing. Weather. Politics if it can be kept civil. Discuss books (or movies or TV shows you like).

Also, post things about your interests (not your “products”), your hobbies, your oddball observations, your obsessions (unless creepy and you know darn well when you’re being creepy). Don’t do this as a “strategy” because that comes off as needy and desperate and fake. If you occasionally mention that you also make schnauzers shiny, great. But if every message you send out into the world looks like this:

OMG Your #SCHNAUZER could be #clean and #shiny. Ask me how. #LOL http://www.shinyschnauzersofdoomareawesomesauce.com #puppies #dogs #dieofcute

Well, then, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Does that look even remotely interesting to you? Would you click it if it weren’t yours? Be honest. Your eyes would glaze over it the way you glaze over all those Refi Now banner ads with the blinking dancing people.

If you’re messaging horror-fan atheist strangers with:

Hey, here’s a link to my Christfic romance new book! You should totally buy it because my editor thinks it’s great! http://selfpublishedstuffforkindle.com

You’re the equivalent of the flyer in my mailbox trying to sell me a roasted ham (I’m a vegetarian). (The same works in reverse. Selling the Catholic Harlequin reader your drug-snorting take on HP Lovecraft might not work well either.)

And even if you’re trying to sell your romance book to romance readers or your schnauzer cleaning service to a guy with a half dozen schnauzers, if your introduction to yourself is: BUY BUY BUY, you’re still the used-car salesman on the “no money down!” lot.