| |

10 terrible social media myths authors should avoid

I connected with today’s guest blogger, Chris Syme, when she let me know that she linked to one of my articles in her DigitalBookWorld.com guest post about social media. Impressed with her message in that article, I invited her to write a guest post for us on social media myths. Chris is a 20-year veteran of the communications industry and principal of the award-winning CKSyme Media Group. The author of three books on social media, she is a frequent speaker on the national stage. Her third book, SMART Social Media For Authors, is now on pre-order at Amazon and will be released November 1. Follow her on Twitter and get more tips her agency’s blog for authors.

10 terrible social media myths authors should avoid

By Chris Syme

When it comes to social media, it seems like we will believe just about anything. If we see it on the Internet it must be true, right?

Much of what we’ve come to think about social media is just wrong. It’s time to tear down those tips and tricks that people keep telling us and close the door on bad social media advice.

Sometimes it’s obvious that some practices are wrong; other times not so much—especially if we see them over and over again online.

In order to produce content that people will love enough to pass on to others, we need to clear the table of bad practices so our fans can see the real value in what we post on social media.

If you see yourself in any of these 10 myths, take heart. We’ve all been there. I want to challenge you to challenge yourself. Together, we can stamp out these terrible social media myths.

1. Copying and pasting the same content word-for-word on all my social media channels will help my message reach more people.

This myth basically infers that all social media audiences are created equal.

Today, if you post the same message verbatim on every social media channel, people will think you are lazy and ignorant.

Every channel has its own demographics and channel culture. If you go to a black tie dinner wearing your yoga pants and sweatshirt, people will know you didn’t take time to understand where you were going. You’ll stand out and not in a good way.

Learn how to reframe your message in the channel culture’s frame. This fun infographic from instamom.com does a fantastic job explaining how your social media messages should differ in approach.

And don’t forget age demographics. Some channels have younger audiences and require a different approach. If the channel’s target demographic isn’t in your audience, you are really wasting your time there anyway.

social media myths 12. The more hashtags I stuff in a tweet, the more people I will reach.

There are just so many ways this is wrong.

Hashtags have strengths, but stuffing is not one. I could list a million reasons but I’ll just stick to data. In 2014, Buffer published data from an extensive study by Buddy Media to find out the exact science of how hashtags affect a social media post. They found that tweets with hashtags receive two times more engagement than those without.

But more is not better. After two hashtags, engagement levels started to drop off drastically. Bottom line: a post full of hashtags is never a message, it is a distraction.

3. I need to join every social network to reach more people.

This myth violates a couple basic principles of effective marketing:

  • Your marketing has to be manageable to be effective. You need to be able to write, promote your books, and have a life. It won’t happen if you spread yourself too thin.
  • You want to key in on the channels where your readers are and develop an effective audience there. You don’t want to necessarily reach more people, you want to reach the right people. Facebook is the only platform out there that has enough range in demographics and captures enough online traffic to justify saying everyone should be there. After that, it’s iffy.

For marketing purposes, it is not enough to just join a network. You have to be working at producing engaging content and building loyal relationships wherever you are.

Be smart about which networks you use. Some may return much less than the amount of effort you are putting in.

4. Buying followers and fans will help me sell more books.

social media myths 2There are several reasons buying followers is a waste of your money. Besides being unethical, here are a couple:

  • “Followers for dollars” are not qualified customers. Heck, they may not even be real people. Chances are very high they are not your targeted audience.
  • Buying followers just increases your reach (number of people that might qualify to see your posts). Reach is a low-level goal. And it is a no-level goal if the followers you bought don’t care about what you have to say.

Note: There is something to be said for the credibility of having lots of followers but today everyone knows that people are buying followers and scamming for auto follows, so who are you trying to fool? Concentrate on engaging the number you have and they will grow organically.

You can run contests and giveaways to increase your qualified followers (people who want your books). I would rather have 1,000 people who like to read my kind of books than 10,000 bots and fake followers who will never buy one book.

5. Social media will not help me sell any books.

This is a particularly common misconception for authors. If done correctly, social media does help sell books.

The problem with this myth is that represents a misunderstanding of the benefits of social media marketing. Authors have two basic needs when it comes to marketing: sell more books and build a dedicated fan base. Social media is better at the second but it can certainly do the first.

6. Social media results cannot be measured.

Social media can certainly be measured, but you need something to measure first.

What is your goal? Increase followers? Build an advance reader team? Increase sales with a launch campaign? Build an email list?

Most people don’t know how to match goals to measurement. But don’t worry—this can all be learned. The backbone of good marketing is a plan. If you have a plan that includes goals, measurements, strategies, and tactics, you will know exactly what you are measuring.

If you are just playing darts with a blindfold on, even if you hit the bullseye, you won’t know how you got there.

7. Social media is only for young people.

social media myths 3This myth is easily busted with data. Just take a look at the latest data from Pew Internet Research, the top internet research organization in the world.

A whopping 71 percent of American adults online use social media—53 percent of them use more than one network. As of last year, for the first time in history, the majority of online adults over age 65 now use social media. The 18-29 group has the highest percentage at 90 percent, but all age groups are on social media now. The 30-49 age group is second at 70 percent of online adults.

This myth is a lame argument anymore.

8. I am too old to learn how to use social media.

This myth is vaguely related to number seven.

Social media savvy is not the domain of the young. If you are adept enough to write books, you can certainly learn how to use social media.

The trick is finding help learning how to do it right. Find some resources you can trust. Take some free online webinars from trusted sources, follow bloggers who know what they’re talking about, and network with other authors who are in your same boat. I think the really intimidating piece here is the learning curve. But once you get around the curve, the road is pretty straight.

9. Social media is free.

Boy I wish. Most of the platforms are free to use but maintaining a consistent presence takes time and resources, and sometimes money. You know the old saying, time is money. And time will be your biggest cost.

In addition, email providers, website hosting, images, and advertisements all cost money. Although it is possible to do social media well on a shoestring, reaching a wider audience often costs money. The good news is, there are ways to control your budget and still be successful.

10. Social media is a soap box for me to sell my books.

social media myths 4I don’t know if anyone really says this, but they certainly act it out. If all you do on social media is tweet or post “Buy my book” then you are failing. If you sell a handful of books with this method, think of how many you could sell if you actually built a platform to sell more books and develop a dedicated fan base.

The formula for selling on social media is “you have to earn the right to sell.” You do that by producing entertaining, helpful content that shows people you care more about them than you do about selling books. It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or nonfiction, this is still the formula.

What can you do to bust some of these myths in your own social media today? Share your thoughts in a comment below! 

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

Similar Posts


  1. 10 well defined points for using social media. Thanks Chris. Sandra knows how to find good material to educate us.

    1. I’m glad it was helpful, Virginia. I am so lucky that I have an opportunity to connect with such wise people!


  2. Oh yes, I use social media, but there’s always that niggling thought in my head if it is worth the time and effort. I finally pared down and focused on using just a couple sites and one is Facebook–good to know it appeals to all demographics. And to tell the truth, I love FB, so it’s a pleasure to be there. Timely article for me since I am beginning my promotion of my recently released mystery novel. Thanks for the information!

  3. J.Q.-I am glad to provide some timely advice. Your question about social media being worth it is common. Because it takes some work to figure out how to measure success, people are often scratching their heads. Thanks for sharing your story. Becca–yes, so much this.

  4. Very encouraging advice to a beginner who will have to take the plunge soon…like me!

    A big thanks to Chris and Sandy!

    1. All the thanks go to Chris for writing such a helpful post for us. I’m so glad it will help you, Dan! Thanks for letting us know.


  5. Thanks for the great info. Glad I come across this. I’ve always been confused about the “right” number of hashtags and this helped a lot.

  6. I have seen some of this material before, but not presented so clearly, so succinctly and so memorably. Your comments about age and the ability to use social media are particularly helpful – and encouraging. Of course, if a person can write a book they can embark on online marketing, but your experience will save them so much time which otherwise could be spent making errors. Thank you for an enlightening post.

    1. Thanks Judith. You’d be surprised how many authors tell me they can’t do the marketing thing–and they already have published books. It is just a matter of learning. I think it’s more time than anything. Yes, it is an investment to do it yourself.

  7. Great post, Chris. You hit the nail! One of the challenges for all, even those who master the social skills, is a lack of time to grow and then communicate with our readers online.

    Our approach at BooksGoSocial.com is to allow authors to tap into wider social networks of readers at a low cost. That cost is what the author’s time is worth to build those networks.

    This choice, whether to build a following yourself or pay others to do it for you is still emerging. We hope to lead the way in making it a safe choice.

    1. I don’t think building a following OR paying to do it is a good choice. I think the choice is, am I going to do both. People who pay for a following will never have the same success in the long run that people who build their own following will. But don’t get me wrong. I believe in buying marketing if it is the best option–people just have to understand it themselves first or they won’t know what to buy. BTW, just so you don’t think I’m being hard on you–I like Books Go Social. I enrolled a book there for a client. It was a very reasonable price to pay to supplement our other marketing efforts.

  8. A great post that gets to the point! My favorite is the section on hashtags. Any more than three and I start to go cross-eyed, and feel I am being spammed. The same goes for twitter profiles that are mostly tags. They seem very flat, lazy, and confusing. It seems like a hashtag is only useful if it legitimately adds reference value, and is a genuine content type marker.
    Thanks for this post. Definitely sharing!

    1. Good points, Han. Thanks! When I see a Twitter profile that’s loaded with hashtags, I think they’re just there to be found, not to help or serve.


  9. The only problem with myths and rules is that they are not concrete and certainly not without change.
    Every single item is extremely good to note and ponder, but there are exceptions to everything.
    That being said, this article is brilliant in that it at least calls to the attention of the aspiring writer the concerns that are out there. How they adjust their own experience is up the individual writer.
    The unknown is not only frightening but extremely exciting.

    1. So true, Rae. Nothing is ever concrete and there are always exceptions, of course. But you won’t go wrong following these guidelines, and that’s reassuring.


  10. It may be true that there are exceptions, but fortunately we have successful patterns to help us get it right. Too much experimentation in marketing results in wasted time, money, and disappointment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *