My husband once explained a theory of relationships that he got from his father:
You have a bank. You fill that bank by doing things with or for your friends and loved ones. If you’re there with coffee at the ER at midnight, that is worth more than going to see Evil Dead together. Different actions have different emotional values.
That currency is lost when you do things to hurt your loved ones. Canceling plans at the last minute costs a little of that currency. Forgetting your anniversary might cost you a lot.
The more currency in the bank, the stronger your relationship is and the more likely they are to forgive minor infractions. The more currency you have in the bank, the more likely you are to get a “loan.”It’s when you overdraft that account, when you become more hurtful than supportive, that your relationship falls apart.
Social networking is the same way.
When you share great content or make hilarious comments, you deposit currency in the bank. When you engage with people and start conversations, you make large deposits. When you show interest in others, rather than yourself, your account becomes more valuable.
However, when you promote yourself too much, you go into debt. If your account is in the negative, you might as well call it a charge-off, because followers are leaving and nobody is paying attention.
Every network has different values.
Each social network has its own pricing. You can’t just clone your content between five social media accounts and expect the same results on every site. This article will cover the four most popular and influential networks, Google, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
Twitter loves links and jokes.
The two most popular types of content on Twitter are links and 140 character jokes. Witty one-liners are worth a lot of currency. Links to great content (not just links to your book, mind you) are also valuable.
Things that cost you are complaints (people just don’t want to see negativity on their Twitter feed) and self-promotion. Repetition costs you, too, if the person has seen it before. I will tolerate a lot of self-promotion, but I will unfollow you if you post the same tweet daily.
Politics are tricky. So is religion. You’ll gain currency with people who agree with you, but you’re lose it with people who don’t. Be sparing with political tweets and make sure it’s an issue you really care about. You may lose followers, so decide if its an appropriate place (not on your corporate account) and worth it.
Google+ is about content.
Google is the best place to share blog posts. You can share your own (worth more) or the posts of others (still valuable, but not worth as much because they are not original). Once again, repetition is detrimental here. You can share an old blog months later, but make sure there is plenty of content shared in between.
Pictures are also popular. Text is usually skipped over.
Once again, political rants cost you. Links to your products cost you.
The most popular post I’ve seen on Google+ was a post asking authors to post information about their indie books; the author wanted to pick one to buy and review. This was popular because it showed interest in others and offered a service. When you are giving of yourself, you gain social currency.
Google+ has a great feature where you can choose to email notification to your followers. This feature is very costly in terms of social currency. I use it maybe four times a year. There is no faster way to lose readers than to send them an email once a week with your content. If I followed you back in as a courtesy, I certainly don’t want to get constant emails about your book.
Tumblr demands nerdiness and novelty.
Tumblr’s most valuable currency is images. Doctor Who, Supernatural, and Sherlock are the most popular. Ponies, Grumpy Cat, and other hot memes are also well-loved. When you post something new and clever, you gain currency.
Tumblr’s dashboard is all about catching the eye. Links by themselves usually get skipped over. If you want to share a link, create a graphic to draw attention and you will get more social currency out of that transaction. Large blocks of text will lose you currency unless they are well-informed compositions or really, really funny. Comedy is gold on the internet. For example, a rant about your day will lose you currency, whereas an essay about gender roles in Beauty and the Beast will be well-shared.
Tumblr is a haven for nerds. Nerdy things will be more valuable. Informational things (e.g. tutorials and articles on conventions of Russian naming) are valuable. Awesome art is also well-loved.
It’s much harder to lose social currency on Tumblr. You have to really offend someone to lose currency on that network (so don’t post pornography if you mostly blog about My Little Pony). However, repetition, like with all social networks, is detrimental. We go to Tumblr to see new and interesting things, so posting the same content repetitively will turn readers away. I recently unfollowed a musician for posting the poster for his gig three times in one week.
The trap with Tumblr is the conversation system. If a user doesn’t install Disqus on their blog, the only way to comment is to reblog and hope they see what you added. If your conversation goes back and forth, your feed will end up flooded with the same post over and over. It is best, therefore, to avoid discussion or bring it to private messages. Install Disqus commenting on your own Tumblr blogs to attract comments and facilitate conversation.
Facebook has friends and feuds.
I used to keep my Facebook profile open to everyone, but recently I locked it down and made an author page to protect myself from controversy with teaching (I didn’t want to get in trouble if a student tried to friend me.)
As with the other networks, self-promotion will cost you. However, as Facebook is for friends and family, you can usually get away with a little more self-promotion than you would with strangers.
Conversations are the most valuable currency on Facebook (but also can easily spiral into debate that will lose you friends). They have a special kind of value because Facebook’s system rewards content creators for engagement. If you can engage friends and Likers on your posts, your later posts will be more likely to appear on those people’s feeds. It’s good to ask for opinions, to encourage comments, but don’t ask for political opinions unless you’re prepared for war.
Images draw more attention in a sea of text. Links are also popular, so long as they are to the right kind of content. Where blog posts are more popular on Google+, Facebook prefers cat videos.
Each social network has its own quirks. Just remember that the more your share, the more your followers will trust you. Self-promotion should be used sparingly. Hook people in with great content and don’t drive them away by spamming them. If you earn your social currency by offering engagement, humor, and content, your followers will be more likely to forgive a little self-promotion and perhaps click on the thinks that really mean the most to you.