When it comes to social media, authors are no different from anyone else: if we want to raise awareness and engage in conversations with new people and new networks, we probably want to be active on social media.
But what do you do on social media? What do you say? Do you create posts using a carefully crafted persona? Or you do adhere to a rigorous campaign of authenticity.
Like so much in the publishing realm... the answer is that it depends. But there are some recent — and illuminating — cautionary tales.
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Introduction (various voices) 00:05
Welcome to the Empowered Author podcast.
Discussion, tips, insights and advice from those who’ve been there, done that, helping you write, publish and market your nonfiction book.
Being an author is something that you got to take seriously.
I’m proud I’ve written a book.
What does the reader need, first? What does the reader need, second?
What happens if you start writing your book before you identify your “why”? What’s the problem that? You’re an indie author, you take the risk; you reap the rewards; you are in charge of the decisions. You’re the head of that business.
Every emotion you’re feeling when you’re writing is felt by every other writer.
The Empowered Author podcast. Your podcast hosts are Boni and John Wagner-Stafford of Ingenium Books.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 00:58
Something a little bit different on this episode; we hope you enjoy it. When it comes to social media, authors are really no different from anyone else. If we want to raise awareness and engage in conversations with new people and new networks, we probably want to be active on social media. But what do you do on social media? What do you say? To create – do you create posts using a carefully crafted persona or do you adhere to a rigorous campaign of authenticity? Like so much in the publishing realm, the answer is that it depends. I have to read this whole thing over again because I’ve just got way too many stumbles. I’m going to … Can – do you want me to …? I’ll just start again and you’ll cut it out; you’ll do your magic. Something a little bit different on this episode of the podcast. Yes, we’re going to talk about social media but we’re going to take it more broadly focused and talk about authenticity and whether you need to be careful – and how you need to be careful when you’re crafting your social media messages. Because when it comes to social media, authors are really no different from anyone else. If we want to raise awareness and engage in conversations with new people and new networks, we probably want to be active on social media. So what do you do and what do you say? Do you create posts using a carefully crafted persona? Or do you adhere to a rigorous campaign of authenticity? Or do you – be very cautious about the opinions that you share? Well, like so much in the publishing realm, the answer is that it depends. But there are some recent and illuminating cautionary tales. And that is what we’re talking about today. I’m kind of excited about today’s guest. We have Morgan Gray: he’s just a regular guy. He’s a radical Toronto Raptors basketball fan and overall sports enthusiast. He is a consumer of society, culture and sports podcasts and occasionally has broader insights that offer us a different window on how we interact with the world. And something you should know: Morgan is also my son. Hi, Morgan. You’re welcome. So fun. Now, we are talking about this social media thing. And I wanted to give just a bit of background on how this whole thing came about. I was up in Vancouver, visiting you several weeks ago. And while you were doing the dishes in your kitchen, you had a podcast on and they were – started talking about book reviews, of all things, which led to a whole discussion of a bunch of things that you had been hearing on some of the podcasts that you listen to. And I was of course immediately seeing parallels to the world of the indie author. And so one of those things – the themes that emerged in what we were talking about – was social media. You remember those conversations, right? So when it comes to authenticity – being who you really are on social media – we’ve got a couple of kind of incredible examples to talk about that. In case you’re tempted to try to be somebody that you aren’t when you’re on social media – and that includes putting forward an author persona, which you know, lots of authors do; it’s their brand and they want to adhere to the author brand that they’ve cultivated – but authenticity, I think, is still important. So Morgan, tell me the story of Bryan Colangelo.
Morgan Gray 04:56
Bryan Colangelo was a general manager for a professional NBA team and through some amazing investigative journalism by “The Ringer”, it was discovered that Bryan Colangelo, who has an official Twitter Bryan Colangelo account, also was discovered to have created some fake or burner accounts where he was giving his true opinions on players and transactions that were happening, with his team specifically and all over the NBA, that came to light and he subsequently lost his job once those things came out.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 05:35
And for those that don’t know who Bryan Colangelo is, tell us a little bit about that. And we first became aware of Brian Colangelo – that is you and I – when he had a role with the Toronto Raptors, yes?
Morgan Gray 05:48
Yeah, he’s been a … His father is hugely famous. I forget his father’s first name. But another Colangelo: has been instrumental in the development of the NBA and is heavily involved with USA basketball. And Bryan Colangelo was something of a lifer in the NBA and he was famous in Toronto for having the largest Italian – thickest collars we’ve ever seen on a dress shirt.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 06:20
Rivaling even Don Cherry’s.
Morgan Gray 06:22
Boni Wagner-Stafford 06:24
So what was it about these burner accounts that got Colangelo in trouble? Was it the fact that they were burner accounts? Or specifically, what was the issue?
Morgan Gray 06:36
I think the issue was specifically, he was saying disparaging things about players that he had under contract with his team. And I think specifically for the NBA, the reason why this is so troublesome is for contract negotiations and player value. So he was saying things about players on his team from these burner accounts, questioning their work ethic and things like that, which would be incredibly harmful for the player in future negotiations. And of course, all the NBA players have paid representation. So the things that general managers say and do that are public facing, generally are pretty buttoned up. Because similar to politics, there are far-reaching consequences for the things that they say in terms of how their players feel about them, contract values of players and that type of thing.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 07:40
Yeah. So in the world of an author, this – you know, the ramifications of what they say on social media may have broader consequences – or not broader but larger consequences for them if they are employed by someone else. And if the subject matter of your book – or books – and your opinions as an author vary in a significant way from your employer. So that is one scenario. Then we also have indie authors who are totally self employed and they don’t necessarily have that conflict with a different employer. But I think things still – things can still happen if you’re not careful about what you say. Now we took to social media just before – and a couple of days before we’re recording this podcast. And we were asking if people had suggestions about what authors need to think about when they’re going to post on social media, both from an authenticity perspective. One of the things from the @InsideYourHead account on Twitter, the comment was, “Social media needs to be genuinely social. You don’t want to have endless ‘Buy my book’ posts that are a total turnoff and lead to unfollows.” And that’s true. We still, of course, do want to talk about the book and raise awareness about the book. But I think that engagement piece is important to remember. But you need to be careful. So an engagement in this environment – and I’m going to lead you, Morgan, into the next story – the engagement notion in social media, which has become increasingly polarized over the last several years, can be a bit of a minefield. If you want to engage with people of like-minded views, that’s one thing but again, that can get you in trouble. And I was drawn recently – and Morgan, you and I talked about the story of Eric Coomer. And it’s a bit of a dramatic story. But tell us about that one and what you learned there.
Let’s pause for a moment for a message from our sponsor.
Morgan Gray 10:51
Well, Eric Coomer was someone who worked for a – essentially a voting systems company, so not even a public-facing person, who was involved in the programming of the ballot machines used all over in portions of America. And he had, prior to the disputed election by Trump, posted some very anti-Trump sentiment privately to his Facebook friends, with his Facebook privacy settings, you know, “friends only” in terms of what he thought he was sharing with people. And he got caught up in essentially a conspiracy theory where a right-wing radio host dropped his name as being Antifa and associated with them and implicated him in the stealing of the election. And it changed this man’s life: he basically had to go on the run and eventually reached some kind of agreement to leave the company that he’d been working for, just because of the firestorm that he created for themselves and for him.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 12:02
Yeah. And that was – that had more broad-reaching consequences for Mr. Coomer than just getting in trouble with his employer. And anybody that’s interested in learning more about Mr. Coomer and that story, there’s a podcast of the “New York Times”: “The Daily” on this one. You could listen to that and it’ll give you the full background. But let’s talk about what this, you know, what the implications are for this type of thing. There are other examples in the sports world of people participating in social media with accounts that are – they’re concealing their true identity. But Morgan, what do you think this all means? What does it mean for our use of social media? And what does it do for our trust?
Morgan Gray 13:05
You know, I would say for me, personally, I have very little trust for social media. I basically stopped using all social media because of my lack of trust and, you know, the transparency of the – specifically Facebook – but, you know, how the data is being used and how secure it’s really and for me, you know, I’m a happy employee and not trying to build a business or a brand and need to market or create engagement. So it was a pretty easy choice for me to scale back a lot on my personal social media use. And, you know, as someone looking at it from the outside, I think you have to decide if your social media is going to be a part of your business. And if it is so, you need to, you know, very consciously craft and edit and self audit, you know, what you’re putting out there for people, which I think is, you know, the heart of the debate that we’re having now. And I think, you know, the things that you’re putting out there, if you’re not comfortable with saying them out loud in public to strangers, you know, it’s probably a good litmus test for what you should be comfortable putting, you know, out there on social media because at this point, we’ve discovered that, you know, it’s out there forever and it can reverb and get bounced around and taken to a lot of places that you may not have intended it to go.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 14:35
Yeah, that makes sense. So we talk a lot at Ingenium Books and we’ve got a couple of blogs and a recent podcast about how to use social media and not every – we don’t ever advocate that every author should, for example. But it’s a little bit against the grain to remove yourself from social media. So I’m interested in this: how, you know, as I’m someone who, I’ve got several social media apps and I’m in and out of them several times a day and we use it to engage with our authors and people who might be our authors. So how do you get your information? How are you connected with what’s going on in the world if you’re not on social media? And I mean, it sounds like a silly question but I’m serious.
Morgan Gray 15:25
Yeah, I mean, I there’s a couple places and personalities and publications that I check regularly. And you know, here in Canada the CBC is definitely a place I go to get my news. And there’s a couple sports places and websites that I like to check that also cover pop culture. And that’s really it. And, you know, the things that are really big and important in the world, kind of make your way to them. And I still interact with people who use social media: my wonderful girlfriend uses social media. So I do still have to watch the occasional TikTok here or there. So I do. It’s not that I, you know, avert my eyes anytime there’s a screen on that’s got social media on it.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 16:10
Right. Okay. I wanted to get you to tell me one more little story, if you could, and that is kind of related to the same theme that we’ve already been on. But it was with respect to Kevin Durant. And tell us who Kevin Durant is and what happened to him.
Morgan Gray 16:29
Kevin Durant is probably one of the – or will be one of the top five NBA players of all time when everything’s all said and done. And he got into similar hot water that Bryan Colangelo did, in terms of he was discovered that he had a fake Twitter account that he was using to, for a large part, go after people that were adding his (indiscernible), his real or public facing Twitter account to argue with them about the points that he felt that he couldn’t address as public Kevin Durant. But obviously, he understood that he couldn’t be 100 percent transparent with these people – you know, making money from endorsement deals as he does – but still felt driven to interact with them because he’d seen them and was obviously bothered by the comments. And I think it was something he was ridiculed for a little bit. He didn’t lose his job, of course. And I don’t know whether that speaks to him not really being in a position to affect other people’s value or whether his value was just so high that he was deemed irreplaceable and the scandal wasn’t enough to drive his value to a point that would have been negative teamside.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 17:54
Yeah. And maybe a combination of both. So he’s in a different kind of leadership position because of the role that he plays on the team. But he probably scores just enough points where the team would lose more than they would gain by letting him go.
Morgan Gray 18:15
And to be fair, there was nothing on that I saw that was shocking in terms of his comments, that wouldn’t have been just regular sports banter for just two members of the public.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 18:27
Which is different than what happened to Colangelo.
Morgan Gray 18:29
Boni Wagner-Stafford 18:30
Yeah. So what else are you hearing in your consumption of pop culture stuff – and I know you’re a particular fan of The Ringer series of podcasts, so we’re going to give them credit where credit’s due – but some fascinating stuff that those folks get up to.
Morgan Gray 18:49
Yeah, I think it’s very interesting, especially “The Press Box”, I think was the one that you and I were listening to that started this conversation. And I think it’s interesting to see, you know, the, in particular, the “Jeopardy” host search and how there have been multiple hosts that have been chosen and then the internet has decided to – and the public has decided to go back and vet their previous social media posts and, you know, tweets and all that type of stuff. And there’s been a couple people that have been announced as the host and then kind of unannounced as the host for things that they’ve said that certain groups have found, you know, to be not to their liking. And I think it’s interesting how, you know, things that you posted five, six, seven years ago, maybe the public discourse has changed but you and I are seeing it for the first time in 2021. But you said it in 2003. I don’t really get that context. All I see is your name attached to this quote.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 19:59
Yeah. And I think you know, that’s really important: is that we may not think that something is an issue at the time that we’re writing it. But as you say, times changed. Times change. The profile of the author changes. In 2003, maybe they were nobody but now they’re not nobody and they’ve, you know, got a particular following or they’re asking people to spend money on something they’ve created intellectual property, as is the case with authors. And, yeah, I think it’s fascinating. Again, for authors, this is – we see so many independent authors who want more: they want a bigger audience; they want to cultivate more influence; and they want to use social media in order to do that. And I think this is, you know, this kind of conversation and being able to think about the world in which you are interacting in a way to be cognizant of what the risks can be, is important. I want to go to another comment that we had from one of the Ingenium Books authors, actually: this question that we posted on the Ingenium Books Facebook page with respect to how much thought do you give to what you are about to post on social media. And Gwyn Teatro, whose book is “In the Thick of It: Mastering the Art of Leading from the Middle”, she said, “The one thing that comes to mind for me when it comes to participating in social media, is that whatever I put out there, I can’t take back: it’s out there and accessible to just about everyone. And for a long time to come. My lesson from that is to be myself, yes, but to think about my impact and how it will serve my purpose before hitting the enter key. Things said in haste or out of an immediate emotional response can come back with a nasty bite.” Wise words indeed. We – I was aware of another author – and John and I talked about this a while ago, when we saw it go by: there was an author on Twitter who was having an interaction. It was, of course, during one of the most recent US election campaigns. This author was having a debate with somebody else and they had differing political views. And this author actually used the F word, you know, “F off” on Twitter and I was like, “Oh, yeah, dropped the F bomb.” And so, you know, I think that’s an example of when it’s one of those emotional responses: in the moment, driven to, you know … Who knows what the – whether there was any negative fallout for that author trying to get attention for the messages in their book, you know. I don’t know. I don’t know what that was.
Morgan Gray 23:09
I think we’re seeing from Coomer’s story, who was not a public facing person and if you’re an independent author that’s decided to be a public facing person to further promote, you know, your writing and your particular project, I would feel pretty comfortable saying unless you are a political author, you should be avoiding political topics, basically, you know, grandstanding for your side. You never know who’s reading what you’re going to say. And I think just like your neighbors, don’t discuss politics with them. Or with your following. Because no matter which way you go, half the people are going to dislike what you have to say. And I think you probably want to be striking a chord with more than 50 percent of your audience to be effectively marketing to them.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 24:07
Yeah, I think that makes sense. Unless you are purposely only cultivating an awareness with that particular – you know, if you had written a book that espouses one particular view. But I think the point that you’re making is an important one. Are you in the space? Are you – is your book or your books about the public arena, the political arena? And are you taking a view on one side of the debate or another? And I think that also helps drive some of that conscious decision-making before you go ahead and create your posts. Any last thoughts? Anything else that’s popped into your head, Morgan, that we didn’t cover? Before I wrap this up?
Morgan Gray 24:51
Yeah, I would say, you know, if we look at the story of Bryan Colangelo and Kevin Durant, these are people who obviously realize they can’t be 100 percent transparent on social media and have millions of reasons to not be, still feeling the need to interact authentically with social media. And so I think it’s really a balancing act that people need to strike in terms of you need to be authentic because if you’re inauthentic, it’s going to shine through. But you do not need to be transparent.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 25:33
Awesome. Yeah, very well said. I agree 100 percent. And that’s a great place for us to wrap up this very special episode of the Empowered Author podcast, with our very special guest, Morgan Gray, who’s just a regular guy that consumes pop culture and happens to be my son. So fun, fun, fun. Thanks, Morgan, for joining us. Yeah. And we’ll invite you back again.
Morgan Gray 25:59
Thanks for having me.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 26:02
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode of the Empowered Author podcast, please feel free to share it on social media. We’d also be very grateful if you could rate, review and subscribe to the Empowered Author on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you access your podcasts. That’s helpful for us but more importantly, it’s helpful for other indie authors who are looking for resources to help them on their continuous learning journey.