How to Ruin Your Reputation in 140 Characters or Less

45470822_sWe are quick to jump on the social media band wagon to connect with readers and promote our books but we should be aware that it isn’t just unicorns and rainbows on the Internet.

In 2010 ten million drivers of Toyota vehicles brought home just how powerful 140 characters can be. Since then consumers are even savvier with how powerful their voice can be on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.

Consumers are using their texting skills and Twitter accounts to share just how they feel and they have no problem naming names. Here are just a few tweets I found:

  • @AmericanAir You don’t get it do you? Your customer service is horrible at every level. It’s like none of you cares about your passengers…
  • Verizon folks can only say “The system won’t let me” Why? Total customer service failure blaming it on the computer. Sigh.
  • Dear Starbucks Lady. You are in customer service. I am the customer. What part of this relationship is difficult for you to understand?
  • Is there any place in South Beach to eat for lunch where the customer service doesn’t suck? I mean come on. (Pointing to the restaurant at 830 Washington Ave in Miami.
  • Would love to thank Beatrice Beauchamp at the GO training for her terrible customer service.

In an article by Matthew DeBord, entitled Did Twitter Topple Toyota?, he talks about the fact that companies can no longer hope that people won’t discover a problem exists or if they do, that they’ll keep it to themselves.

He talked about Toyota’s attempt to control the story and says:

None of this, though, can contend with the breakneck, crowd sourced, unmediated reputation-wrecker that is the 140 characters of a tweet. As the recall story exploded and I pondered the collapse of the vaunted Toyota Way, I checked the #Toyota Twitter tag frequently. The tweet-rate was blistering: Dozens of new tweets every 30 seconds. Give it half an hour and you had a thousand more. Even the most hardened PR warrior would have looked at that and wet his pants.

How are you keeping up with what is being said about you and your books?

One way is to visit Search.Twitter and select Advance Search and create a feed for your name as well as the name of your books so that you receive updates when someone mentions you. Then get involved in the conversation!

In the above complaint about American Airlines I was pleased to see that AA responded in a timely manner and in the end the customer had this to say:

@AmericanAir I can see you really care about solving this problem… You’re a quality company…

In a matter of minutes, the customer went from really upset to singing praises simply because American Airlines was listening.

I often hear my authors express fear about putting themselves out on the Internet because they don’t want to have any negative reviews or comments. However, whether we put ourselves out there or not; consumers and your readers are already there and expressing their opinions.

The reason Twitter and Yelp and other forms of giving opinions are so popular is because people want to be heard. They want to share their comments, good and bad, and expect a response. If you aren’t listening or fail to respond because someone didn’t like your plot or your character description or a reader questions a fact, that reader is going to express their dissatisfaction to all who will listen, online and off.

However, if you are listening and respond – even to those who have something negative to say – the level of respect that person has for you (and also all who follow the comments) will rise to a new level.


Go back to that unhappy American Airlines customer. If their comment had gone unanswered, their anger might have escalated. However, since a representative responded in a timely manner and made an effort to fix the problem the customer and everyone who follows the discussion now thinks pretty well about the company.

Check out your reviews on Amazon and other sites. Take the time to respond, to thank, and to acknowledge those that take the time to write something; even those who don’t really like your book.

Each comment helps with your next book.


It isn’t just readers who can hurt your reputation in 140 characters. We can shoot ourselves in the foot just as easily.

Take the time to proof read everything you write – emails, texts and social media comments – BEFORE you hit send. A simple misspelling can change the meaning dramatically.

I’m reminded of a poster for an open door discussion a CEO was having with employees. The poster read

A Massage from our CEO

It was supposed to read A Message from our CEO. Oh, how those vowels can cause trouble.

Bottom Line: Make sure you are listening to what people say about you and your books on social media and be responsive.