Congratulations Glut

by Sharon Bially on June 16, 2011

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A few weeks ago Nina Badzin blogged about what she calls the Twitter Thanking Crisis.  Her bottom line: “We’re spending tremendous amounts of time thanking people and reading about other people getting thanked.”

Amen.

While we’re at it, I’d like to add my own two cents about an area where too much social media time is also being spent:

Congratulations.

Both the reciprocal variety, as in, “Congrats to XXX for YYY!”  and the unilateral variety such as, “Check out this review that says so many great things about my book!”

(Me, me, my, my.)

Not to mention the responses:

“Congrats!”

“Great to hear!”

“Way to go!”

Everybody has a right to be proud of their accomplishments.  Of their book reviews, their readings, their guest blog posts, their moments or eras of glory.  And while there’s no harm in sending out the occasional tweet about them or posting them on Facebook from time to time, there’s a fine line between taking a few well-chosen opportunities to do so, and creating a glut as annoying as the miles of *thank you’s* that clog up social media feeds.

Slapping on my publicist’s hat for a moment, congratulations are also just not a good use of air time.   Too many  can drive friends and followers away and crowd out your more important messages.  As a message, congratulations give no information about your book, product or service other than A) “someone thinks it’s great,” and B) “I want everyone to know that someone thinks it’s great.”  In our congratulatory culture where Everyone’s A Winner and has so many wonderful accomplishments to share, this simply does not make a book or product or author stand out from the crowd.

What does stand out, however — just like with good writing — are the specific nuggets of detail that make whatever we’re trying to promote unique.  A particularly articulate sentence from a review that expresses the heart of a story.  A quirky phrase from the story itself.

These have far more potential than generic “congrats” to grab people’s attention, to intrigue them, to make them remember your story and perhaps want to read more.

More importantly (taking my publicist’s hat off now), they also have a lot more potential to generate what we should aspire to above all: the genuine enthusiasm of total strangers.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Nina June 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm

#1. Thanks for the mention.

#2. Love the point about all the congrats feeling empty and meaningless after too many just like the thank yous.

#3. I love when you put on the publicist’s hat. We all benefit.

#4. Now, my little grasshopper, NO need to thank me for the blog comment as a regular tweet on Twitter. That’s one of the no-no practices I list in my post. ;)

#5. I will RT this in the morning when more people will see it. So many good points in this post.

Becky Benson-Flannery June 17, 2011 at 6:50 am

Very thoughtful!! Thank you;)

So often people in the virtual world come off as ruder, the anonymity keeping them safe from reprisal (I think here of yelp or comments on a controversial topic). People in the more concrete world move very fast and often forget to say thank you. I wonder if all the thanking comes from the lack of it in so many other sectors?

Also, your comment about the culture in which everyone wins brought to mind a fabulous parenting article from The Atlantic (I have been sharing it with everyone as it resonates with me as a mom to a toddler and as a former English teacher at a school peopled with kids of World Back execs.): http://ow.ly/5jtP5

Funny how we swing back and forth and can’t seem to find the ideal medium…

Best,
Becky

Barbara Watson June 17, 2011 at 9:26 am

After reading Nina’s post a few weeks ago and now yours (through Nina’s link on Twitter), you both make excellent points. Are people frightened of being labeled rude if they don’t thank all over Twitter, Facebook, and other places? I don’t know.

Other, more meaningful ways of thanking, such as Nina’s posting this link on Twitter certainly mean more than a @____ TY. Perhaps part of our creativity should be placed on other thanking methods.

anne greenwood brown June 17, 2011 at 10:07 am

I agree. Ever since Nina’s post I’ve been thanking people in direct messages only, and I’m going to employ this same practice with “congratulations.”

These are sincere sentiments I want to express to someONE, but not necessarily to the whole world.

Jane Roper June 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

Yup — agree one hundred percent — about the thank you’s, anyway. And to Barbara’s question, I think that, yes, people are afraid of being seen as rude if they don’t thank someone for a compliment or a #FF or #WW mention. But the private message thanks are a good solution.

I think that Congratulations are actually a slightly different story. I don’t mind people supporting and publicizing their friends’ accomplishments on Twitter. I’ve learned about a number of new books and authors that way.

Sharon Bially June 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Jane – yes, it’s good to support and publicize friends’ accomplishments. But I think that doing so in a way that spreads the word about specifics people can grab onto rather than congratulating has more of an impact. Or just sharing the joy. E.G., “Exalted that Hollywood agent wants to shop @AnneGBrown’s forthcoming novel to film studios! http://ow.ly/1dhAwV Well deserved!” (BTW – true development today, and I am truly thrilled for Anne!) I’m also not a big fan of self-congratulating. For example, just a key line from a review with a link makes a good tweet in my opinion instead of saying “so-and-so says such great things about my book in his/her review, check it out here!” (This type I really dislike and don’t find effective from a communications POV.)

Melissa Crytzer Fry June 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm

I agree with both Anne and Jane. I think that congratulating through DMs are a wonderful idea as Anne suggests, but I, like Jane, don’t find the congratulatory tweets to be “bad air time.” In fact, since I can’t be watching my Twitter stream 24/7, I often learn of great new books, reviews, accomplishments, etc. ONLY because someone has congratulated another person about it. In the same token, I like to help promote people’s good book reviews, publishing news, etc. by RTing their original messages about accomplishments and adding a quick “congrats.” I personally don’t see it as “me, me, me” – rather as a way to promote the other person and give them a quick, SINCERE high-five in the very short 120 character limit.

Natalia Sylvester June 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm

This is a tough one, because I agree with some of the commenters who say that if it wasn’t for the congrats, they wouldn’t find out about other writers or their books. I also really enjoy it when someone has big news–signing with an agent, getting a book deal–and the news gets RTd several times over, because it’s such a testament to the great community we have, where writers are genuinely happy for the success of others.

I’ll really only get turned off by congrats when it’s pretty much all a person does: if they ONLY RT reviews of their books, awards they’ve received, etc., because at that point it feels like bragging. But if it’s from a person who is genuinely helpful, friendly, and someone who I think adds value to our community of supportive writers, then by all means: CONGRATS!

Sonia G Medeiros June 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I respectfully disagree. I’m not at all a fan of all the false self-esteem stuff. But, I do think congratulating other writers on little things is hardly a waste of time. Writers (especially new writers…but probably even “expert” writers) tend to beat themselves up a lot. We need a lot of encouragement sometimes. I know that sometimes I need a little pat on the back for meeting a small word count goal because it was hard won.

I’m pretty liberal with my praise and thanks. I don’t give false praise but I do like to cheer people on. And I like to thank people. All of this I do in public because I don’t see why not. Kristen Lamb had a wonderful blog post about public cheerleading. I love the sense of community it’s created.

And I tend to see Twitter as primarily social. It doesn’t all have to be informational.

I hadn’t considered the feed-clogging angle though. That’s a downside. But it seems to me that it’s not enough of a downside to limit praise and thanks to rare tweets or DMs.

Still, I’ve only been on Twitter a few months. My feelings may change as time goes on. :D

Nina June 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I thought about this a bit today and read the comments.

Want to add that I don’t necessarily think congrats and thanks you do the same “harm.” Congrats are truly for others, whereas the thank yous have a sneaky way of STILL being about us in disguise of being for others. Did that make sense? For example, congratulating someone on their book deal, and thanking someone for congratulating YOU is completely different. When I see tweets like this

“Thank you @_______ for visiting my blog.” Truly, all I see is “everyone visit my blog.” When I see, “Congrats to @_______ for the splendid review in the NYT.” I honestly see just that . . . “congrats.”

Sharon Bially June 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Great conversation, and it’s interesting to see the different takes on this. To clarify: I don’t think we should NOT congratulate, I just think there’s too much of it. And as I said, there’s a fine line between taking a few well-chosen opportunities to do so, and creating a glut. The glut is where I have a problem. A well-chosen opportunity in my mind would be a milestone or turning point like a new book release, a book deal, getting a short story published, or some other big “first.” (And of course, personal milestones like getting pregnant or having a baby — ahem.) Opportunities that seem to me less relevant to public congrats and more likely to become gluts are each new book review or bookstore talk, doing a guest blog post somewhere (unless it’s a first), being mentioned in someone else’s blog, finishing drafting another chapter or round of revisions, etc.

There also seems to me to be a blurry line between announcing things about yourself, and self-congratulations, which I find particularly *glutful.* A tweet or FB post etc that says “check out this review that says so many great things about my book,” is, to me, a self-congratulation, and not a very good use of air time. As I mentioned in the post, in my opinion it would be better to cite a relevant detail from the review.

But then, this is all just my opinion. And I personally don’t intend to stop congratulating – or thanking – in public when it seems like the right thing to do!

PS – there’s also the complicating factor that social media is both “social” and “media.” It addresses both personal friends, and total strangers. With personal friends, none of this really matters. But then, few authors are using Twitter just to reach friends.

Erika Robuck June 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I skim over TY’s, Congrat’s, #FFs, etc, but when they add to the general positive vibe on my stream, I don’t mind them. I prefer them a million times more than political commentary, TMI tweets, or whiny tweets. To me, they’re almost like white noise. Not to mention the fact that I only go on Twitter in spurts, so well-wishes later in the day direct me to good news I might have missed.

I much prefer the personalized TYs, Congrats, #FFs, though, and agree that “the glut” cheapens the sentiments.

Great post!

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