It’s tough being a comics fan right now. Especially on social media. At first, it was a dream come true to interact with your favorite creators on sites like Twitter and to ask them questions. Now it’s a nightmare.
People pay quite a bit to meet these creators at conventions: admission, parking, travel, hotel, and in many cases a purchase price is required for a sketch or autograph. They each have an image rooted in their product, a brand if you will. It is shaped not only by their work, but by how they conduct themselves in person and online. This personal brand reflects on their collaborators and the companies they companies they work with. It impacts sales.
“But I’m not PR!” is one of the first complaints to come from many when confronted about how they interact with fans. Really? What do you call convention appearances? Going to comic stores to do signings? Using your social media for self-promotion, answering fan questions, and giving tips and tutorials? These are all Public Relations AKA PR!
“But it’s my personal account and I can do what I want!” I’ll get into whether or not that account is truly personal or not, but sure you could. Doesn’t mean you should. But let’s assume personal account for a moment.
My current employment is as a grill opener at a fast food restaurant. We have no social media policy, nor does anyone monitor my activity. Yet I know that if I regularly talked about where I worked AND word got back to any of my managers that I posted/ tweeted certain things, I’d be immediately fired. This is what I call the Fast Food Minimum Standard for online professionalism.
The following screencaps are all of tweets made by comic book creators. Since the importance is what was said, not who beyond “comic book creator”, I’ve cropped out names and the like.
Heaven forbid that some fans want visually accurate casting.
Right now, the word bigotry and all its subtypes are thrown around too easily. Even so, the best approach is to ignore the bigots and write stories about inclusion. There are few, if any, times in which “they can keep their money” is an acceptable thing to say about any group of customers.
Oh yes, responding to an immature tweet with more immaturity. That works wonders!
Strawmanning an opponent.
There’s attacking the political alignment of approximately half the country. Bonus: telling the customer to never buy your books again!
(Note: nobody involved named Francis. Just a Deadpool reference.)
This kind of fighting with a critic has no place on a creator’s Twitter. Ignore, mute, or block.
And then there’s these. No captioning required.
So, are comic creators’ social accounts personal? To answer that, I posit that there are 3 types of social media accounts:
A corporate account is easy to identify and has little bearing on the topic at hand. If your account was assigned to you or created by order of an employer, it is corporate. Their account, their rules.
A personal account is just that, an account created by a person just for their personal use. Common courtesies apply, but that’s it. Not tied to a person’s work in any significant way. This is what most comics pros think they have, but don’t.
That leaves the professional account. It is set up like a personal account, but there are key differences:
- A professional account is used to promote the account holder’s work.
- The account holder talks frequently about their work and/or the company/companies they work for/with.
- In the case of entertainment media, the account is used to interact with fans in any way on a regular basis. This includes answering questions, giving tips and industry advice, promotional images/text for upcoming or recently released work, etc.
- The account is used to promote or show off functions related to work, like convention appearances, panels, workshops, signings, and other like functions.
Graphic designers grasp this concept pretty well. There’s no written rules for conduct, but bad behavior can scare off future jobs. A professional account is part of a creator’s personal brand, which reflects on the companies and persons they work with and/or for. It is as important to consider and to put effort into as the creator’s portfolio.
So, what are good rules to follow? First assess your social media profile if you already have it or decide which you want to make if you haven’t. If it’s professional:
- No death threats or threats of violence. Should be a no-brainer, but here we are. You’re allowed to be angry, but no threats. It doesn’t matter whether or not you plan to carry them out.
- No wishes of death or violence, see above. They are only slightly better than threats.
- Don’t feed the trolls. You can however toy with the ones that come to you. Look to William Shatner’s example.
- Never, ever, EVER tell people to not buy your work or that you don’t want them for a customer. It’s basic business sense.
- You absolutely ARE PR. You may not work in the PR department, but when you interact with fans, you are doing boots-on-the-ground PR.
- Don’t say that a person or group of people “obviously don’t read your stuff anyway”. I’ve seen too many pros get that wrong and lose customers.
- Don’t talk down to fans. Seriously, too many smug elitests in comics these days.
- Don’t ever use a block list or bot of any kind. Do all of your blocking and muting on an individual basis. Fans are getting preblocked by their heroes for nothing more than following the wrong critic. When one of your fans sees that you’ve blocked them without prior interaction, they tend to not be your fan anymore.
- Fans complain about every major reboot and retcon. Get used to it. You cannot chalk opposition up to bigotry of any kind right off the bat.
- Do not attack fans or other creators. It looks, and is, petty.
- If you must make allegations against another creator, back up your claim or back off. Being asked for proof is not harassment.
- Fans aren’t under these restrictions. Deal with it. You’re the professional, they aren’t. You’re trying to sell your work to them.
This is just a starter list, but I’m expected to follow these rules ESPECIALLY if I tie my account to my job buy talking about my workplace. And I just flip burgers! It’s time for professionals to act like it.