Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach.
The marketing and publicity worlds are important for understanding audience and customers, and getting the right word out to the right people; but, let's be honest. There's also a lot of bullshit. My goal is to help you cut through the B.S. with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow.
Welcome to my inaugural Book Marketing withouth BS column. Today's question was asked anonymously, and it's about purchasing followers on Twitter (and by extension, purchasing likes/on other blogs and social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, etc.).
The short answer to this is "Don't do it". Below is the breakdown on why, but first, I should say that other people have written about this. Just Google "Should I buy Twitter followers" (without quotes) and you'll find other discussion.
Here are more thoughts on the topic, and be sure to leave yours in the comments. I'll share the best in my next post.
1 - It's dishonest, and if you're found out, people will think less of you. Remember what happened to President Obama and Mitt Romney in the recent election cycle?
1.1 - It's also pretty corny. Honestly. See #2.
2 - It's much more obvious than you think. If you're not famous, but you have tens of thousands of followers (and you're only following a small number yourself), no one is going to believe you've got that many followers. Really, really.
There are people I know and otherwise respect that I am certain have purchased followers. I feel bad for them in the way you feel bad for someone who buys a bad hair piece or who has a comb-over. They don't seem to feel good enough as they actually are, and so they try covering it up. They don't need to do it though--they're already cool on their own. They're just looking for an easy way to get a boost, not realizing that there's no easy way with social media. More on this later.
One other note: Facebook's analytics tell anyone where a page's audience is, not just the page owner. One of the people I know had around 85% of his followers from a former Russian republic. It's there for all to see, and it looks plain bad.
3 - Most importantly: it won't deliver results. There may be a few little metrics here and there that will boost, but mostly it won't work. Why? Well, if you're paying for followers, and the vast majority of them are fake/inactive, you are not expanding your audience at all. You're only buying a bigger number and nothing more.
The 30,000 followers you bought? None of them are going to buy your graphic novel. They aren't going to share your book with anyone. If they do--by some crazy chance--they're sharing it with other fakes. It's a waste of your time and money, and you don't have enough of either, right?
It's possible a few people who stumble across you will be impressed with your numbers, but you know what? If you're posting useful, relevant stuff already, they'd have followed you when they stumbled across you with or without high numbers. Also, the more savvy people get about fake followers, the more likely it is to be a turnoff. Once again, I refer you to #2.
In all my research I saw no one, even anonymously, saying that they were thrilled with their results (aside from a few stray blog comments that were so awkward and ham-handed that they were obviously from people who sell the fake followers). Surely someone out there would boost them if they were effective, but I don't see that. Have you seen a trustworthy source ever say it was a good idea? I personally have not.
I also interviewed three people who have bought followers or likes, some on Twitter, some on Facebook. (And yes, I know this is not a scientific sample. I just wanted some directly shared anecdotes!) All three of them say they saw no tangible results. Two of them are specifically unhappy and regretful and one has neutral emotions about it. One said that some of the Facebook "likes" occasionally interact with his page, but that there's been no boost in sales. That person also wonders whether it might have made more sense for his business if he'd waited. I concede that it is possible that this purchaser might appear a bit more often as a suggested page on Facebook because of the likes; however, I still think it won't likely boost sales since the purchased followers have zero emotional connection/interest with you or your product/service.
The main thing to remember is that it's really tempting to buy followers for many reasons. Some of that is what I mentioned above: feeling unsure, desperate, insecure, worried. Some people are more mercenary and genuinely think that they're going to improve their standing on social media and they see it as legitimate. I can understand all of those reasons and more. You want to look good. I get it, but this isn't the way.
"So how do I build audience?", you ask. It's actually not too difficult. The problem is it takes time and effort, and that's why it's hard. Time is short. We're all tired and hoping for a shortcut. The only good way is to interact with people. Share other people's content and ideas. Share about your dog, your wife, your kids--and also your books and creations. Try not to let all of (or even the vast majority of) your tweets be "BUY MY BOOK" stuff or "READ THIS EXCERPT NOW!" stuff. Some rules of thumb say 10% of your stuff should be about your stuff. I think that may be about right. Some weeks it will be more, some weeks it will be less. Mainly remember that (and yes, I am repeating myself) social media is social. Be a real, integrated human being who sometimes shares his or her work, and you will build a following.
Will you ever have a million followers? Almost certainly not. The followers you have, though? They're actually interested in YOU. Respect them. Cultivate them.
Check out Zenni Optical on Twitter. Whomever does their social media is skilled at building loyalty and feelings of community. They tweet back to people who mention them. They ask about what the potential customer is interested in. Not only are they building followers with genuine interest and interactivity, but they're offering a good, high-touch customer experience and that's going to garner a healthy percentage of followers who are likely to spend money. Not only that, but Zenni is getting real data from consumers about what they like and don't like, and what products are popular. This is incredibly valuable information.
"But, I'm dark and serious and not that social. Plus I don't sell glasses. This advice sucks!" you say. OK, I'll grant you that. It's not the same thing, selling glasses and selling dark fiction or surreal graphic novels. And, well, yeah, that overly happy voice isn't a good fit for everyone, but that isn't the point. The point is that they are social. They interact. They participate with potential customers instead of broadcast, so despite that perkiness that may not appeal to you, those principles are the same, and I'll cover them more specifically (along with examples that you may find more relevant) in next week's column.
Thanks for joining me for the inaugural Book Marketing without BS. Let me know what you think, and you have my deep appreciation for reading this far. I hope you come back again, and if you're forgetful like me, you can sign up by email.
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