I was inspired to write this post with my no-bull Twitter guide for writers after answering questions about Twitter for a colleague not too long ago. I am sure you’ve heard some of this before; however, I think a lot of it will be new, and all of it bears repeating. It also often applies to other social media interactions. So let’s dive in:
1 – Have A Purpose
And that purpose probably should be to network with other authors.
If you haven’t stopped reading with that line, let me also say that another purpose certainly can be to have genuine conversations and social experiences with readers, too. Note I said “genuine conversations”: if your expectation is that tweeting out your announcements will build relationships and sell lots of books, you’re going to be disappointed in your results. Only those who already have a large built-in following will find that useful, and even then, most of them are social and use Twitter for its intended purpose: conversation.
You certainly can reach audience with Twitter, but you have to be patient and spend time on relationships. So, if you are ready for that kind of effort, see tip #2:
2 – Social Media = Social Skills
Say please and thank you. Listen before talking. Share other people’s content, not just your own. It’s sort of like holding the door for someone or not taking up two seats on the bus. It’s just the right thing to do.
Did I mention listen?
Don’t bother people with promotional direct messages (DMs), especially if they have followed you as a human being and not a company. You have your tweets with links, you have a link in your Twitter profile, don’t push using DMs, too, or it’s frequently viewed as unwelcome. See my social media preference survey results post from 2012, in which I talk about automated DMs. The lessons from this apply even to non-automated messages. (In fact, if I were to re-do the survey I’d make it more about promotional DMs than automatically-triggered ones.)
3 – Don’t Play the Numbers Game
Don’t stress out over your follower numbers. Seriously.
Don’t just follow people in an attempt to get them to follow you back. Many people find it suspicious when you are following almost the exact same number of people following you. This is especially true for people following thousands. It becomes obvious you’re just doing follow-back and aren’t really interested in building relationships.
Sure, on some level it may feel good to know that you have 25,000 followers, but ask yourself this:
Many times–most times–the answer will be no. Why? Because they’re follow-back people, too. Number collectors. Sure, they’ll follow back, but if their main goal is just to build numbers they aren’t going to buy your book anyway, because you’re just another number in their follower count. They largely don’t care about your content.
Also, if you follow someone you think is interesting, keep following them. If you unfollow it shows you weren’t really interested in what they had to say. Now, I am not saying to never unfollow. I unfollow all the time when I realize I am not getting much out of the interactions, or any number of other reasons, but never just for not following back.
Can you build audience with Twitter? Absolutely, but it can’t be rushed, and it should never, ever be bought. (More on that later.) Go for quality over quantity, and if you’re reaching out and being social and a good community member, your numbers will naturally rise over time. Start by following some people you’re interested in. Listen first (I say that a lot, don’t I? There is a reason for it). Reply if you are so inclined. Retweet if you are so inclined. That’s the best kind of audience building you can do directly on Twitter. Naturally if you also have a Facebook page or a blog you can use that to ask people to follow you on Twitter, too.
Note: you are not obligated to follow people back on Twitter, or anywhere else. Only follow if you’re interested, and don’t worry if you lose followers here and there. Your overall numbers will steadily rise if you’re using your account. I promise! If you lose tons in one day, that is something to look at, and that’s another blog post entirely.
3.1 – Buying Followers: Do Not Do It
Admittedly, it always looks better when you have more followers than you are following, but you can’t manufacture that without getting into the realm of buying fake followers. Fake followers do nothing for you. In case I am being unclear, let me say it with big letters:
They may pump up your numbers, but not one of those accounts represents someone who is going to buy your book. It’s also unethical and frankly–it’s pretty obvious when you do it. Also, there are now analyzers that ferret out your fake follower percentage. Here’s mine, courtesy of Status People:
Note, everyone has probably got a few fake followers out there. You can’t always control it, but your numbers should stay fairly low percentage-wise if you’re not purchasing.
The lesson here: be interesting and interactive, and you’ll get good quality followers. Just have a bit of patience. It’s really that simple.
4 – Use Hashtags, Even Just to Search
There are several hashtags commonly used by writers on Twitter, such as #AmWriting, #AmEditing, or simply #writing. If you add one of these to the search bar at the top of the Twitter page or app, you can see other people’s tweets on the topic. It’s a great way to jump into the conversation with other authors. Use them yourself, but only when they’re relevant. Don’t use a hashtag to post a non-relevant post. Ever. It’s rude and people look at it as kind of pathetic. Post what you want, but don’t abuse hashtags that are commonly used for a specific purpose. For that matter, it’s the same with trending hashtags. Nothing makes you look more awkward than trying to shoehorn your irrelevant content into a hashtag. Especially tragedy ones (see #2 at that link). For the love of all that is good.
If you have a giveaway going on, you can use hashtags to help with those, too. There is a great list of hashtags for writers here, including promotional tags: http://aerogrammestudio.com/2013/03/12/100-twitter-hashtags-every-writer-should-know/.
5 – Join the conversation
I am going to reiterate: Twitter is a conversation, and for authors it’s not necessarily a strong sales tool in any direct way, at least not at first. It’s all about relationships and communication. That is “co-” as in “together”. Keep expectations realistic and get out there and use Twitter to meet people and respond to people. And yes, to listen to other people and maybe share their stuff.
By all means, post about your books, tell people when they’re on sale on Amazon; but, make sure that your Twitter feed is social and engaged, and does not solely function as an announcement list.