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. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won’t be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the best things about being a publicist, is that I get to do all the social, extrovert, asking-for-things work that my clients usually don’t want to do. I get to give them more time to create, and take away the stress of putting themselves directly out there. Also, given that my clients are overwhelmingly writers of dark fiction of some kind or another, they’re frequently put off by other social media tone and content. It’s too perky and bubbly. It doesn’t feel genuine.
In last week’s column about why you shouldn’t purchase followers, I looked briefly at the question of “So how do I build audience?” and the imagined comment of “But, I’m dark and serious and not that social. Plus I don’t sell glasses. This advice sucks!” I get into the topic a little there, and in this post I offer you a few examples of people whose social media skills I admire.
Note that for this article I am only focusing on Twitter. The reason I am not discussing Facebook more is that Facebook’s brand pages consistently decrease in direct benefit, and it’s a topic for another day. That said, the general ideas still apply for Facebook or anywhere else. If you have questions, leave a comment and I’ll reply to it as soon as I can.
There are a number of people whose technique I admire, but I am going to have you take a look at three specific people: Chuck Wendig, Caitlin Kittredge, and Sam Sykes. All three of these writers share common characteristics that have served them well on Twitter.
1 – They don’t focus completely on their own work. They do sometimes post about their work or ask us to buy their books. That’s perfectly fine and to be expected. Notice though, that it’s overall uncommon. Every tweet or every other tweet, or even every tenth tweet doesn’t contain promotional language. As I’ve said before (and based on what I see on twitter every day, I have to keep saying it over again!) you should focus on being an integrated, complete person on social media. This is our new town square. Do you really want to talk to someone or hang out with someone that says the same thing over and over again? You do? Well, you’re in the minority, ya big weirdo.
2 – They are highly responsive. They don’t reply to everyone who tweets at them, and really, given the amount of stuff coming at them every day there’s no way that they could; but, they do respond often. They interact. They are social. If you ignore every tweet that comes at you and you just broadcast and don’t use social media for its intended purpose of interaction, you’re missing out. Note: sometimes if you’re really famous already you can get away without bothering to reply. Many brands and many celebrities can post announcement-only and that works for them; but they were already famous. You can’t do that. You’re not famous. (Unless you are, in which case, thanks for reading this far, famous person!)
3 – They use their own voices. They swear, they grumble, they don’t use bubbly, insincere language. Once again, they are complete, integrated human beings who sometimes talk about their personal lives, sometimes what they’re reading, what they’re watching, what they’re doing, sometimes about community issues, and sometimes about other people’s work. (See #4.)
4 – They build community by sharing the work of others. These people also tweet about other people’s work. They understand that a strong community and strong sense of teamwork are their own important mental and social benefit. They also understand that it helps sell more books than isolating themselves and acting like they’re the only game in town. Remember (and this may be the most important takeaway) word of mouth has to come from other people. If it comes from you, it’s as good as useless. So keep sharing the work of others, keep being a member of a community, lead by helping others up and not by cutting them down.
So what can you, personally, do? I really like lists, so let’s have another list.
1 – Listen.
2 – Reply to people when it’s relevant, and about what they’re into. If you reply to push your work you’ve already failed.
3 – Listen.
4 – Share an appropriate amount. Aside from replies, you shouldn’t tweet so much that people’s feeds are overwhelmed. And anyway, what do you have to say that’s so important? Don’t be afraid to be quiet on the original Twitter content if you’re interacting frequently with others. Naturally, if you think of something interesting, fun, or relevant to say, then by all means, say it!
5 – Follow others, even if they do not follow you back. Yes. Read that again. You can follow people even if they don’t follow you back. Sometimes you may want to tidy your list, and that’s cool. I unfollow people if it’s just not working for me; but, if you like what someone is saying, or you like their work, just keep following even if they don’t follow you back. Of the people I list in this article, only one follows me back, and that’s just fine. I like what they have to say and they don’t owe it to me to follow back. If you’re really there to meet people and grow audience, being relaxed about this sort of thing is a good start. After all, if you only follow people who follow you back, what quality is your audience, anyway?
6 – Listen.
7 – Like I said in #5, quality over quantity. When you get a new follower that might be interested in reading your book, make sure you check out their feed and reply to something of theirs. Don’t tell them about your book in this tweet. Why? Because it’s already in your profile and probably one or two of your tweets. It’s completely unnecessary and redundant, and makes you look desperate. Also see the link in #8.
8 – DO NOT FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY USE DIRECT MESSAGES TO PROMOTE TO YOUR NEW FOLLOWERS. Read this. (And yes, this relates to that point in #7.)
9 – Share different types of content. You can share pictures, you can share links (and try to say why you think they’re interesting if you have characters with which to do so,) you can share other people’s work you think is good. And yes, sometimes share your work, too.
10 – Social skills and listening: I maaaaay have said something about listening already (maybe), but I want to reiterate, read what people are saying. Reply. Don’t make this all about you. It may seem like a paradox to say that getting people to like you is not about you, but in many ways it isn’t. Social skills may not come naturally to you, but they can definitely be learned, and if you need to do your own marketing and promotion, it’s worth your investment to really stop and look at your behaviour honestly.
So, like I said last time: you won’t have a million followers. Respect the ones you have. Cultivate them. Give them the kind of experience you want when you follow people on Twitter.
Thanks for joining me once again. 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.