Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Twitter for authors: 3 things to remember

I told myself that one of the things I wouldn't do on this blog is become a purveyor of writing advice. I'm
more than happy to do a critique or offer thoughts on something, but I never saw myself as near enough of an expert to confidently tell people how they should or shouldn't write. Besides, I didn't create this blog to talk to other writers. That wasn't my goal.

Today, I'm breaking that rule. Sort of. Something that I keep seeing over and over the last few years is authors having no idea how to use Twitter. They will talk in Facebook groups or online forums about how they post links to their books but see no sales from it. That's because they are expecting something from Twitter that it will never deliver. Twitter is not a sales tool. No social media is. At the best, social media will create interest. So, if you are using social media to drive sales you're doing it wrong.

Delilah Dawson had a great post on social media and marketing recently. The takeaway was that expecting any of the channels to bring in reliable sales is foolish, because social media is about pushing content out to readers. What we should be concerned with as writers is pulling in readers and creating fans.

She's right, but I don't think that means writers can ignore social completely. There's still value there once you get past the idea that you will be able to connect sales to posts. So, here are some things to keep in mind from someone who can loosely say that I get paid to do this stuff. (The day job that pays the bills is in marketing. While I'm not on our agency's social media team, I sit very close to them. And I do know the principles.) With that, here you go.

Twitter is always moving.
Your feed on Twitter -- and, therefore, the feed of the people who follow you -- is like a river. It's constantly moving. For the people who follow you to see your tweet they have to be standing on the banks at the time it passes by. There will never be a time when all of them are there at the moment you send a message. That means even if you have 1500 followers on Twitter, 1500 people aren't seeing your tweets. I've seen some data from Twitter on my own account. I have roughly 1500 followers and the number of impressions from each Tweet was surprisingly low. Most of them never hit triple digits.

Don't take this to mean that you need to be sending out the same "buy my book" tweet more often. You don't, because that's not what twitter is about. Which leads us to ...

Be social.
This is the thing that might drive me the craziest when I see people write off Twitter wholesale. Granted, it may not be for you. That's fine. Not every social media platform is for everyone. But don't write off Twitter without actually using it to be social. Tweet at people. Respond to what they are saying. Offer your thoughts on topics of the day. Offer your thoughts on that book you just read. Offer your thoughts on anything. And when someone inevitably responds to those thoughts, engage with them.

Be judicious about who you follow. It can be tempting to follow back everyone who follows you. Most people are hoping you will, because they are collectors. They aren't interested in what you are saying. They aren't interested in asking about your book. They want followers who they can shout to. If they seem to be shouting something you're interested in then follow them. But you aren't obligated to follow everyone who follows you. I had this mentality when I first joined Twitter. Then I realized that the only people following me were other authors, and we were all shouting "HERE'S MY BOOK! HERE'S MY BOOK!" at each other.  That's when I started culling the people I followed. Not coincidentally, that's when I started to get more out of Twitter.

That's it for now. Three quick thoughts. And since we are talking Twitter, you can find me here @jarrettrush.