To Tweet or Not to Tweet

I’ve been thinking about marketing a lot this week. A whole lot. As some of you probably know, my book, The Timekeeper’s Son, released a week ago yesterday. Because of that, I’ve been all about watching sales and trying to figure out how to make them climb. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned a whole lot in that regard. What I have learned is a bunch about what not to do. I’ve been scouring the web looking for effective marketing strategies and I’ve been diving into to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

I think I’ve learned a lot this week about the things that don’t work. I thought I’d share some of those and, this time, I’ll focus on Twitter.

Twitter is an author’s dream, at least in principle. Think of it. People following people who are following people who are following you. There is a vast network of potential readers who can be exposed to your book. If the right person re-tweets your message, it could be re-tweeted again and again, possibly reaching thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people.

But there’s a problem with that. Cascading re-tweets don’t generally happen for us common Schmoes. Gabby Douglas taking the gold in the women’s all around? Absolutely. Suzanne Collins announcing her next book? More than likely. Ima Unknown releasing her first book, Nobody Knows My Name? Doubt it.

But, over and over again, that’s just what it seems like authors are hoping for. They follow everyone they can, practically salivating each time they get a follow-back. They tweet relentlessly, shouting from the mountaintops about their latest release or their newest blog post. They re-tweet five or ten or fifteen or fifty messages at a time, hoping that people will return the favor. So many authors I’ve watched seem almost desperate for Twitter to be the ticket that will carry them to stardom.

The truth is that Twitter isn’t that big of a help for us authors who are just starting out. Twitter is huge when folks care about the message. And it has the potential to be big for folks who have a message that people would care about, if only they could hear it. But the way I see many, many people using Twitter reminds me of a lane closure on an interstate. You ever see where a lane is closing ahead and people wait until the last minute to merge? Traffic comes to a halt as all those people try to get over. In their desire to get ahead and not wait, they are making everyone – including themselves – wait. Every time I see that, I am dumbfounded. It just doesn’t make sense. But it happens all the time.

How is Twitter like that? In folks’ desperation to be heard, they are clogging people’s home page with tweets, making it hard for anyone’s message –especially theirs – to be heard.

Here is a list of stuff that I’ve learned about Twitter. You might say that these are the rules I try to live by. Sometimes it’s hard to do; it really is. There are times where my book sales are decreasing and I nearly panic. I want to run out to Twitter and blast everyone with info about my book, praying for re-tweets. But, for the most part, reason wins out and I’m (mostly) able to stick to these:

  1. Remember that you have a finite list of followers.
    Would you call someone seventy-three times a day and ask her to buy your book? No? I didn’t think so. Then why would you do that on Twitter? There is a fine line between reminding and pestering. Pestering people just makes them ignore you. Trust me. I follow people whose tweets are nearly invisible to me. I just haven’t gotten around to un-following them yet.
  2. Auto-tweet software is not your friend.
    If you have something to say, type it at the time you want to say it. Seriously. See #1.
  3. Linking your Twitter account to chatty things like Facebook is just as bad as auto-tweeting
    That isn’t to say you shouldn’t link your Twitter account to anything. I link it to my blog. But, then again, I only post two or three times a week. Even if I posted every day, it would still only be once a day.
  4. People who use auto-tweet software are not often good followers
    The impression I’ve gotten from the most prevalent auto-tweeters is that they don’t even appear to read tweets that other people send. They seem to set up their auto tweets and let them run. Of course, this isn’t true of all people who auto-tweet, but it is certainly something to look for. Watch how often they re-tweet or interact with others. If the only tweets you see are auto-tweets, drop them like a stone.
  5. People with a gagillion-billion followers are not usually helpful, no matter how much you want them to be
    Think about how much stuff they have on their homepage. What are the chances of them even seeing one of your tweets?
  6. Self-serving Twitter followers are not good followers
    What is a self-serving Twitter follower? It is a person who only does stuff because of what they hope they’ll get. They’re easy to pick out; just watch their re-tweets. Who are they helping out? If they only re-tweet stuff from people with large numbers of followers, chances are good that they’re just hoping to get re-tweeted and they couldn’t care less about the likes of you.
  7. A single follower who is interested in your book and/or your success is more valuable than fifty folks who are not
    Who would you rather do a sales presentation for – someone who is interested in your product or someone who couldn’t care less?
  8. Re-tweet things that your followers might actually be interested in and expect nothing in return
    Don’t give to get. But do give. Just don’t overdo it. See #1.
  9. Tweet about more than the stuff you’re trying to promote
    Be more than just a marketing voice.  Interact with people.  If someone tweets about how crappy their day is, reply to them.  If someone says they’re going for a job interview, wish them luck.  Be a person, not just a brand.
  10. Remember that targeted marketing is 1000 times more effective than untargeted marketing
    This is tied to number 7, but I wanted to mention it again.   Basically, a huge number of followers isn’t necessarily a good thing.

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  1. #1 by Sandi Layne on September 11, 2012 - 3:07 pm

    Yes times a thousand. To this whole post. 🙂

  2. #3 by lindabloodworth on September 20, 2012 - 8:29 am

    VERY well said. It’s amazing how often I find my Twitter feed is nothing but auto tweets. For a bunch of writers I am incredibly disappointed in this behaviour, but I suppose it frees them up for writing time. However, I completely agree with this post and would like to see more human interaction instead of these robot tweets.

  3. #4 by J.L. Bond on October 14, 2012 - 6:11 pm

    Hey everybody, buy my blah-blah book at…fill in the blank. Two seconds later hi everybody, my blah-blah book is available at… fill in the blank. And then a couple of seconds later…yup, you guessed it…repeat, repeat, repeat…until…Argh! At this point I usually unfollow and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I agree with Mike that this sort of behavior is not helpful to the author or any one else, for that matter. It’s a shame, because twitter is such a great place to meet other authors, share writing tips, and encourage one another. So to those of you who are using their common sense and good manners, tweet on.

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