Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Use Twitter as an Author -- Part II


As I mentioned last month, I'm currently in the midst of completing a social media marketing certificate course, and I'm rejigging what I'm learning to apply it to the business of being an author.  Last month, we discussed the basics of Twitter -- how to set up an account, choose a user name, and integrate appropriate pictures for your profile picture, banner picture, and wall paper.  Click here to check out that post. 

This month, I want to focus on your goals for Twitter, what to tweet, and what not to tweet.

Your goal for Twitter, as well as any other social media platform, is NOT to promote promote promote.  This is going to sound counter-intuitive because you probably signed up on Twitter for the sole purpose of promoting your books.  The goal for Twitter, and for any form of social media, is to be social.

People will follow you on Twitter if they find that you have an interesting Twitter feed.  Listening to your constant stream of self-promotions is neither interesting, nor a good reason to follow you.  I follow the author David G. Hallman because I liked his book August Farewell and I find he has an interesting Twitter feed.  I follow a certain publisher not because I particularly find their tweets interesting, but because they often give away free ebooks from authors I like.  The key, though, is that neither one of them constantly pitches their books at me.

There is an author on Twitter, and I won't mention her name, who has a program set to post for her.  Every fifteen minutes or so, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, she posts an ad for her book.  Her main character has a Twitter feed that also tweets every fifteen minutes or so with an ad.  And her writing partner also has a Twitter feed that also tweets every fifteen minutes or so with an ad.  All three of these accounts, especially when I followed more than one at a time, gum up my twitter feed with highly annoying spam.  I've since unfollowed all of those accounts.  I have no time or interest for that constant barrage of ads and, really, it comes across as extremely unprofessional.

The most successful authors on Twitter are those who engage with other users.  They have conversations -- either by asking questions and seeing what people respond with, or by responding to someone else's tweets or questions.  By engaging on Twitter, tweeting at people, having conversations, and appearing as a real person, your readers will think, "Hey, this person actually takes the time to engage with their fans -- and s/he seems like an interesting person!  I'll probably enjoy following him/her."  And when you have fans that you engage with, they feel more connected to you and are more willing to buy your books or promote them among their friends.

It's a round-about way to marketing your books, but it is effective.

So does that mean promoting your books is taboo?  Not quite.  Definitely, you want to throw out an occasional tweet about a new release and remind readers of your other books, but these tweets should not be more than about 10% of your total tweets.  And if you achieve something, like getting on a bestseller list, receiving an award, or a fantastic review, then definitely tweet about it -- this is sharing your success and happiness, not exactly promotion.  Again, it's a round-about way of promoting -- you're saying that if a reader hasn't read it yet, they should, because it got a great review, won an award, etc.

So you need to be social, you need to be engaging, and, to a certain degree, you need to be real.  But you don't want to be too real.  You need a filter when you tweet -- authors want to get to know the real you, but you're best not to tweet about three specific things:
  • religion
  • politics
  • your bad day

The first two are obvious.  Your bad day, though, might not be.  If you are in a bad mood or depressed and you tweet about it, you can come across as whining and self-pitying.  An author I follow on Twitter essentially had an emotional meltdown on Twitter several months ago.  Up until that point, I had been thinking of buying one of her books to read, but the string of tweets about how she thinks she is such a failure have really put up a wall between me and her book.  I might pick it up at some point, but I'm not going to rush out and get it anymore.  It doesn't mean you can never tweet something negative, it just means be conscious of how you will be perceived when you tweet things like that.

Before we wrap up here, I want to talk about conversations.

Let's say fellow Champagne Books author Graeme Brown tweeted something like:
Loved "Autumn Fire" by @Cameron_D_James! So good! Everyone should read it!

By putting my twitter handle in there, he tagged me so I would see it.  Now that he's tweeted that, I have a few options.  I could retweet, reply, or ignore.  Ignore is obviously not the right option.

If I wanted to, I could retweet it.  (There's a little retweet button nearby on Twitter.)  This takes Graeme's tweet and puts it into my feed -- so anyone following me will see what Graeme tweeted.  Retweeting is generally a good thing to do -- whether or not the tweet is a comment about you or your writing.  (Say someone tweeted an awesome comment about a baseball game you saw on TV -- you could retweet that to your feed.)

If I wanted to, I could reply to Graeme.  By clicking "reply", it'll automatically put Graeme's twitter handle at the start so he gets tagged and notified.  So it might look like:
@GraemeBrownWPG Thanks! Glad you liked Autumn Fire! I've got a new book coming out soon, too!

The problem, though, is that Twitter has a quirk to it that most people don't know.  If Graeme's twitter handle is at the beginning, like it is there, that tweet will ONLY show up on the newsfeeds of people who follow BOTH Graeme and myself.  Twitter views that as a conversation and feels the only people who would be interested are the people who know both of us.  (It does still show up on your Twitter feed, though, if someone were to visit your page and see all your tweets.)

In some cases, that's fine.  If you're having a conversation that has nothing to do with your books, then the whole world doesn't need to see it.

In this case, though, since I'm saying thanks for liking my book and oh by the way you should check out my next one, I might want to make it more public because the rest of my followers might like to read the reply and perhaps pick up my books.

So, instead, I could move Graeme's Twitter handle:
Thanks @GraemeBrownWPG! Glad you liked Autumn fire! I've got a new book coming out soon, too!

This will make that tweet show up on the newsfeed of everyone who follows me, regardless of whether they follow Graeme.  This makes it much more visible (because Graeme and I don't share a lot of Twitter followers, I think).

Alternatively, some people add a period and space at the beginning, like this:
. @GraemeBrownWPG Thanks! Glad you liked Autumn Fire! I've got a new book coming out soon, too!

It's a simple thing, but by adding the period and space, Graeme's twitter handle is no longer at the beginning and, again, this tweet will show up for everyone who follows me, not just our very few shared Twitter followers.

Well, I think that brings us to the end of our discussion on Twitter.  The best way to absorb all of this information, and I realize it's a lot, is to give it a try!  If you have Twitter, think about how you could become more engaging and put those thoughts into actions!

Next month we tackle LinkedIn!

8 comments:

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

This weekend I attended a marketing seminar that said the same thing. Constant promoting/badgering is a no, no.

I know I hate, why wouldn't everyone. FYI: I didn't know about moving the tags and using spac to get a larger audience. Thanks.

Susan Arscott said...

Cameron, thanks for this useful post. I have a twitter account under my own name and try to tweet things several times a week. Now that I've sold a book under my pen name, how do I set up another account with this different name?
Kudos to you for taking a social media course.

camerondjames said...

Hi Julie!

Yeah, it's a bit of a frustrating experience trying to figure out how to best utilize social media -- I think the most frustrating part is the payoff. It's not an instant payoff, so it's easy to think it's not working and give up, but if you stick with it, the payoff could come later (and it could be a good payoff).

camerondjames said...

Hi Julie!

Yeah, it's a bit of a frustrating experience trying to figure out how to best utilize social media -- I think the most frustrating part is the payoff. It's not an instant payoff, so it's easy to think it's not working and give up, but if you stick with it, the payoff could come later (and it could be a good payoff).

camerondjames said...

Hi Susan!

You can have as many Twitter accounts as you want... but only one per email address! So you'll need an email address that you don't already use for Twitter, and then go to Twitter.com and sign up. And when you sign up, register under your pen name -- don't put your real name in there anywhere!

Managing multiple accounts can sometimes be a hassle, but you'll be able to figure out a rhythm that works for you!

Big Mike said...

Wow, a course about social media. Life on the web is getting mighty complicated. I don't know how you young'ens keep up with all this stuff.

Ref the lady's flood of ad oriented tweets, you'd think she'd know better. I've had an author I tried to follow on her website and she hounded me every couple days and I couldn't handle it. Every 15 minutes is insane.

BM

camerondjames said...

I agree -- every 15 minutes is crazy!

I'm thinking she must be thinking that if even just a few people are intrigued and follow the link, then they'll buy it, like it, and spread the word. It's a marketing strategy, I guess, but not one that's likely to get appreciable results.

Rita Bay said...

Hi Cameron,

Very helpful info. I'm a novice at Facebook & a disaster @ Twitter. Hope to improve soon. R