Skimming through several blog posts about writing, I came across one that made me slow down and pay attention.
Johnathan Gunson says exactly the same thing that I’ve been feeling about authors’ use of social media sites. I see far too many writers who only post repetitive advertisements about their own work. That is a strategy doomed to fail, and I’m glad someone else noticed it too.
If all I see in your Twitter stream is “Buy my Book!” over and over, however cleverly it may be stated, I’m going to tune you out. If you’re a friend, I won’t unfollow, but I do stop reading what you have to say.
I have one friend who must be using a content generator, because these screaming tweets are posted literally every five minutes, 24/7. If I’m there for an hour on Twitter, checking out the news on friends and celebrities, I’ll see those constant posts over and over again. Every time I see one, I want to post back, “I bought the book already. Stop yelling at me!” The only thing stopping me is the fact that I do truly like this person outside of the Twitterstream. Still, it is impossible to believe that such tactics are very successful. If I’m reacting this way, and I’m a friend, I have to believe that strangers are unfollowing right and left. No one wants that kind of constant harangue, and that’s exactly how it feels.
At home, I have found ways to avoid advertisements as much as I can. I watch downloaded episodes of my favorite shows which don’t include commercials or I prerecord the shows and then fast forward through the commercials when I sit down to watch them. I installed an ad-blocker on my browser so I can avoid as many of those pesky pop ups as possible. And I am not alone. People state that the number one reason they watch TV shows as downloads or on DVD is in order to avoid commercials which they describe as “annoying interruptions.”
When I’m on social media, my attitude toward advertisements is the same. That is exactly what constant “buy my book” tweets are, in my opinion. Annoying interruptions in my otherwise interesting stream of posts.
The most successful authors, as Gunson says, already have a following, so they can get away with those sorts of advertising tweets. However, even then, if there isn’t other interesting content, either cute pet photos or witty observations or links to fascinating things or conversations with other people, such posts will be tuned out as well. And the very best Twitter users engage their followers directly, replying as frequently as possible to those who reply to their posts. You develop a rapport with readers, and those conversations go a long way to showing that you are not just there hawking your wares, but you are approachable, interesting, and worth taking the time to read on a regular basis.
Your use of Twitter should be a part of your marketing scheme, yes, but your marketing scheme should not just be shouting about what you have to sell. You’re selling yourself. Your personality. Your insights. Your personal stories. That is what will make people pay attention to your Twitter posts. And that is what will make them buy your books. People will want to read your books because they have come to know and like you because they’ve seen that you have something to say.
I think of Twitter like a giant cocktail party. Everyone is there, milling about. If all you’re doing is standing in a corner and shouting, people will ignore you. And if you start simply handing out your business card to everyone you meet without regard to whether or not they want it, you will be kicked out of the party entirely.
Cocktail parties are a great chance to meet and make new contacts. And yes, you can give out your business card, but only once people know you and want to receive it. Twitter is no different.
Social networks should be, primarily, SOCIAL, as the name suggests. If you’re not being social, you’re doing it wrong. And you should also be NETWORKING, getting to know your readers and fellow authors. Smile, shake hands, have a conversation. That is what social networks are about.
Tell them about your books as though you’re handing out your business card–sparingly and in a way that engages the audience.
Tell the news about your book:
These are all acceptable ways of talking about your book, but be sure that you are doing so in ways that engage and interest people you’re already talking to on Twitter. And once you’ve done so, go back to talking socially.