I found 1,500 real followers in 30 days and many of them are helping me find hundreds more. If I don’t change anything, I’m scheduled do it again in the next three weeks. You can do it too. If you’re an author and you’re looking for some way to find real people who:
1. are likely to buy your books and
2. will support your efforts as a writer and
3. won’t take 100 years to find …
all while not taking too much of your daily energies, Twitter may be your best place to market. You see, as authors, we have a very unique market and a very unique culture. Think about who you are for a moment and then consider what you have in common with most every other author trying to market themselves on social media. Here are a few possible springboard points of common interest:
1. You love to read. If you had your druthers, you’d probably find relaxing with a book was high on your list. If you’re busy, you probably bemoan the fact that you don’t have enough time to read.
2. You are probably picky about what you read (even if you’re a voracious reader).
3. You probably think what you are writing is so good that you want to share it with other people.
4. You’d like to make money doing that.
5. You’re not making as much money as you would like.
6. But you find pleasure in getting positive feedback and improving your craft.
There are plenty of other items that might make the list depending on your skill level. You might think other authors have a lot more to learn than you do or you might find yourself critiquing their use of punctuation or their annoying prose habits. Statistically speaking, you might be jealous of their success or you might think they just got lucky. It may even be true that you’re inclined to give up from time to time but you just … can’t do that. If you’re a serious author, you’re resonating with most of what I just said. So what does that have to do with Twitter?
Know your audience. Okay – you’ve heard that before but what about this: “know your support group”? Did it bother you where I placed that question mark? Or did you notice it and think – yeah – that’s how you’re supposed to place question marks? Either way, read on.
It turns out that a lot of authors on Twitter are supportive of other authors. That makes since. We’re not a competitive profession. “Excuse me? What did you just say?” We’re not a competitive breed. At least, we shouldn’t be. How many books have you read in the last twelve months? Any chance that number is larger than the number of books you wrote in the last twelve months? How many online posts or articles have you read in the last year? Any chance that that number is larger than the number of articles or posts you wrote last year? Let’s ask the same thing of non-authors who are your target audience. How many books did they read last year? Does the fact that they read a book mean that they are not going to buy another? Of course not. The more good material that is out there, the more material people will read – broadly speaking. Sure – the over-saturated e-book market may have hit your bottom line over the past few years but consumers have voiced their concern about that issue and Amazon changed its review policy so readers can find good books (hopefully yours) faster – next year is looking better. Either way, every author you connect with is an author that might buy your book as well. Sure – there are exceptions (I have many romance/erotica authors following me and there is somewhere between 0.0 and 0.1 chance I’ll be purchasing one of their books next year) but no market produces a 100% return. Then again, reciprocation is common among authors. So, maybe I don’t buy their book but maybe I retweet something interesting they have to say – something that might help them to sell a book to one of my followers. I’ve had a few of my tweets about my upcoming book hit a potential audience of over 50,000 people because of this very thing. And some of those romance authors helped make that happen. Any chance I’ll ignore that and not look for a tweet or two of theirs that they’d like to hit a larger audience? No way. I’ve already scoured their tweets and found items my followers will be interested in. See? We’re supportive of one another. Maybe I even helped them sell a book or two – who knows?
So – not only have I gained 1,500 new followers this last month, I’ve made a lot of connections worth holding onto. So what makes Twitter better than other forms of social media? Google+ has a good author support group. Facebook has better longevity (and a higher click through rate to blog links). There are a few things that stand out.
1. Twitter manners. People think you’re rude if you don’t follow back. If someone doesn’t friend you back on Facebook (especially if they’re a little older), you might think they’re just not very active with social media. Or, you might think that they don’t know what they’re doing and that they’re just floundering with their Facebook account – trying to keep up with technology. But if someone’s on Twitter, they are more likely to know what they are doing or … they will figure it out faster. Sure, with many million users, these are nothing more than generalizations but for some reason, the culture behind these two social media platforms is different. Twitter users tend to be a bit more sophisticated in social media and that has created a culture of good manners: if I support you, I expect that you’ll support me back. If you don’t, I’ll move on but I’m not going to be your loyal puppy either – expect an unfollow. Again – that isn’t true of teens following celebrities but if you’re looking for an avid reader or author, most everyone who is running a successful campaign follows these unwritten rules. I’ll show you how to use this to your advantage in a minute.
2. Anyone can follow you on Twitter – with or without your permission. That leads people to follow more people on Twitter than they do on other social media platforms.
3. Direct messaging. You can do it on Facebook or Twitter but strangers use it more commonly on Twitter than on Facebook. In fact, there are apps to help you direct message anyone who follows you – hundreds of thousands of people are using these apps. You can use this to your advantage too.
4. Statistics. There are things that you can DO on Twitter to earn more followers without following them first. I’ve done the same things on Facebook and I doubt it has earned me a single friend. More on this in a minute.
So how do these facts help you? Here’s how many top authors are using these facts to conquer the Twitter mountain:
1. Tweepi. Twitter regulates your account so that you can’t follow or unfollow too many people at once (they don’t like spamming) but they let you work the system within certain parameters. Tweepi is the most helpful tool for gaining legitimate, real, breathing, active, Twitter users. If you are following too many people, Twitter stops you from following anyone else. Essentially, they freeze your account and they warn you not to unfollow more than a few people a day. This stops a lot of people in their tracks and keeps them from getting anywhere on Twitter – an unfortunate byproduct of the system. However, if you actively follow and unfollow people every day within a certain parameter (about 10% of your following), you’ll skyrocket quickly. In short, you follow a few dozen people every day. After a few days, you start unfollowing the followers from a few days before who did not follow you back. You can do this because you think they are rude or not interested in you but I’ll offer you a much more legitimate business solution: people who use their Twitter account once a week are not likely to see your tweets advertising your book. Read that again. Inactive users won’t read your messages. You’ll be lost in a sea of tweets numbering in the thousands. If they don’t see your tweet, they don’t buy your product. It’s that simple. So, if they’re not following you back quickly enough, unfollow them using Tweepi. Tweepi gives you a list of people who don’t follow you back and they make it easy to unfollow people in the order that you followed them so you don’t accidentally unfollow someone who has only had a few hours to see that you followed them. Statistics vary but somewhere between 15% and 35% of the people you follow won’t follow you back in a few days. Some authors only follow back other authors or readers. This helps keep your follower/following ratio better but it means you have to snub some people. One way or the other, you can always refuse to follow people trying to sell you fake Twitter followers.
2. Choose carefully whom you follow. You can randomly find followers or you can strategically find followers. I’ve read articles about using Twitter’s powerful search tool. That works. I’ve read about hashtags. Those are helpful to find followers too. But there’s an easier way. Follow your follower’s followers. When I get a follower I’m interested in, I ask myself if my followers would be interested in this person as well. If the answer is yes, I may consider following their followers. Quickly, you’ll find that you have too many people to choose from so I do this: I look for the most interesting sci-fi/fantasy tweeters that follow me. Then, I scour their follower lists. Facebook doesn’t let you do this. Neither does Google+. This is a huge advantage. Now, I look for sci-fi/fantasy/thriller authors who are following my interesting follower. I also look for followers who say thinks like “I’m a nerd. I love all geeky stuff!” or “avid reader” or “Tolkien fan” or the like. I follow all of those people. Because they’ve already shown an interest in a similar author and because they’ve shown a willingness to follow that similar author, I find that I get a very high percentage rate of return followers. In some cases, I’ve ended up with a 85-90% shared follower ratio with other authors. And usually, that 10-15% non-similar ratio is filled with spammers and followers who appear to be pushing a product. I don’t want those followers anyway. Also, I retweet the donating follower. They don’t know that they’ve helped me out – Twitter doesn’t notify them. But now they are helping me out again: they’re giving me “evergreen” material to retweet to my followers. And guess what they do in return? Yeah – you got it. They retweet my material too. You might think that isn’t helpful if we share most of the same audience but you’d be wrong. First, I don’t usually follow most of their followers (especially if they have 5,000 followers for instance). Second, Twitter noise is heavy. What you don’t see once, you might be happy to see later. Getting your message out multiple times a day is sometimes the best way to go. In summary: other authors who are interesting to you offer you targeted followers to follow and they offer material that is interesting to your followers and they retweet your material to reciprocate for retweeting their material. Win/win/win. Side tip: I keep a list of retweeters under Twitter’s List tool. When I’m looking for interesting material to retweet, I look at their profiles first. You can guess why.
3. Twitter Counter. Twitter Counter has a lot of tools that are helpful. I’m only going to feature one for now. Twitter Counter helps you keep track of how many followers you’ve gained, how many people you follow, what your audience is like, and lots of other stuff. Here’s the tool that changed the game for me:
Early in the game, I was pretty lazy about how many tweets I put out. Who’s going to notice after all? Then, I did a few blitzes of tweeting and look what happened. On days that I tweeted more, I gained more followers. On days that I tweeted lots more, I gained lots more followers. Twitter statisticians from every walk of life will tell you this is true but seeing it for myself really changed my approach to life. The last week on the graph was when I was really sick. I continued to have momentum but my rate of growth slowed down a bit. It would have slowed down more but for the fact that I discovered another tool that allowed me to tweet less but with greater impact. One last aside: Twitter Counter let’s you look into the future to see how long it will take you to get 2.5k followers, 5k followers, or even 1 million followers. The tool is conservative but very useful. If you’re a goal setter, don’t ignore that feature.
4. Buffer. Okay. The fact of the matter is, tweets around dinner time and after dinner time get more traction (so do certain hashtags but that’s a different blog). But if Twitter is part of your job as an author, you’re likely not too interested to play with Twitter in the evenings so that might be a bad time for you to add tweets with good content. Besides, putting several tweets out all at once is less effective as well. So, either you have to be a Twitter slave or you can use Buffer. Like the other apps I’ve mentioned, Buffer is free so it’s your call: slave to Twitter or use a free app. Buffer allows you to schedule tweets for different times. If you look at the graph above, you can see I don’t like to tweet on weekends. I like to enjoy my family. But I’m using Buffer now so while I’m playing with my family, Buffer is sending out tweets to attract weekend readers. You can see that I don’t get as many followers on the weekends. That’s because I usually don’t follow many people on the weekends. But, I still get some new followers because they’re finding my buffered tweets (usually because I’m strategic about hashtags) and they’re deciding to follow me because of my tweets.
5. Rite Tag. Hashtags are supremely important. Some people use them too much. Statistics say 2-3 hashtags is the sweet spot. 2 hashtags is best. One of those should be #RT or #retweet if you really want extra attention. How do you determine which hashtag is going to give you the most exposure? Rite Tag. It’s a free app that tells you how many people are likely to see your tweet if you use a certain hashtag. If it tells you that you’ve made a good choice of hashtags, pay attention to that tweet. You just might find that it gets retweeted and favorited more than others. Either way, it’s a very helpful tool. For instance, it tells me that #SFF will attract less attention than #scifi. If I use #sci-fi #fantasy, I’ll get tons more exposure than #SFF even though they mean the same thing. That’s helpful to know. Thanks Rite Tag.
If that sounds like a lot of work, you could do what I did for months before I gained 1,500 new followers who are actively engaging with me and retweeting my posts. You could make your blog posts automatically appear on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or other social media platforms by using Hootsuite or some similar product. That’s great – it will increase your footprint. If you’re like me, it will increase readership over 16% and you can throw a pizza party for yourself … and hopefully not by yourself! But when you’re trying to grow you readership, 16% isn’t satisfying beyond a pizza party reward. You want something more than that if you’re ambitious.
It took me a while to catch the vision as to how Twitter can be helpful for an author. In some ways, the above strategy and statistics only tell you how well I’m doing on Twitter (I’m in the top 1% of users already but that’s another story). However, it really doesn’t tell the whole story. If I didn’t sell you one building a foundation of followers based upon authors, consider this: using other authors as a foundation of my follower list has given me momentum I didn’t have before. I was steadily gaining a few followers a week for several months. Now, if I do nothing, I can expect a few hundred followers every week (at least for a while). I see some authors still working similar systems through the 6k mark. After that, most everyone starts coasting. They quit following people back. They quit doing anything on Twitter besides posting tweets – and often, they don’t even tweet very much. But that momentum gets them to the top of the heap and they coast easy from there. Anytime they want an audience, they have one. When they want to sell a book, thousands of people are listening. I’ll be there soon enough. I hope to see you there.
Before this post hit Twitter (via Hootsuite), I was added to 8 new Growth Hacker lists of people to follow on Twitter. In case that’s new lingo to you, a “growth hacker” refers to someone who uses untraditional marketing methods to achieve noteworthy growth. These people have nothing to do with authors per se. They’re just watching what I’m doing to learn how they can apply it to some other industry. I just may have found a little bit of magic.