Soon after the release of my first novel in August 2011 I was encouraged by the publisher to join Twitter. The rationale: it’s a free marketing tool, with a proven track record for helping people promote their books. I have to admit to being a bit resistant. My impression of Twitter was it was full of folk telling you what they’d had for breakfast and what TV programme they were watching – trivial guff. However, with limited knowledge and nothing to lose (free remember, and Scotsman after all!)I took the plunge.
Fast forward to July 2012 and I now have just short of 2000 followers and usually tweet a few times every day. I am fairly sure it has some merit in a marketing sense and sometimes I find it amusing and interesting. I also like helping other folks out and so I retweet quite a lot of stuff. It’s a strange world though and I thought I’d share some musings.
It’s not my intention to list a whole load of things you should or should not be doing on Twitter. There are already a plethora of those posts available to you elsewhere. This is my personal experience; some things I like and some things I don’t. I don’t expect you to do what I did and have massive success or ignore it and fail.
The best thing about Twitter has been ‘meeting’ a few strangers and helping them out with their endeavours – blogs, books, conservation causes etc. I think it would be stretching things to call such people friends as we’ve never met, heard each other’s voices or have any real idea about our mutual backgrounds. However, I get the impression that with a few of them, if we did live in the same street or even town, we might well become proper friends. In this virtual world, they are good people who appreciate my favours to them and help me out without being asked. They are polite, appreciative and good fun in a Twitter exchange. I like that and that’s why if I link up with someone I get along with, I will happily retweet their tweets on a regular basis.
The only thing I don’t really like is automation. It just feels a bit rude to me. The more I’ve used Twitter the more I’ve realised that actually, life’s too short to get uptight about such trivial matters. These are strangers with their own motivations and so on. I don’t need to follow them and they don’t need to follow me – my life will still go on and so will theirs! But I don’t like it and that’s why, if I follow someone who relies on automation, I’ll probably not interact with them much and perhaps even unfollow them. However, as with any widely used marketing tool, it is possible they do it because, on the whole, it works. If so, then my disinterest or unfollow will be of little importance, which is entirely fair enough.
If I was doling out any advice it would be to see Twitter for what it is – a tool to be used in whatever way suits you. If you want to spout trivial guff, fair enough! If you want to be a marketing guru and guide others, fine, but please show some degree of humility. If you want to interact with your pals or follow celebrities, be my guest.
But, here’s the tricky one. If you’re an author how should you use it? My honest answer is…I’m not sure. There are those who will talk about tweets advertising your books becoming spam if you overdo it. Equally, there are those who say you should schedule such tweets regularly and go for it. I suspect it works for some and not for others. Just like books advertised in traditional ways – some of them hit huge, and others never seem to make it. My tactic is to only tweet about my books occasionally but I could be dead wrong. The more I’ve used Twitter, seen how others have fared, and the more I’ve read about it, I’m pretty sure that stating with total conviction that a certain tactic is a definite winner for anyone who employs it is borderline delusional!
In the end, I think the best thing to do is write a really great book and do your best to publicise it in as many ways (ahem) as you can. I reckon some people regard Twitter as a magic bullet or the be all and end all of marketing – particularly self-published indies – but that seems unlikely to me. It’s part of a jigsaw and it’s not necessarily the key piece for everyone. I use it but I don’t pin all my hopes on it.
Musings…for what their worth.