Photo by Pandiyan
Almost every day I get a direct message on Twitter, a public tweet, an email, all asking me the same thing. Hey, how did you get so many followers? Hey, are you famous or something? Hey, can you give me the secret? Hey, how do you do it, do you do it all by hand? Automatically? Are you a robot? Do you sleep? And on, and on, and on. You can imagine various juicy questions I didn't include here. Honestly, I wanted to write this blog post for a while, but simply didn't have the time. I'm done with SIREN SUICIDES now (it's off to my editor), so I can do it! Plant your palms on your knees, sit up straight, hold your breath. Here is how.
Wake up with Twitter on your mind. That's what I do. The first thing I do is post an update while I'm still in bed. Actually, sometimes I reach for my phone with my eyes still closed, thinking about what to post. And, please, don't do the typical "Good morning!" It's boring. Nobody wants to hear that. It's what we hear every day. It's not what Twitter is about. Twitter is about going away from everyday life and expressing how you feel without any filters, and, at the same time, giving value to people in those 140 characters. So, my tactic is, being funny. I always try to come up with something that is true to how I feel yet will bring a smile to someone reading it, like: "I thought I had my brain yesterday, but I can't seem to be able to find it this morning..." Now, this is me. Very much me. You need to be you. Very much you. Ask your friends, if you have to. Who are you? What makes people like you? Don't copy anyone, don't be artificial. Be yourself.
Tweet all day until you go to bed. Yes, Twitter is the very last thing I do before closing my eyes, in bed, again. I used to tweet about 20 times a day when I was starting out, but about a year ago, when I began writing full time, I started tweeting more, and today I average about 100 tweets a day. That's a lot, and I don't suggest you do the same, but I can tell you that if you do less than 20 tweets, then Twitter might not be a choice platform for you to talk to your readers, you'll be better off on Facebook. Seriously. Don't torture yourself, think about it very carefully. Have you thought about it? Still want to do Twitter? Okay, let's talk about the content of your tweets.
Promote others, encourage, give. This will be a hard pill to swallow for many writers who are used to blasting a gazillion tweets a day about their book or how awesome it is. Please, don't. Not only will you turn me off, you will also make sure that I won't pick up your book any time in the future. Why? Because I don't know you, and when I don't know you as an author, I want you to simply be a nice human being. Why would I want to read your book if you're constantly shoving it under my face when I didn't ask for it? So please turn off you automatic DM's (annoying), stop talking about how great your book is, and let your readers do the job. Or people who know you. For this, I use Hootsuite, which might be a new word for you, but I used to do social media for companies in the past, and I highly recommend you play with it. There you can create a search column with your name and the name of your book/books, and retweet it any time anyone mentions it. What, nobody mentions you? No problem. Mention others. Start actively seeking out authors on Twitter, read their books, review their blogs, and tweet about them. Here is the catch, though. NEVER EVER ASK THEM FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN. And I mean, print this out and stick it on the wall in front of your computer. This is what giving is about. Just wait. People will give back. Because we love to help each other, but afraid to make the 1st step. It's up to you to make it.
Retweet, mention, quote, answer. If you simply populate your Twitter stream with yourself, it will look a bit, how to say it politely... you don't need me to explain it, do you? Good. You see my point. Twitter is about conversation. So state something, then see what others respond with, find a great response that you like and retweet it, answer people's tweets, quote them, but make sure that you don't pollute your conversation and are not too random. That will turn people off too. If you look at my stream, you will see that I watch my content with an eagle's eye, always making sure that there are clumps of conversations on the same topic, before moving on to the next. So people who are late to the party can catch up easily. And, of course, when you talk to people, same rules apply. Be polite, be nice, be funny, deflect anger with humor, play the underdog, and, in general, be that person that you yourself would have liked to follow. One more thing I do. I never answer tweets with simple "Yeah!" or "Nope!" or "Cool!" This is also boring and pollutes my feed. I try to answer each tweet in a way that if someone happened to read it, separately from the person who originally tweeted to me, they would get the idea of what it is we are talking about.
Follow and unfollow every couple of days. If you think you will be sitting there and new followers will simply fall into your lap, you're mistaken. Other people follow you, yes, but you also have to get out there and follow new people. Unless you're Neil Gaiman, of course. I use JustUnfollow tool, and every couple of days (I used to do it every day, actually, but the amount of my followers is simply too large now) I would go there and unfollow people who unfollowed me and follow new people, mostly other writers, because I'm a writer. Why every couple of days? Because if you followed someone and they are not following you back within 2-3 days, chances are they never will. The way Twitter works, you can't follow others without any limit. So in order to follow new people, you have to unfollow some. Now, if you look closely at the tool, what you will see is the option that says Copy Followers. I will explain how it works. I used to chit-chat with a writer, and if we liked each other, I used to go and see if other writers followed her, and then would follow those people by hand. I can no longer do it without using some kind of a tool, having to manage my 44K+ followers. The tool allows me to do it faster, simply because it's my choice to follow everyone back. At the moment I get 250-500 new followers a day, depending on the day, and I think soon I will have to abandon my policy of following everyone back simply because I won't be able to. You can't follow more than 1,000 new people a day. Also, I do everything by hand, I don't use the automatic follow everyone back feature. There are a lot of spammers out there you don't want to follow.
Post pictures, videos, links of interest. Try to spice it up with things that would also be interesting to your followers. Links to great articles, pictures that you took, that somebody else took, videos that are somehow relevant to what you're talking about. In short, try to make the whole experience as close to real life as possible, if these people happened to meet you on the street and you started taking about common interests. And you happened to have the same shoes, OMG, how awesome! Or same purse. Or same makeup. Sorry, guys, let's see here... same car? You got it. The idea is, share yourself unreservedly, and people will share themselves back in return.
To summarize, be human. Be you. Be real. Be humble. Be funny. Be there every day and connect as much as you can. Admit to your failures, if you have any, and share your successes, if you have any. That's really all there is to it. I could, of course, attempt to give you my 8+ years of marketing experience here, but my blog will burst. Ask questions in the comments, and I'll answer as best I can!
Oh, and here is what you SHOULD NOT DO ON TWITTER.
P.S.: I wrote this post yesterday, and now that I'm rereading it before publishing, two more things need to be mentioned. One, don't think that if you do what I do, you will suddenly get a crazy following, and don't come back screaming at me that it didn't work for you. When I started out last year, I had 2,000 followers. This growth took me by surprise. I didn't think anyone would be interested in the stuff I had to say. Two, go out there and try things. Don't be afraid to fail. Let people catch you. There is so much love out there, if only you will allow people to hold your hand, you will feel it. And Twitter happens to be the best platform for it, I think. I love it. And I love every single one of my followers, they make my day, every day.