I’m new to my neighborhood. While driving with a neighbor one day, she waved at a woman she recognized. “You know everybody, don’t you?” I asked. She and I had several conversations while walking together and having lunch, and she seemed to know tidbits about everyone’s lives in a nice, not a gossipy, way.
“Well,” she said. “I can’t be friends with everybody—there isn’t time— but I can at least say hi.”
Isn’t that the truth? You can’t be friends, not in a close, intimate way, with everyone because there isn’t time. Relationships take mutual effort to develop and maintain, and realistically you can only have so many close friends before there isn’t enough of you to go around.
Which leads me to Twitter. I’ve spotted many a tweet from authors threatening to unfollow their fellow writers who over-promote. Twitter is a social medium, they say, a forum for interaction, and it should not be used to spam your followers. Only a small percentage of your tweets should be promotional, they advise.
This conventional wisdom has caused some authors consternation because they worry that they may be tweeting too much promo. As an author who tweets promo, I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’d like to weigh in with some observations.
Before I ruffle feathers, I want to go on record with this: if you plunge into Twitter and immediately begin tweeting “read my book,” conventional wisdom is dead on, smack accurate. You will alienate most of the followers you manage to attract. Few people will click on your links, and you will tweet in vain.
But here’s the paradox: as you chat with people and attract more followers with your scintillating wit, your capability to interact with those followers diminishes, and conventional wisdom begins to crumble.
It comes down to the truth that my neighbor knows: you can’t be friends with everybody. And when the number of your followers reaches a certain critical mass, you probably won’t even be able keep up with saying “hi.” (BTW. the same holds true for Facebook).
If you only have a couple hundred followers, Twitter is manageable. You can interact, talk with your “friends,” thank everyone for their retweets and reciprocate by retweeting them, and carefully check the profiles of people who follow you to see if you want to follow them back. The same goes for Instagram, although, for many people, being able to get free instagram followers is a big advantage when it comes to widening the size of their online brand.
But if you have 10,000 followers, what percentage do you think you can you interact with even marginally? And will 10,000 people who don’t know you care if dear daughter said something cute or if you and hubby are having a date night?
As I write this, I am nearing 3,000 followers. I get about 150 emails a day from Twitter notifying me of new followers and retweets. I try to respond to the latter, with a reciprocal RT, a thank you. or an #FF. But if I get to 10,000 followers and my email increases proportionately to 500 per day, I won’t be able to continue to do that.
Conventional Twitter wisdom espoused by authors overlooks these factors:
- Authors follow many other writers and receive more book promo tweets than the norm. The effect of the promos is magnified for them. Your ten promo tweets are multiplied by the 500 or 1000 (or more) from other authors who are sending similar tweets.
- Writers aren’t an author’s primary audience. Readers are. And readers, defined as ordinary people not in the publishing industry, are not following 500, 1000, 10,000 authors. So they’re not being spammed by book promo. Your 10 promo tweets probably aren’t an annoyance.
- People aren’t on Twitter all the time so they’re going to miss the vast majority of tweets including the promo ones. If you send a single book promo tweet at 8 p.m., chances are someone with even a moderate number of followers who checks their Twitter at 7 p.m or 9 p.m. isn’t going to see it. (Note this: many times I’ve attempted to retweet an author’s book promo in response to their RT of mine, but couldn’t find a suitable tweet. If someone hunts for your book info on Twitter and can’t find it—you need to market yourself more.)
So what does this mean? How many promo tweets are too many? Short answer: there is no hard and fast rule. Strike a balance between promo, information, entertainment and interaction that works for you and your books.