Follow Me and I’ll Follow You: Social Media and Self Promotion

The other day I decided to perform an experiment. See when I first started to self-promote on Twitter as an independent author, I received a tidal wave of followers. “Oh cool! Another self-published author is following me! Oh look, another one! Now three more! Now ten more! Whoopie!!!”

In that initial rush of perceived popularity and to show my gratitude, I followed each and every one of them back. I also followed a few celebrities I liked and some non-profits I supported, local restaurants I frequented and bands I listened to. My wall, however, quickly became a pulsating mass of nothing but, “Shadows of the Dawn: Available now on Amazon!” “Betsy looked at her vampire prince and could think of nothing but his cold embrace *amazon link*” “Don’t miss out on the most talked about book of the summer! Buy Colton Darkholme: Werewolf Hunter today!”

As I sat there and watched advertisement after endless advertisement by my fellow independent authors roll by, I began to lose that rush of enthusiasm. Why did Twitter feel more like Craigslist than Facebook? But I persevered. These were authors like me. They deserved my support, right?

Out of curiosity I began looking at some of these people. Most of them had enormous follower counts. 5,000, 10,000, 30,000 followers or more! And then I noticed something else. Virtually all of them were following the same amount of people. Each of them had performed the act of, “Follow me and I’ll follow you.”

Most of these authors weren’t responding, favoriting or retweeting my tweets. Many of them weren’t retweeting anyone else’s tweets at all. They were simply using Twitter and their followers as an advertisement board.

Smacked in the face with disillusion, I decided to perform my experiment. I would unfollow 90% of these characters and see what happened. Truth was, I wanted my wall back. I wanted to see the posts I wanted to see, not advertisements by other indie authors who had (in a backdoor way) blackmailed me into following them.

Within a week, almost all of those I unfollowed have unfollowed me back. My follower count was cut in half. That sealed the deal for me. They were never interested in what I had to say to begin with. They just wanted another potential sale.

So right now I’m rebuilding my Twitter following from the ground up. If you follow me, I hope its because you genuinely are interested in me, The Pull, my blog or my random blurts of comedic nonsense. If I follow you, its because I want to witness you travel your path to accomplishment as I travel mine. What I will not do is Follow, Like or Pin you because I want something from you.

Now I realize that puts me at an extreme disadvantage in the social media landscape. The fact that some of these virtually unknown authors have 30,000 Twitter followers (and are following just as many) tells me how many people are fighting tooth and nail and using every tool at their disposal, moral or not, to make a buck. Or in our case, to sell a book.

I didn’t get into this business to sell my soul in order to make money. If I’m going to build something around my passion of writing, I’m going to build something genuine. I’m going to post things I believe in or are interested in, not empty advertisements. I’m going to follow people I like, not people who have something I want. I’m going to go to conventions because I want to meet fellow fantasy and sci-fi fans like me, not because I want to meet potential dollar signs with arms and legs. If I sell a few books while sharing what I love with these people, so much the better. If I never sell another book again…I’m already happy. The Pull had a good launch because people believed in me. I believed in me. I’ll keep believing in me as I release the rest of the series and each one will mark off an accomplishment no one can take away, even if the whole world thinks my work sucks.

Please don’t come away from this thinking that I’m talking down to you or to anyone who uses the “Follow me and I’ll follow you” technique. I’m not. I know you believe in your work too or else you wouldn’t be working so hard. What I am trying to say is to try to stop looking at social media as a numbers game. What matters isn’t the number of likes or followers you have, it’s the number of those you have real, genuine connections with. That’s how you make a difference, and that’s how you can leave your mark on the world.

9 thoughts on “Follow Me and I’ll Follow You: Social Media and Self Promotion

  1. Pingback: Follow Me and I’ll Follow You: Social Media and Self Promotion | Stay Extraordinary

  2. Pingback: Why You Can Now Follow Me On Twitter | APreachasKid

  3. Heh. My twitter account is fairly pathetic. This is mostly due to my complete inability to keep up with it. It moves too fast for me and when I have a schedule that pretty much keeps me off the Internet for four days at a time, twitter becomes insane. I can barely keep up with blogs!

    Lists, I’ve found, are something of a godsend.

    That said, I started out reading the twitters of people who followed me. If I liked what I saw, I would return the favor. If not, meh, I didn’t bother. I don’t think that’s rude, per se. If they unfriend me later, there’s no hard feelings. I’ve come to understand that it’s just how the social media landscape is these days. *shrug*

    On a more serious note: is Colton Darkhome: Werewolf Hunter a real thing in the real world? Because that sounds relevant to my interests and I would totally read that. >_>

  4. As someone who does this kind of thing for a living, I feel like I have to defend social media marketing. In point of fact, if you’re using social media as another channel to “sell, sell, sell”, you’re doing it wrong, and you might get some small gains, but you’ll never get the kind of grassroots groundswell the internet is capable of. The goal of social media, first and foremost, is to build community and generate interesting and valuable content to share with others. Share being the key word (as opposed to sell). Following these rules allows you to build a strong support system, develop key connections and network, and access a greater audience than possible by simply advertising via friends and family.

    I don’t believe that “follow circles” are inherently bad, or lacking in some sort of communal sense. This is how friendships work, if we have common interests, common goals, and are actively pursuing common ends, then it makes sense to connect and support. It also makes sense to surround yourself with those who do what you do as well as those who appreciate what you do. I always advocate unfollowing people if you find their content is too self-promotional or not applicable. But when you run a page as an author, artist, business, or any other public persona – your page is not *your page*, it’s a vehicle through which you can learn more about what you do, share with fans/customers, and engage those who are looking for someone like you. Turning away opportunities out of hand because they seem inorganic might be the right move for your personal account, but as a business, sometimes you have to decide whether the content you share is in your followers’ best interests, not yours.

    Like anything else, social media is defined by the experience of those who use it (much like your book is defined by the experience of those who read it) and it’s important to ensure that you can be where/when your audience is to achieve the maximum effect.

    • Thank you for presenting the other side of the issue. I appreciate hearing your educated perspective. Believe it or not, I worked in social media for five years, myself. Go figure, huh?

  5. Can I hug this post? I do get retweeted pretty well, but it’s always by a select handful of my followers. I really need to figure out who NEVER retweets even when I retweet them–and who does seem really committed to following and retweeting my stuff. Oh, the life of an indie. Le sigh.

    • Isn’t easy figuring out the right balance between making a living as an author and sticking up for your sense of dignity, is it? What works for someone else may not feel right for you, and what feels right for you may be the exact opposite of what an expert advises. Personally, I’d say we should be true to ourselves first and foremost, and let the chips fall where they may.

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