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.

The Pull Costume for Dragon*Con 2013

ImageCosplaying as Nick from The Pull at Dragon*Con this year. I’d say its coming along nicely. Have any of you ever cosplayed as characters from your original fiction before?

To Twitter or Not to Twitter

Apparently the answer is “To Twitter”, at least according to the lion’s share of indie authors.  A promotional vehicle that runs on a steady fuel of hashtags, bad jokes and shameless plugging yet is somehow STILL surprisingly entertaining.  My little heart felt full after creating my first account yesterday and getting my first dozen followers.  WHO IS @PARTYINMYPANTS69?  I DON’T KNOW BUT THEY’RE FOLLOWING ME SO I LOOOOVE THEM!!!  Yeah I’m almost hoping the novelty of this wears off quickly so I can stop feeling like I crave affection from strangers.  Or at least, go back to pretending that I don’t crave affection from strangers.

I was a Twitter-doubter for years, which is why I’m so late to this particular party.  Why?  I’d say it was partially me being too hipster for it, partially me being terrified of drowning in a sea of tweets and partially because I was so snug and comfy under my Facebook blanket.  And yet even after that first day I can already tell that this is going to be a pretty big promotional tool in my Bat-Writer utility belt, right next to the shark repellent spray.

If I can get 14 followers in a day (13 now because one doo doo head dropped off overnight) just by being myself and talking about what I love; heck imagine what I can get in a month.  I sold several copies of The Pull this week already and it’s only Tuesday.  Thank you Twitter, thank you Facebook, thank you YouTube and my blogsite.  I’m new to this self-promotion game but I can already see how it can work.  The point of this really is:  you can too.

Don’t be afraid of Twitter just because people like Charlie Sheen use it to talk about their tiger blood (dated reference is dated) and there are millions of people trying to sell things on it.  It can be a fun little playground if you approach it from the right mindset.  Don’t be afraid of YouTube because you don’t like your hair on any given day.  Just crank up your webcam, open your mouth and say or do something YOU have fun with.  When you smile, others smile with you.

I say the more passionate goofballs we have in the social media landscape the better.  So get to goofing!!!