About a year and a half ago now, I published a blog for writers about how to build Twitter followers. There’s a lot in there that’s still applicable, so you should check it out, as I’m not going to summarize too much here.
However, some things have changed in the last 18 months. Tweepi, the tool that I used to build my followers from 360-some to multiple thousands, has been effectively dismantled. Twitter asked Tweepi to stop allowing users like me to “flush” the people who don’t follow us back, and since that was the best thing about Tweepi, I no longer use it. [Incidentally, if someone knows of another Tweepi-like service that now does this, please mention it in the comments.] At the same time, by trial and error, I’ve learned a few things about growing Twitter numbers for authors. So I decided it was time for a part II.
Before I begin, however, there are three core rules from my first blog that still apply, and you should just accept as gospel.
- The best way to boost your number of followers is to follow more people.
- Your number of followers should always be bigger than the number of people you follow.
- You should only follow people who (eventually) follow you back.
Now, if you’ve already broken any of those rules, that means you’re going to need to purge your Follow list of people who don’t follow you back before you can continue. It may take awhile, if you already have a lot of people you’re following, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. And it’s better to go through all your old follows before you start working on improving your numbers, because it’ll allow you to follow more people (see rule 2). Besides, you’re going to need to know how to clear out your Following list for later anyway.
Since Tweepi is no longer effective, you’re going to have to do this the hard way. Go to Twitter and click on the list Following. You’ll get a whole bunch of tiles, each representing one person you’re following. Right below their name, next to their Twitter handle, it should say “FOLLOWS YOU.” Like this: If you don’t see that “FOLLOWS YOU,” click Unfollow.
Now, I’m sure some of you are mentally protesting that there are times when you want to follow people on Twitter who may not necessarily follow you back. It’s true that there are a few exceptions. It’s okay to follow a small group of people who you want to learn from, or who you want to frequently retweet.
For example, Chuck Wendig does not follow me on Twitter, but he tweets a lot of smart and interesting stuff about publishing that I enjoy retweeting or commenting on. So I follow him. I also follow a few authors who have massive numbers of Twitter followers, because I want to know what kind of things they’re tweeting about so I can model my account on theirs a bit.
Okay, once you have completely purged your list of people who don’t follow you back, it’s time to start finding new people to follow. This is where Tweepi can still come in handy (see original blog). But you can also use original-recipe Twitter to help you find people to follow. The Twitter website uses algorithms to suggest people you might want to follow, based on the people you already follow (this is another reason why you should waste your follows on entertainers, third cousins, etc).
Go to your Twitter homepage, and look at the box on the right that says People to Follow. Click on View All. Then go right down the list, looking at each person’s bios and deciding whether or not to follow them. I tend to follow pretty much any book people –readers, authors, agents, publishers, and reviewers–as long as their bio is decent and they have more than 1,000 followers, which tells me they take Twitter seriously (you can see this by hovering your mouse over their name, by the way).
I go all the way down the list of Twitter’s recommendations and then stop. (Incidentally, if you’re really dedicated to building a lot of followers very quickly, you can use Tweepi to keep finding more people to follow.) But this is the point where you can sit back and wait for the “follow backs” to roll in.
Of course, not everyone will follow you back. And that’s okay, because the next time you sit down to work on your Twitter numbers, you can start by purging those people.
I’ve found that the best way to do this is to set a reminder on my phone for Monday nights at nine, because that’s when there’s good TV on my DVR. While I watch a show, I start by purging my Following list of the people who didn’t follow me back at some point during the last week. Then I follow new people based on Twitter’s recommendations. The whole thing takes a half hour at the most.
One caveat: if you do this for awhile, you may find that Twitter keeps recommending the same people you rejected already because they didn’t follow back. If that happens, you’ll need to figure out another way to find new people to follow, either through Twitter’s website or using Tweepi. I recommend choosing other authors who write in your genre, and following some of their followers. You can also use popular hashtags like #amwriting and #writerlife to find book people.
Purge, follow new people. Purge, follow new people. That’s pretty much all you need to do. Once you get your entire Following list purged of non-followers, this whole thing requires very little time and maintenance.
If you’re intimidated and/or eager to jump right in, feel free to stop reading right here. Otherwise, here are some best practice dos and don’ts for authors using twitter:
- Try to stick to the one-third rule of tweeting (See blog part 1).
- Use software like Tweetdeck to organize your tweets. The more people you follow (in order to gain followers), the harder it’s going to be to cut through the noise to find the tweets you want to see. Tweetdeck is a great tool for that, because you can make lists and group the people you follow in easy-to-see columns:
- I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’ll just throw it in for good measure: remember your manners. It’s okay to disagree with someone on Twitter in a respectful manner – this can lead to interesting and useful conversations. However, you should never be disrespectful, and you should never ever get personal.
For example, if I were to tweet about refusing to see Batman vs. Superman because I think it looks shitty, it’s okay for someone to say that they actually loved it, or that they think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It is not, however, okay for someone to say I’m a moron who knows nothing about comics and probably spent her formative years whoring instead of reading. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you should never call anyone a whore, for any reason, even on the internet where it seems like there won’t be consequences.
- Use hashtags such as the ones mentioned above, but use them wisely. I also recommend creating your own personal hashtag that applies to your work. For example, I use the hashtag #liswritesUF whenever I tweet about my writing habits, my work-related travel, my WIP, etc. Someone who’s really interested in me and my work can search “liswritesUF” on Twitter, and see a whole list of updates from me.
- Retweet other authors’ tweets –but stick to the rules for self-promotion laid out below.
- Endlessly tweet self-promotion. Nobody wants to follow a person who exclusively tweets things like “Buy my book! My book’s on sale! Didja hear about my book??” It’s obnoxious.
However, I know a lot of authors who overcompensate by trying never to mention their own work, and that’s no good, either. The whole point of increasing your platform is to get the word out about your work. So you need to find a balance.
The best thing to do, then, is to limit your self-promotion tweets. You can do this by deciding on, say, one tweet per week, or you can limit yourself to a few occasions. For example, I try to stick to tweeting about my new book on book cover release day, on the day the book is available for pre-order, when I get a positive review from a big publication (i.e. Publisher’s Weekly),the day before release day, and release day. If your book is nominated for a big award or passes a really big sales milestone, tweet that. If a celebrity (including a famous author) endorses it, tweet that too.
That might sound like a lot, but even assuming you get two major reviews and one celebrity (unlikely), that adds up to five to ten tweets about your book. My books come out every five to ten months, so we’re talking about an average of one self-promotion tweet per month. I don’t think anyone can get very offended about that.
- Overuse the phrase “please RT” (which means “please retweet, in case you missed that). Give careful thought to when you really, really need your friends to back you up, and only use “please RT” at those times. For example, the first time I taught a class for Litreactor, it was really important to me to boost the number of students, because I wanted Litreactor to think I was a good bet as an instructor. So I retweeted one of Litreactor’s promotional tweets, and used “Please RT.” And many of my friends did. But that was a specific instance that applied one time. If I used “please RT” on every promotional tweet I did, even if it was just once a month, I would become the boy who cried “OMG PROMOTE ME.” Nobody likes that boy.
- Use auto-DMs. For the love of all that is holy, don’t do this. I haven’t quite reached the point where I instantly unfollow anyone who sends me one, but I get closer every frickin’ day.Even the most finely crafted auto-DMS are annoying as hell, and tend to turn people off. I have never once downloaded a book or visited an author’s website because an auto-DM told me I should. As a general rule, I don’t obey the whims of robots.