Diary of a Book Marketing Novice: Twitter

(Originally published on Randy’s blog, The Loneliest Planet.)

I've had a Twitter account for two years and it's generally been a waste of time. Realizing that problem had to be me and not Twitter, I borrowed not one, but three, social media marketing books from the library.

The bad news: My previous book marketing experience with search engine optimization and keywords was a blast compared to Twitter.

The good news: Anything is better than working on my novel.

According to the three social media books, I needed to think about my online book marketing strategy as a hub with spokes. The spokes are Twitter, Facebook, search engine optimization and other tools that drive traffic to my hub, which is my blog, The Loneliest Planet. Unfortunately, the 12,000 page views I drove to my blog last year generated $8 in revenue. But Twitter was going to change all that. I skimmed the books and distilled their advice to three steps.

Step 1: How Much Time Should I Waste on Twitter?

The books recommended tweeting two to five times a day. That seemed do-able if you're unemployed, which I am. For a reality check, I looked at how often some employed people tweet.

- Chelsea Handler has 4 million followers and tweets about two to four times most days.
- Steve Martin has 2.6 million followers and tweets about the same.
- Zach Galifianakis has 1.8 million followers and tweets two to three times some months and other months not at all.

For the last two years, I've been following the Galifianakis model, which has garnered me 250 followers. Time for a change.

Step 2: Install Tools to Make Tweeting More Efficient

The books recommended dozens of tools to make up for shortcomings in Twitter. I considered two that make it easier to track followers and their conversations: TweetDeck and HootSuite.

TweetDeck needed to be downloaded onto my computer. HootSuite runs off a Web site. I hate installing programs on my computer, so I went with HootSuite, which then required me to install a bunch of its own tools.

Next, I installed other programs that were supposed to automatically send a thank-you message to anyone who followed me. One product called AutoResponder claimed to be free and then tried to charge me $2.50. (Image 1) I cancelled it, but not before it got into my Twitter account and sent a message from me to my followers that said how much I loved the product.


A free product with a fee that I overlooked.



I used another suggested tool, TwitBacks, to create a flashy background for my Twitter page that listed my Web sites and a more extensive bio. It looked like crap. I removed it, but not before it also sent a message to all my followers saying how much I loved the product. (Image 2)

Two add-ins that inserted Tweets from me claiming I loved their products.

I installed more and more of the recommended Twitter tools. I couldn't stop, didn't stop, until my virus checker flashed a message that my computer was being assaulted. Minutes later some of my other programs mysteriously stopped working. I ditched all the tools except for Hootsuite.

Six hours had passed and I hadn't added a single follower or generated a single tweet. But I pressed on.

Step 3:  Start Tweeting

I'd always been a plain vanilla tweeter. I sent messages with links back to my blog posts. I occasionally commented on other people's posts. I'd even added a few hashtags, which are like keywords and are supposed to make your tweets easier to find.

One of the online marketing books listed more advanced tweeting techniques with acronyms, such as "MT," "via," and "h/t" that let followers know that you're cribbing someone else's tweet.

While I was contemplating these new acronyms and advanced tweeting techniques, I received a Twitter alert that a published novelist whom I'd never heard of wanted to follow me.

Twitter pay dirt!

The novelist had over 100,000 followers. I sent him a note asking how he got so many followers and did they buy any books. "Don't know, don't know," he said. Obviously, he was holding out on me.

The secret must be in his tweets, after all, he was a published novelist and I was an unemployed writer. But his tweets looked like everyone else's tweets, like the lyrics from a tired Beatles song:

8:00 a.m. "got up, crawled out of bed"
8:12 a.m. "ran a comb across the two hairs on my head."
8:13 a.m. "and looking up, I recalled I had no job.
8:47 a.m. "stumbled downstairs and had a beer."
9:30 a.m. "back in bed in seconds flat."
10:00 a.m. "mother knocked on my door, and I went into a dream."

After reading the published author's recent tweets, two thoughts occurred to me:

Do people really read this crap?

Do I really want to write this crap?

But at a recent writing conference, the experts insisted that Twitter was the best tool for finding new readers, so I'm going to give it a couple more months. I'll do anything to avoid working on my novel.

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Randy Ross is a Boston-area writer and former executive editor for PC World magazine. His fiction has appeared in The Drum and Side B Magazine. His non-fiction has appeared in the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. He is completing a novel with working title, The Loneliest Planet: A Handbook for the Chronically Single. He plans to circulate the novel to agents in 2012.



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