I feel the need to post a quick reminder about the title of this series: “Writer, Brand Thyself”. You’ll note that it’s not “Writer, Sell Your Books”. Everything I’ve read from the publishing industry, including agents, editors and publishers says that the number one way to sell books is still by word of mouth. So my goal in blogging, twittering and maintaining a facebook page is not to sell books (which is good, since I don’t have any out yet). It’s to meet and interact with people, make friends and establish contacts. Promo is going to be a *side effect* of that. That is the whole point of “branding” yourself – to tap into a (hopefully) rich word-of-mouth chain when you have a book (or anything, really) to sell. You start it by announcing your news, and everyone else passes it along.The benefit is two-fold of course…aside from promotion when you need it, you also become part of a community – which can be more valuable than any promo in the long run. So just keep that in mind – if you can’t do one thing, do something else, but the important thing is that you’re interacting with people in a positive way, and building as wide of a personal network as you can.
Back to Twitter. This week especially has been very politically charged as far as the US goes, and I’ve seen a lot of tweeting about political topics. Many people have kept it low key, but many others have been calling the opposite sides names, flinging slurs, and just being generally inflamatory. I would urge you very strongly *not* to engage in that sort of behavior. It’s one thing to state your opinion, and quite another to attack the opinions of others. When you attack one side or the other, you are automatically interacting in a *negative way* towards an entire group of people…people who you might actually like if not for the political hoopla. People you might never get to know because of the political hoopla. Every person alienated due to inflamatory attacks is someone who might have read your book later, and even if they didn’t, they might have passed it word of it along to someone else. It’s your choice, but in the long run, I think it’s much wiser to think before you tweet, and if you must state your opinion in a public forum, do it in a respectful, non-inflamatory manner. Don’t lose potential friends and contacts just because you can’t control your emotions.
I like to think of Twitter as a giant cocktail party…only everyone’s wearing blinders. The only way anyone can see that you’re in the room is if you move into their line of vision – and that entails talking to them. If you’re an introvert like me, or just shy, this can be intimidating until you realize two things. People on Twitter can’t judge you by your looks (unless you let them), and people love to be noticed. Let that last one really sink in. People love to be noticed.
When I want to meet someone on twitter, I often either send an encouraging tweet in response to a goal or activity they’re attempting, or I send a complimentary tweet in response to a funny or profound thing they said, or a goal met. My sentiments are genunine, and they accomplish several things at once. First, they put me in that person’s field of vision (blinders, remember?). Then they start the interection off on a positive note, and they settle the focus on the other person, making that person feel important. It could start a conversation, it might not. The point is, I initiated the point of contact that could lead to an eventual relationship in a non-threatening, positive way. People who approach me in this way nearly always gain a new follower.
Another way I’ve met people is to tweet about the book I’m reading, and if the author is on twitter, @ them in the tweet. I’ve met several authors this way, and have made some great new friends whose work I am happy to promote as a “side effect” of our interactions…because I enjoy chatting with them and I have a personal interest in seeing them succeed. They aren’t just names on covers anymore, they’re real people. That’s the beauty of Twitter – it gives us all the opportunity to build a very wide and varied community of friends and contacts just by logging into a web site and *being social*, 140 characters at a time.
This does require that you put yourself out there a little. If your tweets are always about what you’re writing, people will get bored. There’s no need to be scared – you still control the flow of information, so you can censor yourself however you’d like, but let people get little glimses of your life too, so they can start to identify with you not just as a writer, but as a person. I don’t want to hear what you had for dinner every night, but when you finally make that perfect pot roast – I want to hear about that. I’d love to celebrate with you when you pass a test or find the perfect shoes to go with that outfit you’ll only wear once. My point is, your tweets don’t have to be big, introspective, revealing or profound truths about you. It’s the little things we all do and deal with that will allow people to identify with who you are as a person.
What are some of the ways you meet people and make friends on Twitter? If you’re not on Twitter or can’t quite get “into” it, what methods do you use to meet people elsewhere online? Have you considered how building a large personal network of friends and contacts could eventually help you professionally?
Next week: Twitter Tip Sheet, and Intro to Facebook