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Why Twitter Bugs Me or, Why Social Media is Not Just a Free Marketing Platform.

Let me start by saying that it is not often I get a bee in my bonnet about stuff, but there is one thing about social media and Twitter in particular that is really getting on my wick at the moment.

The most simple form of social media is an interaction, a conversation if you like, between people who follow you on Twitter, are your Facebook friends or the pages you follow there. At its core, social media broadcasts information between followers.

Twitter is a powerful animal, and I have discovered that recently when I fired up a new account for myself as an author. Or rather, a writer who is writing his first book. (I don’t think I can call myself an author until the book is published and at least one copy has been sold!)

So, I read about tweeting and following as a writer and merrily go about my business finding people to follow. I made mental notes about how their profiles read and the tweets they were broadcasting. All well and good. But then I discovered something that has shocked me. It can’t have escaped everyone’s notice, it is very obvious to me.

Following for Following’s Sake?
Yes, I am new to all this and could be wrong, but I am following people who have thousands of followers and they in turn are following thousands of people. I followed them because I figure that one day they might retweet something about my book which might lead to some sales. But how are they going to find my measly tweet in a stream being populated by thousands of other people? They’re not, are they? And are they following as many people as possible simply to get followed back with the hope that they will get a retweet about their book? I think they might be.

The numbers add up, of course. If two people you follow who are following, let’s say 5,000 people each both retweet your ‘Buy my book here’ tweet, then 10,000 people stand a chance of seeing it.

But do they really? I don’t think so. You see, the more people you follow, the more tweets you are going to miss out on because your feed fills up so quickly. I am currently only following 259 people on Twitter and my feed of new tweets builds at a rate that I cannot easily keep up with, so many posts by those I follow get lost beneath the last post I read before I have to work or go to bed. There could be a link to the most amazing article on the internet there, or the best book in the world, but it will be missed because I didn’t see it. I doubt anyone could say that they read all of their twitter feed everyday.

Post Useful Information and Develop Relationships. Be Nice.
My twitter account is now an entire week old (hooray) and I have seen a lot of posts. Some of them really, really interesting which I have gladly retweeted and even posted my to Facebook and Google+ pages, but the vast majority of posts have been blatant marketing posts all shouting ‘Buy My Book. Buy My Book!’. I’ve seen them over and over again from the same people, so I’ve checked their full streams out. Oh dear. Some of the accounts I follow are doing nothing at all apart from marketing their own books and not posting anything of use. And the most interesting thing I’ve noticed is that very few of these blatant marketing tweets are being retweeted, and I mean very few. So what is the point of posting them? We’ve already looked at posting to thousands of people who follow potentially thousands of other people and how a tweet can easily not be seen.

By far and away the most popular retweet is a tweet about something useful; Something that a tweep can benefit from; Perhaps a link to a blog post giving advice, an interesting article about indie writing, that sort of thing. I’ve retweeted useful stuff a lot in the past week and gained some new followers from it. Nice.

I thank everyone personally who retweets a tweet of mine, every time. It is polite and shows that I care, because I do care. I welcome every new follower with a Direct Message (admittedly it is an automatic one using justunfollow.com, but this message does not include any marketing about me at all. It actually asks what the follower likes to read. It’s friendly.) and I publicly welcome as many new followers as I can in a tweet too.

People Remember People, Not Marketing.
Marketing is seldom free. You have to give something to get something in return. Those authors that are bashing out countless ‘Buy my Book’ tweets hoping for a retweet or two are going to get some, of course, but they are likely to get many more retweets and therefore more exposure if they share more of themselves as people, not just their product. It is a social network after all, not solely a marketing platform.

Let me ask you a question. You are in a bar with a group of friends. How do you interact with your friends? Do you a) Join in the conversation, share your experiences and knowledge with them and have a laugh with them or do you b) Stand there all evening and do nothing apart from trying to sell your products? I’d put money on it that if there was a person b) in your group of friends, they wouldn’t be there very long.

If you develop a good relationship with your followers and interact with them, share parts of you with them and stuff you find interesting and engage them in your life and not constantly market to them, then they are more like to help you out by retweeting a marketing post or two for you in the future, are they not? Followers are not friends until you interact with them, and friends help each other out. You share their stuff around, and they will share your stuff around.

I could put it another way. Would you actively help promote a complete stranger’s book in a bar if you had not had at least one conversation with them? Neither would I. But I would recommend a book I had already read in a bar because I would feel that some of my friends would be interested in it.

Of course, as writers we are here to promote our work, but does it really have to be every 10 minutes (exaggeration)? Wouldn’t you like to get to know your audience a bit? I know I do. A bit of marketing surrounding the publication of your new book, signing event or whatever is great, of course it is, but relentlessly plugging away at it without telling your followers anything else? Give me a blog post about how you feel about it without it being pure marketing. Tell me about how the last book signing went and what you learned from it. Don’t just market, market, market. It’s boring, boring boring!

What To Do About It
For the next couple of weeks or so, I am going to continue blogging, writing my book and sharing it on my social media accounts. On Twitter, I will be keeping a close eye on who retweets my tweets and those I retweet and gauge the reactions. Those that do not post stuff that I find interesting, I will unfollow. I don’t see the point in following someone who does not tweet things I am interested in and does not engage me as a follower. Followers become friends in a loose sense of the word. They share things I can react to and vice versa.

The Bottom Line
Don’t just follow people for the sake of it. Follow people you think you might be interested in. Follow those who post stuff you like. No-one likes constant marketing messages in their feeds, its very boring being sold to all the time.

Personally, I’d like to get to know my follower friends and they can get to know me too. Friends help friends out. They give to receive, end of story.

PS
Since I started writing this post, over 200 new tweets have appeared in my feed. More than 180 of them are purely marketing. Yawn.

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