Social Media - "Tell me, are we not a part of this world?"
In many ways the Internet has been an amazing thing for the common man. Where many markets were once closed to anyone who was not rich, highly educated, and cousins so many times removed from the Queen of England, nowadays anyone with a camera, the talent, and a dream can make their products available to the world. All they need is a YouTube account / Amazon Kindle account / Lulu account / Instagram etc etc etc.
Getting your Indie work out there has never been easier. But sadly, while the saying goes "if you build it, they will come", that rarely (if ever) rings true in the Internet world. Instead, a more apt phrase is usually "if the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain." You need to cultivate and grow your audience. Something which can be very tricky when your eBook, Minecraft Let's Play or horror Movie is one of a thousand million other eBooks, Minecraft Let's Plays and horror movies.
Social media is often the answer. The right retweet or share on Facebook can send your product soaring into the stratosphere, and with enough hard work this can be done without having to spend a penny. But often the need to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible can lead to us forgetting that very fact, that it is people that we are reaching, not numbers. Not statistics on an analytics screen or follower count or Facebook like quota. No, people with lives and jobs and interests and feelings.
And the result of forgetting this small, but important fact, we could be doing ourselves and our fellow Indies more harm than good.
The above may look familiar to you if you are involved in any sort of Indie Market. I recently branched out into Minecraft, and dear God did it fill up my DM box on Twitter. A naïve person would probably think "Wow! I'm really popular." But unfortunately, I had already experienced the same thing when promoting my book, so I knew it to be false lauding.
The pattern of my modern Twitter encounter tends to be this. Someone follows me. I'll have a look at their feed and IF they look like they have something interesting to say (And that is a big IF with me) then I will follow back. If not, then I just leave them.
Of the "If not" category, I tend to find that I am unfollowed between twenty four and forty eight hours later. Therefore, I was not followed because that person was interested in what I was tweeting. No, I was followed because someone wanted to add me to their follow count. They probably didn't even bother to READ my twitter account beyond the word writer in the bio. It was, for want of a better term, a Selfish Follow.
It seems a shame that so many Indie artists feel it necessary to collect followers through such means. Yes, it probably boosts your follower account by a few 100, but is that 100 people an engaged, interested, excited audience, or is that 100 people who have muted your account, but wont unfollow you because they want to keep your follower number on THEIR account.
Give People a Reason to Follow You
If you are someone who does this, ask yourself, what sort of audience do you WANT? Quantity over quality, then keep doing what you are doing. Quality of quantity, then read on.
So many Twitter accounts tend to be retweets, automatically posted "favourite quotes" and updates generated by unfollower.com saying how many follows, unfollows and retweets they have had this week as if the numbers are all that matters. Because heaven forbid that social media should be about audience engagement. If an account tweets their unfollower.com stats once a week, then that is an account that is not focused on audience engagement. By all means look at the stats, but USE them as well. If you are getting more than ten unfollows in a week, that doesn't mean you need to find MORE followers. It means you need to figure out WHY you are losing the followers you already have.
Ask yourself. Your twitter account is part of your brand. Do you give people are REASON to follow it besides boosting their own follower count (and then probably muting you, and silencing your voice)? Is the content that you are posting unique, or are you just posting favourite quotes, links to your book, and retweeting the same viral retweets are everyone else?
If you build it, they will come
- Your followers are not just numbers. ENGAGE with them. Get to know them. Comment on their tweets. Ask them questions. Retweet stuff of theirs that you find interesting. Remember, this is social media.
- Don't just follow people so that they will follow you back. And don't just unfollow someone because they don't follow you back. Be interesting in your tweets, and be genuinely interested in their tweets. Give them a reason to follow you back. No one gets married after the 1st date (Unless they are drunk).
- Don't just be a commercial break. Comment on your life. Give advice. Learned something new about the writing process. Tweet about it. Making progress on your upcoming book. Tweet about it. If people comment on your tweets, respond.
- Use hashtags. Hashtags that are relevant to what you are tweeting will be followed by people who are interested in what you are saying, and this will bring people who might be genuinely interested in your product to your account.
- DON'T FLOOD PEOPLE'S DM ACCOUNTS!!! I want to make this point 1, 2, 3 and 4. Don't send out an automated DM when someone follows your account. Don't even send out an unautomated DM when someone follows your account. It's rude. It's intrusive. And it is a very good way of getting your recently followed account unfollowed again.
- RECIPROCATE. If you want people to read, watch, and comment on your work, then read, watch and comment on their work. Leave feedback (constructive of course). Learn from your audience. Ask questions, and answer questions given to you in turn.
Yes, it takes longer to build your follower count that way, but it means that the follower count you are building is an audience, and not just numbers.