I love Twitter. I love Twitter a lot more than Facebook, because the latter likes to make decisions without my consent. Also, if you have an author page, Facebook doesn’t show your updates to all people who have agreed to see it. No, they only do that if you pay! What utter bullshit.
So I hang out on Twitter much more than Facebook. Everyone and anyone can see your posts. You can see everyone’s.
As author, I’ve found Twitter very useful in a number of ways:
1. Twitter is the most important and foremost source of raw, up-to-date news. I’ve seen pictures of things happening live that were only ever covered in retrospect by the major news services. I’ve seen scandals unfold. I’ve seen original tweets that were later deleted. I have a column called “News” and a bunch of news services go in there: A couple of science-related people, ABC news, Al Jazeera (the single best source of varied international news), the Rural Fire Brigade, traffic updates, a gossip columnist (gossip, however much it doesn’t interest me, is a GREAT source for characterisation). As author, news is the stuff you thrive on, and the more uncensored and pre-chewed, the better.
2. Twitter is great for asking questions. You know when you’re writing and all of a sudden, you can’t remember the word for that thing that goes in the thing that people do that thing with? Ask on Twitter. You’ll have your reply within five minutes.
3. Twitter is awesome for background information, too. People post links to blog posts. You discover a lot of interesting stuff.
4. Twitter is the go-to place for cat pictures. Or any other source of levity and goofing off. Sometimes you just need a laugh.
Noticed how I haven’t actually mentioned selling books yet? That’s because you don’t sell books on Twitter. If you want to descend to marketing-speak, what Twitter helps you do is “establish your brand”, and this is marketing BS for letting people know who you are and what makes you tick.
Those people might then follow your blog, because they like chatting with you. If you occasionally mention that you’re a writer, they may sign up for your newsletter. They may buy new books or specials. But that’s a secondary effect. Twitter does not sell books.
How do I know?
I tried. Two titles of mine have been part of tweet-bombs twice. Since you have to try everything at least once, I signed up for a Twitter campaign once, and once my book got picked up without me submitting it.
Both times, a couple of tweets with a book link were tweeted and re-tweeted every couple of hours by various accounts. Copies sold as a result? Negligible.
It’s kinda fascinating to see a tweet bomb unfold. All these accounts retweeting the same thing. It’s amazing where these tweets go and who retweets them, and also, how long before the echoes of it die completely. I’m presuming that there are a number of authors using sites like TweetAdder to automatically spit out and pre-program hundreds of author promo tweets.
And why? Ye gods, why? It does not work. It clutters up my news feed. It annoys the shit out of everyone. It. DOES. NOT. WORK.
When you’re on Twitter, the “product” you’re “selling” is yourself. Be interesting. Be a real person. Please kill the auto-retweet feed.