TOOLS OF MY TRADE: #3 TWITTER

I am a self-proclaimed promo ‘ho and proud of it. Day three of my favorite tools brings us one promotional platform I employ, Twitter.

Yes, I will admit when I first heard about Twitter I didn’t get it at all. When I try to explain Twitter to my non-tweeting friends, I really can’t (in spite of my vast professional expertise as a wordsmith).

So what is Twitter and why does it deserve to be named among my 7 most valuable tools of my trade?

It’s a social networking site that limits user updates to 140 characters each Tweet unless you employ one of the lengthening tools (which I do sometimes, though I feel like I’m cheating when I do, LOL). It’s kind of like the user status updates you see on Facebook, but it’s a one way system. I can follow anyone I want and see their tweets. Anyone can follow me and see mine (unless I block them for being a perv or a spammer). It is not the mutual “friending” you find on Facebook profile pages. Since I use it as a professional tool, I do like the Twitter “follow” system better than the Facebook “friend” system.

Now why is Twitter important? Well if you haven’t had your head in the sand, you know that behind Twitter is power. Tweeting brought down New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. Twitter users had been reporting Michael Jackson’s death for hours, meanwhile ABC News was still saying he was in a coma in the hospital. One of Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani neighbors tweeted about the helicopters above his head before the SEALs feet hit the ground and long before Obama announced the successful operation. When the Wall Street Journal declared today’s Young Adult fiction too dark and dangerous for today’s youth, when some idiot reporter in Scranton, PA exposed the erotic author pseudonym of a respected local English teacher on a TV news broadcast and demanded her resignation, Twitter exploded. Users came together as a community and hashtags such as #YAsaves and #RomanceKills (used to identify the tweets in response to these issues) dominated Tweetstreams which had to be throttled because the updates were coming so fast. There have been instances of communications blackouts during elections in the Middle East, or disasters worldwide, where Tweets sneaking out were the only communication with the outside world. When there is no TV coverage of a rodeo or bull ride, there is always at least one person there tweeting results for the rest of us fans. I can read what a Soldier is doing in Afghanistan in one Tweet, and see what my favorite book blogger has posted in the next.

But that’s not why I named Twitter here. It’s what Twitter has done for me. I have tweeted “Need an idea for a 8K word cowboy threesome. GO!” and low and behold, ideas poured in. Twice I’ve Tweeted “Need a title for so-and-so story”, twice I’ve gotten ideas I could use. I have my blog send out automatic tweets when I post, and my site traffic has never been higher. I can say, “I’m in a contest at this URL” and my followers actually take the time to go and vote for me. I Tweet new releases, but also the wordcount I’ve written that day, or the edits I’m doing, or even the insomnia or the writer’s block I’m experiencing. It never fails there is either a reader or fellow author there to commiserate or congratulate, day and night, from all corners of the globe.

I also use it for research. I learn so much just hanging out with the people who live and work in the world in which I’m writing. Reading Tweets from a stock contractor or a bull rider or a rodeo announcer brings me closer to the world of bull riding in which I write. Hanging out with the fans of the sport I’m writing about helps me create realistic worlds within my books. I immerse myself through those I follow and who follow me in the worlds of cowboys, rodeo, military, writing and publishing–all the things that occupy my day and comprise my profession.

I’ve made friends on Twitter, and I’ve made contacts. Sometimes people are both. And–authors still shaking their heads thinking this is ridiculous, this is key–I KNOW Twitter has sold books for me. I’ve seen Tweets where readers are hand selling both me and my books to others. Personal recommendations are both the hardest and the most effective form of promo. I had a Tweet-up with a few followers last January at the Madison Square Garden PBR event in NYC and luckily I thought to bring a few copies of my books with me because it turned into an impromtu booksigning right there in the lobby of the Garden. Strangers were stopping to take their picture with me because–planted in an booth no longer being used by a PBR sponsor and surrounded by people and promo and books and cameras, it looked like I was somebody. In reality it was me and my childhood friend meeting my Twitter friends.

Unlike most advertising which has a dubious return on investment, Twitter is FREE except for the time you devote to it and don’t get me wrong, I know my time is valuable. I know I should be writing more, rather than checking Twitter, but you really can spend as little or as much time on there as you want. It’s up to the individual.

I can tell you this, if all you do is Tweet what amounts to ads for yourself or shout ‘buy my book!!’ at your followers, it won’t work for you. I guarantee it. Of course, you don’t have to Tweet pictures of the pile of mouse guts your cats left for you on the floor like I do either, but it amuses me so I do it. My followers have come to learn not to open any pics I Tweet while eating their breakfast. What I’m saying is, the hard sell will not work!

The strictly promotional truth for me is this–romance lovers and my readers are already my readers and already my customers and will likely already buy my books. Yes, a Tweet may remind them of a new release, or inform them of a new review, but the key is to think out of the box, think out of your existing customer base. What if I want to promote to a broader community? Let’s say, rodeo fans who may have never read a romance in their lives. Or troop supporters who love the military and may not know there is an entire very popular genre of military romance out there. Or perhaps these two groups do know and  read cowboy or military romance–they may not know me or MY writing. By interacting with these groups on Twitter about topics we both love, they will get to know me, and eventually my books as well. It’s the softest of sells and it works.

That said never forget Twitter is a community and a family.  Luckily unlike your own family you get to choose your Twitter family, but they are family. Remember that and treat them well and Twitter will treat you well in return. I may have started Tweeting as a promo ‘ho with strictly mercenary intentions, but now I turn to it because some of my closest internet friends live there and I like their company. Amazingly, they like me too and I love them all for it.

One caveat regarding Twitter–spammers can and will find you. If you dare Tweet the words “iPad, or Writing, or Porn, or weight loss” you will be bombarded with @ replies or new followers hoping you’ll click on their link to buy whatever they’re selling. Just click on Block & Report Spam and they are gone, to go and open a new account and start spamming again, but I do enjoy doing it anyway. If I could get some evil genius to invent a system where we can send an electrical shock through the spammer’s keyboard, that will be even better. But the pros in Twitter far outweigh the cons.

8 responses to “TOOLS OF MY TRADE: #3 TWITTER

  1. Hey Cat!

    I saw your tweet this am and was intrigued. Fabulous post about twitter…from someone who is trying to navigate the social media and working really hard to keep going forward when I really am a fan of the rotary telephone I still have in my house.

    Technology is not for the faint of heart!

    TTYS,
    Colleen

  2. Thank you Cat for this great post!
    It was the authors on Twitter who made me feel comfortable about going back online after 10 years of hell because of a troll/stalker.I am ever so thankful that I love books, and the extra benefit was meeting such wonderful authors who have the most trusting hearts and kindness.
    I love Retweeting to help authors sell their books, as it is the least I can do for all that you have given me…*S* Not only do I get to love all your books, but take a peek inside the authors imaginations and admire their talent and creativity too…*S*
    Thank you Cat, because without you and other authors I would still be limiting myself, but instead I get a much bigger world and great authors who bring me hours of wonderful reading…*S*
    Thank you!
    Darcy

    • What a lovely comment. Thank you so much.
      I had no idea about any of your past, Darcy, but I am so glad you’re with us and Tweeting now. And we authors very much appreciate you!
      Cat

    • Hi Zina! I use Twitter from my computer since I don’t have a smartphone. I can go (and sometimes do) to the Twitter.com site directly and there see the Tweets by all the people I follow, Direct Messages to me as well as @ mentions where people Tweet publicly to me or ReTweet my stuff. But most of the time I go to the Tweetdeck interface I installed on my computer, where I have columns laid out that update in real time my @ mentions, the Tweets by the people I follow AND also the news feed from my Facebook. AND from that interface I set it up so I can also post to my Twitter, my Facebook, my MySpace and also to the AllRomance or the OmniLit Twitters (who I do media work for part time). So TWEETDECK is a real timesaver for me and I really should have mentioned it here.

      Now, on the go, I can check my Twitter on my iPad or on my iPod Touch (since I don’t have a smart phone).
      Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.
      Cat