In third grade I had a crush on a kid named Eric and I loved playing kickball. Loved. What I loved more than playing kickball was winning at kickball. Burned into my memory is the day my teacher chose me as team captain. Being team captain meant all sort of wonderfulness. I got to be the roller and I got a reprieve from standing in line praying that I wasn’t picked last.
Of course, the first kid I picked was Eric and I intended my friend, Tiffany, to be next. As the other team captain (also a girl) worried over which of her two best friends she should pick first, Eric whispered in my ear to pick Mark. Wow – dilemma time. Do I pick who I want, Tiffany, or do I make Eric happy? Eric presented very good reasons on why I should select Mark, all of which he explained while the other girl did eeny meeny miny moe: if I wanted to win, which he knew I did, I would pick who he suggested.
Standing in line, staring at me, waiting patiently for me to pick her was Tiffany. Guess what? I picked her then I chose exactly who Eric told me to select. From the first day of school, I dreamed about being team captain. I thought the moment would be awesome and exhilarating. It was, but then it wasn’t. Nothing made me more uncomfortable than when we got down to selecting the final two. The pressure rested on me who would be chosen last. Eric – who had plenty of opinions until that point, told me I could choose.
That moment severely sucked – I had to put someone in the scenario I prayed so hard would never happen to me.
So what does any of this have to do with social networking? Nothing really, other than when after I sold my manuscript, my agent encouraged me to join Twitter. When I opened my Twitter account, the memories of that day in third grade tumbled into the forefront of my brain. I knew no one. Not a soul. It was just me, my profile, my profile picture, and my whole zero Twitter followers! I was officially the last kid.
Unlike Facebook, when you follow someone on Twitter, they don’t automatically follow you back. As I selected my first people to follow, the day in third grade rested heavily on my heart. Would I be the one person on the face of the planet with zero Twitter followers? Would I become the laughing stock of the writing community as the only pre-published author no one wanted to follow? Would my agent and publishing house look at me and my zero followers and wonder what the hell they were doing with me?
Um…no, but try telling that to the very pessimistic side of me that took over that evening.
A few minutes later my first follower showed up. By the end of the night, I had five followers. Five. Me and my whole five Twitter followers were going to take over the world (Mwa hahaha). Okay – not really, but I had to think of something to make me laugh. Entering the world of Twitter was a very humbling experience.
Not only did I have to find people to follow, I hoped that people would follow me. Then if and when anyone did follow me, I had to have something worth saying in 140 characters or less and it should be interesting. Wow – that’s no pressure.
So, while I’ve gone on to have more than five followers (I’ve broken in to triple digits), I’m not even close to suggesting that I have figured Twitter out. Stumbling around in the darkness with ear muffs is probably a better way to describe it. With that being said, I have learned a few things that I would love to pass along to anyone else considering jumping into the deep end of the ocean:
Who to follow? Well, anyone, but I suggest following people who would interest you.
• Is there an author you really like or admire? See if they are on Twitter.
• At first, I found most of the people I followed by going through organizations I belong to – YARWA, SCBWI, and the Apocalypsies. Some of my friends in these organizations have what are called Twitter lists. Twitter lists are created by the user so they can follow the Twitter feeds of that specific group instead of scrolling down all the feeds to find those specific people. Sometimes I used my friend's Twitter lists to find people to follow. For instance, one of the Apocalypsies made a list of all the other Apocalypsies on Twitter. I went to her list to find them.
• Twitter is also helpful in suggesting who to follow.
• If I’m reading a blog, I will now look to see if they have a link to Twitter so I can follow them.
How do you attract followers?
• Be active. Like everything else in life, you have to participate for people to know who you are. Don’t consider yourself a social butterfly? Don’t worry about it. You’re only typing 140 characters. No one will see you sweating or your red cheeks or know that you reread your twitter fifteen times before you posted it.
• Comment on other people’s twitter comments. I’ll be honest, I smile when I notice someone has replied to something I said on Twitter. I imagine most people feel the same way. If they aren’t following you before, they may follow you if you show an interest in them.
• Talk about a wide range of things. I’m a writer so I talk about writing. I’m writing a story that involves baseball and I love music so sometimes I talk about that. Most of my Twitter followers are writers, but I also have a few Mumford & Sons fans and baseball fans following me now.
Random things I’ve learned along the way:
• Twitter is a great tool for promotion which is why my agent suggested it, but Twitter should not be used only as a promotional tool. If the only reason you get on it is to push your blog or book people will notice. I have a tendency to overlook those links because I don’t know anything about those people. On the flip side, if someone who actively tweets about random things in their life and is invested in the Twitter community posts a link – I’m more likely to check the link out.
• Don’t Retweet everything. I can’t stand it when the same person Retweets fifty things in a row. Retweeting can be fun and awesome, but pick your favorite ones or divide them out amongst the day. Maybe this is something that annoys only me.
• Don’t let Twitter overtake your life. It can become very consuming. I started following people in batches of fives (kind of like querying agents). I slowly worked up to the Twitter following I have now. I’m in Twitter to network. It won’t help me if I follow a thousand people in the first week and then can’t cultivate a single relationship because I’m too overwhelmed with all the feeds.
I still have lots to learn and welcome any tips, advice, and comments on the above.