Friday, 16 March 2012

The great Twitter experiment

Before this week, I had a whole 107 followers on Twitter. I know. Stephen Fry can rest easy. But then I read one of the many "how I sold thousands of copies of my self-pubbed book" articles that indie authors cling to like drowning men. As usual, it waxed lyrical on the importance of social media as a promotional tool. What was different, though, was the strategy for using Twitter that was described.

I have always been selective about who I follow on Twitter. I like a nice, uncluttered timeline to read, full only of things that are likely to interest me, written by people I have an interest in, so before this week, I only followed 77 people. But this article suggested that was where I was going wrong. It suggested I should be actively seeking followers, specifically followers of other authors who write in a similar genre or tone to me, and that I should be following them in the hope that they would follow back.

The author I most aspire to emulate is Stephen King but he's not on Twitter (yet). There are a number of King fan/news Twitter accounts though, so I picked a popular one of those (@SoStephenKing) and went after its followers.

Now Twitter imposes limits on following, in relation to how many followers you have. For average Joes like you and me, that's 2,000... so I could add nearly 1,900 people. Not something I wanted to do manually, so I used Tweepi to do it in bulk.

At the time of writing, I now follow 1,940 people... and have a mighty 337 followers. I know, not the greatest return on my investment, but let's give the experiment time. Will an increased following (just writing that makes me feel like a cult leader, but hey) translate to increased sales? Well, it hasn't yet, but it's early days. Let's give it a month and see what happens.

One positive I've noticed already is that there is a much greater international mix in those 337, judging by the sudden spike in visits to this very website. My stats tell me they're coming in from all over the world, compared to an almost exclusively British demographic before. Again, will this translate to more sales globally? Again, we'll have to wait and see. What I can tell you is that this has led me to use Twuffer to schedule tweets for when I'm in bed and the US are doing their evening surfing...

Downsides? My Twitter timeline is crammed full and too fast-moving to be of any real use. I've had to resort to using lists to follow the people I originally followed, the 77. But that's not so bad. I can live with that. My plan, such as it is, is to treat the next month as a massive Twitter experiment. Can I use it to generate sales? In a week or so I plan to unfollow all the followers of @SoStephenKing who didn't follow me back, and then follow the followers of another author, maybe David Morrell. Then rinse and repeat for other authors for the rest of the month.

Does this make me cynical? Yes, I fear it does, twisting Twitter to my own ends like a capitalist pig-dog. But I just want to sell more copies of Dark Steps and, more importantly, build a readership ready for when Drawn To The Deep End is published. Will it all work? I'll let you know.


  1. From what I've read, to get twitter to work for you, you've got to work twitter. That's more than just following people - it's actively responding to them as well. Who's got the time for that? Unless you can afford to employ a full-time tweeter...

  2. You're right, of course. So far all I've done is gain a shed load of followers. Twuffer or not, I simply don't have the time to keep them all interested. Still, it's an experiment, and I'll give it a month...

  3. An update on the experiment, 5 days in:

    Following: 1,994
    Followers: 552
    Timeline: hopelessly screwed
    Unsolicited spam DMs: about a dozen
    Booksales directly attributable to all this effort: 1, perhaps 2

    I might not last the full month.

  4. It's probably a bit late now but a better idea might've been to create a separate Twitter account for all the book promotion & mass following of strangers thing; then your timeline wouldn't have been so impossibly fast & crammed with rubbish from people you couldn't care less about. Then you could have left the main one for fun stuff and to follow the people who are actually your friends.

  5. Hmm, that thought occurred to me too. The reality is that, at the end of the experiment, I'm almost certainly going to have a mass de-following to bring my timeline back into the realms of useability... because without that, what's the point of being on Twitter in the first place?

  6. An update on the experiment, 12 days in:

    Following: 2.000
    Followers: 851
    Timeline: so useless as to be unused
    Unsolicited spam DMs: stopped counting
    Booksales directly attributable to all this effort: still only 1, perhaps 2

    Feel like I have sold my soul for a doughnut...

  7. Update with three and a half days left:

    Following: 2.000
    Followers: 1,237
    Timeline: now ignored
    Unsolicited spam DMs: stopped counting
    Booksales directly attributable to all this effort: still only 6, perhaps 7