Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are You Being Followed?: Self-Promotion in the Web 2.0 Age

Self-promotion of your new book has begun, you’ve printed advertisements, told your friends so much about your book they’ll buy it just to shut you up, and you’ve set up a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, you’ve even set up a MySpace page and a Friendster account, you name it, you’ve set it up on the tech front. But, now that you have all of these accounts opened, activated, and ready, you’re in sore need of something to fill your endless gigabytes of message board. I mean, you can’t just keep spamming “LOOK FOR MY BOOK ‘FLIGHT OF THE SALAMANDER’ AUGUST 24, 2011” for an entire year. This forward attempt may have worked with your friends and family, but the internet is a different beast altogether, one who is not above leaving a nasty comment on your wall and cutting off all further contact.
So, what do you do? Well, that’s a big question and requires different answers tailored to the specific social networking formats you’re using. Today’s post will center on the newest social networking site to hit the net; you’ve guessed it: Twitter.

            Twitter launched in 2006 and, operating under the distinction of “microblogging” has since gained an immense following in 140 characters or less. It is a service that can receive text messages that allow people to message, or “tweet” (NOT “twitter”), to their online following referred to as “followers”. It provides an arena where people from around the world and from multiple walks of life can communicate and learn from others. On Twitter, you can follow your friends, a celebrity, a politician, or sundry other interested denizens of the net. Since its inception, Twitter has made many changes to its format, now offering a quick list of “trending topics” or topics of interest that the majority of people are tweeting about, this can be anything from “Justin Bieber” who held the number one spot for quite a while, or “Michael Jackson” following the singer’s death, to the latest internet meme, such as The Double Rainbow Song. Twitter provides easy access to what is hot when it is hot, and because of this, can be a useful tool in marketing your book.
            The main thing to remember when using Twitter is that it is a microblog. By “micro” I mean small. 140 characters small. With such limited text per tweet, what you say and how you say it is of the utmost importance. While each tweet doesn’t need to be a bon mot of Oscar Wilde caliber, it certainly doesn’t hurt while trying to gain followers to your cause. Keep your tweets sweet and succinct, and avoid strictly talking about your book. Like some of the greatest con artists, work first on building up your audience, enticing them to follow you with clever quips, finely turned phrases, or interesting anecdotes. If the Twitter community finds you interesting, then they’ll buy your book. If they think you’re boring, they will more than likely pass on a lame plea for patronage. Then, when you have them eating out of your hand, begin subtly inserting book plugs among your other tweets.
            Another word of advice when tweeting: don’t spam. Keep your number of tweets somewhere between too little and too much. People have a tendency to stop reading if you overpower them every time they log on to Twitter, and will even unfollow you if it gets too out of hand. By the same token, too little tweeting will lose you among all of the other people your audience is following, and you won’t be read because they won’t see you. It’s a difficult feat to master, but aim for somewhere between Kanye West and Fake AP Stylebook.
            I hope this has been helpful and I look forward to someday following you on Twitter.

-Zach U.

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