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Become a Twitter Pro, Vol. II: Leverage Twitter by Engaging Your Followers

Hello friends. Welcome to the second installment of my Become a Twitter Pro series. You can find the first installment here in case you missed it. :)

Okay, so last time I explained a few basics about Twitter and how you can leverage some free tools to build a massive following of targetting users. So hopefully by now you have started to purposefully grow a targetting Twitter following, but where are the engagements and conversions (AKA sales)?

We're going to get to that, but unlike the first lesson where we learned about a few tools, today is really about our behavior. Now I'm not talking about being good boys and girls, but rather about how our interactions with our fellow denizens of the twittersphere will lead to sales. So if you want to learn how to effectively use twitter to gain new fans/customer, then let's get started.

Seed time, Harvest time

As I mentioned in our last lesson, Twitter is all about reciprocity. Sure, you will find people that will follow you whether you follow them back or not, and yes you will find people that will like and retweet your content just because, however it's not always like that. Simply getting people to follow you is not enough. So you need to find ways to engage with your followers.

Now since we are making an effort to focus primarily on targetted followers (followers who you reasonably assume will be interested in your content) the first thing that you do is the most obvious—you share content. Now before you run off and flood your timeline with a deluge of posts about your book/product/service or general awesomeness, you need to understand that this is not a good idea. In fact, it is one of the quickest ways to send people packing. Now don't get me wrong, people will be interested in your product or service, but no one wants to be sold anything.

For this reason alone, it is wise to use the 1-3 rule when it comes to self promotion. This rule states that you should only send 1 self-promotion tweet for every 3 non-promo tweets. So for example, as an author, I want to create awareness for my books. But you will find my timeline full of things that are about so much more than just my writing. Yes I do share things about faith, food, and football because those are things really reflect who I am, and this is really important on social media, because people want to know who you are. That being said, I also make sure that I am providing content that my core target audience will find valuable. I realize that football is only going to resonate with a very small percentage of my readers, however when I share a book review on the hottest new release in Science Fiction & Fantasy, it is bound to get attention. It's about understanding your audience. Feed them content that they will enjoy, and they will stick around.

Then after you've provided this desired, quality content, you can sprinkle in the occassional tweets about your books (sales, reviews, etc.). This makes the self-promotion much more palatable for your crowd. Here's the deal with Twitter and your followers, they probably already know that you have a product or service to offer, you don't need to constantly remind them. If and when they become interested in checking it out, they'll come to you.

Okay, so now at this point you have a growing targetting following, and you are providing them with content that reflects both your interests and topics that they will find relevant and meaningful. Okay that's great, but when you're the 583 person on their Twitter feed that is complaining about John Rhys-Davies being cast as an elf, when he is clearly a dwarf, you are not going to stand out from the crowd. So what do you do?

Well there are a few things. First, understand that sharing common/popular stuff is perfectly fine, but you need to make your unique voice come through. The second piece, is about being intentional with your followers. Instead of just chumming the waters and hoping for a feeding frenzy, you will find more long-term success by engaging individuals. Yes liking and retweeting their content will make people happy, but it won't necessarily make them remember you. I hate the fact that I even have to explain this, but we need to talk to people. Yeah, I know, it's a foreign concept in today's world of "Social Media", but start talking to people.

Talk to people, um... how?

When someone gripes about Gimli becoming an elf in the Shannara series, maybe you start a discussion about why Gimli was your favorite LotR character and why you felt that Peter Jackson & Co. did him justice in the movies. When someone tells you how awesome Star Wars episodes 1-3 are, channel the Force and go full Geek on them (in a nice way), explaining your own thoughts on the Star Wars movies. When someone tweets anything with #Bacon, share your favorite recipe for said superfood, causing your followers to drool!

I have a lot of conversations on twitter. Sometimes they are about books, sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are even about my own books, but most of the time they aren't. In fact, I would guess that I have had far, far more conversation on twitter about writing, than about the books I have written. Why? A lot of times people might want to understand the creative process and it's challenges. Some times other writers are looking for tips, tricks, and more often than not—simple encouragement.

Encouragement & Compliments

Ah yes, these little gems are as powerful as Elder Stones when used with a genuine heart. The famous author Mark Twain once wrote, "My child, I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat." While the hyperbole is evident, the sentiment is rich with truth. Words of affirmation will not resonate as strongly with every person, but we all need them regardless of what we might think or say. We live in a world of drama and trauma, and negativity is what keeps the press hot. So while some people might look at you like you have a third eyeball, speaking words of affirmation (compliments and encouragement) to people will make a big impact.

I cannot tell you how many people I have encouraged, complimented, and even prayed for/with. It's funny because those are the situations where the last thing on our minds is the sale of a book, instead it's about speaking life into a person, yet those are the ones that often end up turning in to something more than just fans, but friends. I don't sell tons of books yet, but I have had more occasions than I can count, where someone has reached out to me in a seemingly random manner to say, "Oh by the way, when can I get the next book?" Heck, I didn't even know that they bought the first one and now they are back for more! When I look back on these situations, they are almost never a person that I tried to sell a book too. No, they are simply people that I enjoyed conversations and laughs with.

See, I think the thing is that a lot of times, people need to buy into you before they buy into your book/product/service. Here's an example. I will be the first to tell you that I am disgusted by the price of my first novel, Dragon's Fire. The publisher set the prices and gave me little voice in the matter, leaving the price way too high! Which is precisely why I am self-publishing at the moment, but I digress. The price issue has surely stunted my sales, it is not even debateable. But to be honest with you, I have had plenty of people look at the price and shake their head, but still turn around and buy the highest price book bundle I offer simply because they want to support me. This doesn't happen with random strangers off the interwebs, this happens when you connect with people.

Survey the landscape

So this is the last piece that I'll cover today, and it is simply an extension of building those personal connections. You can calling it surveying the landscape, fishing, or even market research if you like, but that's really what this is all about. This is the process of engaging people on twitter by opening up dialogue with them. Like we talked about before, you can certainly jump into conversations about books and movies, etc., but you can't always steer those conversations, so feel free to start your own. The key here is finding out what your tweeps like. Do they love soft fantasy stories where magic is ambigous and undefined like LotR or do they prefer the hard magic systems of a Brandon Sanderson ala Mistborn & Stormlight?

Okay, so you find out that they prefer soft fantasy, but why? Dig deeper until you find out that they love it because it leaves them with the sense of awe and wonder that only can come from things that remain mysterious (or whatever, you get the point). Then as the conversation continues you find out that the LotR is near the very top of their list of favorites, but the deus ex machina ending really kills it for them.

Okay, wait a minute, are you suggesting I find out what people like, so I can write what people want? Uh, no. While it can be a great learning experience, that's not the point here. Rather, I use it to make a determination of how their interests align with my work. Why? Because I would much rather offer a recommendation of my book to someone, if I am confident that it will suite their tastes. If I know people love books with dragons, then my book might be a good fit for them. Conversely, it doesn't make sense for me to promote my books to a person who only enjoys nihilistic grim-dark material.

Be transparent

So what happens when a fan of nihilistic grim-dark books asks me about my book? I'm honest with them. I let them know that even though my book doesn't fit that description, I would let them know that my stories do take the readers through some dark places, places that have cold and brutally harsh realities, but the stories don't always end there. If they tell me they hate religious books, then I let them know that they will find some of that in my books. I let them know the books aren't preachy or sanctimonious, but there are certain themes present. I don't hide from that, I let them know upfront. This is great, because what this does is it helps manage expectations of your readers. The reader who already knows that the book contains certain content is far less likely to leave you a nasty review for something silly like leaving you a 2 star review because they don't like dragons, or some such nonsense. However, the most important benefit of doing this, is that people will appreciate your honesty. People are used to be lied to and manipulated, and they hate it. When you are honest and straight forward, people will appreciate it, and they will remember it.

So if you made it this far, you just read 15 paragraphs about how to behave. Not exactly what you were expecting when you first opened the article, I'm sure. But you did come here to learn how to lever your Twitter platform more effectively, by engaging your followers, right? And I also warned you up front that this was going to be about our behavior, so no nasty review okay? ;)

All kidding aside, if you apply these simple principles to building and engaging your followers, you will start to find that people will begin to show interest in what you have to offer.

I would love to hear your feedback on this blog entry. Were you able to get this to work? Do you have questions? Do you have an alternate strategy?

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