Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TUES TIP @Toonopolis Shares His Secrets for Twitter Success

Yep, back with another entry in my Twitter Series. I know, you thought I was done but are we ever done learning how to get better at mastering the tools out there?

Review of What We've Covered So Far
In earlier installments of this series, I covered basic terms and syntax and my strategies for authenticity, went over ways to increase your Twitter equity (or Klout, see more below), some tracking and Twitter management tools for effective community management and then did a bit of Twitterspeak to English translation for you. Now, finally, I’d like to add a few words on automation without diminishing the richness of your Twitter equity that you’ve been working so hard to build up.

Our Special Guest Blogger / Subject Expert
Although I’m still writing this blog entry, I’m not an expert on this topic, not by a long shot, so it was time to call in the Big Guns—a character named Jeremy Rodden. Okay, his characters have stranger names but they’re cartoons in a little city we like to call Toonopolis and that’s his Twitter name, @toonopolis, which makes remembering his book series easy if you follow him on Twitter.

I first ran across Jeremy in an Authonomy forum thread for SF/F writers called the Alliance of Worldbuilders. Then I followed him on Twitter and the rest, as they say, was history. With almost 3000 followers on Twitter, Jeremy has tweeting and building a Twitter community down to an art form—good thing since he deals with cartoons daily!

The Worldbuilders have all been talking about how to do better marketing (a surprising number—disproportionate compared to other discussion groups on Authonomy anyway—are already published and working on sequels!) Jeremy immediately stood out to us all as being, shall we say, substantially ahead of the game. Why? What is it that he does which is so much better than what we do?

Well, for one thing, he’s very positive. See that smiling face? Who could resist that mug! Point is, Jeremy attracts followers by being positive. He’s not all gooey sweet positive like a Disney cartoon. He’s snarky and ROTFLMAO kind of positive. More importantly, though, I believe it’s the fact that he automates.

Jeremy time-manages his Twitter efforts so that he can appear to be tweeting all the time about all kinds of things, but in reality, he is attending to his duties as a Stay-at-Home Dad (SAHD) and Indie Author. He’s also a HOTB Admin for some other writers’ web sites and to be honest, I’m not sure what else he does but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he has a side gig studying particle physics.

I asked Jeremy’s permission to quote him so while this isn’t officially a “Guest Blog,” I’ll include direct quotes of him from the Worldbuilders thread interspersed with my own remarks. I’m sure his quoted words will be far more useful.

The Right Tool for the Job
One caveat. Jeremy and I both use Hootsuite mentioned back in Part 4 of the Twitter Series (review Managing Your Twitter Community if you missed it the first time around). You can use another method for tweeting and managing your Twitter community but I highly recommend Hootsuite.

You can use it without installing anything, just access it from the web dashboard, or you can install one of their great little apps, available on multiple platforms. I do both.

I have the iPad and Android apps installed and use the web dashboard on my Win7 laptop. All three locations are synchronized and give me the exact same user experience—that is, a great one! I love Hootsuite, more and more the more I use it. In a moment, I’ll let Jeremy explain how Hootsuite is going to make me love it even more!

Hootsuite isn’t just an interface to Twitter. It’s a management tool. Hootsuite allows you to manage multiple social network accounts, including multiple Twitter accounts, a personal Facebook profile (only one, a rule set by Facebook), multiple Facebook Pages, a LinkedIn account and, Jeremy believes, soon it’ll extend to include Google+ too.

The free version allows you to have 5 accounts set up. You can pay a small fee to have unlimited accounts set up. Learn more about Hootsuite usage at the Hootsuite University or Hootsuite Help Desk. Yes, some people actually use Hootsuite to make money!

Content As a Marketing Strategy
One of the first questions we asked Jeremy on the Worldbuilders thread was how he managed his twitterstream content. How did he keep it so interesting and alive. Jeremy said:
Well, it's a combination of starting to follow other people (the majority of writers will follow back other writers) as well as having actual content instead of simply promotional tweets. At the beginning, you will want to try to have a 4 or 5 to 1 ratio of Content (tweets with no links or calls to action) to Promo (tweets with links to book, blog, etc.).

You want to think about your branding when you push your content tweets. I want myself branded thusly: writer, funny, geek (esp, re: cartoons). Thus, I try to start or join conversations regarding those things (discuss a cartoon I am watching, posting my #CartoonQuotes, make funny comments about my kids or other observations, make comments about my writing progress, etc.)

Part of my branding online is being an expert on cartoons (which is why I blog cartoon reviews) and I use the hashtag #CartoonQuotes as part of an ongoing series of quotes from animated movies and shows that I throw out to the stream throughout the day.

I think the fact that Jeremy considers his branding when he composes his tweets is a large factor in what makes his tweets so effective. I’ve been encouragiong new-to-Twitter users to just jump into any old conversation to get started, but Jeremy’s approach is far more effective because it gives his entire twitterstream a sense of cohesiveness....like reading a syndicated column. You always know what to expect for tone, content, style.

It's also very professional. As an Indie Author, I tend to forget that we have to consider every word we utter anywhere a potential PR opportunity. Major kudos to Jeremy for that one without being told. All of you, my dear readers, have now been told, so no excuses! *grin*

Jeremy really says it all here so I’ll just quote him and move on.
Marketing is the final third of the process. It doesn't end at publishing. "If you build it, they will come" does not work for selling books! And in the market flooded by indie authors (even if you aren't self-pubbed) social media is the tool to get your head above the flood. In this case, you need to sell yourself.

If people like you, they'll look at your book. Even if you were signed to a big 6 pub, you'd still want to be involved in this game. Big 6 usually gives you a 6-month or so marketing blast and then forget about you if it doesn't work. I know I was discouraged the first month or two because I didn't see results. But now I get several tweets a week along the lines of this one from last night:

"Just purchased @toonopolis for my Kindle. Can't wait to see "what's all the hubbub, bub?" (Bugs Bunny)"

Tweets like that make me realize that the effort is worth it.

Followers, How Do You Get More?
Jeremy summed up the 2 most important points:
In short, you need to start following to get followers... and you need to have a reason for them not to unfollow you. A lack of activity & constant self-promotion are two big ways to lose followers or have people not follow you back.

I cannot stress this enough. Not only will people unfollow you if all you do is self-promote, but sometimes you can get reported for spamming abuse if that’s all you do and you do it often enough! The point of Twitter is still to Join the Conversation not to be a commercial advertisement that plays over and over on an endless loop. Even the “Promoted Tweets” (paid ads) are more interesting than the spam I see on uninitiated users’ streams!

Because you know how much I love Mashable and their Twitter Guide, I have to repost a link here. Check out this list of 10 Ways to Find New Followers on Twitter. Proceed with caution, however. Again, there are spammers out there using these tools and getting banned from Twitter entirely for their abuse. You must use your new powers for Good, not Evil.

One other suggestion I'd make is based on the whole "Karmic Friday Liking Chain" concept. I suggest you follow people with Klout--that is a high level of influence in the social media networking world.

Your Klout goes up and down, depending on how much or often you tweet, are retweeted or are getting click-throughs on your links. Assuming your links are tracked. This why using the Hootsuite URL shortener (ow.ly links) is so important. When you tweet an (ow.ly) link and get a click-through, it gets tracked by Hootsuite and sites like Klout. If you are associated with tweeps who have a lot of Klout, your own Klout also goes up. See? It's still just a matter of who you know.

Go to the Klout web site and sign in with your Twitter ID. Set up your Klout profile to make yourself more visible (It's like not setting up your Google profile or Facebook. People will see it so be sure to fill it in). You can check the Klout of any user by simply typing in their Twitter ID. When you're considering following someone, you might want to get into the habit of checking their Klout first. This sounds kind of snobbish but on the flip side, spammers have low Klout because they do not actually influence people; they just harrass. Klout actually recognizes the difference.

Limits on Following/Follower Ratios
There are limits placed on how many people you can follow in a day. This is done to try to stop spammers who are using automation tools to just follow everyone and then spam via DMs to any innocent Tweeps who might follow back.

I’ve only recently started getting DM’d by people I follow who follow me back to sell me something. I’m a little thrown by it, to be quite honest, given that some of these people are actually people I wanted to follow for their content-rich tweets. I wasn’t expecting a follow-back and certainly not for the purposes of immediately DM’ing me some spammyness. Proceed with caution, but proceed.
Keep an eye on your list of "followers" and follow back any that look like they aren't just bots (just check their profile, if they're a writer, they're probably good to follow).

Since you're new, you can follow up to 2000 people right from the beginning before Twitter enforces its ratio rule (wherein you can only follow 10% more people than are following you [eg, if you have 2000 followers, you can follow 2200 people). What I suggest you do is start looking at the lists that other people have created.

It's slow going at first (early on I would get about 80-100 new followers a week) but it begins growing exponentially as you get into higher numbers. It is not uncommon for me to get 80-100 in a single day if I'm very active on a particular day.

Lists as a Source of New Followers
Back in Twitter management, I mentioned some tools you can use to examine your current followers and other methods for filtering your stream so you could actually read the content! One of the tools I suggested was to setup and use lists. Once you have a list set up and have added your tweeps of choice to it, you can click “lists” from your home screen and see only those tweets from those tweeps. Wow, that’s a tongue-twister!

Jeremy’s suggestion is subtly different. He’s saying to follow lists by other people.  This is similar to following an actual user, but you don’t actually follow anyone. Like filtering your own stream by your own lists, if you view a list you follow, you’ll see the tweets posted by people on that list even if you don’t already follow them (sort of like seeing a RT from a follower of one of your followers—friend of a friend style).

The thing is, if you reply to someone who posted on that list’s stream, you’ll be a total stranger to them. This is a good thing. You’re joining a new conversation with a new person. If you reply with something valuable to contribute to their conversation, you might just get that stranger to start following you. How do you get this stranger converted into a follower? It’s a classic question in marketing to sales conversion. Here’s Jeremy’s advice on joining listed conversations for us n00bs in particular:
Well, you just jump in when someone you are following posts something. This is pretty easy to do early on when your feed is not moving 3000km/second (a few hundred following). Since your branding is going to be similar to mine (writer, humor, etc.), just do what I do: make a reactionary snarky one-liner to something someone posts.

Imagine Twitter as being on a crowded train where it is not considered impolite to just reply to any comment that is made because it is all a public conversation.

Now that I am closer to the 3000 range in things, it's harder to keep track of my feed. I don't reed everything. If I see something on my feed worth replying to when I go to Twitter (or HootSuite), I reply. At this point, though, I rely more on people responding to my stuff and starting conversations that way.
Yes, well, we can't all have 3000 followers, now can we? Oh wait, yes we can! It just takes time, perseverence and a little snark. Everyone loves a little snark, don't we? I like mine with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing ^_^

Efficiency Through Automation
 Isn’t this always the way? As an Engineer who actually declared my area of focus as Design Automation (automating design and manufacturing processes), I just love automation tools. I want to remind everyone first, however, of the wise, wise words over on the Mashable Twitter Guide: Don’t overdo it on the bot usage.

Auto-following, auto-tweeting, auto-DM’ing (those spammy sales pitch DM’s in particular are usually sent by bot after a new follower is followed back). This is the #1 way to lose a new follower—immediately spamming is not the 2nd impression you want to give after making a good enough 1st impression they clicked to follow you.

However, do consider hand-writing custom tweets and letting a tool like Hootsuite auto-tweet for you while you're off doing something more important. You know, like sleeping, working, playing a game. Oh wait, back up, delete that last one.

I find time [to tweet so much] by scheduling tweets in advance using HootSuite. I schedule a promo tweet every 4 hours and a #CartoonQuote every 5. It keeps my feed moving even when I'm asleep or away from the computer. I fill in the gaps with conversations once or twice a day or replying to comments made to/about me using my phone/iPad/computer (depending upon where I am in the world).

Promo tweet = anything that has a link to it.
Content tweet = anything that does not.

The Publisher feature on Hootsuite allows you to schedule tweets in advance.  When you go to compose a message in HootSuite, there is a little icon underneath the message (looks more like a television than a calendar with a 30 on it). Click on that to bring up the scheduler for that particular message. Then click on which platforms you want to post it to and bob's yer uncle.

Scheduling tweets is essential to ensure A) you can hit times where you normally wouldn't be awake for different time zones (I may be asleep at 3 AM EST but that is only Midnight PST and still an active time!) and B) you don't come across as inactive (less than 1 tweet per day average).

For promos, I use a cycle of 7 different tweets that range from serious ad (eg, 'Review Quote' Smashwords Bestseller, link to book) to silly ad (eg, 'Recycled famous quote adapted to my characters/story', link to book). I use 7 because I post 6 per day and this cycles them throughout the day (so I am not posting the same ad at 2:45 AM EST every day). Every week each tweet hits one of my 6 target times to ensure full disbursement and potential visibility of each tweet to a wider audience.

If you use Hootsuite's URL truncation (ow.ly), built into the program, you can track clicks to see what ones are being effective at what times. I replace ones that are ineffective with others (or if there is a trend I want to piggy-back upon, like during #SharkWeek).

As my regular readers know, I am a total addict for #SharkWeek so I immediately knew of Jeremy's Yoda-level wisdom when he mentioned the secret #hashtag password here. The above advice is probably some of the best ever on how to compose your tweets to get those click-through conversions.

Don’t Automate Away Your Clickability Factor
Using the Hootsuite shortened ow.ly links not only helps you track clicks, it helps Hootsuite track your “clickability” factor or Klout (see above for more on Klout and clickability factors)

I advise you to focus more on making your content click-worthy than on getting clicks. Although “if you build it, they will come” won’t work for your book sales, it will work for your links in your tweets. If you make yourself click-worthy, you’ll get the click-throughs—and more followers!

What's Next....

Obviously I am not going to say that thus ends the Twitter Series as it is clearly going to be an ongoing process. I have no idea what, if any, topics I'll cover next, but then that's why I created a Page (click here) and have added entries in a bullet list. You can always find that Page linked from the "menu" bar at the top of the blog.

Since I'm not done with any of my 3 current Works-in-Process (WIP) books, and I haven't hit the Best Seller List, you can guess I'm still working a day job which means I'm up at 0400 tomorrow to head back and work the truck I ordered on Sunday. I've already got the Indie Author entries for this week's Freebie Friday and I've gotten more than 3 so I might do a bonus "long post" for the long, holiday weekend readers.

I plan to prepare the Friday post ahead of time (right after I finish this, in fact) and schedule it using Blogger's automated posting feature ^_^ yes, I'm just an automated kind of webbiegrrl, now aren't I? I'll schedule it to post a little early (say 8am rather than the usual 10am) so be sure to pop back in then for some good stuff. Got my first Irish Indie Author coming up this week and a holdover from last week's submissions thread.

Then on Saturday, "Friday" will have some more edits to snippet for you on another SciFi Saturday Surprise Snippet (that is really getting to be a laughable alliteration, isn't it?) Thanks for stopping by!


Jeremy Rodden said...

Awesome post, Friday. I'm glad I was able to share some of my own experiences in helping others benefit from Twitter in some way. I know I definitely have and am loving it. :)

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Thanks for donating content to the Collective! And I'm glad you like how I presented you (given you are now preserved for posterity's sake *muahahahah*)

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

This is so extremely helpful to me :) I'm pretty new to twitter. I'm going to check out Hootsuite ASAP.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Elisabeth, You might also want to read up on the beginning of the Twitter Series I did and be sure to click through to the Mashable Twitter Guide (it may be "old" but it's still good advice!) I do love Mashable :)

Kerry Kerr McAvoy said...

Wow, I feel like I have been attending an awesome class. I have already begun to apply your suggestions and advice. Thank you for this wonderful material.

RE: branding- I have already been thinking along these lines, but Jeremy's suggestions of tweeting all things cartoons since that would be his product to market was a new idea.

Great stuff, Sarah! Thanks.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hi Kerry,

I'm so glad you're finding the series to be like a tutorial. That was my goal when I created it and I was thinking of tweaking it a bit but so many people like it the way it is, I'm afraid of "fixing what ain't broke" you know?

Regarding branding, before you go off to brand your tweets, do be sure to find an identity. The reason Jeremy tweets about cartoons is that his books are cartooned, it's one of his brand's attributes. He's also a stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) and he tweets about that often, as well.

You need to find your own identity and brand your tweets that way. I keep trying to infuse more "Snowflake" references into mine because I am a special snowflake. Join my blizzard! is my tagline for Webbiegrrl. Maybe I just need a new tagline (haha)

I know I already mentioned it to you but you might like to consider buying my marketing book now that it's (finally!) out as an eBook: http://bit.ly/MarketingeBook (also available in paperback from CreateSpace) Although it's title and main subject is marketing, the branding activity is a huge and central part of my suggested marketing approach for Indie Authors. We are the brand, after all. In our industry, branding and marketing are nearly synonymous by necessity.