Sunday, 26 October 2014

Tweet Dreams Are Made of This by Ruby Barnes

Social media fads come and go. Step back in time ... remember MySpace? There are kids now who never heard of MySpace. Google+ was going to be the next big thing and the predicted demise of Facebook had people scrabbling for footholds on Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon and goodness knows where else. Now everything is becoming a bit blurred in a whirl of social networks, blogs, photo collections, discussion forums, online chat and update feeds. Isn't this all too much?

So, why bother with Twitter? What is the point of a 140 character message which might not get read by anyone before it sinks into the 500 million daily tweets? On the face of it, unless you are looking for personal interaction or are a microblogging wizard and manage to get your tweet to go viral through retweeting or on TV shows, Twitter doesn't seem to offer much. Unless you are a blogger.

Content is the key to good blogging. Some folk blog about their daily life, others  about a book release / product review / competition. Authors engage in round-robin writing challenges, give updates on their WIP and share writing tips. People tend to follow or bookmark the blog if the content has value for the reader: well written, entertaining and pertinent.

If you write a good blog post it can pull in considerable traffic to your platform and you might even sell the odd book or two (although the jury is out on whether there's any real correlation between blog traffic and book sales). Write a great or controversial blog post and it could go viral, even be the catalyst that catapults your writing from relative obscurity to Amazon top 100 (John Locke, of purchased review infamy, believes his viral blog post about baseball was the tipping point for selling a million).

The killer is this: when you've written a good blog post, it's still there and will pull some traffic through tags, keywords, SEO stuff, but it soon becomes old news, after a week or so. Right? Wrong. How many people viewed that post? A hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand? That's peanuts. Goodreads alone has over 20 million members. The majority of your target audience haven't read your stuff. My Compulsive Communication Syndrome post has had over 17,000 pageviews (mostly by people Googling elephants) but, until I start getting irate emails telling me to shut the hell up about those elephants, I haven't reached saturation with it. That post is still news. 
So how best to leverage all that great content you've slaved over when you should have been writing your latest novel? Send a killer tweet. Use keywords, hashtags and a link to the blog post. Sounds easy, it can be done. Did anyone spot it on Twitter? Any increase in page views? Now it's disappeared again into the 500 million daily tweets.

You need a way to share your best tweets about your best blog posts with people around the globe, in different time zones and on different days. I discovered (yeah, discovered - I'm always the last to know) how to do this while away from home having a Bunfight at the Breaffy House Hotel on the west coast of Ireland. Trawl through your old tweets and find the best one you sent for that post, the one that was retweeted and favorited by others. Do that for all your best blog content and build up a list of tweets in excel, notepad or similar. Make sure you check the tweets don't refer to expired competitions or offers, and click all links through to be sure they still work. Now you need to schedule those tweets using something like Hootsuite. Watch the stats on your blog and see the numbers grow. Try scheduling at different times to catch the Americas, Europe, Australasia and Asia. Look at the audience and work out what's effective for you and your content.

Your blog traffic should have multiplied with this little exercise, but your twitter dementia will be escalating. Try scheduling nothing for a couple of days (if you can bear it) and see your blog traffic drop. You'll soon be back on the scheduling, trying to build the numbers back up and keep your content live. Oh, talking of content, shouldn't you be writing a new blog post? And how's the new novel WIP coming along? Feeling stressed? Don't panic, we have a couple more cards up our sleeve that will exorcise this compulsive communication demon.

Semi-automate your top tweet content, driving traffic to your blog back catalog. Your twitter and blog followers are increasing so use some tool like JustUnfollow to drop unfollowers and follow back new fans, and everything is dandy. Until someone unfollows you, a someone you value as a top tweep influencer. Are they fed up with your play list of repeats? Are you swamping their twitter feed? It could be that they followed you for interaction and aren't getting it from you anymore. Unfollow them and then follow back, in case it was a mistake by them. They'll come back to you if it was. It's always a good idea to keep putting those personal tweets in manually, those run-to-the-computer moments when something great pops into your head. And don't forget to say thank you to folks when they mention you and reply to any valid direct messages.

Feed140 was a very useful too for autoscheduling of tweets but has become a victim of its own popularity. The number of users swamped the architecture of this free tool and it’s currently offline pending redesign. An automated schedule of tweets linking to evergreen content (blog posts, book reviews etc) is a real boon for any author who wants to drive traffic through their social media platform. Are you already autoscheduling your tweets? What tool are you using, what’s the cost and would you recommend it?

I’ve blown Triberr’s trumpet several times and I’ll blow it again. Triberr is a great source of expanded coverage for new blog posts. It can be a bit tricky to get yourself set up and connected with the right people but it’s worth the effort in terms of additional traffic. Connect your blog and twitter to your Triberr account (and Facebook and LinkedIn if you wanna go the whole hog). Join a tribe that has members with blogging interests you want to share on your social media platform (this is important - their content should be pertinent for the people in your network). When you post on your blog it will automatically be shared with the tribes you are a member of. They have the option to share your posts with their social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Stumbleupon).

Example: I have 7,988 Twitter followers, I'm a member of 16 tribes on Triberr with 400 tribemates and a reach of over 2 million Twitter followers. When I blog around half of those tribemates will share my content to their networks. Depending upon how well my blog post title works as a tweet (and it can be edited on Triberr to put in a hashtag or extra keyword) I'll get a boost of extra traffic on my new blog post for every day the post remains active on Triberr.

Conversely, in the spirit of give-and-take that is Triberr, I go onto the site once a day and share every post in my tribal stream that has content I consider relevant to my network. I share writing and publishing tips and news, good book reviews, author interviews, tasty-looking recipes, relevant competitions and beautiful / clever writing on any topic. Those posts enrich my tweet stream with something new at a maximum frequency of every half an hour. I read most every post that I share and have benefitted personally from a lot of that content too.

Phew! Sometimes it all just has to come out. It's easy to set the machine running and keep it ticking over. Does it sell more books? The only way to be sure is to switch your platform off for an extended period. Are you going to take that risk? See you on the other side.

Ruby Barnes is the author of Peril, Getting Out of Dodge, The Baptist, Koobi Fora and The New Author, all on Amazon.


Lydia Bennet said...

ah yes very helpful, I blogged on here that tweeting didn't help my books sales directly, and it's certainly nothing more than an easy gesture by events staff which will not get bums on seats down the local library when it's RTd to the far east, but I can see that the nature of Twitter would be very helpful to blog posts. Perhaps we should use it more on here - if we all had time to schedule it in. even learning how to use Hootsuite et al is time hard to find. Most people I've encountered seem to use Roundteam to schedule their tweets, I've tried looking at that but don't understand any of it so it just makes me feel stupid - they use a lot of specialist vocab without defining it.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I tend to use Twitter to talk to people about everything BUT my books - although I certainly tweet about blog posts (and thanks to Ruby and Chris and Susan for doing a lot of brilliant retweeting!) I found Twitter very useful indeed during our recent political 'upheavals' for having three and sometimes four way private real time conversations with certain friends. We could have done it on Facebook, but somehow it seemed to work better on Twitter. Also, the 'mute' function is brilliant!

Reb MacRath said...

What a fabulous, informative post, Ruby. Thanks so much. I'll see if I can become a not quite total dumb-dumb in putting it to work.