How Twitter Helped Me Go From My Boring Government Day Job To A Rewarding Career As A Successful Author

How Twitter Helped Me Go From My Boring Government Day Job To A Rewarding Career As A Successful Author
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I’m going to share with you how I used Twitter to go from a well-paying government day job to a far more rewarding full-time career as an author of science fiction/fantasy and thriller novels. When I started I had no experience with marketing or publishing. Everything I know about both topics I either researched on my own or figured out through trial and error. In other words, you don’t have to be Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius to use Twitter to move your business forward. But it takes time, perseverance, some tools, and an unwavering focus on the most important thing: the people you hook up with.

Find Good Tools

Before you think about tweeting, you need a website, or a web destination where you can send people. This could be a catalog page on Amazon or other retail page, your own website, or a combination thereof.

One of the things you’ll be including in some tweets will be links to web pages that have information or products and you need a way to track the clickthroughs on those links, which will help you measure how effective they are. I prefer Bit.ly, but there are other link tracking tools, so play around with them and settle on one that you like. This will be very important as you monitor the effectiveness of your Twitter promotions!

The next thing you need is a better interface than Twitter. I personally prefer Hootsuite, and there are other tools like TweetDeck and Sprout Social. As your Twitter marketing skills grow, these tools will allow you to track multiple streams, searches, and other information in one place. Twitter’s interface is currently not as robust as many of the third-party tools available.

Then we come to what I consider the absolutely most important tool in my promotional toolbox, without which I’d still be stuck at my day job: Tweet Adder. It automates many of the things you’d normally have to do by hand, including finding new followers, following people back, unfollowing people who’ve unfollowed you, sending out tweets automatically, tweeting from RSS feeds, and many other things.

Time is money, and finding a tool that works for you the way Tweet Adder works for me will save you tons of time while expanding your potential reach on Twitter beyond what you’d be able to do manually. Experiment with some of the tools out there to see if they fit your style and needs, but don’t make the mistake of becoming a Twitter tool addict! You need to stay focused on the job, right?

My Strategy

My Twitter strategy is basically broken down like this:

  1. Continuously increase the number of followers through targeted searches.
  2. Develop a solid foundation of friends and fans through direct interaction.
  3. Send automated tweets with links on a 90-120 minute interval.
  4. Send automated welcome Direct Messages with a link to a freebie to new followers.
  5. Send follow-up Direct Messages to reinforce freebie promotions and to request retweets from core friends & fans.
  6. Post blog updates to Twitter, and add those tweets to the list of automatic tweets to provide repeats of value-added content.
how-twitter-got-me-out-of-my-day-job

Omnibus is a trilogy that includes the first three books in the In Her Name series.

Grow Your Following

Promotion is largely a numbers game, and the larger your following, the greater your overall reach. The caveat is that you want to be followed by “real people” rather than Twitter bots. You want followers who might actually listen to what you have to say!

There are two parts to building a good following. Number one is having well-constructed searches to find people who are interested in what you’re offering and keep to a minimum the number of Twitter bots and spammers. The second, and by far most critical part, is to spend a lot of time on Twitter interacting with people. This is where most people fail on Twitter. It can take a LOT of time. If you spam your followers, the ones who count – the real people – will unfollow you. Ideally, you need to be engaged on Twitter consistently throughout the day. I catch up in the morning before I start writing, when I take breaks, and in the evening after I’ve met my writing goals for the day.

Building up your following also takes time. At the start of 2011, I had about 500 followers. As I write this, I have over 18,000, and get roughly 100 new followers per day. Many of them I’ve never interacted with, but many I have. I no longer worry about trying to weed out the bots and link spammers, because there are lots of people who engage me directly, and I respond back to them. That’s how you make friends and new fans.

Make Friends And Fans

If you invest time in Twitter, you’ll make real friends, and you’ll also find people who are fans of whatever you’re promoting (novels, in my case). These people are willing to help you out by retweeting promotional tweets for you, and you should be willing to do the same for them. You can get a huge amount of leverage out of your friends and fans to create a surge on Twitter. The more people you can get yourself in front of (in a polite, non-aggravating way!) the more influence you’ll have.

It also goes without saying that this is something you don’t want to abuse: if you do, your friends and fans will rapidly disappear. I send out direct messages asking my friends and fans to retweet something maybe once or twice a week, but no more. Remember, they’re generally happy to help you out, but don’t wear out your welcome.

Send Promotional Tweets

I’ve heard and read that you shouldn’t send out promotional tweets, or should only do so rarely. Balderdash. While I don’t have specific numbers to prove it, I’ve repeatedly noted drops in my book sales that corresponded directly to periods when I stopped or cut down the number of promo tweets I sent out. There are, however, a few tricks to doing it without being obnoxious:

  • When you’re just starting out and have a small following, send out promo tweets infrequently.
  • When you’re up to or beyond 1,000 followers, send out promo tweets at more regular intervals. I normally time mine to go out randomly at intervals of 60-120 minutes (and yes, 24 hour a day, because I’m trying to reach an international audience).
  • Make sure you’re also engaging people periodically throughout the day. Otherwise your timeline will show nothing but promo tweets, which annoys people.
  • Add in helpful or inspirational tweets. Give people some useful information or tips, not just all “buy me” links.
  • Try to not repeat the same tweets more than once every few days or people will just start ignoring them altogether, and keep adding in fresh tweets to your queue.

Remember to track the results of your clickthroughs to see which tweets are working the best. Experiment with tweet formats and messages to see which get the best response. Since you can only send out a limited number of promo tweets per day without annoying people, you want them to be effective. Ditch any that consistently don’t get many clickthroughs. Experiment and tweak!

Send Direct Messages

Some people don’t like automated DMs, but that’s often because many such messages look like they’re written by robots, not people. So keep that in mind if you do this.

I’ve also found it’s very helpful to make the welcome DM beneficial to new followers by offering them something free. In my case, I offer a complete novel in eBook format.

One big key to using this effectively is that if someone responds to your welcome DM, even if only to say they hate automated DMs, make sure you respond back! That shows them that there is, indeed, a real person behind the machine.

Since a lot of folks don’t respond to the welcome DMs or don’t notice them, I also send out DMs to my followers to reinforce the freebie. You’re limited by Twitter to no more than 250 DMs per day, which is fine;  I limit the number I send to roughly the number of new followers I get each day. You don’t want to hammer people with DMs repeatedly.

Another tip is to try and include a URL that isn’t shortened. People are much more likely to click DMs that have recognizable URLs because many DMs contain links to viruses and other junk. But if they see “http://authormichaelhicks.com/free-novel/”, they’re a lot more likely to click.

Use Your Blog

A blog is extremely useful for many reasons, and you can leverage it with Twitter. You can set up automatic tweets for each new blog post from your site’s RSS feed so you don’t have to manually poke it into Twitter. You can also store a tweet pointing to any of your blog posts, and put it in a queue of automatic tweets. Then it will periodically be sent out to your following again, and your new followers or any of your existing followers who didn’t see it the first time will have the opportunity to read it. You get a lot more views over time and a lot more mileage out of your blog posts.

Obviously, you should only do this with posts that aren’t time sensitive. You don’t want to do this with tweets that are about a sale that’s already over, for instance. But a lot of information can be recycled for the benefit of new followers who otherwise wouldn’t have seen it.

Conclusion

That’s the overview of the strategies I’ve used and they’ve been critical in driving my books to the Amazon bestseller lists and getting me out of my day job. They may work for you and they may not. You need to learn, tweak and experiment like I’ve done.

Remember this: Twitter takes time. Time to build a following, time spent on tweeting every day and talking to people, time spent refining and renewing your tweets. If you have very little time to actively engage people, you won’t see the benefit you could otherwise. You could have 100,000 followers, but if your account is nothing more than a spambot, chances are most of your “followers” are going to be spambots as well, or your information will just be ignored. Also keep in mind that the true power of Twitter lies in the leverage you gain from friends and fans retweeting key information to their followers. You may only have 1,000 followers, but through retweeting you can reach many more than that. And always return the favor! You MUST interact – that’s why it’s called “social media”.

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Mike Hicks
As a kid, Mike was inspired by movies such as The Blob, The Abominable Doctor Phibes and Forbidden Planet, which resulted in many nights' lost sleep, but a healthy imagination and plenty of creative ideas that would later grow into successful novels. When he wasn't glued to TV series like Star Trek, Lost In Space and Space: 1999, he was nose-deep in every sci-fi, horror, and war book he could get his hands on. Mike began cultivating the muse in high school and continued to write and perfect his craft until, in 2008, he took advantage of the eBook revolution and self-published his first Kindle edition book. Mike has been writing and publishing since, with bestseller series In Her Name, plus a non-fiction guide to self-publishing. He continues to entertain readers with his compelling stories and engage fans on Twitter, where he's achieved a measure of popular notoriety. Visit Mike's website for more about Mike and his novels. And for more in-depth details on how to use Twitter successfully, take a look at his tutorials for using Tweet Adder to grow your following.
Mike Hicks