I grew up in a small, Midwestern town of less than 1,800 people. Most of the families have lived there for several generations. There are few strangers and fewer secrets in my hometown. My high school graduating class had 50 students whom I’d grown up with since kindergarten. Over 40 years later, I can still name them all. So when I see that I have over 7,000 followers on Twitter, I have to stop and put it in context of this background.
Social media didn’t exist when I was in high school. Hell, it didn’t exist through most of my working career. I discovered it in the past five years, about the time I started writing. I wanted to learn more about others diving into my new avocation, so I jumped on the Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn treadmill and hung on for dear life.
What I’ve learned is there are few parallels between my 7,000 Twitter followers and the 1,800 residents of my hometown. First off, I know very few of my Twitter followers, maybe a dozen or so I recognize when their Tweets fly by. These are the same dozen that Retweet my messages on a regular basis, and I theirs. We occasionally share a URL of interest, or we might even go so far as to link to each other’s blogs or share our Facebook pages.
These 7,000 followers obviously don’t live in the same small town. In fact, nearly one-third of them don’t even reside in the U.S. They reside in a “virtual town” where they have congregated around common interests instead of common terrain. In my case, their interests are writing, reading, editing, and reviewing books, but they could just as easily be pop music, political causes, or cooking. You know the minute someone new sets foot in my hometown, but it’s hard to put a fence around my virtual literary town, and I’m not sure it would be a good idea, anyway. Although, I do find myself ‘unfollowing’ the occasional weirdo that breaks in.
So, why bother with this? What’s in it for an aspiring, middle-aged author? Well, like I said before, it was originally a way to learn about others with common interests. It’s worked well in that respect. I’m not sure I know any of them well enough to invite them on vacation, but I’ve benefited from their views and ideas.
I’d also hoped that it would be a way to develop a following for my writing, but I’ve learned that marketing on Twitter, Facebook and the other sites is not that easy. In the bat of an eye, they can pass by your Tweets or Posts, paying them no interest. As an example, if I send a Tweet asking my 7,000 followers to check out a new blog post I’ve written, I might get five hits to my blog in the next hour – not all that effective, but it’s something.
I’m still learning about how to be more successful in social network marketing. There are tons of articles on the subject. Most of them recommend: look and stay professional, be consistent with your messaging, don’t sell too much, include interesting articles and ideas, etc., etc. It all makes sense. After all, my virtual town only knows me through my Tweets. They didn’t know my family or grow up with me from kindergarten. There are only 50 classmates who did, and most of them already have my books.