Monday, June 20, 2011

Social Media's Raging Storm: Follower Gathering

Lately, I've been curious about the phenomenon of gathering followers on social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. I've noticed certain people - often times new writers with their first or second book out - gathering followers like fisherman catch tuna in a net; as if the numbers alone will insure greater book sales. 

Daisy Whitney, a marketing guru and dear writer-friend, wrote an interesting post about social media recently. She pointed out happiness comes from within, not without, and that giving yourself a break from social media's raging storm (my words, not hers) can be an extremely healthy undertaking. Her main point being, "Don't Stalk Yourself!"

Please understand, my background is in marketing. In my early days, I managed and promoted my rock band, and later I worked in marketing for several architectural and engineering firms. That said, I wonder if we've taken this "follower gathering" (FG) thing too far. 

On Twitter, I only follow someone back if I think their tweets are interesting, funny, inspiring, or all of the above. I do not simply follow back in hopes their followers will soon follow me. I mainly stick to people in the literary world, but also include some musical and political folks. On Facebook, I operate the same way. I only friend people who I know and/or interest me in some way. I imagine, once I have a book deal, I'll be encouraged to increase my FG, though it may seem a bit disingenuous; following people for the sole purpose of increasing book sales.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this - it's the foundation of marketing. The more people who know about your product, the more product you'll sell. That said, I'm not sure why it irks me when I see: So-and-So now has 30,000 new friends! (I'm from New York, therefore I exaggerate.) Of course, there's the natural twinge of jealousy:

Hey, wait, she's got more followers than I do! WAH, WAH, SHE'S MORE POPULAR THAN ME!!!

What am I not doing that he's doing? 

Should I change my profile pic? 

What does he know/have that I don't know/have? 

Why does she have to be prettier (more successful, more interesting, more  hooked up with the 'right' people, more famous, younger...) than me?

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH...

(We humans are a real treat, aren't we?)

But, more than that, it bothers me because I love the personal schmoozing factor of social media outlets. I hate to think that could be obliterated by the need to use these outlets strictly as marketing tools. Plenty of people advise writers to watch every word they say on social media outlets in order not to alienate possible readers. I say, "Bah, Humbug!" If some people don't like my political views or sense of humor, so be it. Delving into the thoughts and lives of the artists I love makes me love them more. The more open they are about who they are and what they believe in, the better.

I hope my attraction to social media as a means of getting to know interesting people, having people make me laugh, making people laugh, being inspired, inspiring others, and sharing music and political views, etc. doesn't fade as my number of followers grows. Why? Because I'm human and have an ego and love when my follower numbers rise. (There, I said it!)

Curious to hear your thoughts on this. 

Feel free to share this on Twitter, FB, your blog, YouTube, Linkedin, etc. (Bwahaha!!!)

17 comments:

Amy Sue Nathan said...

If someone can establish themselves as an interesting authority on their topic-of-choice -- or at the very least just plain interesting, then the twiends and fbriends grow organically and it can be effective for marketing and for meeting awesome people! The problem I see and experience (for myself and clients of mine) is that folks go overboard and in the long run end up ignored. It's a balance, to excuse the buzzword, like everything else!

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Amy, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I think some folks may be nervous to reply - I hope I'm wrong about that. Thanks for being honest and brave. ;-)

Kristi Helvig said...

I joined Twitter reluctantly as I enjoyed FB, and didn't want to spread myself too thin. I've found that I really like Twitter because of the immediacy of it, and like you, I love meeting new and interesting people. I really don't care about followers because I'm having fun w/ the people I am interacting with, but I'm sure that will change to some degree when I have a book to promote. Very interesting post! :)

Julie said...

For me, working a full time job, with writing and marketing my writing taking up the lion's share of the rest of my time, I have to be realistic about the social media limitations I have. And it isn't just time, it's energy invested. I love my blog and the people who comment on it, the connections I've made with it, but that is much more important to me than the number of followers I have. Twitter, I keep trying to like, but I have a very hard time connecting with people on there the way I have with my blog. I never know when to jump into a conversation or not, and feel like to really make friends/true connections on there, I'd have to show up a lot more than I have time to do.

Ultimately, I'm a writer first. I am often amazed when I see writers' blogs with tons of followers, when the writer hasn't finished a single book yet. I just wonder if all the blogging time takes away from the writing time, while knowing that the writing community is supportive and some people need that to finish their books.

In truth, like so many things you and I talk about, this is one of those things that goes down to personal choice. Do whatever feels right to you, and odds are, it will be right.

Love ya!

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Kristi, I also joined Twitter reluctantly, but have loved it from Day One. Like you said, having fun with people you interact with is key.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Julie, I guess I could've made this post a lot shorter if I would have simply said, "Do whatever feels right to you, and odds are, it will be right." Thanks for the reminder. (Love you.)

Stacia Kelly said...

I have made some great friends on FB & Twitter plus I get a chance to meet people across different topics that I enjoy, which increases the number of followers I end up with, it's just been growing organically.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Stacia, Ooh, I love that "growing organically." In other words, it's just as it should be. Perfect!

Rachel Stark said...

I really agree with you on this point: "Plenty of people advise writers to watch every word they say on social media outlets in order not to alienate possible readers. I say, 'Bah, Humbug!' If some people don't like my political views or sense of humor, so be it. Delving into the thoughts and lives of the artists I love makes me love them more. The more open they are about who they are and what they believe in, the better."

For every reader who might potentially be alienated by an author's beliefs, I firmly believe there's another reader who will feel that much more invested in the author for having learned that they share a common value. One of the great things about social media is that it allows us access to those who create our media, and through that access we can begin to learn who they are, and whose work will likely resonate with us.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Rachel, The more we know about the artists we admire, the more opportunity we have to admire them (or not, which is fine, too!). Thanks so much for your comment.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I love twitter - although I'm a recently newish convert. I did struggle at first with understanding some of the do's and dont's and even now I can't quite get to grips with tweetdeck but I do enjoy every minute I spend on it. The trouble is that some days I am spending too long at the expense of other things in my life!
It can be quite addictive, can't it?

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Pat, YES! But it's less fattening than chocolate and less dangerous than cigarettes, so as far as addictions go, it's a good one. ;-)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I follow an ecletic mix of people on twitter, and on FB -- but I don't pay attention to my numbers or try to build them up. It's nice to be "loved" but dang! :-D

I rarely schmooze about my books - maybe I should, but I don't. Sometimes I'll have some news or what-all, but mostly I post/update about whatever I happen to be thinking or some other gabbity do dah day.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Kat, You and your books are special in so many ways. I can't imagine you being one who cares much about numbers - you're way too down to earth for that. (((hugs)))

Rachel Brooks said...

It can be overwhelming at times to try and juggle writing, blogging, tweeting, following people back, etc. It's nice to have lots of followers, but in the end big numbers don't necessarily mean big sales (although it can't hurt ;)

Natalia Sylvester said...

I think the majority of people who join Twitter or FB with the goal of driving books sales are probably doing it wrong. I've found a few authors on Twitter whose books I enjoy, only to realize that all they tweet are self-promotional links & reviews. So I choose not to follow them.

The authors who have great followings, funny enough, rarely mention their books. They're just there to let people get to know them, and enjoy their company and views on things. Even though I've never met them, these are the authors whom I feel a personal connection to, so when they DO have a book out, I'm genuinely excited to read it and support them.

There's so much talk about "building a brand" on Twitter lately, but I think it just comes down to "get to know people, and let them get to know you." The rest follows!

Muhammad Amir said...

The more people who know about your product, the more instagram followers generator product you'll sell. That said, I'm not sure why it irks me when I see:

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