Sell ebooks 3 – Building a Twitter Following

This is the third article in a short series on how to sell ebooks using longtail marketing strategies.  In this article I talk about how to build a customer base on Twitter that you can use as part of your Longtail Marketing Strategy.

You can read the other articles here:

Sell ebooks 1 – Longtail Marketing
Sell ebooks 2 – Website Content
Sell ebooks 4 – Twitter Marketing

Build a Twitter Following for a Longtail Marketing Strategy

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I use twitter in a number of ways.

As I’m using a pen name, I can set a theme for my twitter account. So most tweets and images have a loosely steampunkish feel to them, except for a few that are overtly about writing.  I even managed a steampunk theme for this twitter image.


Important considerations when setting up

When setting up your twitter profile, remember, you are not necessarily looking for like-minded people; you are looking for people who like what you are selling/promoting.  This is the place to set the tone for your niche/genre, because people are going to read this to decide whether they should follow you or not:  your profile is your first line of attack in targeting your audience.

Next, pay close attention to the photos attached to your tweets.  The quickest way to discover what someone is really about is to look at their photos, because these are the things they themselves have tweeted about.  If someone has followed me and all their photos are about cats, I might question whether anything of mine they retweet is going to have a very high impact amongst all that fluff.  Even on twitter pictures speak louder than words, so actively managing the photo content of your twitter account, to support your theme, is important.

Finally, set up an automated reply for anyone who follows you and offer them your best freebie.  I may be totally wrong about this, but it seems to me that if someone has taken the trouble to click on one of my tweets, check out my profile, and decide they want to follow me, then that is the point when they are most engaged with me or my novels.  So this is the point when I want to offer them a free gift.  I use a free ebook from my scifi series (not ideal when promoting a steampunk novel, but I will replace it with a free steampunk prequel novella as soon as it is completed).

I use a programme called Crowdfire for my auto-responder follow reply because… yeh, you guessed – it’s free, and it works well on my mobile.  This programme also enables me to unfollow anyone who does not follow me and weed out those who do not use their twitter accounts regularly – more about that later.

It’s All About The Numbers

One of the things I really like about Twitter is I can easily use it on my mobile.  In fact nearly all my twittering is done via a mobile – either last thing at night or first thing in the morning, or during those unproductive few minutes when nothing else is happening.

When it comes to marketing your book, ignore whatever anyone says about Twitter being about social networking: Commercial twittering is a numbers a game.  It is all about finding  the highest number of like-minded followers – within Twitters rules, of course.

Know Your Audience

Finding followers on twitter is easy, but you may want to be selective about who you follow.  Here is my follow criteria:

I actively look for people who are: readers, writers (because they generally read a lot too), steampunkers, cosplayers, tea drinkers (often a code for an interest in steampunk and/or victoriana), whovians (fans of Dr Who), tinkerers, indie publishers; also those into: victoriana, cogs, gears, historical romance, anamie, comics, films, graphic novels.  Make a list of keywords that fulfil your criteria and keep it safe, it will come in useful later on.

I do not follow:  companies, company CEO’s (because they’re basically the same thing), accounts without a profile picture, accounts with no profile description, glamour, celebrities, and writers of erotica.  In addition, I always block porn accounts (The sharp end of human trafficking is only a click away!) and accounts selling twitter followers.  Who you choose to follow says a lot about you and your product.  Again, your criteria should be based on your target audience.

How to find Twitter Followers

If you want to do more than just accidentally stumble across people, you need to actively search for a target audience who meet you criteria – this is often called farming.  Below are some suggestions of way to farm:

Method one – Farm Your Criteria

The first method is to find someone selling books in your niche and/or genre, and follow their followers, applying your follow criteria.  Following someone on twitter is a bit like waving a flag and saying, ‘Here I am, come and have a look,’ they will either have a look and decide to follow you or not.

Initially, twitter limits the number of people you can follow to 2000, but also generally prevents you following 10% more than the number of people following you.  This means you somehow have to identify who, of the people you have followed, has not followed you back.  I use the same programme as I do for my automated follow replies, Crowdfire.  For free, they identify people who have not followed you back and they allow you to delete up to 100 per day.  It also works well on my mobile.  Other providers offering a similar service are available – pick whichever suits you and your devices.

Now, no one wants to follow someone who is following masses more people than are following them (I know it’s hypercritical, because most people on twitter are out to get as many followers as possible, but that’s just human nature), so unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow you within a reasonable time (I allow a week at most).  This also ensures you have a good quality follower base, both for your own purposes and because, believe it or not, some of your followers with a similar interest will want to farm your followers, which is good because…

Method Two – Farm Your Recommendations

View MoewThe second method of finding followers is to accept the suggestions made by twitter.  These suggestions are based on people who are followed by some of your other followers, people with a similar interest that you haven’t yet found.  If you are on a the mobile app, find the suggestion list with a ‘view more’ button, click it and you get to see the profiles of their followers.  On a pc there is only one suggestion list which has a ‘view all’ button at the top.

This is the method I use most often if I am farming on my phone.

Again, apply your follow criteria.  In fact, for the best quality twitter suggestions, you should rigorously apply your follow criteria at all times and actively weed out non-followers and non-active accounts.  You will also become a quality source for like-minded people to farm your followers, but to do that they first have to follow you, giving you access to their followers.  Actively managing your follower base means the whole thing slowly builds like a pyramid of quality cross-referrals.  This is also why you should never buy twitter followers, because diluting the quality of your follower base will have long-term knock-on effects on quality.  You quickly get used to assessing the likely fit of someone’s followers to your criteria.  And, given the millions of people on twitter and the limits to your own time, you soon ditch anyone with a polluted follower base.

Method three – Factory Farmingk2492890

Actually, this is variant on method one, but the process is significantly different enough for it to be considered a method in it’s own right.

If you gain 400 followers per week, a number of things apply:

  • You will need to make at least 100 quality follows per day
  • You will add more than 20,000 followers in a year
  • You will spend hours and hours each day farming your twitter feed, during which time you lose your friends/family/social life and write no more new novels

There has to be a better way to do it, right?  Actually, I have only come across four ways:

  1. Buy twitter followers, and for all the reasons I have mentioned above this is a BAD idea.
  2. Buy yourself a computer program that will automate the entire process of finding, following, unfollowing etc.  This is strictly against your twitter terms and conditions and twitter will BLOCK your account if they suspect you are doing this.  I have to admit to having dabbled with automated programs a bit, but quite frankly, they will never apply your criteria as rigorously as you can and they cannot take an intuitive leap to find new categories of related followers.  In my limited experience, they start of good, but you quickly get into a downward spiral of diminishing quality.   If you are prepared to take your time, and use the other methods I outline in this article, you can manually build a twitter following of much greater quality than any computer program.  In the long run that quality will pay dividends, and did I mention that the manual methods are FREE.
  3. Pay someone else to do it.  But if you are an impoverished author like me this is a non-starter, i.e. not free.
  4. Manually factory farm.

To factory farm, you first need to get yourself an extension app for your browser (free) that will enable you to find multiple keywords (I have only ever used this method with a Chrome browser so I don’t know how it would work with other browsers, but worth having a go).  The reason you need to do this is because the built in ‘Find’ application (Crl+F) will only find one key word at a time.

Now select a likely looking follower in your twitter feed, someone you suspect may have quality followers that meet your criteria.  Click on the heading marked ‘followers’ on their bio and keep your finger on the ‘page down’ button for a few minutes until a thousand or so follower bios have loaded onto your computer (only ever used this with a PC so not sure if it works on a Mac or ipad, but no theoretical reason why it should not).

Enter the keyword list you compiled from your follower criteria (as mentioned above) into your browser extension app and press ‘find’.

If everything has worked well, the bios of anyone following your follower, that contains a keyword from your list, will be highlighted.  All you need to do now is simply scroll down the page following anyone with a highlighted word in their bio.

Using this method I can easily follow 400 – 900 people per day and it takes me between twenty and forty minutes depending on the quality of a particular persons followers.  I tend to do this while watching the TV.

Method Four – Farm Lists (Steal)

blog204-20checklist-20readyNow you have found all those lovely people who meet your criteria, it is time to really put them to work.

As you gain more and more twitter followers, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of the people in whom you have a special interest.  One way around this is to create a twitter list and add them to the list.  When you click on the list, you are filtering out tweets from everyone except the important/useful/interesting people on your list.  This works a treat, but even better, other people do it too.

I’m not very good at keeping lists, but some wonderful people are really, really  good at it.  If you can find one of your followers with a public list that meets your criteria, do not be afraid to click on it. Select ‘members’ rather than ‘tweets’ and you will bring up the bios of everyone on that list.

Twitter do not currently allow you to search for lists (apparently they did a few years ago), but there are a number of apps you can download or use online that do facilitate list searches, and jolly useful they are too. Just pump in your keywords and start searching.

As your follower has already done the hard work of selecting for quality when they compiled their list, all you need to do is follow everyone on that list.  Alternatively, you can Factory Farm the list as above.

I love it whenever someone adds me to a twitter list – it means they are a person who keeps lists.  If they haven’t already followed me, I track them down, and if I am on my phone I add them to my ‘List of Lists’ so I can farm them later using the pc.

One thing to remember about lists, is that they are continually updated with new members, so if you find a really useful list, you will want to revisit it again in the future .  You have two choices here, either subscribe to the original list so it appears as one of your own lists, or keep a list of people with useful lists.

Now you could make this ‘List of Lists’ private, but as you have just stolen the contents of someone else’s public list, it would seem only fair to make this list public. Remember, quality followers produce quality recommendations for other people to follow.

Method Five – Block For Qualityhand-stop

This is a controversial one.  Some people don’t like being blocked or don’t like their message being blocked, so they retaliate by naming and shaming those who block them.  Frankly, if they are more concerned with trolling than networking, they don’t deserve to be part of your customer base anyway.  Remember, quality builds quality – it’s nothing personal; just business.

Anyway,  the odd tweet about you blocking someone will be swamped by the hourly tsunami of tweets through your feed.   If you see such a tweet on someone’s twitter stream, don’t follow them – you could be next.

So why not just mute or ignore unsuitable followers.  True, if you ignore someone who doesn’t match your customer criteria, the chances are they may unfollow you within a few days anyway.  But they may not – and then they are there diluting the quality of your customer base forever.

If you mute someone they won’t know you have blocked their tweets, but they will still appear as one of your followers, again diluting your customer base.

Does it matter?   Yes, I believe it does, because those people who are looking to farm your quality customer base will do so because it matches some of the criteria for their quality customer base.  They will also follow you to keep tabs on you and your customer base, and will retweet any of your content they think will interest their followers, thereby extending your twitter reach exponentially.

Keep a list of such people – they are valuable assets.  They are worth reciprocating with regularly (see below) and worth investing time in to build relationships.

In the next article in this series, I talk about how I use my Twitter customer base in my Longtail Marketing Strategy to sell ebooks.


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A Dystopian steampunk Author

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