When I was a pharma rep (for fifteen years but recovered now, thank you), we would joke with each other about making ‘radio’ calls. Calls so quick, the same song would still be playing on the radio when you got back in the car. Some people referred to them as ‘drive-by’ calls – did you see the lights on? That’s a call!

Was it an effective way to sell? No. Did anyone ever get caught? Who knows? The point is this: it did not sell product.

Fast-forward to social media and authors using Twitter to deliver ‘radio’ calls – one-way broadcast tweets, no interaction, link dumps. Every day I see writers spamming their book links repeatedly to thousands and I can’t help but wonder: why are they doing this? Don’t they know better? Are they selling anything?

No. Social media is for building relationships and connections. It’s a great marketing platform, but it’s not an ‘advertising’ platform, if you will (though they do have paid advertising). I’m not saying NEVER to promote on Twitter. I’m saying do it with balance.

Let’s deconstruct.

When you look at social authority (the number of retweets someone gets versus strictly follower count), authors are missing the point. Given that the average half-life of a tweet is eighteen minutes (SEOmoz), it’s time to smarten up, my friends.

Let’s discuss the difference between content and spam.


From SEOmoz:

Social Authority surfaces a completely different set of top users: those that are extremely effective in engaging their followers. Perhaps jump onto Twitter and look at their content. Expand their tweets: that’s where the magic is. There’s a similar content strategy: short, pithy, often humorous, and targeted well to their audience.

So, what does that mean exactly? Do you have to write only humorous tweets to gain retweets? No (but it helps). Be an authority. Share info and resources about topics having to do with your book, subject, or genre. Promote others. Be generous! Engage.

BUT it’s not all about engagement. We only have so much time in a day. Keep this is mind: the people who receive the most tweets are often controversial, sarcastic, and are hoping to get a reaction. Many never interact at all (not that I personally recommend or do that).

This isn’t content that we necessarily like — often, quite the opposite! Rather, these accounts have found the secret sauce: retweet bait. They’ve discovered content that gets their audiences’ attention, whether we like it or not, and prompts action in terms of retweets and traffic.

But from the perspective of retweets (and clicks), engagement doesn’t matter at all. Many of these accounts never @mention anyone.

This is statistical, but let’s look at the reality from an author perspective: interaction is key to having discussions, polite discourse on controversial topics, and building relationships (not necessarily affecting follower count). Social media is key to building your brand.

I often won salesperson of the year awards but the truth is, I would rarely stick to the ‘company line,’ which was about the hard sell. I was always into relationship building. I still am! And social media is perfect for that.

  • SPAM

Everyone whines about getting spammed by authors constantly on Twitter. Where is the line between sharing something about your book (say, a 5-star review), some kind of a special promo, and spamming?

Well, according to Twitter’s guidelines: If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates,’ you are spamming.

People ask me frequently: well, what if I’m promoting other authors, sharing others’ articles and blog posts…am I then spamming?

The best answer I can provide is this: balance. Not every tweet should have a link—not only to stay within guidelines, but also to not be annoying. The people I personally enjoy the most do share witty pithisms (not a word but I like it), insightful comments, or review quotes. I don’t mind links to topical information and posts. But if a stream is ALL links? I pass.

Here’s a tip I offer daily: shorten the link to your latest book using and add it to your Twitter bio (or Facebook, or Google+ or…you get where I’m going with this, right?). Customize it also (see what I did for my latest release Broken Pieces, here.). Why? I can check to see how many clicks I’ve received from Twitter to my Amazon page. Amazon gives no click-through or conversion info, but this is a great indicator!

Bottom line: Twitter is a great way to build relationships and awareness, a fan base of readers, reviewers, and book bloggers, and interact with all. It’s not free advertising. If you want to advertise your book, there are far more effective options. And it’s only one small part of your author platform. Next post, I’ll break down the platform further.

Got questions? Disagree? Do share below!

If you’d like to read Broken Pieces, click for a free sample on Amazon (no Kindle required – they have free apps for any smartphone, computer, or tablet).