There’s this really funny writer that I’ve been
stalking…um, following for several years now.
Her name is Molly Campbell. She is the winner of the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop Contest in 2010 and 2012. Molly is also a published author of, Characters in Search of a Novel. This book is a fun and unique look at off-beat characters that each have something to say if only they could find a novel to say it in. You’ll love these characters! She also writes on her blog and for Moms Who Need Wine. Molly Campbell is a busy and seriously funny humor writer. She’s currently working on a novel and I’m sooo looking forward to reading it!
Have I gone on enough about Molly yet?
Well, I recently had the honor of speaking with Molly about how she was able to go from a couple hundred followers on Twitter to over 12,000 in about 4 to 5 months. I had to know what she did! Here is our conversation and I hope you learn something about how you can use Twitter to help build your reader community too (I sure did!).
Q: Molly, how do you use Twitter as an author and a writer?
A: To grow your following, you have to go out of your way to interact with people, and not just plug your next book. People are constantly advertising themselves, and it gets old real fast.
I try to do a couple of things. Be clever. No one is going to read a Tweet that says, “I’m wearing a green shirt.” The cleverness is important. You have to think before you Tweet. A lot of times I spend a good 10 minutes thinking of what I’m going to say.
Chat with people. This is what grows your follower base. Having lots of followers gives you influence. You also have to support other people who are trying to grow their following, as you are.
It’s also important to follow people who follow you. It’s important to search out and find people who have similar interests as you. Look for people who are clever or funny or profound or whatever it is that you admire and follow those people. It’s a give and take instead of a commercial stream, which it can be in a lot of instances.
Q: How often do you post? Do you have a process set up?
A: I think people should. I don’t. Ha!
There are all kind of apps or services that you can schedule Tweets, so that if you really want to, for instance, Tweet 4 times a day, and have a specific target. For example, I want the West Coast people at 11 o’clock in the morning to see my Tweet, so I’ll schedule it to hit them. You can be very scientific about it, and I did that for a while.
You can have a social media manager that you pay to target certain people. They can Tweet for you and follow people for you, but of course you have to spend money to do that.
Although I’ve done those things, I just get on Twitter whenever I get a free minute and Tweet around.
Q: On Twitter, you can see somebody said something interesting, and re-Tweet it or make a comment on it. Do you do that as well? Or is there anything else you do?
I’ve learned so much from Rachel Thompson, who is a wonderful Twitter and social media guru. She suggests that you use hash tags. A hash tag is the pound sign (#) followed by a word or a phrase that allows you to search that phrase and pull up every single person who has used that hash tag. Let’s say you use #PresidentObama, and everyone that mentions #PresidentObama, their posts will come up in a column. That way you can see what people are talking about surrounding that subject matter. If it’s a popular hash tag that you’re using, your Tweet enters into a stream with that hash tag. People who are not your followers, but who are following that hash tag will see what you’re talking about.
Rachel has created a hashtage called #MondayBlogs. So any blogger who uses #MondayBlogs in their Tweet and puts in their blog link is going to get a tremendous amount of readership by using that hash tag. So, lists are good. Hash tags are good. And entering in the search bar for a subject that you’re interested in, allows you to interact with many more people that those who are just tweeting at the moment.
Q: So, what value does Twitter have for authors and writers? What do you think?
A: I think you get as much out of Twitter that you’re willing to put into it. If you just Tweet occasionally, or randomly Tweet, not much is going to happen for you. So, you have to make a decision ahead of time. What is your goal with using Twitter? When you decide in your mind what that’s going to be, whether it’s to enhance your following or engage with readers.
Sometimes having a lot of followers is meaningless, because if I have 35,000 followers and my Tweet will hit 35,000 followers’ Twitter stream, but not all 35,000 of those people are on Twitter at that second. As we know Twitter is in real time, so that Tweet will disappear quickly. So having a lot of followers isn’t the end all be all. Actually having 100 followers who interact with you is better because those people will likely share what you Tweet. I have a lot of followers but there are probably only about 50 people who look for my Tweets and I look for their Tweets. We’ve come to know each other, Tweet back and forth, and support each other.
The goal is to engage with your readers and colleagues. The world has changed as far as readers and authors. Readers want to interact with you. They want to get to know you. What do you like? What are you reading? It’s about having the small tribe of people who really anticipate your Tweets. It’s more important than having 1.2 million people.
There’s nothing more exciting than to read a book and Tweet the author with a question. You can ask why did you have her do this? Why did you end it this way? It’s unbelievable. I think of writers as movie stars, but really they’re not. You’re able as a famous writer to have a private life and nobody would really recognize you in the grocery store. The same thing goes for the Twitter stream. They don’t have publicists and secretaries. They’re just people like me and so often times they’ll respond. Not always. I’ve met quite of few of whom I consider famous writers and actually have had conversations with them, because they’re sitting at their desk in their house at their laptop and see my Tweet.
Q: Yeah, I know. It’s amazing. I’ve had that happen with writers and, “Oh my gosh, he tweeted me!” What was the one most important thing you did to grow your following?
OK, I have a do and don’t list. You learn what not to do by doing this. Do NOT send a direct message to someone you don’t know and say, “Hey, I’m so glad you’re following me. Here’s a direct link to my blog or here’s my book.” That’s considered to be SPAM. I’m not going to read. If I don’t know who you are, chances are I won’t open it. I don’t know if there’s a virus in there. I don’t know who you are. I don’t have time to read blogs or books of complete strangers.
Establish a relationship with someone. Have a little conversation. “Oh, by the way, I’m a writer, you may want to see my blog.” “Oh, sure, I’d be glad too!” That’s the way to do it. Not these blanket direct messages.
What I think you should do once you chat with the person. Do read their blog or do open their Instagram picture of their dog and comment on it, “Oh my gosh, that’s an adorable dog! What breed is that?” “I love that poem! Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite authors.” Or, “I love that quote that you put up that John Steinback said.” Converse. If people are interested in you, then they’ll be interested in you back. Be a conversationalist first.
Q: Any closing tips? You’ve already given us a lot of nuggets here.
When you said about writers being introverts who don’t like to get on Twitter. I think it’s funny, because I hate to go out to cocktail parties and I hate to make small talk. My husband thinks I’m crazy, because I’m on Twitter all day with thousands of people I don’t know making small talk. You can pull away and become silent and you’re not stuck. You don’t have to make contact face to face. It is a way to connect with people in a very nonthreatening way. Don’t let social media scare you. You can allow it to try. For heavens sake, don’t let it frighten you. That’s what I tell people who say, “Oh, it’s so scary.” It’s like being on a fast moving highway, but really you’re only following one car. And that’s all you have to focus on. Just let all the other cars go by. Just don’t be afraid to try it. I think if you try it, you’ll like it.
Q: I love that analogy with the highway. That’s a good one. Before we close, I mentioned you’re working on your novel. Do you have any date or month or year by which that you’ve liked to get this done?
Well, it’s interesting. Everyone has a different way about writing a novel. I’ve discovered through writing a novel that was trash and threw it in the waste paper basket and I hope this one isn’t. It takes me a long time. The people who do that Nano-thing, where they write a book in a month — there’s no way I can do that in a million years. I’m writing about a novel about a young girl that is humorous, but it’s not comedy, who has a very tumultuous Summer. Her Brother meets a man and thinks it’s his Uncle, but really it’s his Father. It’s one of those soap opera family things. It’s really fun to do.
I’m hoping to have it to my editor by April. You just don’t know. Sometimes you run into trouble with the plot. I’m hoping to get it traditionally published, but if I can’t, I’ll get it self-published. Hopefully within a year or year and a half, it’ll be complete.
And we can’t wait until it is finished, Molly!