But I was wrong and I'm learning to love Twitter, or at least appreciate its usefulness. And, yes, if you're self-pubbing, you can't not use Twitter. It's invaluable in meeting new people, learning new things, and, yes, promoting yourself if done correctly.
That said, a lot of people are using Twitter poorly and annoying everyone while doing so. Paraphrasing Glinda the Good Witch, are you a good tweeter or a bad tweeter?
The site 1stwebdesigner.com has a great list to start you out on 10 totally uncool habits you may have fallen into. I particularly dislike people who do mass follows and unfallows and who promote themselves mercilessly.
But What About Promotion?
Yes, Twitter is a great tool for promoting your work, but you don't want to be the guy with the poorly lettered sandwich board blocking the front door of the coffee shop accosting passersby and shouting at them. Use self-promotion smartly and sparingly. If you've got a new post on your blog, don't tweet about it non-stop for three hours. Instead, tweet a few times throughout the day with different hashtags. If you've got a coupon or an announcement or a sale, make it a fun tweet, pique someone's interest with a tagline, change things up.
There's nothing wrong with self-promotion, but don't look like a selfish noob. Follow some other authors that you admire and see how they go about promoting themselves. You'll probably notice that all their tweets are not screaming "BUY MY BOOK," but instead they tweet links to other sites, news, or posts of interest. They make comments of encouragement or tell jokes. In short, they act like somebody you'd want to have a drink with instead of some sweaty guy pounding on your door with an armload of encyclopedias. The way to get people to buy into your promotion is to be interesting, informative, and friendly.
But how do I get followers if I don't mass follow?
Everybody wants to have tons of followers, and there are lots of gadgets and widgets and websites that will automatically add followers and do all kinds of annoying things. And while it's an ego boost to see your follower list balloon, in the long run I don't think it helps you much. You want to follow people you're genuinely interested in, and you want followers who are genuinely interested in you, otherwise you're just tossing messages into bottles that no one's going to open.
There's a strategy that you can use that's going to take time and effort, but in the end is going to make you much happier and serve your needs much better.
First find people. One way I find people is I look at the follow/followed by lists of people I admire or follow or who have a blog/service that I like and use. For instance, I love David Gaughran's blog and I follow him on Twitter. He's a swell writer and his blog is indispensable for self-publishers. So I'll look up who David follows on Twitter and who follows him. Now I've got a ready-made list to sift through for likely people to follow. You can also check out tweets by people you follow or admire and see who they're retweeting or what blog posts they're recommending.
Now comes the work part, the time-consuming part. Once you've got a list of likely people, check out their tweets. Are they interesting, informative, current? Or are they only about themselves or do they espouse some viewpoint (political or otherwise) that you detest? If you like a person's tweets, then visit their website, check out their books, check out their blog. If they interest you or you find their work useful or informative follow them.
If you're interested in having someone follow you back, give them a reason to. Sign up for their newsletter, become a friend on their blog, leave a comment on their blog, tweet about their blog or their book, or send them a direct message introducing yourself. Something like, "Hi. Just read your blog and really enjoyed the post about Twitter."
Don't do this insincerely, because most people can smell insincerity a mile off. And you don't have to do the same thing for every person you follow. Don't manufacture something (like the thank-you letters you wrote as a kid) but try to be friendly or helpful or even snarky. I find snark works much better than insincerity.
Set a number of followers you'd like to add per day or per week and work to make that goal. Remember, you're not just adding followers like trophies in a case, you're looking for people you have some connection with, whose stuff you enjoy, or you think might be interested in what you have to offer. I try to follow five new people every day I'm on Twitter (which is not every day). Today, I followed 7 people and six have followed me back. And it's not just about the follows, I found a really great blog that I enjoyed reading -- http://brendangannon.net/ -- and I found a book I put on my Amazon wishlist for when I've plowed through the seven books on my nightstand and the five on my Kindle.
So it's not a race or a storefront, it's a way to connect and find other people who are cool and worthwhile, and just might think you're cool too.
Link of the Day
Okay, so it's shameless self-promotion, but, hey, it's my blog. The S/O has been working on setting up a new authors website -- which is still very much under construction -- but I'm setting up showcase pages that consist of a cover and a quick sample for each novel. The idea is to let the writing speak for itself without a lot of blurby stuff stepping all over it. So check out the bare bones prototype for Darker By Degree and, if you're so inclined, tell me what you think of the idea.