Social media interaction can be an incredibly wonderful and beneficial experience, if you’re doing it right. The job description of the modern writer includes having a coherent and professional social media presence, and we’re all doing our best to achieve that. But sometimes, we do too much and step over the line into Spam Land, and that’s a big problem.
There’s humongosaurian amounts of socializing tips and tricks out there, ranging from “expert” marketing advice that will make you spam people faster than Asian Viagra sellers, to qualified and tested advice aimed directly at professional writers, such as Kristen Lamb’s “We Are Not Alone” or Michael Hyatt’s “Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World”, and advice from lots of other successful writers such as Jody Hedlund (Putting The Social Back In Social Media) and Chuck Wendig (25 Things You Should Know About Social Media).
Most of you have already dipped into various platforms and tried things out, and you’re most likely feeling a combination of hope and disgust about the whole shebang on any given day, am I right? That’s because not all social media platforms and marketing techniques are created equal, and not all of them work for writers. Most of them, in fact, are more damaging than they are good, because they’re aimed at corporations, social media bloodsuckers and copy-writers (professional bloggers who make money from selling their ebooks on –duh!– blogging, and from the shoe and weight-loss ads on their pages).
It’s critical to understand that our needs as fiction writers differ from theirs. There’s a simple rule of thumb that will help us distinguish between social media advice that’s good for writers and advice that will harm us:
If the advice is aimed at driving traffic to our website instead of increasing our visibility within our niche, it’s the wrong advice for us as writers.
Let me explain what I mean by using Triberr (the self-proclaimed “Reach-Multiplier”, triberr.com) as an example.
Why Triberr is NOT good for Writers
It’s essentially a quick rise to a plateau, and then it’s just quicksand.
When you first start out with Triberr, the number of tweets to your blog rises dramatically, up to about 5 times of what it was before. You think: yay, people finally hear about me, they’re finally paying attention, they really care! Except—they really don’t.
They’re tweeting your posts right from inside the Triberr feed, not from your blog, which means barely 10% of your tribemates are actually reading anything you write and genuinely care about what you have to say (I know simply because my short-URL provider is a different one than Triberr’s, and I immediately recognize where a tweeted link to my blog sprung out of; and I also routinely check my stats to see where people who land on my blog are coming in from, and it’s not predominantly from the Triberr noise).
The Triberr experience has an initial spike, when all these new people start tweeting your blog posts, and then it rapidly plateaus and starts burrying you in it. Because after the initial novelty, all the people in your tribes are just spamming their followers with your links. And no one responds positively to spam.
After the initial high, you start realizing that you’re spending more and more time trying to read the posts of all the other tribe members who have tweeted your link. Most of their content is nice but it’s not for you, and you can’t possibly read all of them, but you “have to” tweet theirs since they were nice enough to tweet yours. Then you feel like a fraud because you didn’t really read all of them, and then you realize it’s 8 pm and you haven’t hit your daily wordcount because you were busy clearing your Triberr feed. You basically end up having two blogrolls to work through—your real one, the one comprised of all those blogs you actually subscribed to willingly because you were interested in them, and the Triberr feed that sneaked up on you.
You soon feel jaded and overwhelmed, and on the verge of just screwing all social media and going back to solitude. But Triberr is not social media. Triberr is the least social platform I’ve encountered so far. Why? Because social media is about communities and communication, and Triberr—despite the generous promotion it gets—is only about noise. Like a cocktail party with thousands of people yelling out their names and the names of their immediate neighbors, all the time, at the top of their lungs.
Let me give you some facts from my own experience with it.
Yesterday, August 12th, after about four months of being on Triberr, I was a member of 8 tribes which had a total of 114 tribemembers, and my account said I had a reach of a staggering 295,966 people! Wow! That’s an awesome achievement, right?
Wrong. Do you think I got 300K people reading my blog posts? Do you think I got 114 new subscribers or commenters? Or that my blog stats skyrocketed because of that obscene reach Triberr added up on its fingers? Or that even a fraction of those people is actually part of my demographics? Haaaa ha ha ha haa!! *stifled sob*
Know how many genuine relationships have formed due to all that investment of time & attention? A wonderful total of exactly SEVEN. Seven awesome people, seven awesome blogs I’m a direct follower of and which I got to know through Triberr. Seven blogs in four months of tedious reading, tweeting, gasping and feeling overwhelmed and miserable. I think I can do better with Google search and a couple of honest, friendly tweets in a single freakin day!
So thank you Triberr, but—no, thank you.
Now, to be fair, Triberr was built on a promising ideal—in theory—and Dino & Dan get my full respect for that. But in reality it’s just a funnel of superficial traffic and disengaged noise, and writers don’t benefit from that. We benefit from readers and a functioning community of fellow writers. Communism sounded good in theory too, it was all about the middle class rising to power, all about the average Joe stepping up to claim his share of the pie. But when thousands want an equal share of the same pie, they just end up with crumbs. I grew up in communist Romania and I remember the feel of it very clearly, I know it means uniformity in the name of equality, and hopeless annonymity instead of a supportive community. And that’s exactly what Triberr gives writers in the long run.
As writers we benefit from individuality, from niches we tend to and people we know and who know us. We benefit from working together with those who love us for who we are and what we write, not for our retweeting capacity. And we thrive on small and dedicated communities, not annonimous masses.
Links and clicks are not relationships. Really, the more cookie-cutter tweets there are about your blog, the less visible you become, and the more insipid, repetitive tweets you send in your heartfelt and diligent attempt to be fair to your fellow tribemates, the more you turn into a BOT and you lose credibility. I’m sure you don’t want that, no one wants that.
We have to prioritize our efforts, and focus on quality not quantity. If we’re to be professional in our social media interactions, we have to deserve the trust and support of others, and not just make noise like those dime-a-dozen copywriters. Besides, our interactions on social media are not about selling stuff quick-and-dirty, they are about creating relationships. Check out the hard numbers and see how professional writers respond to this reality.
I also tip my hat at Kern Windwraith (Why I’m divorcing Triberr), Dee Carney (Via Triberr? No Thanks!), Alex Penny (The Many Reasons Why I’m Leaving Triberr), Kellye Crane (Let’s Vote Triberr Off The Island) and many others for speaking up and sharing their experience with the Triberr noise.
Today I’m combing Triberr one last time, and I will terminate my account by midnight. I’m plenty busy anyway and truly enjoying my favorite platforms, Twitter and Facebook, and there are still so many other venues for writers out there that deserve to be explored, such as Goodreads or specialized forums, where writers can talk about their love for fiction and get to know each other, not spam each other. And if you’re really up to try new stuff, check out all these cool places too.
Essentially, whether we’re indifferent to Triberr or not, we should always remember this—social media helps writers if it’s used to create relationships and generate trust, not to make noise. And we create relationships by being ourselves and interacting honestly with each other, not shoveling bits and bytes and punching links into each others’ eyes.
So tell me!
What’s your experience with social media spamming been so far (Triberr or otherwise)? What has it taught you about your approach?
This post is part of a series discussing the essential ingredients
that make up a professional writing attitude.