I don’t pretend to be a social media expert.
I HAVE been a marketing copywriter for 20 years, though, and these days I write children’s books, too. The rules for good marketing and response communication remains the same for any creative platform, whether you’re writing an 8-effort magazine gift campaign or a 140-character tweet.
Readers want to be engaged, informed, entertained. They DON’T want to be yelled at, inundated, or bored to death.
I’m not pretending to be an expert here, but as a copywriter and now book self-promoter, here are the ten most frequent copy “bests and worsts” that I’ve noticed on twitter:
1. Best: humour me, and I will follow. Make me laugh, and I’ll remember you. I’ll probably even look forward to your next tweet with anticipation. I might even want to know you better.
2. Worst: whining. Please don’t whine, it makes me embarrassed for you. Also, please avoid telling me about God or your late night party habits. There are lots of other places to do that, if you must, like facebook. Or maybe, just don’t.
3. Best: share what you know. If you’re good at something, enlighten me, show me something new, share a link. But please don’t just talk about yourself all the time, unless you’re Neil Young, then that would be fine. I’d like to see 30% information (here’s the link to my new book, my upcoming event, my latest author interview); 30% inspiration (this is what I think about my favourite poem, about walking the dog, about my skee-ball fetish); and 30% co-operation (here’s a cool link to something you might find interesting, which is unrelated to me). The other 10%? Surprise me!
4. Worst: ALL CAPS. Likely you know that tweeting (or anything) in ALL CAPS is the equivalent to SHOUTING in someone’s face. Please don’t write in ALL CAPS. I won’t read it. I can’t read it, it hurts my ears, my eyes, my sensibilities. If you whisper, or speak quietly, I might be more inclined to listen.
5. Worst: too many hashtags and links. You know the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Effective response communication requires that people are directed to do one thing at a time, maybe two at most. If you send a tweet with five different links and hashtags in it, I won’t know where to start. Therefore, I won’t do anything but ignore you.
6. Best: a simple profile that tells me exactly who you are in ten words or less. My profile says: “Award-nominated children’s author, poet and magazine copywriter”. There, I’ve covered my professional life in eight words and you can decide if I’m someone you’d like to follow or not. Simple. I’ve seen too many profiles that tell me nothing. “Joe Blow, International Man of Mystery” is not a profile! Be specific. Tell me what you do. That way I’ll know right away if we’ll have a useful conversation, or if we’re just wasting each other’s time.
7. Worst: one continuous note, at full volume, 24/7. Please don’t send me the same tweet, or slight variations of the same tweet (we do notice, you know), again and again and again. I simply won’t read it. It’s blaring, useless, twitter junk. I’ll quickly come to skip anything with your name on it, and faster than you might think. Having your name out there is fine, but make me associate your name with something useful, something pleasant, not something annoying. If I said “no” to your book offer the way you worded it the first time, I’ll be even more likely to say no (or something far less polite) if you ask me the same way the 98th time.
8. Worst: the words “FREE on Kindle” are not going to make me read your book. In fact, since you have undervalued yourself, now I think your book is never going to be worth paying for. Neither am I likely to pay for anything else you write. It’s called “Perceived Value,” a pretty simple concept. You’re far better off to build a paying audience, then once you have a loyal readership reward them now and then with a freebie which introduces a new book, or upsells to an event. It’s not rocket science. It’s human nature. We want to pay, even a little, for good things.
9. Best: tweets that cozy up to the fire. Tell me who you are, remember I’m a real person at the receiving end of your tweets, not just part of an amorphous mass. I will relate to specifics about you, generalizations leave me cold (another basic marketing rule, and frankly a basic rule for any good writing). If it helps, imagine an acquaintance and tweet to that person (but nothing too personal please, see #2). So instead of saying, “Buy My Book” (the new f-off on twitter, apparently), how about saying, “My book cover took the designer 48 hours to create, here’s why,” or “There’s a hilarious typo in chapter one, funny story,” or even, “I dropped my new book in the mud, brown becomes it somehow.” I dunno. Just use your imagination, but speak to me like someone you know, and tell me something true. Engage me, one-on-one, even if you have 10,000 followers. This is rule number one in copywriting: speak to a specific person, even if you’re talking to ten million. Be brave. Be wise. Be witty.
10. Best: be selective, follow wisely. Okay, it sounds a little snotty, but if I get followed by a car company or someone who has absolutely nothing to do with my interests, I’m flattered maybe but I’m just not going to follow them back. We won’t have a meaningful conversation, no matter how pleasant they may be. It’s a lot like dating. Five hundred dedicated, like-minded followers are far more likely to get your message out, or care about what you have to say and maybe share it, than five thousand people who are just following you because you followed them. More followers doesn’t necessarily equal better conversations, in fact, I believe the opposite is true.
That’s ten, but there’s a lot more I've noticed. I’ll save them for next time. Happy writing!