Kat has pumped out some 5,000 Twitter updates. She subscribes to messages from more than 1,000 fellow users and has attracted more than 1,500 "followers." I also track Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media, now up to 54,807 followers, still a fraction of Barack Obama's 379,716 before the First Keyboarder apparently abandoned Twitter for more conventional media. Unlike Obama, Kat can't hold White House news conferences.
Thanks to Twitter, however, more people will know about Kat and maybe do business with her. She is author of The Bookish Dilettane Blog, as well as a book sales and marketing professional with past experience at Harcourt, the University of Arizona Press and elsewhere. I'd be shocked if Kat did not write a book at some point. Check out her Tweets---her Twitter entries---to see a pro at work.
A virtual coffeehouse
Whether she goes on to a book or not, Kat knows how to draw a crowd in a book-related context and could well serve as a good example for many other writers and publishers who prefer a low-key approach.
Kat avoids obnoxious personal ballyhoo, using Twitter as a coffeehouse, where she chit-chats and talks up friends. Followers are tempted to to click on her Twitter profile and blog-link there---and perhaps go on to Google her work samples, including, I'd hope, the TeleRead Q&A's. Twitter lets her choose between sending a message to one friend, a group or all 1,500. In effect it's a mix between a one-to-one instant message and mailing list without many of the usual list hassles. Twitter users can post and read from the Web or via programs for a number of devices, everything from iPhones and iPod Touches (try the Tweetie app) to desktops (Twhirl and Tweetdeck, for example).
But how to get the world to notice your own e-books or p-books after signing up for Twitter or another social network? Social nets can involve more than just messages back and forth, but in the message area, I'll pass on a few tips to use when communicating with friends, clients and people potentially in both categories. The current recession makes networking all the more useful. There are even job-related networks such as Linked-In, and Facebook is after the same career-related business even though it began life as a social network for college students and still is largely for personal users.
For book-specific advice for Twitter and other social networks, check out Bring Sexy Back to the Book Party in the Digital Age, Laurel Touby's excellent presentation from O'Reilly's Tools of Change conference last month. Chris Brogan offered his own share of good tips on blogging and social media, a session now viewable on the Web, where he discussed the new currencies of attention and trust, his terms. With Twitter, the goals are similar.
Laurel herself founded MediaBistro, a media professional site, which, yes, is on Twitter just like her. She sees online "book parties" as especially valuable because "your message is spread by word of mouth" and the results are measurable. What's more, the conversion can remain online for years. And you're building a community. "The audience wants to interact with the author," Laurel said at TOC, "but they also want to interact with like-minded souls, just as they would at a traditional book party. And those relationships people have reflect back in positive ways onto the author, onto the book, onto the publisher who brought them together. It’s a beautiful and virtuous circle."
To find useful people in your book's area of interest, you can try Twitter's search engine---also good for topics---or Twellow.com. Go ahead; guess and check out names. The right trendies just may be on Twitter. None other than Daniel Schorr, the 92-year-old NPR news analyst, who at time has succeeded by sticking to his beliefs and not being a trendy, recently started Twittering and is a convert with 4,128 followers.
Some Twitter wisdom from Publishing Trends
Meanwhile my diligent friends at Publishing Trends (subscription information) have compiled a handy list of Twitter-oriented tips, and I suspect that Laurel and Kat would agree with most everything in PT's detailed Twitter guide. Ahead are highlights, just a sample of what you'll find in the actual newsletter from March 2009.
1. "Developing your Twitter presence." "The number-one tip from people we talked to: Publishers shouldn’t be afraid to get personal on Twitter, and their tweets shouldn’t sound like marketing." Chris Brogan, the social media expert, told PT: "The best people using Twitter are the ones who talk back to people, not just the people who are talking about their dumb stuff." Look for companies whose Tweets please you, then think about similar tactics and strategies, Chris says. Ron Hogan, who started the Beatrice.com literary blog and now blogs for MediaBistro's Galley Cat and produces workshops and conferences for writers, says publishers should "let the person running the account put a personal spin on their posts, not just announcing every press clipping or YouTube clip that comes down the pike." Same advice would apply to others. Twitter's length limit is too short anyway for extended ballyhoo in one place---just 140 characters or perhaps 20 words or so. Use Twitter for chat and informal pointers to other Web pages. The percentage of business conversation depends on whom you're in touch with. Just don't overdo it. Blog headlines are okay if people expect 'em.
2. "Using Twitter to Connect with Your Audience and Gain Recognition." A "Pew social media survey," notes Publishing Trends, "found that Twitter users as a group are much more likely than the general population to use wireless devices like cell phones, laptops, and handhelds for Internet access. They use those devices to get their news. ‘For many Twitter users, learning about and sharing relevant and recent nuggets of information is a primary utility of the service,’ says the report. ‘While Twitter users are just as likely as others to consume media on any given day, they are more likely to consume it on mobile devices and less likely to engage with news via more traditional outlets.’" You might even want to set up search words connected with your topic. For The Solomon Scandals, my Washington newspaper novel, I created, yes, #solomonscandals. But I really should try tagging other topics.
3. "Oh, Yeah—It leans to increased sales."
"’Publishers should not think about Twitter initially as a way to drive book sales. Instead, it’s a way for them to connect and communicate with readers in a way that is foreign at first,’ says [Wiley Associate Publisher Christopher Webb. ‘If we [are part of the community], the opportunities to introduce people to the books we publish will present themselves naturally. But we have to listen for them as part of the ongoing conversation….Having said that, Twitter can drive sales. It has been widely reported that Dell [computers] drove an additional $1 million in revenues in 18 months via its Twitter account.’"
For more Twitter tips from Publishing Trends, see @Chelsea Green has 2,350 Followers. Here’s Why. The first tip: "The main thing we do on Twitter is listen. We learn a great deal about community mood, upcoming trends, interesting news, and influential people. We find and vet possible book topics all day long."
Twitter’s visitor count: It’s said to be almost six million unique visitors a month. Twitter is only the third-larger social network, but is especially attractive for book promo because like radio it has an intimate one-to-one feeling, especially if you talk back to your followers—a nice way of letting people know you’re approachable, even if, like Kat, you have 1,500 fans.
Related: When everyone’s a friend, is anything private?, in the New York Times. Just where to draw the line?
Another promo tip—riding Amazon’s coat-tails: Now that the Kindle books are available more widely, thanks to the iPhone and iPod Touch, why not encourage people to use their gizmos to read Amazon-posted excerpts from your books? Put up the instructions on your book-related site. Here‘s how, with the Kindle and other e-readers in mind, I’m now following up on the Scandals link in the upper-right of the TeleRead home page. Yes, I’d like the Kindle and the iPhone app much more without that horrid proprietary format and DRM, and I hope that Amazon will see the light and discover ePub and either drop DRM or switch to social DRM.