I started using Twitter in 2009 ( @thecreativepenn ) and it quickly became the center of my author world. I met like-minded people and learned about the industry, as well as using it to connect with customers, readers and influencers.
Twitter is still part of my core book marketing strategy, but there's always more to learn. In this article, Jesper Schmidt, author of Twitter for Authors, shares his tips.
You can probably agree that well-known authors make everything seem so easy. They have a huge social media following and sell books by the bucketload.
It's very easy to jump to the conclusion that if you, too, amass a huge following, then success can be replicated.
This was my initial line of thinking, too.
I thus managed to acquire 6,000 Twitter followers before I even released my first book, and I was pretty proud of myself. I thought I had struck gold.
I tweeted my book release message and waited for the money to roll in. You can probably guess what happened next…
That's right! Absolutely nothing.
I felt extremely discouraged, but I wasn't prepared to give up.
Instead, I began a year-long research trip into the world of Twitter. I wanted to achieve three things: to save time, to increase my audience, and to grow my email list.
That last part – growing the email list – will be the focus of today's article.
No matter how we twist and turn it, the number one reason why people follow someone on social media is that they want a good experience. Your followers want to be able to share that experience with their friends.
A “buy my book” tweet is as far from that category as you can probably get.
Selling books to fans requires you to build a level of trust with them. That takes time. It also demands that you put in the effort.
The best way to deepen relationships – and thus sell more books – is by adding followers to your email list.
The only problem is that Twitter seems to be a difficult platform from which to achieve this. This is also why many revert to paid Facebook advertising as their preferred lead-generation mechanism.
What if I told you that I have found a secret formula in which you can use Twitter to add 300 new subscribers a month to your mailing list!?
Interested? Alright, let me tell you how.
You have to “earn” their email address
The transaction in all its simplicity goes like this: You give them something for free; they give you their email address.
Remember what I just mentioned was the number one reason why people follow someone on social media? They want a good experience!
Getting something for free is hitting bull's-eye. It answers the What’s in it for me? question stronger than anything else. It's about them and not you. This is a compelling reason for followers to give you their email address.
The thing is, you should not be looking for short-term gratification. Instead, consider the long haul and think about how your author career will last for many, many years to come. Are you prepared to exchange something for free now in order to build a relationship with a person? The opportunity to turn them from a random follower into a future reader who will devour all of your creations? I think it is a small price to pay.
1. The pinned tweet
You know when you click someone’s Twitter profile and right there, at the top of their feed, you see a tweet permanently fixed? That's a pinned tweet.
Because it's the first tweet anyone sees beneath your bio, it's prime real estate which can be leveraged to move people away from Twitter and onto your email list. The pinned tweet will keep generating a constant stream of interactions every time a Twitter user discovers your profile.
Included in the pinned tweet should be a shortened URL that takes people to a sign-up form that delivers the free content automatically after they have given you their email address.
My own pinned tweet had, during an eight-month period, almost 70,000 impressions with 2,066 engagements. From those engagements, 166 people clicked the link and signed up for my mailing list. That’s a conversion rate of 8%.
Considering how this tweet just sits there passively and requires no maintenance or action on my part, I would take such results any day.
What you decide to give could be a number of different things, but here are a few ideas:
- One of your books – you could give them a novel, a novella, or a short story you have written
- A PDF – this could be a character sheet, deleted scenes, or even behind-the-scenes information
- Interviews – perhaps you have interviewed another author, or several of them, and have the recordings stored away. You can offer access to these in return for an email address.
Just know that giving something away is always better than nothing.
At the end of this free download, you should include link(s) to where people can find your books. This is a neat, indirect way of marketing.
Having reached the end of the content you have provided, you can safely assume that they are interested in learning more about what you have to offer. Otherwise, they wouldn't have come this far in the first place, right?
I mentioned that you could use the pinned tweet as a vehicle to give away a free book, but I also have to say that I don’t recommend that. Your second option to get people onto your email list is a far more effective way to acquire new subscribers. I will get back to that in just a second.
First, let's just cover how you pin a tweet to your profile:
- Send out the tweet you intend to pin, just as you would any other tweet
- Go to your Twitter profile
- Find the tweet you want to pin
- Click the small arrow in the upper right-hand corner of said tweet. Choose “Pin to your profile page” from the options that appear.
Note that you can only have one pinned tweet set at any one time, so choosing a new one will remove any current pinned tweet.
2. My secret formula
Let's get to the really juicy part which will ensure that your free book is converting as many new followers into new email subscribers as possible.
Giving away free books has been heavily debated in the author community, especially over the last year or so, and I won't take up the words of this article to debate for or against such strategies. For now, I will just state that there can be no argument with the fact that getting your work into the hands of as many readers as possible will spark new interest and bring more attention to your creations.
I mentioned long-term strategy before, and in this case, the idea is of course that once your newfound reader has enjoyed the free book, they will continue and buy books 2 and 3 in the series, too.
Over time it will generate more sales and at the same time secure those vital reviews which are the necessary social proof that causes random browsers on Amazon to buy your books as well.
As they say, first impressions are important – what better way is there to do just that than offering a new follower a free novel? I get “thank you” tweets every single day.
If you have used Twitter for more than just a few days, you will know how you are getting spammed by Direct Messages (DMs) with download links. If you are
anything like me, you get so much junk that you have stopped bothering even looking at DMs. So have many of your potential readers.
Instead, you are going to welcome new followers with an @reply tweet in the form of a Twitter website card. In return for the free book, they will subscribe to your email list.
The idea of using @reply messages is that the receivers could easily miss a regular tweet when it appears in the generic Twitter feed. An @reply message will, on the other hand, appear in the notification tab, and most Twitter users will check here on a daily basis.
A website card is basically a special, formatted tweet, designed to stand out and at the same time drive traffic to a web address specified by you.
In short, you are going to make people click this website card, which then takes them to a landing page from where, after giving you their email address, they will be supplied with your free book in return.
How To Create an @Reply Message
- Log into your Twitter account and from there click your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner.
- You then select Twitter Ads, or use this direct link: http://ads.twitter.com.
Since the website card is located inside the Ads platform, there is no other way to access it than pretending you are going to run paid advertising on Twitter. This also means that you have to sign up and give Twitter your credit card information.
- When you first arrive at the Twitter Ads page, you will be asked to set your country and time zone in order for Twitter to determine billing currency, taxes, and so forth. Go ahead and complete this.
- This will bring up a new welcome screen from where you can pick different ad objectives in the left-hand menu. Website clicks or conversions is listed at the top. That’s the one you want.
- Click it and then select Create campaign.
- However, you are not interested in running an ad campaign, so from here you just press Exit in the top right-hand corner of the screen. It’s right next to the Save button. This little workaround will now allow you to enter your credit card information without setting up a real ad campaign.
- Next, go through the steps of entering your credit card details by clicking the onscreen text reading, Enter a credit card.
- Once you have completed this sequence, click the Continue to my campaigns option and you will now be taken to a new screen which offers you more options than before. Among these, you will have access to the website card.
Your new card needs a headline: it can be up to 70 characters long.
You will need an image of 800×481 pixels that makes your website card pop up in the Twitter feed.
Once created, your website card will have its own URL. You can either manually copy this URL in when you message new followers or you can automate this step. The automation part is too much to elaborate on here and now.
Your 300 subscribers a month
You can expect 10-15% of new followers to actually click the website card and sign up to your email list, so there is a natural limit to how fast you can grow through organic sign-ups such as these.
However, if the image on your website card and the welcome text are well crafted, you are going to add 5-10 new subscribers to your email list every day. That’s 150-300 new subscribers every single month. To me, that’s pretty amazing!
Your email list is the foundation of your author platform, and apart from writing well and consistently, building a quality email list should be your number one priority.
Have you tried using Twitter to grow your email list? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Jesper Schmidt is a Danish Fantasy author who has also written Twitter for Authors. In the book, he shares a system that can be fully replicated in under 30 minutes a day.
The book comes with free tutorial videos that show you exactly, with easy, step-by-step guides, how to operate all the pieces required. Follow Jesper on Twitter: https://twitter.com/schmidtjesper
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