Hi, my name is Alan, and I Twitter.
It has been 10,000 followers since my last real talk about the subject, and I have a few things to say.
The Starting Point
To put things in perspective, on January 1st of this year (2019), I only had about 1,000 followers.
This therefore constitutes a ten-fold increase in my Twitter fanbase in only 3 months. And, naturally, this can never happen again in such a short span, though I very much want to reach 100,000 followers.
With 100,000 followers, my chances of publication change dramatically. For better or for worse, social media influence is now a kind of professional currency. Publishers and agents look at your following, and they make decisions about you based on that.
And this is not confined to the world of book publishing. Employers and potential business partners of every stripe are using social media influence as a metric. They like numbers, after all. They’d rather be given a GPA and an SAT score than listen to you talk about your passions. And Twitter followers is quickly becoming just as important of a measuring stick.
And, to be completely honest, the biggest lesson I have taken away from having 10,000 followers is that numbers rule the world. Quality is the metric you set for yourself; but only quantity will get your foot in the gatekeeper’s doors.
Don’t believe me? Consider the following.
10,000 Followers is not 10x Better than 1,000
Because it’s actually more like 100x, or even 1000x, better.
You know how much interaction I got on my tweets when I only had 1,000 followers? Or how many blog visits I got from those 1,000?
Twitter has this neat little tool called Twitter Analytics. I don’t know of a way to access it on the app, but on the website you can find it under the main menu. This tool allows you to see not only how many likes and retweets you get from each tweet, but also profile visits, media/hyperlink/hashtag clicks, and how many people chose to view the Tweet in detail.
It also lists impressions (how many people read the tweet at all). And the difference has been night and day.
Up to the beginning of this year, I used to break my brain thinking of clever things to post at the world in 280 characters or less. And my cleverest, cutest, or most scathing tweets just sat there, unseen.
Now, I can just say something like “I like dogs” and get 10 likes, maybe two profile visits. That number triples if I say “I like dogs who wear sailor suits”. And that number multiplies by ten if I include a picture of a dog in a sailor suit.
Literally, the words “Guess what? Chicken butt,” have a solid chance of going viral—not because of the quality or originality of the tweet, but simply that there are more eyes on it, now.
But that’s not even the most depressing part.
The Rich Get Richer
It is easy to get new followers, if you already have a ton of followers. When people see movement, they rush in to find out what all the excitement is about. And here, as before, the quality of your content is not the driving factor. Quality is, at best, a catalyst—speeding growth that is already happening.
And, at worst, quality doesn’t even enter the equation.
Is This my Ticket In?
Since Twitter is a public platform, it’s easy to find author accounts on the site. And, in my own research, I could not find a single 100,000-followed author that did not have a publisher. And almost all the 50,000-followed authors at least had an agent.
That’s not to say there aren’t any. I just couldn’t find them.
Now, the first objection you’ll raise is that this is an example of reversing the causality. Perhaps the authors have 100,000+ followers only because they’re already published.
Except I’ve also seen a lot of Twitter accounts for published authors that have less than 3,000 followers. Being published does not guarantee a massive Twitter following (though the reverse seems to hold true, at least in a plurality of cases).
Observing this, I have come to the realization that I cannot afford not to build my Twitter presence. It not only helps my chances at publication, it is also driving traffic to my website. And since a popular website is also considered, by publishers and agents, as a prerequisite to publication, I have little other choice but to pursue this possibility.
Don’t Get the Wrong Idea
I don’t mean to come across as cynical. Personally, I prefer quality in the accounts I follow on social media (or, at least, I believe I do; perhaps my brain is merely tricking me into believing that the popular accounts I follow have merit).
But the world is cynical, and dealing with it requires that you speak its language and know its customs. If, at the end of the day, it boils down to a simple numbers game, then fine—I like games, and I will play whichever one is currently ruling the playground.
Because once you know which game you’re playing, winning suddenly becomes possible—even inevitable, if you play enough times.