Twitter, the Land of Bad Bots

Before we start, here’s a meme for free:

So, you’re an author, or perhaps consider yourself an “aspiring” author (don’t be an “aspiring” anything – read my latest book to find out why). You’ve been told social media is incredibly important, so you make a twitter account.

Authors start following you. You follow them back! Some of these accounts have THOUSANDS of followers, maybe even HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS. This is how you build a social media following, right?

WRONG.

Let me give some of you new (not aspiring) authors and creators some critical advice:

  1. Success on social media is about engagment, not the number of followers
  2. “Who” is following and engaging is more important than the numbers
  3. The point is to enjoy social media and create relationships, not to create a large number of followers for ad spam

With that in mind, notice that those author accounts who follow back have equal numbers of followers/following. The bigger the number, the more likely the account is for ad spam and will do NOTHING for you. It may not even be run by a human being.

What these accounts do is follow people who have certain words in their bio, hoping these people will follow them back. Then, they either mute the person once they have followed back, unfollow them after a certain amount of time (and hope the other person hasn’t noticed), or unfollow, then re-follow if the person doesn’t follow back. It makes sense – that “author” following 100k accounts can’t use twitter if his feed is 100k people deep. The site becomes unusable at the point. So they do what I said – mute, or unfollow later.

The above is an example. I have no idea who this person is, their books looke like amateur hour, they tweet stuff that is irrelevant to me, they get zero engagment, and yet I’m following. What happened was that I followed back like three years ago (because that’s what other amateur authors told me to do) and never noticed this account existed until it started tweeting stuff that showed up in my feed the other day. I actually checked – his bot sent out a link to his book as soon as I followed several years ago.

This person unfollowed literally everyone to make it look like he was an important and meaningful author. That horrible ad filled with bad book covers should give it away, along with the fact that he is following 3 people. Nobody who uses twitter only follows three people. This is a person running an ad-spam account.

They also have bots that will unfollow you if you unfollow. Basic stuff. Once I started unfollowing every author I saw ad spamming that didn’t engage with me, my follower count started dropping. I unfollowed about 1k accounts, and lost about 1k followers. Go figure.

But the numbers don’t matter. Other authors are not your customers. Them retweeting you (they never do, by the way) doesn’t reach any readers because they only follow other authors. Some of these accounts actually want TO CHARGE you for retweets on their “massive” twitter network – which is entirely other accounts like theirs (in other words, managed using bots/scripts). Tweets to their 100k followers on their three accounts (with the same 100k followers, all follow-bots) will get a handful of likes or retweets, and more importantly WILL NOT GENERATE SALES.

What suprising to me is that there are STILL so many accounts out there trying to run this scam, when it probably only worked for a little while years ago. I still get followed/unfollowed by an account called “Booktasters Authors” every month.

If you want to go down a deep rabbit-hole, you can check out authors with “Calumet Editions,” a vanity press. They make a twitter account for you (if you pay them thousands of dollars) that does this, and of course follows all the other Calumet authors, who will then retweet the bot spam, while your bot retweets their bot spam. It’s all an illusion to add value to their “publishing packages.” IT’S A PLANET INHABITED BY ROBOTS. Just look at this engagment:

Just spam, and not even a single engagment. They have almost 100k followers (and 70k following), too.

So what are you supposed to do?

First, have fun. If you are engaging with other people, building a relationship, that can turn into actual fans who enjoy your work. Other authors who do the same have actual fans, too, and if they retweet you can indeed get exposure to real readers. Use social media, don’t just view it as an advertising gimmick, because it won’t work as well as you think.

Second, make CONTENT. Every platform does content differently. At the least, make blog posts that are relevant to you and to the audience that will like your work.

Building a presence is a slow process. I didn’t get 40k YouTube subscibers overnight, I did it by making content and interracting with people over a long period of time. Go forth and conquer!

If you are an author, or a person engaged in the creative industries, you should check out my book on designing a functional creative process and finishing your projects on time:

5 Comments

  1. David, I want to thank you for this guidance. I’m still hemming and hawing on whether I want to stay on Twitter — the political situation is really untenable, including some unfortunate stances taken by the platform where I’m currently published — but your feed and blog constitute one of the few bright spots.

  2. Hey . . . you’re stealing my bit about “aspiring” writers.

    Just kidding. Great minds think alike, after all.

    Anyway, excellent post about how to actually use social media. Other authors are not your audience, and they are of limited effectiveness in building an audience and selling books. They can be great CONTACTS for improving your craft, talking shop and strategy, and if they have a good fanbase, leveraging that to each other’s mutual benefit. But these huge-follower author-bots are about as useful as the #PitMad #WritingCommunity people who’ve been writing their dystopian YA novel for the past 12 years now.

    • I think it’s been said writer is the only profession where someone prefers to “have written” more than to write. To “have done” more than to do.
      I totally believe it when you look at that writing community stuff.

      • Exactly. It’s like the revel in constantly working on their “book baby” or whatever.

        Our job is to liberate these people! That is, if they care to be liberated and actually PUBLISH.

  3. I actually enter the world of twitter after more than a decade with FB so I’m not aware of all these dynamics but still, I already noticed s#+t like this.

    I think that twitter is way more elegant and better engaging than FB but I can imagine it is not like entering the rabbit hole!

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