Book bloggers are, in my opinion, some of the most generous people you could come across – selfless not only in promoting authors, but also in supporting one another. But, as this often comes in the form of sharing one another’s posts / reviews on Twitter, this can cause problems: the notorious ‘Twitter jail’, or ‘shadow ban’, where your tweets are hidden because you post too many links.
Now, I am not sure I understand the logistics of this, and it’s easy to argue against the unfairness – Twitter is, after all, a place where Nazis run free, so you’d think a few blog links would hardly be cause for outrage – but given that seems to be happening, how can you avoid it? How can you still use Twitter to share the content you want to, without falling foul of the site’s often vague and nebulous rules?
Understand the problem
While done with the best of intentions, a feed full of links – your own or other people’s – can come across as ‘spammy’. Think of Twitter as a conversation with your followers: if your every tweet is ‘read this link!’ then you are not really in a conversation, you are in a sales pitch. (Authors can be very guilty of this, too – if almost every one of your tweets amounts to ‘buy my book’ – or sharing other people’s ‘buy my book’ tweets in the hope they’ll do the same for you – it’s boring for anyone following you, and you clutter up other people’s feeds.)
How to fix it
The answer is easy – mix it up a little! This may seem daunting if you are not familiar with using Twitter for anything but sharing links or book promo, especially given the constraints of the format. If you spend ages lovingly crafting a book review, cramming your feelings into 140 characters can seem impossible. But the good news is, it’s easy to get around it. Here are some fast cheats:
Take a picture!
I make liberal use of the #amreading tag to promote books, since I am generally too busy to write lengthy reviews. (Seriously, bloggers, how do you guys do it?) So, why not post a photo of whatever you are reading, whether for a blog tour, personal taste, research, whatever. The author (if alive – you don’t just have to post pics of recent books!) will be delighted, you are breaking up your feed and making it visually interesting, and it is a way of supporting writers without the hard work of writing a review. I recently sent a book to Lainey at Almost Reading (@smbslt) for a review and was thrilled to see it pop up in pictures all over her Twitter and Instagram!
Pets are always good
Seriously. Just post a picture of your pet and people will love you. Times are hard, life is cruel, so the internet will always need more pictures of cute animals. (Children, too, but I know many people don’t like sharing pictures of their kids on such a public forum, so I would advise caution in doing so). If you don’t have a pet, borrow one: I have quite the following for my friends’ cat, Lyra!
(This is not my cat)
Think – do I need that link?
If you are talking about something you are reading, doing or attending, it’s not always necessary to include a link to the event, web page, etc.
Chat to other users
Twitter has become quite toxic, but at its best it’s a great way of connecting with other people. Taking a little time to respond to others breaks up your feed, helps build relationships and, not least, makes Twitter a nicer place!
Let yourself shine through
Your authentic self is what people will respond too. If you look at some of the mavens in the digital book sphere – such as Book Connectors’ uber-blogger Anne Cater (@annecater) and Byte the Book founder Justine Solomons (@justinesolomons) – you get a real sense of the person behind the account, whether it’s where they like to go on holiday, what TV shows they watch, or even what shoes they buy! Most bloggers do this well in their blogs – that’s why their blogs are popular – but many are surprisingly bad at this on Twitter.
This is crucial, too, for authors – for example, author Rowan Coleman’s Twitter feed is a delight (@rowancoleman). She’s not shy on pushing her own books (nor should she be, they’re great) but her persona, opinions and warmth shine through, and make you want to read her books (and go out for a drink with her). Whereas I had to unfollow one of my favourite authors because he spent most of his time tweeting quotes from his own books. Dude, I love you: I’ve already read all of your books.
It’s all about balance
While it may be disappointing not to be able to share and support as much as you would like to, console yourself that everyone is in the same boat, and everyone understands that you can’t share everything, all of the time – or Twitter would be your full-time job! And frustrating as they may be in their arbitrary application of their ever changing rules, Twitter – like Amazon – have to be negotiated. It’s like the old joke about the radio exchange at sea: if you’re the one in the boat, you can’t tell the lighthouse to move.
So just be yourself, have fun, and keep doing your part to make Twitter (and all social media) more a place of light than of darkness.
(Picture from Lainey at Always Reading’s feed)
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