Last week I was invited to speak about using social media to promote your creative business.
I just thought I was. (I was actually invited to be one of five members of a panel discussion at Brooklyn Winery during which I drank too much and acted contrarian too often). Thus, I prepared a speech I never gave. I hate to waste "content," so here it is:
Any one who tells you they have the secret to helping you gain social media followers is a snake oil salesman.
You want to know the one BIG secret: be famous.
It doesn’t matter how shitty of Tweeter you are...if you’re famous, you’ll have followers. Think of the most famous person you can that doesn’t have a Twitter account. If they signed up tomorrow morning, they’d have several hundred thousand followers by the end of the day. Even if all their posts were about what hair products they’re currently using.
Lady Gaga can post about her lunch and Beiber can post about a shit he just took and they keep gaining followers. No one cares about their content. Even the famous people that are supposedly “quality” Tweeters--Ashton for instance--write absolute garbage (AUTHOR'S NOTE: I composed this piece before Ashton's major Twitter gaffe). My least interesting friends are far more interesting.
The only celebrities worth following are very good comedians and very uneducated professional athletes. Sometimes I think some of the athletes I follow are speaking another language. If this talk had slides, right now a slide would pop up that showed a Tweet from Antonio Cromartie.
For the rest of us, from the conditionally famous on down, we have to provide brief content that is interesting. There’s nothing more frivolous and unstable than social media followers. They are so fickle.
For instance, you all might be bored by me, or disgusted by me, or repulsed by me. But you paid $5 and you’re several subway stops from home and there’s free wine (AUTHOR'S NOTE: There actually wasn't. Not even for the "talent") so I’d really have to be boring or disgusting or repulsive to get you to stand up and leave. Not true on social media.
Write a boring or disgusting or repulsive thing on Twitter and there’s a certain kind of social media follower (a high percentage actually) that almost takes pride in UNFOLLOWING.
“I CANNOT believe he wrote two mildly unfunny Tweets in a row. Not only am I unfollowing--but I am going to @ him and tell him that I am unfollowing him.”
People on social media are fucking nuts. They demand a bizarre level of excellence for something that is FREE and easily ignorable.
But if that’s what they want, then that’s what you have to give them. I have lots of interests and I used to Tweet about lots of things. I’m a craft beer fan, I used to have a craft beer blog, so I used to occasionally Tweet about fancy beers I was drinking. And a small percentage of my followers loved to hear about that. But the VAST majority didn’t care. They knew me, and followed me, because I’m “Aaron Goldfarb,” the comedic and satirical novelist. So one Tweet about beer, or Syracuse basketball, and they held their mouse above the unfollow button. Two or three Tweets about that subject and “Unfollow.”
The same goes for self-promotion. One or two Tweets per week about what you’re doing, where you’re speaking, what Tumblrs read by only five people have an upcoming interview with you, and your followers can deal with it. Any more, and they will unfollow you with no prejudice.
So I actually like to think of the Twitter arena as the stage, just like I mentioned before. I sit here and I try to be interesting and informative and funny. I’m not sitting here spending the majority of the time talking about an article I was quoted in, or another interview I gave, or a book I have coming out next year. I’m not talking about a good beer I had yesterday or my thoughts on Syracuse basketball for the upcoming season (promising). If that was my brand, maybe--but for better or worse it’s not. Mine is to be funny and entertaining and when I am--and not TOO profane--I gain followers, I gain RTs, and I gain conversations and sharing. When I’m not, it’s at best a wall of silence, at worst followers start dumping me like a bad habit.
And that’s one final thing I’d advise--don’t pay attention to any of this. Sitting here, I can see who is listening to me. I can see who is laughing and who is twiddling their thumbs and what attractive women are beguiled. I can see if any one stands and walks out on this. And that would fuck me up if that happened. They might have gotten an emergency phone call, or drank too much free wine (AUTHOR'S NOTE: Impossible), I don’t know--but if they walk out on me, my head would be fucked with. And it’s easy for the same thing to happen on social media.
It’s easy to notice, “Holy shit, I lost 20 followers today!” and start wondering why and analyzing what you Tweeted and then trying to Tweet things more in line with what you think doesn’t lose followers. But don’t do that. Don’t pay attention to your number. Who cares why you lose fans? Just trust me that you will eventually, and at worst slowly but surely, gain fans if you just follow your focus--whether that’s being entertaining or being interesting or being perceptive or being news-breaking. Whatever your reason for being on Twitter and creating content is, be the best you can be at that, and don’t self-promote too much, and don’t talk about what you’re drinking too much, and for God’s sake don’t fucking Retweet Andy Borowitz too much--and you’ll do all right.
But what do I know? I barely have 2000 followers.