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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How to build a huge Twitter presence: A Case Study with Scifi Author Doug Wallace

Every now and then when you're browsing Twitter, you'll find that social media done right. You know: tens of thousands of followers, a fun, snappy bio, and engaging, colorful tweets that aren't trying to sell a thing.

That's Doug. By day he's a native Texan computer security expert residing in Salt Lake City with his four children, but by other times of day, he's an "inkslinger licensed to quill" with a solid bio and a really fun, engaging Twitter feed. He's actually gotten so many followers that editors began to take notice, so I thought we could ask him for a little advice.

1. How long have you been working on your social media presence?

"I took a rather circuitous path to my current social media presence, and I’m still quite far from where I envision it. After being selected by Orson Scott Card (blind short story submission) to participate in a seven-day writing intensive the summer of 2014, I became more serious about my writing. As my first step of branding, I bought a domain name and set up a blog/website. Facebook and Twitter followed. But it wasn’t until I moved to Utah from Atlanta in the summer of 2016 that I began to work in earnest on my Twitter following. And it’s a good thing I did. I owe much of my publishing success to Twitter, believe it or not."

2. What would you say is the greatest factor in your social media influence?

"Content, content, content. Nobody will pay attention to you if you don’t bring something to the table that they want to pay attention to. But that’s not all. Employing the right tools, targeting the right kind of audience, and interacting with those who interact with you. I try to never let an interaction slip through without at least some kind of acknowledgment. The audience I target is fellow authors, SciFi and Fantasy fans. So I post content that those audiences are likely to find engaging."

3. Can you recommend some good writing-specific hashtags for Twitter?

"I have found success with #amwriting, #amediting, #amreading, #writerslife, #author and a few others. For my target audiences, I also use #scifi, #sfrtg, #amwritingfantasy, and occasionally, when appropriate, franchise hashtags like #gameofthrones, #starwars, and #startrek. But these are just the ones I use most frequently. The best way to find good hashtags is to search on some and read the tweets. Look at the traffic, the kinds of Tweeps that interact with that hashtag. Find your niche."

4. How much/how often do you Tweet?

"Short answer? Daily. But I do the bulk of my “creative” tweeting on Sunday evening, and schedule tweets for the coming week using a tweet-scheduling tool. Then I interact with followers ad hoc throughout the week. Occasionally, I tweet something unplanned that piques my interest."

5. Do you recommend that authors buy followers? Why/why not?

"I’ll admit I bought a small number of followers in the beginning. I did it to have enough 'wiggle room' to employ the follow-follow-back method. Since Twitter limits the number of accounts you can follow in a day, as well as in total (using some super-secret mathematical function I am told), that little boost in the beginning really helped. However, as you know, followers you buy are absolutely worthless for any other reason. You won’t get a good interaction rate on your tweets if you don’t have REAL followers. And that’s what Twitter is about, right? Interactions with real people! I am blessed with wonderful engagement on all my tweets."

6. What websites drive the majority of traffic to your book?

"Right now, my published work consists of scifi/speculative fiction short stories that appear in online literary journals, ebook anthologies, and in print anthologies by different publishers. Twitter does drive traffic to my website, where I have posted several unpublished short stories. Unfortunately (or fortunately), due to a recent publishing spree, I had to take down some of my favorites when they were published."

7. To close out, tell us about your book! What are you working on now, and what are you promoting right now? This is the place to shamelessly self-promo!

"First, I want your readers to know one very important thing: All of my publishing this year has come as result of Twitter. Yes, Twitter. I created a brand, I created engaging content, and that drove traffic to my website where editors and publishers sampled my work. They reached out to me. That’s right! They reached out to me. Now your mileage may vary, but my social media presence has certainly been a boon to my writing career. My work can be found here:

“The Cure” - speculative fiction in Exhibits: an Anthology published by 67Press. https://goo.gl/cYrZlV
“51” - science fiction in 100 Voices vol. 2 by Centum Press. bit.ly/100VoicesV2
“Pleasant Dreams and Other Lies from Earth” - science fiction in Just Another Minor Malfunction https://goo.gl/qLDa7T
“The Architect’s Plan” - science fiction online at Metamorphose https://goo.gl/5R4Mu8
“Hello Depression - science fiction online at Inside the Bell Jar https://goo.gl/ScNuOn

In addition, I am in negotiations with a publisher who has accepted the first book in my epic fantasy series for publication. Details on this to follow on my website: jamesdouglaswallace.com

Thanks for including me in your writing journey!"

Thank-you, Doug! 

I highly recommend everybody take a look at Doug's Twitter, @DougWallace1973, to get an idea of the kinds of tweets he's posting. It's not "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT MY STUFF," and it's not just constant retweets, and it's all colorful and inviting. THAT'S how it's done, guys. I love the idea of scheduling one day of the week, and interacting the rest of the time, which frees you from always freaking out about your own stuff. 

What do you think? What kinds of ideas do you have for improving your twitter presence? I'm just learning here, too, so I'd love for us all to just brainstorm and make brilliance happen! 

Let's be brilliant.


Jen Finelli is a world-traveling scifi author with all kinds of crazy published scifi about stuff like brain worms, zombie fairytales, and scientists who jump into volcanoes. She likes to share free fiction on her blog, and sometimes she dares to offer writing tips, usually sourced from people who are smarter than her. Her book about a comic book character who shoots his author comes out in 2017--sign up here to find out about it! Or go here to read the next writing tip.

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