Sunday afternoon Twitter talk

I don’t purport to be an expert on social media. But I do pay attention, and I think I’ve learned a few things along the way, one of the fringe benefits of knowing a lot of very smart people.

Today, I received twitter spam from an author I’ve never met or heard of, linking to his short story available on Amazon. Like pretty much every writer I know (every person, for that matter), I hate spam. Nothing is better designed to keep me from buying any product than the uninvited attempts of a stranger to sell it to me.

But it’s a lazy, sunny Sunday here, and I’m sitting on my patio drinking tea, and it appeared he was an actual human being, so I decided, knowing it was likely unwise, to reply. I said pretty much what I’ve already described here: “Twitter spam? Great way to alienate potential readers.”

I expected to either get no response or to get slammed for the comment. What I didn’t expect was for the writer to come back and ask me what he should do to attract readers. I told him what I know, even if I fail as often as I succeed in keeping up with the first two: engage. Be interesting. Talk about things other than your work. Build relationships. The conversation that followed showed he’s become frustrated enough with that approach to decide the pay-off for the spam is worth the cost to his reputation. Fair enough. For him, annoying those of us who hate spam enough to write off anyone who sends it is worth the reader engagement that comes from those who click through and buy his story.(He claims it’s connecting with readers, not sales, that drives him. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.)

Building a following can be a frustrating, time-consuming, and sometimes disheartening exercise. So I wonder: other than what I said, what else would you have told him to do, assuming he’s genuinely interested in attracting readers without spam? How do you keep pushing through when it seems like nothing is working? Please share in the comments.

Apart from encountering a spammer who was actually willing to have a reasonable conversation about what he was doing, the best part of it for me was meeting a fellow writer who joined in and was on the same page as I am. One of my favourite things about social media is the chance to connect with colleagues while I’m working alone on my back patio. What’re yours?

Happy Sunday!