You know those evenings when you’re tucked up in front of the TV watching your favourite show, feet flopped on the ottoman, head squashed into a soft, plump cushion? Then a commercial break tears across the screen, ads shrieking and flashing in your face, forcing you to scramble for the control, both thumbs squeezing the volume button as though you’re trying to banish Satan from your living room?
Or maybe that’s just me.
You’ve already seen the same ad a dozen times that evening and you swear the volume rises five notches with every showing. You make each family member promise to never, ever visit that store or buy that brand – including your youngest who’s only three.
Sometimes it’s a little like that on Twitter, without the noise.
A few months ago I started following a blog I’d discovered through Twitter because the posts were so entertaining. Until recently that is, with the author’s latest book to be released. At first I was vaguely interested, even considered downloading a copy. Until the tweets started and my email inbox became a promotional tool. The posts collected there each week, unread, the title of the book bleeping at me in capitals. The delete button became the equivalent to my TV control. Now I’ve unfollowed altogether.
Should I feel guilty? I mean, the author did provide some really entertaining posts, talented even.
Sometimes Twitter feels a bit like a crowded market, with the stalls trying to sell products to each other. The stall owner that stands out front yelling his latest offers all day is soon boycotted by the other owners. It’s the clever, sociable ones that generate the most custom. The ones that mosey from stall to stall checking out products, occasionally buying. The mentality being, I’ll visit your stall and you’ll visit mine.
At the beginning you wonder what the point of it all is. After all, you were only curious about starting a blog. Then you realised it might be more fun with a few followers. So you joined Twitter, and found yourself amid a swarm of other bloggers. A little like trying to sell wine to a grape grower.
Then, slowly, very slowly, you start to feel part of a community. You find blogs that become a source of information and ideas. You begin to care about their journey and the people behind them. You might even make some. There are still those that insist on shouting things at you, but you can unfollow them with one click.
I’m the first to admit I’m no expert, but I believe Twitter can be an effective sales tool only through hard work and creativity. It’s about building a community of true followers. Followers that value what you have to say because you’ve proven yourself. It’s not about blurting out sales tweets and requesting Facebook Likes to thousands of followers who barely know your account. It’s about respect, humbleness and partnership. You gain followers in return for offering something. They, in return, may want to buy your book.
So, please stop shouting at me. I’m not listening.
Do you use twitter? Do you find it useful?
Gemma Hawdon is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She writes her own blog