Guest post by Author Carrie Finison
Please join me in my DeLorean as we travel back in time…
On June 7, 2019, I woke up with BIG plans for the day. My 8th grader would be graduating from middle school on June 11. My 4th grader would be in school for only another week after that. Mama had a mile-long to-do list to accomplish before the busy, distracting days of summer arrived!
But a brief Twitter check stopped me in my tracks. #NationalDoughnutDay was trending. How could I, author of a soon-to-be-released picture book entitled DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, have forgotten about this important national holiday? As I scanned through the tweets in my feed, one thing became clear. People like to talk about doughnuts. A LOT! It was a festive atmosphere and I wanted to jump in with both feet.
At that point, I had officially been on Twitter for six years, since 2013, but I rarely used it. I had joined only to participate in pitch contests when I was seeking an agent. I didn’t spend much time tweeting and didn’t have a large following. But one of my goals in advance of my July 2020 book release was to grow my connections on Twitter. And I wanted to do so in a genuine way, not by participating in many of the “follow fests” that I saw happening. Without knowing the words for it at the time, I was seeking “audience engagement” rather than numbers.
Normally, I’m a planner. I second-, third-, and fourth-guess most of the things I do. But right then, I needed to get two kids to school and get on with my day. With no time to play guessing games, I posted the following:
Then I packed up the kids and left the house.
I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe some fun pictures of doughnuts to fill my news feed? Maybe a few more followers? I was pretty surprised when I came home, checked Twitter, and found over a dozen responses to my tweet. As I started responding to them, more responses came. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to share their favorite doughnut.
I tossed my plans – whatever they were – aside and spent most of the morning on Twitter. At some point, I realized my plan to offer a critique needed some parameters, and posted a quick update:
Responses slowly tapered into the next day, as Twitter moved on from #NationalDoughnutDay. When the dust settled, I took a peek at Twitter Analytics (something I’d only just discovered) and found that, in the short timeframe of the giveaway, I had gained over 120 new followers and my tweets had earned a total of about 29,000 impressions. Maybe that’s not a lot for some people, but at the time for me, that meant a 10% jump in my followers. And, most importantly (to me) these were followers who genuinely wanted to engage with me, and who might later be interested in reading my book.
So what were my takeaways? There were some practical things I learned. Keeping track of a lot of responses all at once is tough. The logistics of doing a fair drawing from retweets can be a little complicated. Tweeting on a hashtag that’s already trending (#NationalDoughnutDay) can greatly boost your visibility. But, just as with making a delicious batch of doughnuts, some of the intangible lessons were more important:
1.Don’t rush the doughnuts! Engagement takes time.
You want followers who are interested in you and want to engage, and that means you need to take the time to reciprocate. Offer something of value and people will respond - and that doesn’t necessarily mean monetary value like a critique or a book. I think people had fun that day and valued the interaction as much as (if not more than) the chance at a critique.
2.Just add sprinkles! It’s more fun when you have fun.
This particular giveaway didn’t feel like “work” or a drain on my time because I was engaging with people over a topic we all loved – doughnuts!
3.Don’t overmix your batter! Don’t overthink it.
Probably a life lesson for me, but I’m not sure this would have gone as well as it did, if I had spent time planning it in advance. For good or bad, Twitter is a very spontaneous medium and that can work to your advantage.
Just to quickly illustrate an example of #3, let’s jump back in the DeLorean and zoom forward to 2020. This year, I planned a big preorder giveaway for DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, scheduled to launch on National Doughnut Day – June 5. However, when the day came we were in the midst of major social upheaval and protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and…well, it didn’t feel like a good moment for self promotion or talk of something frivolous like doughnuts. So, just as spontaneously as I had jumped into the National Doughnut Day celebrations in 2019, I pulled out of them in 2020, and waited for a different moment to announce my giveaway.
Twitter can keep you on your toes, for sure, but keeping things spontaneous and real will help you grow your audience in a genuine way – and have fun while you’re doing it!
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