There's a trend you'll notice in the writing community, especially on Twitter, called Writerslift. If you've never participated, it's a thread of tweets where writers can hop on and say "Hi! I exist! Follow me and I'll follow you!" The threads get hundreds of replies, and once you participate in enough of them, you'll hit your 5,000 account Following limit in no time!
Which seems cute, right? Helpful even.
Ehhhh, not so much.
Avid participants of the trend assume that a large number of followers will lead to a large amount of exposure for them and their book. That it will lead to an uptick in engagement, which the social media algorithms love, and when it's time to start pre-orders, their new release will fly off the digital shelves. The plan, however, is very flawed. Here's why.
You have no idea who you're giving a voice to
2020 hit discourse critical mass in the last year, which I'm sure you've noticed. Everyone has an opinion and not all of them are based on fact or like... basic human rights. The writing community isn't immune to this. Shouldn't be much of a shock, really. But recently there have been screencaps going around of white-supremacist ideals being vomited out by a Writerslift participant. The account in question has 4,000+ followers. Based on their content, the person is clearly anti-human rights in a variety of ways, and yet either 4000 people agree with them or didn't bother to vet their account.
5000 followers won't translate into 5000 sales
There have been many, many tweets from accounts who have 5,000 or 10,000 followers who, after release day, were crushed to find that only ten people had purchased their work. Suddenly their world collapses because while they were doing their best to comment on other writer's work and get noticed, they didn't make enough solid connections with other authors or readers to provoke any loyalty. Sure, you might get lucky, but do you really want to bank your career on that?
You cannot parse 5,000+ tweets per day and give a shit about all of them
Let's do some quick math. You follow 5,000 accounts. The recommended number of tweets a day is anywhere between 2 and 20. Let's assume that each of those accounts tweets twice a day. Some will tweet while you sleep. How long do you think it will take for you to read all 10,000 tweets and respond to at least some of them? Do you have time to do that every day? At least a couple of times a week? When did you intend on writing?
It's impossible to be invested in that many accounts, especially if you acquired them quickly. You'll absolutely start clinging to a certain set of accounts that you find most entertaining and friendly, forsaking the rest. And you can guarantee that they are doing the same to you.
Algorithms dictate what you see
If you're viewing with Top Tweets settings, Twitter will push the people you interact with most to the top, and you'll never see the thousands of other people you follow. I've had accounts basically disappear off my feed for no reason other than lack of one-to-one interaction. I follow an enormous account to get updates on their podcasts and I've never seen a tweet from them in my feed. It's possible that there are thousands of accounts that will never see your content because you're just not on their top 100, let alone their top 1,000
How it looks to other writers
If I see that your account has 4,521 Followers and 4,622 Following, it's like an advertisement for who you are. When I check an account, I check to see that you're a friend. Some of my personal checkboxes include pronouns, no fascist tweets, and maybe even a pride flag. If you're clearly a Writerslifter, I question your motives for following me. Are you looking for a follow back? Will I ever get interaction from you? Will you unfollow me the moment you notice I didn't follow? From a community, friendship, and business perspective, this is useless to me. You might be a perfectly nice person, but I'm looking for genuine interaction, not a +1 to my count.
Writerslift is for writers
I don't know about you, but writing takes up an awful lot of my time. As a teen, I was reading like three books a week. As an adult with a part-time job, an apartment, and a writing career, I read like three books a month. While having writing friends is absolutely essential for your career and for improving the quality of your work, writers might not be your very most active readership. If you've only been building your platform with accounts from other writers, you'll be sad to find that many of them just don't have time for every book published by the 5,000 accounts they're following.
Easy =/= better
I know why Writerslifts are appealing. I've felt the temptation myself. Trying to create connections, make friends, curate good content— it's overwhelming and time-consuming. Sometimes you just want shit to fall into your lap. But in many cases, the easier something is to do, the more critically you should look at it. It's easy to buy book reviews from a bot service too, and every single reader can tell that you did when they check them.
Think about where you choose to put your time. Life is short. Do you invest in anything you think isn't worth your while? Something that doesn't bring you value? Of course, you don't! So if you want to gain followers and curate an audience, you need to be worthwhile.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to study marketing psychology. Humans are predictable. We respond predictably to half-price sales, to having an overwhelming number of choices, to flattery, to being asked about our jobs. You can learn how to interact with other people genuinely in a way that many people will respond to. And always, always try to provide value.
Love your small audience
Throw out the notion that more is better. Having a small, dedicated audience is going to carry you much further in your writing career than 5,000 people who can't remember why they followed you. These are the people who have read and love your work, and who aren't shy about telling others. They retweet, add your posts to their stories, reblog the things you create. They're your first reviews and your die-hard fans. Your beta readers, your CPs, your street team. Build that with love and respect and the rest will follow. Eventually.
Patience is hard, but it's the name of the game. There's no shortcut to success, especially when it comes to earning the trust of readers. Study up, reach out, be genuine.
You'll get there.