Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring a variety of social media platforms to cultivate an audience for my upcoming book releases. I must have listened to the same podcasts as all the other writers (Creative Penn, The Bestseller Experiment) because there’s so much chatter out there, it’s hard to hear ourselves speak. We’ve all become slaves to whatever shifting algorithm these platforms use to determine who gets the views. So now, not only do we have to write, we have to master fifteen new apps. And often, to use an app, you have to master another one first. We have to become our own marketing mavens.
There’s a high likelihood we’ve been tricked into becoming human battery cells à la Matrix for the benefit of the social media CEOS and advertisers. Oh well.
Here’s what I’ve learned. My Tiktok following has stagnated at less than 200, and the number of likes and views seem to be inversely related to the time I spend making them. Tiktok likes humor, spectacle, self-branding, and imitation (via “dueting” and “stitching”). I know, right? I should write a glossary. Anyway, I can be humorous, but not wildly so, and being ADHD, I thrive on variety, so I’m not really suited to Tiktok. They say it’s four young people, anyway.
Also, Tiktok doesn’t foster the kind of literary audience I’m looking for with a few exceptions, like Panic_Kyle. Finally, I’m NOT going to do the literal song and dance routine required of Tiktok authors. I’ve got nothing against dancing. I just like to do it for fun, not for selling books.
In contrast, Twitter has a stronger literary community. In a few short weeks I’ve doubled my followers by seeking out like-minded authors. There’s a strong ethos in Twitter that if someone follows you, you follow them back. Replying to posts is as important to posting your own thoughts. I find my best twitter replies are instinctive– the ones I don’t think too hard about. It’s like trying to see the Northern Lights when they are visible in NY. They are so faint that if you look at the sky too hard to you don’t see them. You have to cultivate a fuzzy focus.
My Twitter follower number seems to hover at about 44% of the number of people I follow. I’ve gone from not understanding Twitter to looking forward to engaging with strangers about New Yorker articles. In fact, I almost look forward to checking my Twitter messages more than my text messages. Worrisome. Borg induction? Social dissolution? Hope not.
Nevertheless, I enjoy the video editing app on Tiktok. It provides a set of creative constraints, visual tools, and copyrighted sound clips. It has prompted to me to revise, edit, and shorten previously written works, just for the hell of it – which is a good thing.
So, last night, I took a poem from the previous post “November Bones” and, in the effort to fit it into a 60-second Tiktok with visuals and music, I “stripped it down to the bones,” a process I enjoy as much as earth does in the poem, now an “Ode to Death.” A similar thing occurred with my flash fiction, “Lilith Confesses.” I like how the app forces me to weigh each word individually. So, it might not get me views, and it might not sell any books, but it does something far more important. It stimulates curiosity and creativity. Algorithm be damned. See what you think. But don’t think too hard.