The Twitter #WritersLift: A Good Idea Gone Bad

The #WritersCommunity on Twitter tends be to a fairly supportive place for independent authors like me. If I’m ever looking for inspiration, or advice, or just a friendly person to talk to, I know that I can search the hashtag and find exactly what I’m looking for in just a few minutes. One thing, however, that is prevalent with independent authors on Twitter is the #WritersLift, and it’s a low point for the community.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

If you’re unfamiliar with the #WritersLift, the idea behind it is to help raise the visibility of smaller creators, such as those who have a small following, or are just getting started. On the surface, it seems innocuous, and even a little helpful. It works like this: an author will post something on Twitter along the lines of “Hey, #WritingCOmmunity! It’s time for a #WritersLift! Post your #WIP (short for “work in progress”) or links to your books, blogs, or whatever! Share and follow those you find interesting!”

Like I said, it’s innocuous and even meant to be helpful. However, I’ve seen too many authors use this as a way to boost their follower numbers on Twitter, which dilutes the helpfulness.

While the example I gave above is framed in a way to help other authors, more often than not the tweet is worded, “I’m close to *insert follower number milestone* so it’s time for a #WritersLift!” Many authors treat the Writers Lift as selfishly and self-servingly as possible. It’s not about lifting other writers; it’s about lifting their own follower count.

Gaining followers is the end goal for most of these Writers Lifts. To accomplish this, users follow as many people as they can in the hopes they receive a follow back. By the end of it, these accounts have 10,000 followers, but are also following 10,000 or more accounts. In my experience, following 1,000 accounts makes Twitter difficult to use; at that point, there are so many messages coming in every second that it’s hard to follow along, so following a timeline of 10,000 people would make my brain explode. Sure, Twitter has tools to allow users to curate their feeds, like the ability to create lists of specific users which will show a timeline of only their tweets. But how many partakers of #WritersLift will take the time to do that? More than likely, the person following 10K Twitter users is simply turning off the tweets of each person they follow by muting them. So sure, while a new author may have just picked up 10 new followers from a #WritersLift, they’ll be lucky if only 1 of them continues to see their tweets.

I’ve also noticed that many of the authors who regularly do #WritersLifts constantly talk about being put in Twitter Jail. When they refer to “Twitter Jail,” they’re speaking of the limits that Twitter places on following other users and number of tweets sent in a certain time frame. You know, Twitter’s implementations to reduce spam on the platform. Now, I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and I have never once, in that 11 years, had any aspect of my account locked for any reason. I’m also not trying to follow 1,000 users each hour in the hope that 500 of them will follow me back. For so many authors to be restricted in that manner, it shows that many of their actions are spammy, and is that really what you want on your timeline?

Too many people think that Follower count is a measure of how successful someone is on Twitter, and while in some way that’s true, but the real measure is engagement. It’s easy enough to get followers on Twitter; there are numerous websites where someone can buy followers for their account. This WordStream article actually outlines the pros and cons of buying followers and even links to some websites that make it possible. 

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

But purchased followers and #WritersLifts don’t create engagement, they only inflate numbers. You’re not going to sell your book to another struggling author that followed you back after you followed them on a whim because you saw their name in a #WritersLift thread. Just like you won’t buy that person’s book for the same reason. But you are more likely to sell a book to someone whom you’ve engaged with, someone you’ve had a conversation with, joked with, exchanged pleasantries with, because they see what kind of person you are, like how you spoke to them, and now they want to support you.

“But that’s impossible to do with 10,000 people,” you’re shouting at me through the screen. Yeah, it is. You can’t reach out to 10,000 people individually in order to sell books to each one. But you can be real on Twitter and let them see what kind of person you are. Instead of only tweeting links of your books and blogs in long reply chains of every #WritersLift you see, maybe talk a bit about what’s on your mind. Share or ask for writing advice (you can even use #WritingAdvice when you do so). Delve into your own writing process: how you outline, create characters, get past writer’s block. Whatever! But just talk about something other than, “MY BOOK IS AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON FREE WITH KINDLE UNLIMITED!” The constant sales pitch is tiresome and will get you muted on most people’s accounts.

And if you are following someone who does not add anything to your Twitter feed, it’s OK to unfollow them. Sure, if they’re a mutual (meaning they also follow you), they’re just as likely to unfollow you in retaliation. That’s fine; it just shows that they had no intention of interacting with you, and that’s the real reason behind social media.

Have I taken part in a Writers Lift before? Yes, of course. Multiple in fact. Does this article coupled with that fact make me a hypocrite? Yeah, probably. At the end of the day, if you choose to still participate in #WritersLift because you want a larger following count, then have at it. You’re not hurting anyone and if it makes you feel better about your social media then good on you. But just be aware that if you go this route to increase your following numbers, it won’t necessarily correlate to an increase in your sales numbers.