Writers’ Lifts – Do They Really Work?
If you’re like me, new to Twitter and trying to create a following for your creative endeavors, you may have seen some hashtags floating around but don’t know exactly what to make of them. In the writer space, one I’m always seeing is #WritersLift, and the people posting about them keep crowing about how they’re being used to help grow their followers.
The way they work is one user creates an initial post with the #WritersLift hashtag inviting other Twitter users to pile onto the thread with links to whatever work they’re trying to promote—blogs, artwork, poetry, etc. – but it’s mostly ebooks. Then they like and retweet your main thread, further propelling it into the Twitter-verse, driving sales, spurring engagement, and so on. That’s the idea, but do they really work?
I had no clue, so I decided to do a little experiment to find out.
Setting the Stage
Ground rules first.
- I decided to try to measure the activity of just one #WritersLift. I’ve participated in them before, but I’ve never started them. This would be the first and should be a good indicator of what new lifters can anticipate.
- To make sure the experiment wouldn’t be cross-contaminated by other Twitter activities, I would post the lift and then not post any other unique content for 48 hours (replies to other users on my timeline are fair game).
- Anytime someone piled onto the original thread, I would retweet their post to my timeline, unless it was obviously spam or not in the least creative (e.g, an offer to buy 10K followers).
- Anytime someone retweeted or liked the lift post, I would follow them—unless they seemed to be a bot account or wouldn’t fit into my chosen audience (e.g., non-english speaking, extremely religious, etc). After all, I’m trying to build a following for an erotica novelist here.
- Any other mentions, sub-threads, etc. that spin off the original thread are fair game for inclusion in the final follower metrics
In terms of the actual tweet, I based the content and hashtags off some others I’d seen. I had also read somewhere that The Algorithm likes tweets with pictures, so I picked out a suitably bland meme about writing and added that to the post. The finished product is shown below.
What about the measuring stick with which we’ll judge the success of the experiment? Raw follower count was the easiest one to judge, so I went with that. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a screenshot of my follower count before kicking off the lift, but two days before my follower count was right at 300. So let’s be conservative and call the starting point 320.
I kicked off the Writer’s Lift at approximately 7:30 Tuesday morning.
I’m used to tweets that either flop outright or make a tiny splash for a couple of hours and then fizzle. But the writer’s lift was a slow burn that just wouldn’t be snuffed out. Even at the writing of this article, I am still getting a ping here and there from a like or RT on the original post. It started off slowly and then steadily percolated over the course of the next two days. Somehow people kept finding it, and even if they didn’t drop a tweet into the thread, there were enough likes and retweets to keep propelling it forward.
One of the most surprising things were the additional tweets it spawned. Not anything crazy mind you, just the generic “shoutout to xyz!” type tweets that tag a bunch of people all at once, which can then grow legs and expand your potential audience.
There were also a couple instances of real engagement that occurred, though they were admittedly rare in the grand scope of things. Those, I found, were the nuggets of gold in the process. Real live people who actually want to talk about something.
After 48 hours, my original tweet had 62 replies, 21 retweets, and 98 likes. But in addition to that, my pinned tweet had also received 7 additional likes and 8 retweets. Which, if I hadn’t been so obstinate about NOT having a shameless plug pinned, it might have carried my novel a little further. But all of that is “shoulda coulda woulda” talk. The original tweet is imbedded below (with slightly different reply/retweet/like metrics as those have continued to slowly grow).
And my follower count? After 48 hours I ended up with 449 followers, an increase of about 130. Not too bad for 1 tweet over 2 days.
But Did It Really Work?
Judging the success of a tweet based upon metrics is pretty easy. Determining the effectiveness of all that traffic is a little harder. How many of those new followers are actual people who are going to engage on the platform? How many will translate into actual sales or reads of your work? The jury is still out on that one.
I’m a bit of a pessimist, so my instinct is to doubt the efficacy the exercise. I had no new sales, no spike in KNEP numbers, etc. Not that those were my primary motivation in starting this process (it was driving engagement and building a following). However, that’s what most people do a Writer’s Lift for, and I can’t say it did any of that. But Twitter is a numbers game, so I can also see how the effect of doing Writers Lifts would compound over time and bear more fruit. However, that approach could also run the risk of making your account look like spam bot and driving down actual engagement. So I don’t think that’s a route I want to go.
At the end of the day, I can say unequivocally that Writers Lifts work to grow your followers and spread your message and identity. But as for whether that message is actually heard and doesn’t just become part of the milieu of other voices shouting into the void—that I can’t say for certain.
If you’re a creative on Twitter, I encourage you to jump in and try out a Writer’s Lift yourself. Your mileage will almost assuredly vary, but for me it was an extremely low-effort endeavor and I was pleasantly surprised with the number of new followers and decent engagement that dropped into my lap.