I’ve noticed something about the #writerslift.

If you don’t know what a #writerslift is, check out my Twitter tips for writers, in which I explain one type of #writerslift. If you’ve come from Twitter, and you’re part of the Writing Community, I know you’ve seen writerslifts.

But do you know the history of the writerslift, and have you noticed how many varied purposes it serves nowadays?

Twitter tips for writers — the #writerslift

How the #writerslift began

Writerslifts actually began fairly recently. The earliest article about them I could find is this one, discussing why you should engage with others when you participate in a writerslift. “Don’t just follow, engage,” is its byline.

And it’s talking about writerslifts in their earliest form.

Once upon a time, writerslifts ran something like this. “Hey, #WritingCommunity, no writer should have under 2K followers. Writers under 2K followers, comment, like, and RT this post, and we’ll all follow you!” The writerslift was designed as a way to “lift” writers to a certain follower count, hence the term writerslift. And the writerslift quickly became hugely successful: not just because it helped lift these writers, but because it helped everyone in the Writing Community gain followers. Many people in the Writing Community engage in reciprocal following, usually started by a simple “I follow back” in a tweet or in their bio.

Two divergent #writerslifts

At some point, someone made the decision to run a writerslift that looked like this. “Hey, #WritingCommunity, my friends @blackcat and @whitedog have only 1K followers and they want to get to 2K. Follow them and tag others writers who want to get to 2K followers. They’ll follow back! Everyone follow each other!”

This became very popular very quickly. These writerslifts act as follow trains. Which are, just to put it out there, against Twitter policy. (Here’s the proof of that one.) Of course, there are very easy ways to circumvent the exact wording of the policy involved. But, personally, I shy away from this type of writerslift and any other “follow train” related thing. If I give a shoutout to some people on Twitter, I might tag Follow Friday, but I don’t ask people to add more friends to the chain. I just say, “These are my friends and some great people to follow.”

The earliest form of the writerslift still persists, to some degree, but there’s actually another form that, based on my experience, has become predominant. This is the type I was talking about in my Twitter tips for writers, and it’s the only type of writerslift I participate in.

Here’s the thing: It has nothing to do with following anyone.

The promotional #writerslift

I asked the Writing Community what they used writerslifts for. Here are the results of the poll.

As you can say, the majority of people who responded said that they use #writerslift to self-promote — which has nothing to do with following at all. The kind of writerslift that dominates the Writing Community today is a type that reads something like this. “Hey, #writers and #creatives! Drop your #books, #blogs, #art, and anything else! I’d love to check out some new work and find some new books to read! Please heart and RT this tweet to spread the word!”

And it’s this type of writerslift that I’ve had “success” with, success meaning that I drop my link and some people read my poem. I almost exclusively drop poems in writerslifts, because I find that a lot of people like to read short poetry in their spare moments.

As I said in my Twitter tips for writers, bloggers have a leg up over, say, authors when it comes to the writerslift, because people are more likely to quickly read a blog post or a poem than they are to jump over to Amazon to buy a book. So it may sometimes look as if writers are throwing things into the void. But you don’t necessarily see what they do. They can check their tweet stats and see that, actually, someone has clicked their link to Amazon. And, in my case, many people often like and retweet the poems I post on writerslifts.

The #writerslift controversy

Recently, there’s been some rumbling in the Twitter Writing Community about the writerslift.

What’s interesting to me is that the people ragging on the writerslift don’t seem to distinguish between the two types of writerslifts. To me, a promotional writerslift is very different from a “follow train” writerslift. Maybe you disagree. But, honestly, they perform different and separate functions. Sure, you can go through the likes and RTs on any “writerslift” to find writers to follow. But you can do the same on any tweet.

If you’re worried about reciprocal following and attack writerslifts for this reason, then why not attack all tweets with large numbers of likes and RTs? Because it’s totally unreasonable? The thing is, most people use writerslifts for self-promotion. And, for many of us, it’s an effective tactic. Some of us are on Twitter to self-promote. And yes, while the writerslift may primarily target writers and not readers, let’s keep in mind that writers are often among the biggest readers. So it’s not a mute strategy to target your writing at writers. In fact, it’s a very useful one.

There’s also been discussion of so-called “ghost followers.” Using the term ghost followers is actually a malapropism — originally, “ghost followers” referred to inactive or bot followers who by nature aren’t going to interact with your content. Do I believe that the algorithm reduces the chance of my content being seen by all of my 6,000 plus followers? Absolutely. But what’s one way I can increase the reach of my content? By posting it on other people’s tweets, such as promotional writerslifts, through which it will reach many of their followers as well as my own.

The ratio

photographs of a spiral staircase showing a ratio
No, not the Golden Ratio! Although I will be discussing that in a post this week…

Ah, the dreaded ratio. I’m talking about the follower: following ratio. This issue is SEPARATE from the writerslift issue, especially if we say we’re talking about promotional writerslifts.

When you engage in reciprocal following, you’re essentially holding yourself to a 1:1 ratio. Except many people follow others in the hope that they’ll follow back, and their ratio slowly creeps towards greater than 1:1.

You should avoid this. If you have way fewer followers than people following you, whether that be 1,500:3,000 or 15:100, try cutting out the people who don’t follow you back, or cutting out the people whose content you don’t enjoy. Of course, follow anyone whose content you interact with often. And follow your favorite celebrities if you like. But recognize that if you’re going to grow your Twitter following and boost your engagement, you want to maintain at least a 1:1 ratio. And at a certain point, you have to make a conscious choice to believe that people are following you because they enjoy your content, not because they’re fishing for a follow-back. At this point, go ahead and stop reciprocal following. Recognize that your following may grow more slowly, but rest assured that if you keep creating great content, it will grow.

Personally, my plan goes like this. Up to 6K, I reciprocal followed. Now that I’m at 6K, I’m going to follow back with some discernment until 10K. Then I’ll grow my following organically from there. At around 20K, I’ll reassess who I’m following and likely cut my following list back to the people I interact with, so I can support their content and the content of whomever strikes my fancy.

You might be on Twitter just for fun! I’m on Twitter to connect with writers, support people whose work aligns with my vision, and to grow my blog. Depending on your purpose, you’ll work differently than I do. I’m not telling you to use my plan, but you can if you want.

A compilation of the different kinds of #writerslift

For your reading pleasure, the six breeds of writerslift I identified during my research for this post in a friendly infographic form. I’m sure there are more.

the six breeds of Twitter #Writerslift

In conclusion

If the writerslift works for you, use it. And reciprocal following is great — up to a point, or forever. There are plenty of people who use reciprocal following as their forever strategy, and there’s nothing wrong with this. They’re probably looking to get something different out of Twitter than you are.

Find your own strategy. Exercise it. There’s no “right way” to Twitter. There are strategies that may work better for certain goals, but everyone’s take is going to look a little different. If you really dislike the writerslift, well, Twitter might not be the ideal platform for you. Because on Twitter, trends like the writerslift tend to take root. If you’re looking for a writing community that just talks about writing and doesn’t self-promote or engage in reciprocal following, try r/Writing on Reddit. I’d recommend that community to anyone, actually, even if you’re also an avid Twitter user. You’ll get different uses out of different platforms.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my honest two cents on this matter!

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