Ohai, Monday. You suck. You should check out MasterBerk Theatre over on YouTube. It’s got deadly nipples, lots of Berk, and some Deathday. It’s frakkin’ awesome.
A few months ago, I participated in a Twitter trend called #gimmeacall. I saw a couple of my friends tweeting statements that began with “Dear highschool self:” and then they’d fill in the blanks. People were writing things like, “Dear high school self: don’t wear socks with sandals…ever. #gimmeacall” At first I thought it was simply a meme that was going around. I found out later that it was actually a promotional meme by Sarah Mlynowski, author of the book GIMME A CALL about a girl who drops her phone into a fountain and thereafter can only call her 14 y/o self.
When DEATHDAY came out, I was looking for ways to repeat that brilliant little feat. I’d never heard of Sarah or her book before that meme went around. With that meme, she managed to raise awareness of her book, and she got us to do it for her. So I figured it should be a snap to do something similar. My agent came up with a great hashtag and got the ball rolling. The hashtag bombed. Some friends picked it up but in the end not too many people cared.
On Friday, I got to work early and my brain was running. This saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, die, die again,” kept going through my head. I don’t know why. My brain is a scary place. I decided to send it off into Twitter for fun and as I was typing it out, I appended the hashtag #zombieproverbs Again, I don’t know why. It was silly and I was half-awake.
About an hour later, #zombieproverbs was all over. People had picked it up and run with it. Twenty-four hours later, it was still going. How is it that my stupid throwaway tweet spawned a trend, but my carefully created Deathday meme bombed?
I think the most obvious thing is that with Deathday, we tried too hard. We were trying to create a trend, trying to be funny, trying to be inventive. That, I think, is something that people don’t respond to. The brilliance of Sarah’s #gimmeacall was that I didn’t KNOW I was being marketed to. #zombieproverbs caught on because it was just fun.
The other reasons for its success was that it was short and easy to understand. I didn’t have to explain it to anyone, I didn’t have to keep it going artificially. In fact, if my agent hadn’t alerted me to it, I would have missed my own thread completely. And there were some really funny ones. Whatever you choose, has to be like that. I think the one we used for Deathday was #mydeathday. What does that tag tell you about the meme? Nothing. You’d have to know about the book or what a deathday was to get it. The whole tweet should be so easy that anyone can do it without needing to understand anything. For example, maybe today I’d go on twitter and say, “Indiana Jones and the Vagina of Doom #vaginagame” and people will get what I’m doing without needing any prompting or explanation.
So what’s the take away from this? First and foremost, tools like Twitter are fun and silly and you should treat them as such and not use them solely for marketing. If you have twitter, don’t get on it and expect to be able to use it to promote your book. Use it because you like it and the rest will follow. If you’re going to try to start a trend, make sure it’s short, easily understandable, and retweetable. Also, try not to be obvious that you’re plugging something.