Yeah, I went there.  If you’re a trekkie, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re not a fan of the original Star Trek series, the name of an acclaimed episode is “The Trouble with Tribbles”.  I actually came up with the title first – the connection to Star Trek didn’t hit me until later.

To summarize, a tribble is a furry, cuddly and highly adorable creature.  The crew of the Enterprise soon find out that tribbles are also voracious eaters and prolific breeders.  The tribbles begin to consume all of the ships food supplies and shut down vital systems through their sheer numbers.  I won’t spoil the ending for you – the entire episode is available on YouTube if you care to watch.

Now, on to the Twitter connection.

When I started using Twitter three years ago, it was mainly to keep up with sports.  I followed reporters who covered my favorite teams and some comedians and actors that I liked.  I didn’t go out of my way to get followers – as of last Wednesday I had a grand total of four.

On Wednesday I decided to try increasing my number of followers, building my author platform and maybe along the way finding some book reviewers or people with advice on finding agents, revising manuscripts, etc.  I started out by following several authors, several followed back, and by the time I left for work I had a couple dozen followers.

When I got home that night and checked my feed, I was amazed.  Like the tribbles on the Starship Enterprise, the number of tweets had experienced a population explosion.

As I scrolled through them, I soon found that there were a handful of people who accounted for most of the explosion.  There was one lady who in a half-hour time period posted 13 links to her books and articles – I looked at her account page and noticed she had made 380,000+ tweets.  I unfollowed her and a couple of others who deluged me with self-promoting messages.  It wasn’t personal.  I don’t mind if someone wants to tout their work now and then (I’d also be doing that if I had a finished product to sell right now), but there’s only so much that I’m willing to take.

In the absence of a book to tweet about, my few tweets are usually retweets of things I find humorous, articles I think are helpful, or photos I think people would enjoy seeing.  The books that I’ve read on social media marketing all agree that you should try to provide value in the form of information or entertainment instead of repeated attempts to sell your product.  Even after I have a book to market, tweeting continuous sales pitches to essentially the same group of followers all day long doesn’t seem like the most productive way to spend my time.

I also found a good number of what look like robot accounts (there may be another name for them that I don’t know about) among my followers.  After two days of adding followers, about 20% appeared to be these automated accounts.  If you pull up their account pages, it’s easy to identify them — if you’re on Twitter, you probably have them too.  Mine all have unusual first names and attractive profile pics – their account description and tweets are canned quotes about relationships.  Look closer at the list of their tweets, and you’ll see they come out at a rate of one per hour.  I assume that people build up followers on these accounts and then sell them to someone wanting a twitter page with a certain number of followers.

Despite these minor growing pains, I am seeing some positives.   I’ve come across a handful of bloggers who do share useful info through Twitter and writers providing helpful advice.  I even managed to get some followers from my target market by following celebrities that are popular in that age group.  Once I do have a book in the marketplace, I’m more confident now that I’ll be able to build a following among the group most likely to buy/read my book.  That’s the point after all, isn’t it?