Twitter: Are You Doing It Right?

I love you guys.  I really do.  You know I do.  I love my #mywana #wewrite #amwriting and more hashtags friends on Twitter.  You guys keep me motivated and cheer me up when I get down.  But I gotta tell you, some of you … Dude, you’re doing it all wrong.

And I admit this is all my opinion, BUT….

You know how sometimes you say something to someone off-the-cuff and when you stop to think about it later you realize that it was more profound than you intended it to be?  I like to think of these statements as coming from a higher power that just happened to find your mouth as you opened it.  Well, I said something to a Twitter friend last week like this when she complained about someone who had DMed her with a rude message telling her off for not retweeting his posts and promoting his book more.  I said to her that the point of Twitter is to make friends, not billboards.

I stand by that statement.  Twitter is for making friends, not billboards.

If you haven’t read Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media then you need to drop whatever you’re doing and go out there to get it.  Kristen does a very good job of walking you through all the necessary steps to maximize your social media presence and persona.  It’s invaluable information.  I’ve run across people on Twitter who I wish I could hand a copy and say “Don’t come back until you’ve read this eCover to eCover.”  Because there are some common mistakes out there that are so easily avoidable.

Mistake Number One:  You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  I have the uncomfortable feeling that some people out there think that signing up for Twitter and following a bunch of people entitles them to follow-backs and retweets.  I worry that these folks go on the hunt for followers, not friend.  They get really tetchy when they feel like they’re not getting what they deserve.  But the thing is, none of us deserves anything.  Following people on Twitter is not some magical key entitling you to be promoted.  We have to promote ourselves.

Which leads me to…

Mistake Number Two:  Spam.  I think it’s wonderful that there are Writers out there in the Twitterverse who have written and published novel in various formats.  I’m super happy for you all.  However, reminding me on an hourly basis that your book is on sale now doesn’t make me want to buy it.  Sort of the opposite.  Also, it’s a wonderful thing that there are folks out there who enjoy promoting other authors.  But ten RTs back-to-back obliterates the effectiveness of all of them.  I’ll be honest, when I see someone fill up my feed with a dozen posts like this I ignore all of them.  That’s not the point.

I think there must be a magic equation out there, the fine line between broadcasting and spam.  I love it when people retweet interesting blog posts or links to buy books, but one at a time, with a little discrimination (the good kind I mean).  I’m far more likely to click on a retweeted link if it stands on its own as a genuine recommendation, not just a link in a chain that hurts my eyes.

Mistake Number Three:  Standoffish Profiles.  Here’s another pet peeve.  I hear about someone on Twitter I’d like to follow.  I go to their Twitter Profile.  It includes the words “I don’t auto-follow back”.  Congratulations, you’ve just told me that if I follow you I will get nothing out of the relationship and that you will view me as just another number.  You’ve insulted me before we’ve even met.  I don’t care if you don’t auto-follow back or not, but advertising that fact is like saying “Here is a fantastic Rolex watch that you will never be able to afford so don’t bother looking through my shop window”.  You don’t have to auto-follow back anyone.  But you also don’t have to be a jerk about it.  And besides, your ratio of followers to following tells me clearly that you don’t follow many people, so why rub salt in the wound?  I also tend to shy away from following people who have hugely disproportionate numbers of followers to following, unless they’re a name I recognize.  Why?  Funny you should ask because….

What are we all doing here on Twitter?

We’re networking.  Social networking.  I prefer to focus on the SOCIAL in social networking.  Because as Kristen explains in her book, people want to buy books from folks that they know and with whom they have a personal connection.  Well, that’s the technical explanation.  Me personally?  I like people.  I mean, I really like people.  I’ve been online participating in social-type forums since my first computer in 1997.  I have met some super-fabulous-awesome people online.  In 2000 I flew cross-country to meet up with a group of folks from a social website I was part of and had one of the most fun, memorable vacations of my entire life.  I have sent and received care packages across oceans and continents to “imaginary friends” in exotic places that I’ll be lucky if I can visit someday.  And you know what?  Nothing makes me happier than sending words of encouragement to my fellow Twitterati when they’ve reached a milestone, are having a bad day, or just type “hi” in their Twitter feed.  It’s all about people.

So ask yourself: “Why am I on Twitter?”  There’s no harm in answering, “Because I want to sell my book”.  But if that’s your only answer, if you aren’t approaching this wonderful medium with a grander sense of community and caring, are you really using it to its fullest potential?  I would argue that if you’re using Twitter as a tool for promotion rather than a conduit to reach people then you’re doing it wrong.

And right now I have the deep urge to buy the world a Coke and teach it how to sing….

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8 thoughts on “Twitter: Are You Doing It Right?

  1. Really enjoyed this post! I am new to writing, blogging and twitter. My following/followers numbers are low, not even 30 a piece but I am slowly getting to know people and I really enjoy following the people I follow. I had wondered if I should seek out lots more people to follow but I figure it is good for my list to grow gradually as I discover more about people and maybe stumble across an interesting blog or post.

    I value the followers I have and definately consider some friends. You have reminded me that the numbers don’t matter, it is more important that I am inspired and encouraged by those I follow and those who follow me.I need to keep that in mind and not get distracted by the numbers.

    • Thanks, Em! Yeah, if you play Twitter as a numbers game then you’re never going to be happy. At least that’s what I think. It is all about connecting with people. Twitter aside, I think more people get more deeply depressed by feeling alone than anything else. But there are literally millions of people feeling alone in the world. With or without writing, I’ve found Twitter to be a great way to bring us all together. =D

  2. Good for you. I get so tired of getting “buy my book” over and over and over.

    And to Em, use hashtagMyWANA to hook up with other writers who’ve read Kristen’s books.

  3. I haven’t read Kristen’s book (yet) but I totally agree with you on everything! I refuse to follow people who don’t ‘auto follow back’ – and when I do get a new follower, I like to say hello and get to know them. Most of the people I talk to on Twitter I consider as friends (like you =D) – I stop following someone if all they do is tweet links, and never have a conversation!

    Bravo on putting into words what so many social tweeters really think 😛

    A x

    • Aw thanks! *blushes* I consider you a friend too! And believe me, next time I’m in the UK… *wiggles eyebrows*

      I’ve given some of those “I don’t auto-follow back” people a chance. Now and then they turn out fine. 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for this Merry. I really can’t afford to buy anything extra right now, but when I can I might look up that book recommendation. I’m pleased to see, however, that (I think) I’ve managed to avoid all of these mistakes you mention…except one.

    That one was only recent too. I had a few other friends on twitter telling me I should put more in my profile besides “I’m an eclectic amalgam of confusingly combined oddities” with the additional suggestion that I say “I don’t auto follow.” I didn’t see the point before, but with two suggestions to do so, I shrugged and did it. I’m going to undo it. I’d rather have spammers and the like offended that I never followed them back than turn away window shoppers like yourself.

    You are one of the people I follow that I enjoy immensely on twitter. I’d hate to think I’m turning away more like you by following the suggestion of a few friends for something that turns out to really be unnecessary to say when you put it as you have.

    Thanks so much for this post. I admit, I became more active on twitter recently to build my marketing platform some, but I’m only growing slowly because I actually want to connect to people and I don’t want to just follow anyone with the hopes they’ll follow me back.

    Thanks again for the post!

    –Saronai

    • Aw thanks! Now I’m blushing! But see, this is why it’s good that I break my own rules now and then and take a chance on people who mean well but give the wrong message by accident. And I really, honestly do love all the friends I’ve been making online this summer. =D True, I will have a book or two to promote this Fall, but I’ve also been on Twitter for more than a year. It’s all about balance.

  5. These are great points! You’ve summed up all the annoying parts about twitter. But you’re right, there is also greatness there. Even some epic updaters have grown on me, and I’m finding I look forward to finding out what’s happening in their lives.
    I follow a bunch of pro-wrestlers (I remain unoffended that they don’t follow me back 😉 and have been really enjoying seeing the back and forth between them on twitter. I feel like I’m in on a bit of their secret lives. It’s like extra content in a DVD, but like, without having to watch a DVD.
    While I’m still new to a lot of the writers I’m following on twitter, I’m already getting similar enjoyment from watching them interact with each other. Like you said, it’s a community! Right now I’m still a baby in that community, watching and learning. But it’s exciting!
    Great post!

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