Tips for Twitter

I get a lot of spam from “social networking specialists” who want me to let them tell me how I can be awesome and sell you all as much stuff as humanly possible. I, of course, find spam to be completely ineffective when it comes to sales, so I take that “offer” with a grain as I put them in my spam folder where they go.

However, I did want to talk about social networking today. At my own blog and not your facebook wall, not @ replying you to butt into a convo, not at your blog. I’m going to talk about it at my blog – where such things go.

I love twitter. I’m sort of addicted to it. I can see all my friends and touch base with them on a regular basis. I meet new friends all the time at twitter. I learn things. I laugh. People link fabulous articles and pictures. I love it.

The problem with authors and social networking is the same with anyone else and social networking – many times people forget the word “SOCIAL” is in the title. So I’m going to do some rants and suggestions. Mine is not the one true way. People are free to do whatever it is they want to rise or fall with it. Your mileage may vary and all that jazz. This is what works for me.

1. It is a fail to have a twitter feed that is anything more than 30% straight promotion. I say it’s even better to get it lower, like 20%. If all your tweets are “buy my book” tweets – you’re doing twitter wrong. If all your tweets are “LOOK AT THIS AWESOME REVIEW OF MY BOOK” you’re doing twitter wrong.

2. Social media has “social” in the title – so be social! It’s not 100% about me media. Get to know people. Let them get to know you. Talk about books, movies, etc that you enjoy. Reply to others! Engage.

3. Twitter is not your website. Know the difference and use each accordingly. In other words – your website is where you can have all the listings and reviews and sales info for all your books. People go to websites specifically to find this information. Don’t make them wade through a thousand buy my books tweets to figure out who you are and then unfollow you.

Please, please, please use twitter so you’re not messing up other people’s feeds. IE – these are things you may not know about @ replies:

What I do on my own feed is my business. People can follow me or not if they like or don’t like what I talk about (tumblr, bad words, pretty people, great books and movies, clothes, things that annoy me, etc). It’s easy to manage people you don’t like or don’t want to see. Don’t follow them.

But when you retweet (RT) an entire list of @ from a #FF (Follow Friday) just to say thank you – this ends up in the feeds of EVERY SINGLE PERSON who was in the original #FF tweet. This happens over and over and it’s getting worse. What this means is that even if I don’t follow you, you’re messing with MY feed because it’s just a list of twitter names in my @ column over and over. I’d like to imagine that most people don’t realize this and so I just ask that people THINK a little and just say their thanks to the person who made the original post.

This is not me trying to tell you what to do with your own twitter. This is your behavior impacting other people’s twitter feeds. In the end, when I see an author do it over and over I get agitated. First of all, why is it necessary to RT the entire list so many times? Is it that the person “thanking” the OP wants their name on twitter over and over? I get how someone might think this is effective. Except I don’t believe continual negative exposure is what you’re after. If it’s gratitude, just thank the OP and be done. I can “block” the person RTing the #FF, but I’d rather not go from zero to 15 on the twitter response scale and just ask that people use their twitter with some thought when it comes to other people’s feeds.

Agents and editors read twitter. This means that if you use your twitter feed to whine about how evil publisher rejected your book because they had limited vision and a pact with the devil to keep you down will be seen not only by that publisher, but also people who work for other publishers, other agents and other editors. This means you look like a disgruntled pain in the ass. No one gets excited to buy a disgruntled pain in the ass unless you’re on a television show.

6. This is connected to #5 – THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU TWEET. It’s pretty simple, but sadly it gets ignored. For some reason there are people who think that because they write erotic romance they need to be hyper sexual on twitter. I don’t agree. I write ABOUT sex, that doesn’t mean you need to know about my personal sex life to think I’m an awesome writer. I like to think we should let our writing speak for itself. People will like your voice, or not. But your writing should speak for itself. Over personal details can be off putting. I don’t need to know what sort of vibrator you like. Or what your favorite position is. Nor do I need to see you in your underpants at your facebook page. I think this minimizes your writing.

7. Think about your tone. I can totally be ranty and annoyed on twitter. It’s easy, LOL. When I get back from dealing with the school bus, or when I have some sort of trying experience with an airlines or cable company – heck yes I may turn to twitter to vent. And people do. But there are limits and sometimes it’s hard to see those lines. This is where your friends can come in handy! But also if you’ve had a few days of nothing but rants and grr, balance it. Talk about things you do like, things that make you happy, etc.

This is one of the reasons I don’t talk about the books I don’t like. Not because I think authors don’t have the right to talk about books they don’t like. But I have limited time. I’d prefer to spend it talking about books I DO like. I don’t think it’s necessary for readers to know which books I don’t like. And when I see an author diss another author’s book it’s a guarantee I’ll never buy a book from that author again. It’s tacky. Just because your right to free speech is constitutionally protected, doesn’t mean you need to use it all the time. (see also: fights with your publisher, your editor, your spouse, fungal issues, your money issues, etc)

8. Related to #7 – DO NOT WHINE ABOUT A BAD REVIEW AT TWITTER OR YOUR BLOG. This is not to say I don’t complain about bad reviews. I totally do. Sometimes, some readers seem to think we’re not real, that they can make up stuff about us and our contracts or that they know us or our motivations. They don’t. And also, it’s shitty and hurts feelings and I have super thick skin. But I complain to my besties. In private. Because that’s where it goes. Now, there are ways to discuss wider issues (for instance Victoria Dahl had a great tumblr post yesterday about her heroines). But it’s a losing game to get personal. It makes YOU look petty and thin skinned, even if you’re right. Just don’t go there.

People will always try to tear you down. The more successful you get, the levels to which some will sink to attack you will only get lower. RESIST letting them do it and remember you are in charge of yourself. Don’t let haters crack your focus. It’s so easy to tweet about that stuff, I know. But resist.

THE INTERNET IS NOT PRIVATE. Twitter is definitely not private. Keep that in mind.

9. If you feel the need to jump into someone else’s discussion, please read the tweets that came before so you understand the context. Sometimes half a day to three days later I’ll get a reply that is sort of related to a convo I had a while back but it’s arguing with something no one said, or that got debated and discarded early on. So essentially if you’re jumping in to toss negative energy someone’s way – either resist or be sure you know what you’re talking about. Otherwise, it’s stirring negative energy toward you for no reason.

10. I know people like to think of twitter as the water cooler. And it sort of is. But those of us who use twitter as professionals (writers, singers, directors, businesses, etc) aren’t there just to shoot the breeze. How we’re perceived is part of our brand if you will. And really, you should be who you are within limits. Not everyone is going to like your voice for twitter any more than everyone is going to like your book/product. So think about what you’re trying to do and then if what you’re doing is getting you there.

In the end, Twitter is a great tool. It’s fun. I’ve met so many people via twitter and some of them buy my books. Some of them don’t. Sometimes dumb stuff happens and agitates me to the point where I have to open up the IM and vent to Megan. Every time I see something that agitates me, I really have to think about whether or not to reply. And if I have the TIME to invest in the situation if it goes sideways. Wasting negative energy in some internet kerfuffle means you’re using time you could be spending working. Time spent doing damage control is time you could have used for other things. Some things are worth that time. Most things aren’t. I have many things in my life. But the one in very short supply is time. I can’t afford to waste it. And neither can anyone else.

One comment to “Tips for Twitter”

  1. Tania @ Wandering Hues
    September 28th, 2011 at 3:13 am · Link

    Great post. I’ve only been using twitter for the blog for under a month and I’m already amazed at some of the stuff I’ve seen.

    My tip for authors who want to use twitter as a pr tool is

    a. Check out other authors to see how they’re using the tool (I’d suggest Lauren, Megan Hart, Ilona & Gordon Andrews, Maya Banks to name a few)

    b. Don’t follow me and then send me a p***ed off message because I haven’t followed you back. Which leads me to point c.

    c. If you’re following a book blog to try to get some pr, do me a favour and actually check out the book blog to make sure you’re marketing to the right audience. I’m fairly certain I state pretty clearly on my review policy that I don’t review children’s books. *seriously children’s books on a blog that reviews adult romance – WTF*

    Luckily though this only a few people on twitter – I’m meeting more and more great people all the time who get the social aspect of the tool. Although – if this has been my experience after a month I’d love to see what some of the more established bloggers have to say.