Twitter: the networking, promotional and procrastination hub for writers everywhere.
But how do you make it work for you? How do you persuade your fellow writers, industry professionals and consumers that you are someone they want to follow?
I tend to look at my new Twitter followers in one big batch, so I’ve noticed a few trends in what turns me on or off a potential new Twitter friend.
I don’t get it right a lot of the time. Which is why the examples of Twitter faux-pas showcased here are all from my own timeline over the past month. Learn from my mistakes, friends!
Here are my five biggest Twitter mistakes:
When I’m short on time, I tend to check Twitter, flick through the latest updates and retweet one or two things that interest me. I become a consumer, not a creator.
There are accounts that very skilfully curate content from throughout the Twittersphere and are sources for the best articles out there. If that’s the point of your account, then you can be a Retweet Master.
But if you want to engage people and show the person behind the writer, you need to show you have a life and opinions beyond agreeing with someone else’s advice or sharing cute dogs.
BUY MY BOOK!
Hopefully, most people will forgive a debut author shrieking about her book’s birthday from the hilltops, but if your whole timeline is book links, RTing praise and, worst of all, spammy @replies to folks telling them how amazing your books are? Who wants to read that?
Research by Goodreads indicates that “Twitter and Facebook do not score highly for book discovery, but they score well for book discussion”.
Twitter is a social network, not a broadcast service. Engaging in discussion with individuals interested in your book’s genre or topics may be more effective than constantly hammering them with a sales pitch.
Scheduled Tweet Syndrome
Another pointer for the time-poor writer: some scheduled tweets are bloody obvious and others may be less so. The above section of my timeline shows a day of scheduled tweets. Can you tell at first glance?
However, these tweets are all about promotion – not joining in a conversation, or sparking a discussion. Now that Twitter has separated out @replies, it can be hard for people to tell if you’re a social Twitter user. One spontaneous tweet in the midst of scheduled things – even if it’s actually scheduled – can remind people you’re human.
I’m cool with having a few more sharks in my life. But if your entire Twitter feed is quote after quote from A Famous Writer, or constant links to Ten Inspirational Writing Journeys, you move from inspiration to tedium.
Being an aggregator of quotations, breathtaking photographs or unusual facts is fine if that is THE POINT of your account – i.e. SciencePorn. If the point of your account is to be a writer on Twitter, maybe to make friends or encourage people to check out your content, this approach is probably not the way forward.
We live in a global society. Which means that, while everyone in your part of the world may be watching something extraordinary on TV, there are probably a sizeable portion of your followers who are not. And have no earthly clue what is happening.
You may decide, on balance, that any screenwriter not live-tweeting the Oscars is not worth knowing. However, if you’re veering off topic into reality television or HIDEOUS SPOILERS, your words will not always be appreciated.
Doing It Right
After that burst of negativity, here are two periods where I got it right:
A series of tweets where I hopefully prove my human credentials: excitement for CrimeFest, retweet about a famous writer and tech with comment (to show I’m not just hitting the RT button like a robot), retweet of some praise for my book, and a random tech-related comment. While sometimes my tweets are completely random, these are vaguely related to my book, in that my protagonist is a hacker and these are tech-focussed issues.
I think to think my specialist subjects are writing and mental health. In this section, I take a current news story – the Isla Vista shooting – and contribute relevant content to the discussion.
While the above examples make it seem like my entire Twitter life is a contrived social media-savvy campaign or a series of slapstick errors, the point is this: you are a writer and you are a human being. Showing both of these things, including what drives you, inspires you and enrages you, lets people know whether they want to get to know you and your work.
So, look at your Twitter timeline and ask yourself: would I follow me?