I’ve been on Twitter for a total of something like two weeks at this point, which I believe makes me completely qualified to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Just as soon as someone can explain to me what a hashtag is.
Okay, so maybe I’m not a social media expert, but in the short time I have been on Twitter I’ve noticed there are some people who should know better making some obvious mistakes. Some of these could apply to any tweeter, but mostly I’m focusing on people like me, writers who hope to use social media to grow their support. I can’t tell you the secrets to having a thousand followers, or how to tweet your way to riches, because I haven’t done either of those things. But I can give you some common sense advice from the eyes of a beginner.
So here it is, the Albert Berg Definitive Guide to Tweeting Well.
1. Back Off
When I click on a Twitter user to check out their feed, I’m interested in one thing right off the bat: how often does this person tweet? Because I don’t care if you’re the greatest thing since the invention of the hashtag, if you’re updating more than four or five times an hour on average, I’m not clicking that “Follow” button. Why? Well, because I have to read all that stuff. I mean, I don’t have to, but if I’m just going to ignore you, then what was the point in following you in the first place? I am amazed by how many people don’t get this one.
I think it often happens because they think about themselves before they think about the people who are following them. This may be fine for teenagers in high school, but as writers, we need to think about the readers of our tweets in the same way we might think of the readers of our books. We’re doing them a service. We owe it to them not to waste their time.
As authors we’re likely interested in social media as a way to connect with potential readers. In a way, our twitter feed is one big sales pitch for ourselves. However, that doesn’t mean that we can use our twitter feed as a constant advertisement for our stuff. Well, okay, yes, we can. But who’s going to care?
When I first signed up with twitter, I looked up the author G. Wells Taylor’s feed. Now let me preface what I am about to say with this: I love G. Wells Taylor. The man is an inspiration as an independently published writer, and I will take every chance I can to encourage people to read his stuff. In fact you should go to manybooks.net right now and download his book When Graveyards Yawn. It’s fantastic work and it’s totally free. BUT. The man does not understand Twitter. Oh, sure he obviously comprehends the mechanics of the whole thing, but he has no idea how to connect with people. His twitter stream is just a soulless stream of sales pitches for his work. One tweet after another about, “This book is available here,” and “Go check out my latest and greatest” etcetera ad nauseam. Consequently the man has an extremely small following compared to what his platform could be considering the quality of his books.
Sure, it’s fine to link to your stuff from time to time, but you need to remember to tell people that there’s a person behind the pitch, hopefully a person that they’ll like and connect with.
On the other hand, if you spend all your time talking about the funny thing your dog did, I’m not going to connect with that either. This is where the balance comes in. If you are a writer, I am following you because I am interested in you as a writer. If you spend all your time talking about banalities, I’m going to be turned off fast.
3. Be a Friend
When I started Twitter, I thought it was a numbers game. I thought if I didn’t have huge numbers of people following me I didn’t matter, so I did my best to be clever and interesting in the hopes of attracting new followers. I still do my best to be clever and interesting, but now I’ve had a perspective shift. I’ve realized that Twitter at its heart is about connecting to other people, engaging them in conversation. This means give and take. Now sure, I’d still like to have a bunch of people following me, but the more important connections are the ones that I take time to develop and grow. I’d rather have ten good twitter friends than a thousand casual followers. Why? Because those ten true friends are going to be far more likely to spread the word about what I’m doing to their followers, and if they’ve taken the time to make that human connection with some of their followers, then those people may talk about my work as well. This is called word of mouth. It’s the holy grail of advertising. And you can do it through friendship.
That’s all I’ve got. It’s all simple stuff that seems like commons sense to me, but maybe it can help you improve your tweeting game. And hey, I really am new to all of this, so if you think I missed something or totally got it backward, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what I’m doing wrong.
You got it in two weeks. Some people never get it. I hope you tossed Taylor a bit of advice. I dropped one author when he spent several weeks doing nothing but touting his blog tour, more or less every hour on the hour.
I just added you on Twitter.
Thanks for the comment. No, I’ve never tried to give Taylor any advice. I guess I don’t want to come off as some upstart trying to tell him how to run his life. Maybe he could use it, but my guess is he wouldn’t be very receptive to my criticism.
As a matter of fact, I appreciate your criticism, Mr. Berg. I agree, my tweeting leaves much to be desired (so does my blogging). I’ll work on it. Thanks!
If I saw an author I admired shooting himself in the foot that way, I think I’d have to say something. But I’d combine it with sincere flattery. It would take an awfully arrogant person to outright reject advice that would benefit him. Most of the writers I tweet with aren’t professionals in the older sense of the word, but they don’t shut themselves off from their readers. Who knows, you might actually make a friend. And what would you lose if he ignores you?
Great blog and excellent points, but you are still (in my POV) looking at this from the perspective of a casual user.
I know you bought my book, so you will hear this again. I follow everyone who follows me. I don’t care how often someone tweets, even if they are annoying. Why? Six degrees of separation. What if that person I unfollowed was the nephew of some big movie producer? Had I kept following him, he could have become my biggest fan and skyrocketed me to success.
We never know who is following us and who they know.
Also, I read another blog today about someone who regularly unfollowed people for inactivity. Why? We don’t know why they are inactive. Maybe they were in a car accident or deployed to Iraq. They aren’t taking up room, so why cull the herd?
The only people I unfollow are those who are just bots. I follow and then get the sneaking suspicion that there isn’t a man behind the curtain. I will also unfollow people who do nothing but rant. Even if I agree with their position, I don’t like indigestion.
It is, however, very rare for me to unfollow. Tweet Deck is your best friend. Then you can arrange columns of people you want to pay attention to the most…and the other 2000 people can stream by. If they say something interesting? Promote them to a column of those you care about.
But you are dead-on correct. I cannot stand writers who use Twitter to spam non-stop…and it is a total waste of time anyway.
Your point is valid, and I’ll be applying for myself. However, I think my basic point still holds. If I am trying to attract people to my feed many of them will be “casual” users. Which means I can’t afford to scare them away by overtweeting, and neither can anyone else who want to grow their platform through social networking.
Thanks so much for the advice and support. You’re the best.
Great post! Sad to say, I’m guilty with all of the above.
great post, i agree with your points, though i’m sure i’m guilty of some of them. you’ve inspired me to pay more attention to my tweets!