Loving Twitter vs Using Twitter

Today, over on L.M. Stull’s blog, Andrew Mocete is blogging about Twitter, specifically how to use it to market self-published books, but it’s actually good advice for anyone.

I’ve been loving Twitter for a while now. The first time I tried it, it didn’t take. I didn’t have any followers, I didn’t know how to find people I wanted to follow, and it seemed full of lingo that didn’t make sense to me. What the fuck was a hashtag? I made a second go when I saw a few friends from facebook say they just loved it, and this time I put some energy into filling up my list with other writers. When I didn’t get what something meant, I asked. That’s when I started to see how deep Twitter went and now I enjoy it every day.

But too many authors (and others) treat Twitter like a tool to be used. Okay it is. Sort of. But like with my second look at Twitter, it goes a lot deeper than that. Twitter is made up of people, not targets, not an ‘audience’, and not ‘customers’. It’s a cocktail party, not a networking conference. Sure you can pass out a few business cards when you meet someone, but if you stand there, bellowing about what you have for sale, you’re going to end up by yourself, or worse, surrounded only by people who also want you to buy something.

In Andrew’s post, he suggests using the hashtag #amwriting to find people to follow. That’s a great way to start. Besides my advice for treating folks on Twitter like, yanno, people, I’d also suggest:

1. Make your bio something interesting, but specify that you’re a writer. Avoid words like ‘guru’, ‘expert’, or ‘marketing’. I never follow people with these words. They’re usually Twitter “users” and just want to sell you confidence for the low, low price of $199. The bio is important, because it’s 1 of 2 factors I use when trying to decide if I’ll follow someone back who follows me. The second:

2. Retweet, @mention, @reply. If you are new to twitter and don’t know what those things mean yet, find out. It won’t take long. About 3 minutes. But if I go to a timeline and see that their posts are all adverts of their own blog, their writing, their books, or various links, but they don’t interact with others, I pass them by. Why would I follow someone who isn’t going to talk to me? Remember: cocktail party. Twitter is give and take. It’s full of PEOPLE.

3. There’s lots of advice out there about Twitter, so I won’t go on and on. You’ve probably heard the rest of what I could add already. I will just say this: be friendly, be honest, but most of all, be yourself. (Unless you’re one of those people I have yet to understand that tweets as a character in their book, or more strangely, as their dog. I love you all, but I don’t get that one.)

One interesting fact I’ve noticed… these days I visit more blogs that are recommended from my Twitter feed than my blog reader. And, most of my blog traffic comes from Twitter. More than facebook and much more than my regular subscribers.

So, question for you: What unexpected things or people have you found on Twitter? For those who haven’t started tweeting yet, why the heck not?

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11 comments

  1. I’m not on Tweeter…yet. I don’t know when I’m going to need it. Maybe one day I will.

  2. Great post India, particularly point number 2 about how you look at people’s tweet history and see whether they’re actually communicating rather than just selling. I hadn’t thought about that and it’s a very good point – who wants to be friends with a regular advertiser instead of someone you can chat to? Good analogy about the cocktail party too!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with what you say India. Twitter is meant to be, and should be a social networking tool, with the emphasis on the ‘social’.

    It’s not a ‘commercial’ networking tool, so that excludes people who’s purpose is merely to promote their own business interests, whatever they may be.

    Additionally, at the risk of upsetting the millions of followers of Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher et al, Twitter isn’t an extension to celebrity fan clubs either, because another point of social networking is the ‘networking’ bit. A net of any type relies on threads going both ways, so the likes of Mr Fry promoting Twitter at every opportunity on TV & radio, is not doing anything for twitter, but merely promoting his image, and that’s as bad as people continually promoting their book, their shop, their self-help scheme or their other products.

    Twitter isn’t about gathering as many followers as possible; it isn’t about sending out inane items of trivia about oneself to people who pretend they care, but who you don’t personally give two hoots about. Twitter is about real people, and the best thing about it is the people you meet, the people you interact with, and the people who become friends.

    An old quote: “Facebook is a place for the people you went to school with; Twitter is for people who you wish you’d gone to school with.”

    By the way, I only have around 570 followers on Twitter, (it varies,) but I’ll always choose quality over quantity, and let’s be honest: how many people can one person hope to interact with and still give each of them the attention they deserve?

    @DaveBartlett1

  4. I signed up for Twitter when I still lectured in a computer-equipped classroom, sure that my students were tweeting and would be impressed what a hip old chick I am. OH NO, was the consensus, sprinkled with versions of ‘What could you possibly say in 140 characters?” That was four years ago.

    Since then, I’ve learned to write Haiku in 140 characters, met dazzling, disciplined people who’ve freely contributed encouragement, personal input — some, I think of as friends.

    The cocktail party analogy resonates; but it is an afternoon affair for me, following hearing an interesting writer, an upstart poet, a super-smart politician and we’re all into the conversation. Love it. Great post.

  5. Great tips, India! I actually blogged about this today on Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog. You’re so right – it’s a about building relationships. You have to interact with people to make it work.

  6. I need to try some of those suggestions as Twitter is still rather foreign to me. And I’m even part of the AmWriting website!

  7. Good post! I’m with you about not following anyone who claims to be a consultant, spiritual adviser, or marketer. On the other hand, anyone who makes me laugh or posts interesting links will get my attention. Yet, even though I’ve been on Twitter for more than a year, I still have things to learn.

  8. I’m finding it hard to keep up with much of anything of late – twitter, facebook, even my email. I think I’ve hit the wall. But I do like Twitter, and feel more comfortable there than on Facebook.

    Kate, if you don’t already, you should follow @kevinjmackey. He also tweets via haiku. You’d probably enjoy his tweets.
    ~jon

  9. I absolutely love Twitter and do you it to converse with real people. It’s not a part of a platform for anything, I just love talking to people.

    I find Twitter lists really useful, especially as you get more followers/following as Dave said, because you can organise people into these lists and as I use Twitter to not only talk to writers, but other people with different interests, I find lists an immense help.

    For those who just think it involves talking about yourself into thin air, it really isn’t. I recently had some difficult news, I shared it and the response and support was there and it was genuine as I had been interacting with these people for a while.

    As you can see, I’m a twitter fan. Thanks for a great post India.

  10. Great post as usual India. I don’t chat too much on Twitter, but I do very much like it to give recognition to certain people who I follow, and that’s mainly via the #FF or #WW. It’s a good way to get the word out there, and I’m more comfortable with soliciting recognition for others than for myself anyway.
    When I do have some time, I agree it’s a good forum to chat and get to know people better who have common interests, and even some who don’t.

  11. I’ve been on Twitter for a few weeks now, and I don’t like it as much as Facebook, but I keep plugging away. My cat seems to be better at it than I am. Seriously.

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