Home > advice -- not that you asked > Tweet This, Not That: My Thoughts

Tweet This, Not That: My Thoughts

Yesterday, Janet Reid wrote a BookExpo America blog (BEA), talking about the Javits Center (construction! Chaos! The possible need to wear a hardhat!) and the various panels she’s attended so far. In particular, what caught my attention was her disappointment about the Twitter panel. It was meant to be a learning tool, a discussion of twitter techniques and strategies for those in the publishing world.

Except, it wasn’t. The slideshow was unreadable and the presenter didn’t actually teach anything. All and all, a big learning fail. But it made me think about Twitter – what I’ve learned, what I think works, and why I am addicted to it what doesn’t work.

So, as a writer and a reasonably sane person, here is what I’ve learned.

Twitter should be a conversation. Tweet to people who interest you, who share common interests, and who seem interesting. (Do not Tweet-Spam people. If you send 47 tweets to the same person within three minutes, you will get blocked.) The secret to Twitter is…there is no secret. You have to be interested in others, and you have to be interesting.

What do I mean by ‘interesting?’ Well, I mean not boring. No one cares if you tripped and fell into a wall, unless you make it funny/strange/weird. If you’re tweeting about food, show me a picture. Make me envious of your chicken curry. If you are reading an awesome book, tweet it. (I wouldn’t advise tweeting about a book you loathe, especially not if you name it.) Be engaging and people will engage. (Not unlike the line, “if you build it, they will come” from Field of Dreams.)

I’ve noticed that a lot of people use Twitter ONLY to promote [x, y, and z]. This is very ineffective. If all you do is try to sell me carpet, caribou, or pens – I stop listening. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger on the street and start shouting that he/she NEEDS to buy a rug. That’s how people get arrested.

Personally, I think that Twitter’s a place to share yourself, not sell yourself. Share your art, whatever that is. Link to your blog. Share a photo. Link to an interesting article. Tell [so-and-so] that you can’t wait to read his/her book – or that you loved it. Quote from your WIP (#anylineanytime). Speaking of hashtags…

Do not include them in your Twitter bio. I don’t care that you’re a #poet. You know what tells me that? Your poetry. The decision to include a hashtag in your bio takes up valuable space. And, in the interest of full disclosure, makes you look like a self-aggrandizing tool-muffin. I also don’t care that you’ve won an #award. Your bio needs to be a snapshot of you, not what you’ve done or been awarded.

No one signs up for Twitter and is immediately 57,000 followers richer. Unless you are Neil Gaiman, this will not happen. But for a writer, Twitter is a way to make connections, meet your audience, and make friends. Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you get to do all three. Gaining followers is like gaining friends: you have to work at it. You have to be yourself.

However, it’s wise to keep the complaining to a minimum. You know those emotional vampire friends/acquaintances you avoid in your everyday life? (If your answer is ‘no,’ YOU are probably such a person.) Don’t be the Twitter equivalent. If you constantly complain about your kids, your wife, your brother, and/or the rain that falls in Spain (mainly on the plain) – you come across as a jerk. Griping about something, occasionally, is one thing. But always being a negative Nancy? Not the way to gain friends and influence people, unless you want to influence them to FLEE. Again, if you can find a way to make tweets like that funny? You’re golden. If you can make people laugh, that’s always a good thing.

One last thing: mind your @ replies. You do not have to reply to every person all the time, always. But if you constantly ignore the world, you’re not engaging. You’re shouting, without listening for the echo. Ok, that was a terrible analogy, but you get the idea.

For me, Twitter has been a huge opportunity to meet, and talk to, people I wouldn’t normally have any contact with. It’s helped me to form a circle of writer friends, who exchange stories and books for critique. It’s an education, wrapped in awesome.

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  1. Michael Gillan Maxwell
    June 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Good one Ali! Good advice on lots of levels, not only for Twitter but in a whole lot of other scenarios, as well. You NEED to buy a rug from me! 😉

    • June 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

      Thank you, kindly! LOL about the rug. Clever. *grin*

  2. June 5, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    wise words from a fine twitter pal. 🙂

    • June 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

      You are very sweet, Jules. *grin*

  3. June 6, 2012 at 9:00 am

    oh, no… now where will I vent about my sister?

    • June 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

      Patty, you manage to make your sister vents hilarious. So there. *Grin*

  4. June 6, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Here is a picture of the beer I am drinking… 😉

    • June 6, 2012 at 9:41 am

      Bill, you always find the best alcohol. You are my guru. *grin*

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