26 July 2012 Post By: Violetta Vane
• Don't tweet from a private account, unless you also have a public account. There's no point in tweeting promotional stuff from a private account, because people can't reweet you. You're defeating the purpose. If you do maintain two accounts, one private and one public, do not backbite your public friends on your private account. It'll get out, and you'll look like a dick. I've never done this myself, but I've seen it go down.
• Decide in advance how much you want to disclose, and stick to that. It's easy to move from more privacy to less privacy, but almost impossible to go the opposite direction. One privacy decision I've made is to never post pictures of my kids, or any identifying location information. I know lots of parents who post stuff about their kids—we're proud of them, it's natural—and I don't want to tell those parents what they're doing is wrong, per se. It's a different and very personal decision for each of us, and my decision is to keep this area of my life as private as I can.
• Please please please think twice about using Triberr, and then think again, and then DON'T USE IT PLEASE I'M BEGGING YOU. There are people I really like and respect that use Triberr, including excellent writers and bloggers I support in other media, but I cannot follow them on Twitter as long as they use Triberr heavily. I think it's spamming, and also disrespectful to followers. I won't go into detail, but here are some links that explain a few of my issues.
• Realize that different people are looking for different things. You cannot be all things to all people, so be your best self, and have fun. I'm a blunt person and I don't shy away from conflict. At times, I tweet a lot. I'm supportive when people ask for it, but I don't give or expect many backpats. I'm quite left-wing politically. I am known to participate in hashtag games like #nameyourvaginaafteramovie. All of these things will cause some people to follow me and others to unfollow me.
• Know what you're looking for on Twitter, and follow accordingly. Don't play the numbers game. When I follow people, I don't expect them to always follow back. Some of the people I follow are writing celebrities like Neil Gaiman, or news sources, or humorists with close to a million Twitter friends. Some of them are people with only twenty followers. I don't mind if they don't follow me back. I'll admit to a mild irritation if they follow me and then unfollow me, but I quell it. If their tweets were interesting before they followed me, they'll probably still be interesting after they unfollow me.
• Don't be a member of #teamfollowback. You'll end up following a lot of bots and spammers and cluttering up your stream. I will follow back, but only after applying a pretty daunting filter if I don't know them already. First, I check to see if they're in my genre (m/m romance). If they're an m/m writer or identify as a fan or a reviewer of m/m, I'll probably follow them… as long as their tweet stream is more than just promo and/or Triberr, that is.
The majority of other non-bots who follow me say they're writers in their profile. My interest in a writer who randomly follows me is usually in inverse proportion to their twitter stats. If they have more than a thousand friends, I'm suspicious, because they're probably playing the numbers game. And I'm proved correct when they unfollow after about a week. Why? Because they're using heavy automation. There is absolutely no point in engaging with any of these people. We'll never have a conversation; they're just looking to puff up their numbers. They follow, wait for someone to follow back, and if you don't follow back, they unfollow a week later. Or in an even more loutish effort to game the stats, after you follow them, they'll set their program to unfollow you a week later, hoping you won't notice, so that you'll continue to follow them. A lot of people think they'll "build a platform" for their book or product with this sort of black hat stuff. It doesn't work.
I don't follow the bots, obviously. I don't follow people whose tweet streams actively irritate me, either. Twitter is half work and half fun so I don't expect to like everyone I follow; I expect to be able to coexist well, that's all.
• If you make a mistake in whom you follow, unfollow immediately. If that friend of a friend starts asking probing questions about Obama's birth certificate, for example. Don't drag it out. Just do it. I think that's the most mature way to handle it. If they @ you plaintively afterward, ignore them. If they @ you angrily, block them.
• If somebody unfollows you, try not to take it personally. They could be trimming their stream and readjusting their Twitter focus. You could have made a joke about hot dogs and their mom choked to death on a hot dog yesterday. Or maybe they actually do hate you. It's more awkward to ask than to live in mystery. If the mystery gets too awkward, unfollow them back, but I usually don't bother to unfollow.
• Use helper apps and automation to keep track of your Twitter, but not in a jerky way. I like Socialbro and Hootsuite. Socialbro helps me keep track of who's following and unfollowing me, and who I should follow back. I use Twitter lists to have a "shortlist" of about twenty people, most of whom I work with creatively or financially. If I'm gone from Twitter for a while, there's no way I can catch up with what everyone is saying, but I can at least catch up with my shortlist. Some of these apps will help you clean out people who haven't tweeted in a long time. For example, if a review blog goes defunct and gets abandoned, and so does its Twitter account, you can prune that from your lists. But don't try to improve your influence stats by pruning beyond that. You're only harming your ability to have meaningful conversations in the future.
• Be aware of your peer group's Twitter protocol, but don't obsess over it. For example, when I do a blog post, I'll do 2-3 tweets about it spaced out over the course of one day. Any more would be spamming. Some people have very strong feelings about .@ tweets. I still use them, but sparingly. I will retweet positive blog reviews of my work, too, which some people hate. I think if I was a bigger name writer, that would be tacky, but since I'm a small fish, it seems to be accepted at our level. Don't worry about not always being the perfect, most polite Twitter user, however. You're a writer, not a "social media guru" (ewww).
• Realize that Twitter is not the best medium for heated debate. It's excellent for informing and linking and remarking and agreeing and disagreeing, but not arguing. I love a good debate, and I actually have held some good ones over Twitter, but it depends on you and the other person already trusting and being comfortable enough to argue and disagree meaningfully. If things are getting heated and you still value that Twitter relationship, it's best to back off, and if you feel like you need to clarify, move it to DM.
• Don't be mad or react badly when your Twitter friends are friends with people you really don't like. The only exception is if you know someone is being predatory and dishonest to your friend, and in that case, ONE POLITE DM (heads up, so-and-so isn't being honest with you) should be enough to handle the situation. Don't push it past that. Never attempt to control other people's communications.
• Realize that the majority of people who read and enjoy your books will not care enough about you personally to follow your Twitter account. Appreciate those readers who choose to follow you, but understand that your Twitter followers are not equivalent to your fanbase. Do you follow every author whose books you love? Some people might, but I don't.
• Working from the basis that your Twitter followers are not your fanbase—you might make friends with another writer over Twitter and read their books, and they'll do the same for you, but don't expect it. I'm Twitter friends with a lot of writers that I never expect to read. We're peers and buddies and share important professional information; we don't have to be mutual fans. It's not that I think they're bad, or they think I'm bad, it's that we're into different sorts of things, and we probably wouldn't appreciate each others' work, even in the same genre.
• Being a writer can be pretty depressing, and using Twitter is a great way to get moral support when you're going through difficult times. Just keep in mind that if you do this too much, or in the wrong way, you're opening yourself for even more difficult times. For example, you might be able to get away with complaining about negative reviews… if you do it in a neutral or entertaining way that doesn't blame individual reviewers. "Why don't more people like my tentacle porn? Suckers!". Otherwise, every rule about commenting on reviews in other venues holds true on Twitter. If people are having a conversation about your book, do not butt in. If people talk about not liking your book, and it makes you horribly depressed, SUCK IT UP. Unburden yourself in private. Get off Twitter for a while. Use a Twitter app that "mutes" people, if you need to. Do not unfollow over negative reviews.
• What it means to be professional in this era of constant contact and increased casualness is difficult to determine. We're writers, and being a writer is simply not a very respectable profession. Throughout millennia of recorded history, writing culture has involved huge amounts of clowning, raillery, mudslinging, grandstanding and just plain freaking out. I choose to interpret professionalism mainly in terms of integrity. I treat other people with integrity and expect them to do the same to me. If I hold someone to a standard, I will hold that standard to myself. I will never engage in manipulative behavior. I think if writers maintain a baseline of integrity, respect for readers and basic social skills, they will be forgiven for their eccentricities. And their vagina hashtag jokes. At least, I hope so.