Shouting Into the Void (Or How Not to Use Twitter)

Shouting Into the Void (Or How Not to Use Twitter)

So this is actually a post on how to use Twitter properly. Which is, as you may have gleaned from the title, not “Shouting into the Void.” Twitter is by far my favorite of the social media giants, but I know there are many who don’t share this opinion. I’ve met a lot of authors who complain that it “doesn’t work” or that they “don’t get it.” A lot of these authors are fans of Facebook (my least favorite) and think the same rules apply to using Twitter as an author.

Here are three ways to harness the power of the tweet.

  1. Follow the Write (hehe) People
    I’ve heard a lot of complaints that there aren’t any good people to follow on Twitter. Considering the sheer number of followers some celebrities have, I find it hard to believe that not a single one of those people is worth following. There are a lot of spam accounts, or those “selling followers.” There are also some amazing activists, authors, and just plain cool humans. Follow some agents, some small presses — even if you don’t intend to traditionally publish, keeping your finger on the industry’s pulse is a must. Follow fellow authors, both those who are best-sellers in your genre, and others who have yet to publish. Also, don’t just stick to those in the industry. Do  you write about a chef? Follow some literary cooks (there are many, and @missellabell is amazing). Are you a historical fiction or romance author? Follow some historical societies and museums based in your setting.
    With this comes some cautionary advice, however. Don’t just spam-follow. Don’t just follow because someone followed you.  Check out their bios and last few tweets. Curate your twitter feed. If you want it to contain good content, only follow those who you are actually interested in hearing from.
  2. Listen to Others
    This is my biggest suggestion. Don’t shout into the void. Sure, share that picture of your cat lying all over your manuscript. But read what others are saying. Think about their words, their perspectives. See what’s going on under the surface of the industry. News happens literally at the speed of light on Twitter, and you’ve got to be there to see it. I’ve found so many amazing humans just by reading others’ tweets and seeing this cool person respond. Retweet, favorite, and above all, read.
  3. Engage
    Following others and reading their words is great and you can learn so much. The amazing thing about twitter is, for the most part, everyone is equal. The last key step to getting the most out of Twitter, is to engage. If an author posts something that you can add to, or poses a question, answer them! Even if they’re a best-seller. The worst that will happen is that they won’t answer (OK, the worst that will happen is they’ll be a bigot and start to harass you. More on that later). If you differ in opinion, that’s fine. Disagree politely and respectfully. I’ve exchanged tweets with Patrick Rothfuss, Amanda Palmer, Diana Rowland, and more. Don’t be too eager, don’t spam (this includes auto-follow messages!). Converse. You’ll be amazed at the friendships and networking that arises from some respectful exchanges.

So there you have it. Twitter is great, once you get the ropes down. I personally use Tweetdeck to help manage my feed and schedule tweets. There are some awesome opportunities to be found, and even better people to meet. Be real. Be yourself — trust me, the Twitter army is full of millions of freak-flags flying high. And you’ll recognize some of your own flags there, I promise.

A Word on Trolls and Other Internet Monsters:

The internet welcomes everyone. Which is, ultimately, a good thing. But this means that it requires a certain level of awareness to navigate safely. It can be an incredibly dangerous place for certain subsets of humanity. If you are experiencing hate-mail, or see someone who is, block the perpetrator. Don’t retweet the nasty comments, even to show your support for the victim. You can support them without sensationalizing or giving fame to the bully. Don’t engage with those kinds of people and ignore them if you can. If not, the block button works great, no matter how many times you press it. If you are concerned about a real threat, tell people — real, live, in-your-area, people. If you can safely ask police for help, do so. And, for the love of dog, don’t be a bully yourself.

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