On Twitter, Etiquette, and Team-Followback

It's all about cultivating my feed. Let me explain:

I know some folks are part of the "team-followback" club. I'm not one of those people. I don't follow people on Twitter because I want them to follow me back. I follow people on Twitter in order to engage with them socially. That is the social networking part.

When someone follows me, I check their feed. If it is all "BUY-MY-BOOK-ALL-THE-TIME" I don't follow them back. That isn't what my feed is about. I've cultivated my feed so that it consists of items of interest such as publishing news; editors; authors who I enjoy either engaging in conversation with, or those whose careers I'm keeping up with; and most importantly, reviewers and fans of my work who want a way to talk to me.

Sometimes I don't follow an author on Twitter, because I'm engaging with that author on Facebook or another social network. Likewise, not all of the editors and authors that I follow on Twitter follow me back. That's okay. It's not about quid pro quo, it's about ENGAGEMENT. For example: if I ask Judith Tarr a question, or interact in a conversation with her, she answers me and involves me as long as I'm polite and engage in a responsible manner. She doesn't need to follow me back for me to enjoy her blog posts and tweets.

A few authors dislike people butting into their Twitter conversations. I try to pay attention to these authors and rarely, if ever, engage with them on Twitter. I respect their right to cultivate their Twitter feed however they choose.

For the record: if I start a conversation on Twitter, I don't care who joins in. That is what Twitter is about to me--being social. As long as people are polite and treat one another with respect, I will engage with them for as long as I have time. If someone is rude or tries to pick a fight with me on Twitter, I block them. I don't have time for the seven thousand tweets of death.

My feed is a no-bully zone. Be nasty and you will be blocked. I don't squeal every time someone threatens me on Twitter. That just gives the offender the attention s/he desires. Whenever someone threatens me on Twitter, then I take care of that situation--one-on-one.

I follow people who are very conservative and people who are very liberal. I do this because I know from experience that surrounding myself only with people who think like me stagnates my own growth. I also know that most people are like me and fall somewhere in the middle. I try very hard to listen to both sides of every issue before ringing in with my opinion, and if enough people have stated opinions that mirror mine, I see no point in adding to the ruckus.

In keeping with Twitter's 140 character limit, I try to give other people the benefit of the doubt when they tweet something that might be in questionable taste. I don't narrow my focus on a single tweet, but I look at the person's overall personality. I also know that I make mistakes, and that if I want the right to be wrong, then it's a good idea to give other people that flexibility, too.

If I tease you on Twitter, then that means I like you well enough to kid around with you. There are very few people that I like that much. If I disagree with you on Twitter, then it means that I respect you enough to know that you will listen to my point of view and give me honest feedback.

A few personal rules:

  • There is a time to tweet and a time to blog. When my thoughts, such as the ones expressed here, need further clarification, I blog.

  • I try never to tweet in anger. Occasionally, I rant on Twitter, but that is rare. I invoke a twenty-four hour rule on angry tweets. A topic has to push my buttons hard for me to go off on an immediate rant. As stated above, I am not without sin and have disregarded my own rule from time to time. Everybody makes mistakes. Let's try to be a little more forgiving of one another out there.

  • I always remember that my tweets are public and that some people might take my causes for their own. I can control how my fans and friends act by self-monitoring my tweets.

I consider Twitter to be a wonderful place to promote my books, but that isn't the only reason I'm there. I tweet about things that interest me and my followers. I'm there to engage socially. So if I don't immediately follow you back, it doesn't mean that I don't think you're worthy of my follow. It just means I want to take a little time to think about how, or even whether, we might enrich one another's lives.