On Twitter, Etiquette, and Team-Followback

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.

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Join me on Twitter for SFF Writer Chat #sffwrtcht

Bryan Thomas Schmidt, author of The Worker Prince, runs the excellent SFF Writer Chat on Twitter (use the hashtag #sffwrtcht or follow @sffwrtcht).

On Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 9:00 p.m. EST, I'll be the guest author for #sffwrtcht.

I've often popped in to follow the #sffwrtcht hashtag on Twitter. It's a very friendly place to hang out, so if you have time, stop in and say hi or just lurk. We'll be glad to have you!

We will be talking about fantasy, science fiction, and writing. If you have a question about Miserere, bring it along and I'll do my best to answer in 140 characters. I look forward to seeing you there!

how NOT to use Twitter

Dear authors, I'm not sure how to say this nicely, so I probably won't. As a matter of fact, I'm so angry, I may dip into the Chuck Wendig bag of vulgarity (so yes, Virginia, there will be profanity). I'm going to tell you how I really feel, which won't make me terribly popular in some circles.

That's okay. I'm not known for my sweet temper.

We're going to talk about ... Twitter.

Twitter is nice, Twitter is fun, Twitter can be used a number of ways. I like to use it to talk to other writers and keep up with their blogs. Like everyone else, I also use Twitter to promote my novels and good news, no problem there.

However [and you knew that was coming, right? Am I right?]

HOWEVER ...

I have received two tweets over the last two days that, for lack of better, annoyed the piss out of me. Both were "Mentions" known as the @ reply.

The first said something to the tune of: "I unfollowed you because you unfollowed me. If this is a mistake, I'm sorry."

What kind of childish bullshit is that? Passive-aggressive much?

To make matters worse, I clicked on the guy's name and had no idea who he was. I suppose the "If this is a mistake, I'm sorry" part is supposed to take care of that.

But I remember him now. And not in a happy way.

Frankly, if I did unfollow him, it was because he was one of those independent/self-published/indie authors who did nothing but spam me with SEE THIS AMAZING QUOTE BY SUZY LIPSHIT AND READ MY BOOK [link] Tweets. Don't get me wrong. I love seeing amazing quotes and reading good news about my fellow authors, those who are self-published and those who are traditionally published, but come on, people, there are other things going on out there!

Talk about sports, about your pets, endear yourself to us with personal, humorous stories, show us your inner beauty and we will want to be a part of your life. That's how you build a following on Twitter, by being relevant to other people's lives, NOT by bombarding us with your sales strategy.

There ARE self-published authors who are using Twitter responsibly (I'm looking at you Lindsay Buroker @GoblinWriter and Moses Siregar @MosesSiregar). I haven't read their novels, but I know them because they are out there with well-written blogs that discuss their genre, publishing, their families, and their likes and dislikes. They've made themselves relevant to me through their tweets and their interactions with other authors.

The other new Twitter phenomenon is obviously meant to replace the equally annoying DM by sending @ mentions. These invariably redirect to an independent/self-published/indie author's web site. Seriously, people, that is no better than a redirect to a porn site. Both are self-aggrandizing, narcissistic memes. Also known as spam.

Twitter is as much about conversation as it is about posting news and blog links. Get out there and play, interact, converse!

I know it's tough if you're an independent/self-published/indie author trying to build a following. HELL, it's tough being a traditionally published author, who is trying to build a following, but I can tell you right now, nobody is going to follow an asshole.

They stink.

twitter etiquette 101--monitor your followers

Twitter has been around for a while, so I'm not going to dispense the usual advice but instead just ask one thing: monitor your followers.

Some folks are apparently creating Twitter accounts, establishing the necessary links to run their blogs and other information through apps, then riding off into the sunset to never look at their account again. Nothing wrong with that. I run my blog through Twitter and sometimes tweet the same information at different parts of the day. However, I monitor my followers diligently for a couple of reasons.

The first is because if you are a writer or especially if you're a fan, I want to follow you back. I want to see what you're saying on your blog or what kinds of things interest you. When someone follows me, I get an e-mail, then I go to my Twitter account and see what you're tweeting about. If you're using a Twitter app to advertise your latest blog post; engage in #litchat or any of the other cool chats going on around Twitter; are talking about fiction (genre or otherwise); hell, if you're talking about your dog/cat/hamster/snake/spider/kids, I'm in! I want to follow you back.

BUT . . . if I check out your tweets and find that you're being followed by a lot of porn spammers, businesses, or if the only tweets on your account begin with CHECK OUT MY [fill-in-the-blank], I'm blocking you. Here's why (and my second reason for monitoring my followers): those spammers who are latched on to your account will periodically check out both your followers and the people that you follow, then they begin spamming them.

Somehow I've picked up such an individual who isn't monitoring their account and I'm getting a lot of spammy followers. They hit my e-mail box, I go to Twitter and not just block them but also report them for spam.

Meanwhile, I have to start looking for the common demoninator, the one user who isn't monitoring their account, and I have to block that individual. It's like shooting in the dark, though, and sometimes I knock the innocent out with the guilty, but I have to do it; otherwise, my e-mail box starts filling up with offers from mechanics from Ohio, movers from Florida, and strange women who for some reason don't realize that I am a) female and b) heterosexual.

So please, even if you don't care who follows you, monitor your Twitter followers--think of the rest of us who might enjoy your tweets, but not your spammers' messages.

Spam, ladies and gentlemen, can be very annoying--with or without Vikings involved.